Manchester City 2-0 Bolton Wanderers
Howey 25, Berkovic 56

Schmeichel, Dunne, Howey, Distin, Sun, Foe, Horlock, Berkovic, Tiatto, Anelka, Goater
Jaaskelainen, Campo, Barness, Charlton, Warhurst, Nolan, Tofting, Gardner, Okocha, Djorkaeff, Pedersen
Bernarbia (Goater 81), Huckerby, Wright-Phillips, Wickens, Nash
Ricketts (Tofting 59), Johnson (Pedersen 67), Livesey (Nolan 75), Southall, Poole
Yellow :
Yellow : Gardner 20, Nolan 51
No Goals scored

Well, as they say, two steps forward and one step back. The two previous games against Leeds and Chelsea had been good performances which had given Wanderers fans a lot of hope. Fools we are..

First thing I will say about this, I would not have enjoyed it very much even if we'd won. It takes a trip away from the Reebok to remind you just how nice and comfy an experience watching footy there is. A trip to Maine Road (which, thankfully, we'll never have to do again I hope) is a step back to Burnden. Now those with their rose coloured specs well adjusted will regail you of stories about grounds with character and history. These are the sort of terms an estate agent uses when he really means 'dump'. And that's what Maine road is. Claustrophobic and cramped under the stands, open to the elements and barely humane on the stands. Lashed by insistent rain, I sat on the front row with the pitch at eye level, not being able to get any idea what was going on half the time. At least at Burnden when it was crap it was about 50P to get in. It cost me 18 quid to get windblasted and soaked, sitting on a crappy plastic seat with no view at all. Ta very much! However the pies were hot (very welcome at half time) and quickly served, which somehow they can't manage at the Reebok yet.

If it was pretty grotty off the pitch it was even worse on it. Bolton's defensive injuries and suspensions were obviously catching up with us, as we had only one fit centre half on the pitch, and he was Ivan 'calamity' Campo. It just shows how bad things were that I thought he was one of our better players. Beside him at the back were Charlton and Barness, decent fullbacks but pretty shoddy centre halfs. Time and again they were beaten to the second ball by Goater and Anelka, both stronger and taller than either of our stand-in centre halfs. They tried their best but were out of position and boy did it show.

Further up the pitch is wasn't much of an improvement. Gardner was putting his heart into it but was sliding around the pitch like Bambi on an ice rink. On the other side Nolan was drafted in, but again out of position and possibly injured he simply wasn't up to the job. He got booked and was actually lucky to stay on the pitch as long as he did. Definitely his worst performance ever for the Wanderers. In between them, Tofting had the pace of a oil tanker and about the same turning circle. Warhurst and Okocha tried to move the ball but our passing was falling apart and they were over run as the three around them went missing. Up front Pederrsen was willing and active, but his supply was negligible and Djorkaeff was being forced back to try and help out in midfield leaving him isolated. The team basically was a mess and 5 or 6 players simply didn't deserve their paycheques. The cherry on the soggy sundae was when Jermain Johnson (who, like Ricketts and Livesey did improve things when they came on) had a shot blocked by Schmeichel, Okocha's follow up chip was so weak that the Dane was able to palm it away while lieing prone on the turf.

So overall Bolton deserved nowt and got nowt. The conditions didn't help - ironically the direct approach City were employing and Bolton have abandoned suited the weather better than the neat passing game Bolton tried to play. However that would be a pointless excuse. Bolton played badly, and that's all there is to it. What remains now is to try and make sure the performance isn't repeated and hope that new found confidence has not been washed away in the Manchester rain.