Date: 14th February 2010 at 10:55am
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What should have been a welcome respite from the trials and tribulations of the Premier League campaign, turned out to be a lesson in heart and how not to play football.

As City have been trumpeting the importance of the magic that is the FA Cup, you could be forgiven for thinking that the City players would have been up for an encounter with home advantage and a prize of a place in the last eight.

One could also be forgiven for thinking that as we would be playing Stoke in midweek there would be certain individuals up for pressing their claims for an immediate start come Tuesday night.

In fact you wouldn’t be wrong for expecting Mancini to have drilled his team in the defence of Wimbledon style attacks all week as Mancini’s first game was against the long ball hustle and bustle that is Stoke City.

Finally it wouldn’t be rude to have expected City to know about the only real weapon in their armoury that is Rory Delap’s long throws.

So here is the odd thing, why when the whistle was blown did City disregard all of the aforementioned and consequently produce a fourth straight abject performance unworthy of a Tesco Supermarket kick-around never mind the most prestigious domestic cup competition in the world.

For once the whistle was blown, just like at Hull, there was only one City up for this fight and it certainly wasn’t our lilly-livered lot.

After a fortuitous opening goal when the Stoke defence did there best impression of the keystone cops, you would have thought we’d have relaxed and gone on to win quite comfortably.

Instead however City decided to play Stoke at their own game launching high balls to the ineffective Adebayor who was bullied out of the game by Huth and Co.

With the exception of Shaun Wright Phillips, Wayne Bridge and steady, if unremarkable, Barry City weren’t at the races and lost every other battle on the pitch.

Fuller made mincemeat out of Toure and Lescott didn’t fair much better begging the question is the rumour about Vidic true? After all, if ever there is a team that needs a bully at the back then this is it.

When it came to a game plan, well it was either completely wrong from our Italian maestro, or the players completely ignored it. Neither scenario exactly covers City in glory in what should have been a very winnable match.

The Stoke eleven would not look out of place on a Rugby League field, yet City’s answer to their ‘up and at em’ approach was to fight fire with …well a small disposable bic lighter.

Out went total football and moving the ball quickly on the ground, a tactic that you’d think would be more suited when facing a back line that turns slower than the Titanic after sinking.

The result was the equivalent of taking a toothpick to a claymore fight as City were bludgeoned into a bloody mess that come Tuesday could see us shorn of yet more of our attacking options in the injuries to Ireland, Petrov and SWP.

So it was no surprise when Stoke fashioned an equaliser in fact it was more surprising that we didn’t lose the game altogether.

The most surprising element of the game however was the manner in which Stoke scored. As no one in their right mind could have foreseen what was to come next, from the fans watching at the ground, to those hundreds of thousands watching around the globe.

So you can imagine the manager and the players’ surprise when a veteran Irishman came of the bench and without warning threw a thunderbolt into our area out of the blue.

Captain Toure was the first to be dumbstruck standing deadly still as the ball flew uncontested into his area to be met by Ricardo Fuller’s sizeable head.

Fans might be forgiven for thinking that Shay Given being an Irishman might have heard of this unknown threat forged from his motherland. Obviously not as the City keeper remained firmly rooted to his goal line as the ball sailed bast him.

So forgive me for seeming a little miffed but this Blue is wondering just what Mancini has brought to the table and what the players are doing going into the most crucial part of the season.

One things for sure and that’s the next few games will provide the answers to all of these questions and tell us if another summer of wholesale changes is on the way or not.

Garry Cook’s uneasy shifting in his seat on Saturday could be early evidence of just that and we are not just talking about the players Garry.

 

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