Man City have wind in their sails for FA Cup clash

Posted by David Mooney

A programme stand is stricken on its side as a supporter runs through the wind and driving rain at the Etihad.GettyImagesA programme stand is stricken on its side as a supporter runs through the wind and driving rain at the Etihad.

Jose Mourinho is most certainly not going to be happy. Not only did his Chelsea side drop points in their 1-1 draw Tuesday night with West Bromwich Albion, but the fact that Manchester City's match with Sunderland was postponed was another kick in the crown jewels for the "Special One." Not only do the Blues have the chance to overtake his side with their (new) game in hand, but they're also likely to have some of their injured and unavailable players back for the rescheduled fixture.

On top of all of that, the decision means City will have had a week to prepare for Saturday's FA Cup tie (their previous match was Feb. 8), as opposed to Chelsea's four days.

- Games at Everton, Man City off

While City should have had enough depth to be able to cope with the injuries they have -- Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho and Samir Nasri likely would have missed Wednesday evening's game -- the point isn't that they would have been available to beat Sunderland because of the quality they'd add to the squad. Rather, it's the stress it would have taken off the players who have had to continue on with niggles -- James Milner, Alvaro Negredo or Yaya Toure, for instance -- and allowed them time to get themselves fit ahead of a run of important games for the Blues.

The decision to call the game off came less than an hour before kickoff -- which was little help to a lot of City's supporters, let alone any of the travelling Sunderland fans -- and it was criticised by some for not being made sooner, despite the forecasts of high winds and poor conditions.

In December 2000, Manchester City began a night match they would never finish -- with the travelling support enjoying 23 minutes of action before having to make their way home to Ipswich. I say "action" ... It was more like a new game for "It's A Knockout" than a football match.

Both City and Ipswich were having contrasting Premier League seasons, with the pair having both been promoted from Division One the year before. The Tractor Boys were pushing for Europe -- and would eventually qualify for the UEFA Cup -- while the Blues were battling against relegation, eventually going down after a defeat in the penultimate match of the season at Portman Road.

Marcus Stewart opened the scoring for the visitors with a header inside the first minute. It should have been 2-0 when Matt Holland missed from 6 yards just after the 10-minute mark, before Paul Dickov volleyed a superb equaliser roughly a quarter of the way into the match. Had it been 2-0 instead of 1-1, the decision for referee Graham Poll to suspend the game would have been much harder.

It was easily the correct decision -- moments earlier, City keeper Nicky Weaver had drop-kicked the ball and it landed inside the Ipswich half, with the grass so damp that the ball simply stopped dead on its first bounce.

Mind you, Kevin Horlock might not have been too pleased with the decision to replay the game -- in the rearranged fixture seven days later, he took a kick to the head from Hermann Hreidarsson inside the box. The City midfielder didn't get a penalty, but did receive a Terry Butcher-style head wound, bloodied shirt and bandage.

The damage was actually done in a prematch deluge -- one that ended my mother's weather forecasting career. On getting out of the car, my dad pondered whether to take an umbrella, to which Mama Mooney said the words "it'll pass." Approximately 6 minutes later, the Mooney family was gathered in a newsagents, dripping wet -- the dye from Mum's red shoes re-colouring the shop floor -- and my dad decided drive home to pick up dry clothes for us all.

He arrived back at Maine Road in time to hear the tannoy announcement tell the fans that the players in fact would not be returning to the pitch. As you can imagine, he wasn't the happiest of folk -- nor the driest.

The decision to end the game early was certainly the correct one, with the safety of the players in doubt. The decision to postpone the fixture with Sunderland on Wednesday evening was also the correct one, given the wind was strong enough to pick up one of the programme sellers' booths and toss it onto its side. They're pretty hefty, and if one were to hit you, you'd know about it.

In the end, the postponement may cause a fixture congestion for the Blues further down the line, but in truth, it's probably a good move for City right now. The squad was beginning to suffer under the toll of the recent run of two matches a week, so a night off in front of the telly will do the players nicely.

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