since 1878

Ipswich Town (1) 2 - 1 (0) Manchester City

Division 1 1999-00

Sunday, September 26, 1999

Referee: A DUrso

Manager: George Burley

Portman Road

Attendance: 19,406

Manager: Unknown

Match Number: 2813
























Match Report

Ipswich Town 2 Manchester City 1

FOR much of 90 minutes, Ipswich and Manchester City surpassed the standard you would see at many a bottom-of-table Premiership match. Of these two front runners in the Nationwide First Division, it is probable that City have the qualities more likely to handle capably an elevated life in the top flight, though only if they can more regularly find the net from the chances they create.

Here was a thrillingly uncertain tussle in mutual pursuit of Birmingham at the top, though the crowd of 19,406, in its peculiarly passive, rural way, seemed to lack emotion in their support. If only because of the remarkable fervour that survives, come what may, at Maine Road, City must be more favoured for promotion, in spite of losing yesterday to a cruelly deflected goal on the hour.

"We've come a long way," Joe Royle, the manager appointed 18 months ago, said, "but it's premature to be forecasting. I don't think any of the teams in the top six will run away like Sunderland did last season." He admitted, however, that his team need to sharpen their marksmanship.

The winning scorer, if he can claim the credit, was Gary Croft, the 25-year-old acquired from Blackburn where his game had become shelf-bound. Steaming through on an overlap to take a pass from Jamie Clapham - summoned at half-time after being omitted following his error that lost the midweek Worthington Cup tie on aggregate to Crewe - Croft cut inside from the left to unleash a right-foot shot that was goal bound. The ball caught the heel of Richard Jobson, City's central defender, and was redirected 30 degrees, beyond Nick Weaver's reach a foot inside the right-hand post.

Weaver is one of the reasons why City can look forward with optimism to the drawn out battle that lies ahead. He showed his capacity as an excellent goalkeeper, most notably with an early save from David Johnson, palming out the ball from the top left-hand corner.

George Burley, Ipswich's manager, put his finger on the key to the game. "In the first half, we struggled to cope in midfield," he said. What has lifted City from the gloom of the Second Division to the sharp end of the First is their passing. They move the ball around like a team who mean to go places. For much of the first half their central trio of Jeff Whitley, Ian Bishop and Kevin Horlock, the third named with a deceptively casual manner, had the edge on Jermaine Wright, Jim Magilton and Mick Stockwell. Ipswich were forced to scurry whereas City strolled.

In response to this imbalance, Burley shuffled his formation for the second half, having the cushion of the opening goal two minutes before half-time when Johnson, climbing high, met Fabian Wilnis's cross with a fierce header which, though Weaver got a hand to it, thudded into the top of the net.

The switch of Matt Holland from sweeper to midfield in place of Wright, the conversion of Croft from wing-back to marker and the introduction of Clapham as wing-back gave Ipswich fresh impetus and authority. In the first few minutes of the second half Jim Scowcroft and Stockwell might both have scored.

City then drew level, Shaun Goater, who had intermittently looked dangerous in the first half, sweeping home first time on the half-volley a dipping cross from Paul Dickov.

An illegal goal by Goater, having fouled Richard Wright in the air, was a moment of relief for Ipswich, who were soon calling the tune. Magilton and Scowcroft both went close before Croft memorably sealed his first appearance.

Burley justified his several changes when saying that, with necessarily big squads in the competition for promotion, he was obliged "to pick teams for matches": in other words to vary his formation week by week. How sound a policy this is can be debated. Regularity and selection can mean so much to the stability of a side, and there were a number of occasions in the second half when Ipswich's reorganised defence were caught on the wrong foot.

"It's a very competitive league," Burley said. "It was very tight against Birmingham, and we lost, but today we won." Royle was far from dismayed, knowing his men had played well enough for a point. "What matters is how we react next week to two defeats in a row," he said, reflecting on the cup reverse against Southampton last week.

Daily Telegraph

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