In Joe Royle’s only Premier League season with City, the Blues only won back-to-back games once. It came in the October, as the newly promoted club took maximum points at home to Bradford before they travelled to The Dell to face Southampton on the Monday night. The performance might not have been perfect – far from it, in fact – but the result looked like it might kick-start the campaign.
It didn’t – they lost the next six and got bogged down in a relegation battle. When they eventually dropped into the bottom three, they never escaped.
The visiting fans that Monday evening were treated to a masterclass in a team taking their chances. The home side’s dominance began after just 40 seconds, when Hassan Kachloul stole in on a loose ball from Paulo Wanchope and smashed a shot wide of Nicky Weaver’s goal.
Weaver parried a Marian Pahars effort from the right flank into Kachloul’s path after three minutes, but the debutant Richard Dunne slid in to force the Saints’ man to fire wide again. It felt like the City fans were going to be in for a long night, but the game quickly settled down into a more even contest.
Mid-way through the first half, Jeff Whitley had City’s first chance to find the net, but he was denied by a great challenge from Jason Dodd. However, it was with a similar counter-attack that the Blues took the lead – Paul Dickov bent his run brilliantly to stay onside and he found the corner of Paul Jones’s net when one-on-one.
Early in the second period, City might have rued not adding to their lead – Haaland’s nod-down wasn’t forced over the line as Jones struggled to reach the loose ball – as Southampton pressed them into their own box. Weaver was called into action to stop a Kachloul free kick from 25 yards that was destined for the top corner, before the goalkeeper was in action again tipping away a Pahar’s chip from the edge of the box.
There was more good fortune for the visitors, as referee Alan Wiley missed a handball by Whitley inside the box – despite the Saints’ appeals – and Kachloul’s chip from the corner of the box beat Weaver, but dropped wide of the post.
Whitley could have sealed the tie with 81 minutes on the clock, as he was played through by Haaland and rounded the goalkeeper, but his effort was slipped wide of the post – with the City fans cursing in the stands. Their side was under immense pressure.
However, in injury time, the away side made sure of the points. Danny Tiatto broke forward down the left flank and hammered an effort into the net, off the underside of the bar. Jones had no chance and the home fans began to file out – with City stealing the points.
City: Weaver, Whitley, Haaland, Wiekens, Prior, Howey, Ritchie, Dunne, Wanchope (Goater 68), Dickov, Tiatto
Unused: Wright, Bishop, Wright-Phillips, Kennedy
What inspired such a good win for City that week? No doubt it was the news that Steps had entered the UK charts at number one, knocking off U2’s Beautiful Day, with their smash hit Stomp.
On the way home, the City fans could have celebrated with a trip to the cinema to see Billy Elliot, which was still engrossing audiences up and down the country.
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Written by David Mooney.