By Tim Tweddell
In 1999, I missed the Play-off Final because of illness; in 2000,
I was at the Burnley game which was postponed due to a downpour;
in 2001, I was preparing to go to the game at Millwall when it was
called off due to a fire; in 2002, I got the local flu which was
going around and missed the Arsenal game and the rescheduled match
A steady diet of Dequadin throat tablets and Veno's Cough Syrup for
ten days, just about had me fit enough to brave the rain for the match
against Manchester City.
My enjoyment of the fireworks was dampened by the announcement of the
team. I was looking forward to seeing Okon and Pennant for the first
time, but dismayed that we had no defensive substitutes. Why? Is it because
we haven't got any to speak of? Issa away on international duty,
Robinson injured, Blondeau unavailable for some reason, and no-one in
the reserves good enough to risk, apparently, even on the bench. Maybe we
can swap two midfielders for a defender.
The early injury to Cox was thus a major embarrassment. Helguson, as
usual, was sent on to fill a space, and did his best to fit the bill
at right wing back. Interesting that on one of the few occasions he
got forward, he set up a goal for Tommy Smith.
A difficult pitch and a difficult opponent, full of tricks and movement,
but we played as well as we could, which is all you can ask for.
Although City were better than us, technically, our battling performance could
have earned a draw. Helguson's unfortunate own goal gave City a win they
barely deserved: that's what happens when you ask strikers to play a
In the last desperate throw, Galli went off to be replaced by Noble,
with Okon dropping back into the defence. Given the way he played throughout
the game, and in this last five minutes, this may have been the better option
71 minutes earlier, when Cox left the field.
All in all, a fine team performance. The problems are elsewhere.