Date: 1st May 2011 at 9:55pm
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Many of us will remember with either fondness or disbelief these days that games between City and West Ham often took place at Maine Road towards the end of the season, with one or the other team under the threat of relegation. Hand shaking across the segregation netting with fervent hopes that they may encounter one another ‘the season after next’ but preferably not outside the Premier League.

Similar sets of fans from the underdog clubs in their cities, there always seemed to be an affinity between them.

Today turned that clock back a little. This time City very much safe and looking to get closer to the other end of the table, West Ham apparently anchored now at the foot and looking more and more unlikely to escape the slide.

The day dawned sunny but cold. Saturday’s matches had gone our way and the manner of Spurs defeat to Chelsea certainly gave us belief that the Gods had finally gotten round to understanding that they live in a sky that is sky blue.

The earlier matches today had served to pile more pressure on Tottenham as Liverpool have now eclipsed them and to perhaps place some pressure just outside the city with Stretford’s finest failing to do City a favour by reducing Arsenal’s grip on third place to two points. That said I’m sure we are reasonably happy that they still have to work hard to ensure the title heads their way. Or will it?

Although this match was not well supported by the Hammers fans the Blues turned out in force to welcome the side’s first home match since the famous Wembley win and Mancini paraded the same team for the third successive match.

City got off as expected very much on the front foot, tearing into the Hammers and looking for an early goal. It came from a very unlikley source after ten minutes.

Kolarov’s corner was headed on by Kompany then partially cleared to…you guessed it Nigel de Jong, who drilled in a screamer from 20 yards, the net bulging before Green could move.

Some untidiness by Hart almost helped set up a chance for West Ham before City once again charged down the right hand line. Zabaleta played a smart 1-2 with Silva then hit an angled shot goalbound. With Balotelli hovering Jacobsen helped it into the net, probably to Balotelli’s chagrin as he would definitely have provided a finishing touch.

With the fans in Poznan mode and sensing another Sunderland scenario, the team appeared to decide that it was job done after fifteen minutes and went into slumber mode.

West Ham have always tried to play good football and despite their limited resources started to put a game together and they were rewarded after 33 minues
when Ba jumped on to a loose ball in the City penalty area and duly slammed it past Hart, ruining his chance of emulating Nicky Weaver’s clean-sheets-in-a-season record. It wold probably havebeen a penalty anyway as Lescott had handled.

It didn’t spark City at all for the remainder of the first half. Indeed our old thorn in the side Robbie Keane should have equalised when clean through one-on-one with Hart but the City stopper stopped him this time with an excellent save.

The second half started off simlar to the first with City trying to re-establish supremacy andthe best chances fell to them. Toure had a shot blocked and then Silva spurned a one-on-one, beating the offside trap befre being forced to pass to Balotelli who couldn’t make it count. Balotelli also had a trade-mark scorcher hit the bar and bounce to safety.

This seemed to dishearten City a bit but we looked solid at the back where Kompany and Lescott looked commanding. Toure was working his socks off in the middle in the second half absence of de Jong as City looked to Silva to provide some sort of ignition. Johnson was not really in the game.

Milner had replaced the injured de Jong at half time but once again didn’t really get anything going and Barry had his colour blind glasses on passing to anything but a blue shirt.

As the fans nerves started to get the better of them the new City resilience showed once again as they negated everything West Ham had to offer and stumbled to Howard Webb’s final whistle with their noses in front.

This was not a performance to brighten the Vital Ped Report pages but as I’ve said before – if we stumble to five more scruffy one-goal wins it is my belief that we will finish third in the league and have won the Cup. I will probably be devoid of nails but hey – what would I care?

A win at our most detested venue of Goodison Park next week will secure Champions League football next season assuming Spurs don’t win against Blackpool, but I think it will move to the ‘big match’ the following Tuesday. I’m convinced we’ve got more in the tank than them and they will be looking over their shoulder at Liverpool.

Depending on the outcome of the United-Chelsea match we could have a situation the following week where Stretford wins the League in the morning and City the Cup in the afternoon. Interesting. Either way do not see City failing to get into the Champions League this time around. We are doing ‘just enough’.

 

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