08/09/2009

Look Back: City 5 Spurs 2, Premier League, 22/10/94

Ask any Blue under the age of about thirty to name their favourite ever City game and you'll probably notice several answers popping up with regularity. People might well point to the Play-Off Final ten years ago, or the win at Ewood Park not so long after. Most, i assume, would pick the derby in '89, or even a couple of the ones in the more recent past. In terms of quality of game, though, more than importance of occasion or something that might result in local bragging rights, the victory over Spurs in 94/95 still stands out for me.

Brian Horton's second and ultimately final season in the hotseat has seen us get off to a mixed start. Arrivals the previous spring had steadied the ship, seeing us lose only one of our final ten fixtures and stay in the division by the skin of our teeth, and although there were few major acquisitions during the summer a new more direct-looking side gave us hopes that another relegation battle might not follow. We hadn't lost in three, winning away at QPR and overturning a first-leg deficit against Barnet in the League Cup either side of a credible yet disappointing 3-3 draw with Notts Forest, who would eventually finish third under future City boss Frank Clark.

Tottenham had finished level on points with us during a disappointing 93/94 campaign under former player Ossie Ardiles. Their board had allowed him significant funds to strengthen the squad that summer. Romanian duo Gica Popescu and Ilie Dumitrescu arrived after impressing during the World Cup, and £4.5m was spent on Crystal Palace forward Chris Armstrong. Controversial German striker J├╝rgen Klinsmann was also signed from Monaco to join a forward line that already housed Teddy Sheringham and the then-promising Nicky Barmby. Their season had started strangely, disappointing defeats sandwiched inbetween spectacular wins. They appeared the neutrals favourites for a while.

The game itself was a cracker involving slick attacking football from both sides, aswell as some tinpot defending. The rain beat down on a grey Maine Road as thousands sat donning pacamacs in the then one-tier and uncovered Kippax Stand. City took the lead through Paul Walsh after good work from Stevie Lomas. Flitcroft had picked him out towards the right, a lofted ball in towards Niall Quinn on the edge of the penalty box had been deflected into Walshy's path and he put away a crisp low effort to the left of Ian Walker.

Unfortunately, the lead didn't last long, pantomime villain Klinsmann, notorious for going to ground easily, winning the visitors a penalty in what looked like a blatant dive to most of the ground. Sheringham had dropped deep into midfield and slipped a ball between our centre-halves. Ian Brighwell lost his footing allowing the German in who tried taking the ball round Andy Dibble (who had also been sent off the previous week in a win at Loftus Road) before dramatically falling to the ground when contact had looked minimal at worst. Spurs had missed their previous three spotkicks, so Sheringham handed over duties to Dumitrescu who made no mistake, powering home into Dibble's top right corner.

Not letting the leveller get to them the Blues went on to score twice more before the interval. The 94/95 season, though the final league position was a disappointment, really involved us playing some nice stuff. We had two good wingers in Beagrie and Nicky Summerbee, who had arrived that June from Swindon Town, and three strikers all well capable of scoring goals, and all markedly different in style. It was Summerbee who was key in the second goal, whipping in a tremendous cross from the right flank right into the head of Walsh, whose effort was saved at point-blank range only for Quinn to force home the follow-up with a brave header from all of two yards.

The third strike came from our left. Peter Beagrie had dropped back into his own half to pick up a ball right on the touchline. He somehow evaded the attention of two markers and suddenly seemed to have the whole wing to himself. Within a second or two he'd made up half the length of the pitch, finding Quinn on the left corner of the opposition's box, who laid a pass into Walsh who at pace tried to beat Walker with a shot using the outside of his right boot. The 'keeper managed to save the effort, but somehow the ball bobbled up and skidded off the damp turf into his net. Magic.

During the early stages of the second period Spurs really pushed us back into our own half. To be honest, i've probably done them a bit of a disservice, they played very well on the day, too, despite eventually losing heavily. Dumitrescu in particular was sublime, and went on to grab his second of the afternoon, galloping through the middle of the park he played a splendid pass behind Edghill to Klinsmann who returned the favour allowing the Romanian to get a shot away from the edge of the area. He didn't make the cleanest contact, far from it, but somehow the ball managed to trickle into the bottom corner, evading the despairing Dibble.

Thankfully we went on to add to our tally and put the game to bed, but at 3-2 the away side looked in with a shot. Man of the Match that afternoon, Walsh, didn't stop. Both our fourth and fifth goals involved some tremendous, dogged work from him, he was on fire that day. Firstly he skinned two or three Spurs midfielders before finding Beagrie on the left. The wingman put David Kerslake on his arse by dropping his shoulder and knocked in a delicious lofted cross. Steve Lomas arrived between two of their defenders and a good three feet off the floor to head home and finish another fantastic move. Gary Flitcroft rounded off proceedings, again Walsh running at the opposition at pace, twisting in and out, taking three with him before rolling a ball across the box for the midfielder to power home.

Everything about that day still seems so vivid, it's hard to believe it's almost fifteen years ago. We were superb, it all was. The conditions added to the game, Tottenham played some good attacking stuff but we could've beaten anyone that day. I remember running home and never being so excited waiting for Match of the Day. Motson loved it, i can still hear his enthusiastic yelps as the goals flew in. We'd go on to get tonked over the road a few weeks later, finish 17th and escape the dreaded drop by four whole points, but that day in October 1994 will stay with me, and it's still possibly the best i've ever seen us play, certainly my favourite ever game.

Team:
Dibble, Edghill, Phelan, Curle, Brightwell, Flitcroft, Summerbee, Lomas, Walsh, Quinn, Beagrie

2 comments:

  1. Completely agree. Was a brilliant game. Horton certainly had an eye for an exciting attacking player. Shame we were so sh*te at the other end!

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  2. Brilliant report! Remember that game well!

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