There doesn’t seem to be anything quite so Typical City as injury time defeat, does there? After the weekend’s heroic but fruitless attempt to cling on against Manchester United, we feel it is our solemn duty to remind you of some (quite painful) last-ditch losses of the recent past…
The last game of Phil Brown’s eventful reign at Hull City actually came as a surprise when it was declared so by Adam Pearson, as it involved a spirited, energetic and downright dogged display that resulted in heartbreaking – and preventable – defeat.
City had conceded early to Andrei Arshavin but then Jimmy Bullard equalised from the spot after Sol Campbell fouled (a clearly offside) Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink. All seemed peachy enough at the break, despite general concerns about City’s chronic decline since the turn of the year, and anything that irritated Arsenal was always welcome following some spicy encounters in both Premier League and FA Cup in the previous 18 months.
The second half was a masterly exercise in determination and bravery, as City spent all of it with ten men after George Boateng’s shocking tackle on Bacary Sagna earned him a second yellow. Brown threw on teenage defender Liam Cooper, apparently not at all spooked by the occasion despite previously making a Premier League debut at Liverpool which City lost 6-1. He played a total blinder as City’s rearguard held out to injury time.
Then Denilson hit a speculative shot which, for reasons we still cannot fathom, Boaz Myhill couldn’t hold. His weak palming of the ball landed at the feet of Nicklas Bendtner, who drove in the rebound.
Arsenal celebrated in their usual classless manner while City cursed their luck and Myhill looked for a convenient hole in the ground to engulf him. While hindsight suggests Brown should have gone a lot earlier in the season, one still wonders whether a 1-1 draw against title contenders while playing with ten men would have made it impossible for Pearson to put him on gardening leave 48 hours later. Decision-making at the very top wasn’t at its strongest that season, really, and City went down without a whimper, or a penny to their name, or a permanent manager picking the team.
A phenomenal game of football, all told, and the last that City would play at Elland Road in the days when it was a seething, spit-flecking, white-hot cauldron of hatred and atmosphere, and therefore, enormous fun. But City still lost, and should have won.
Two Andy Payton penalties, as neat and tidy as they came and both for fouls on new signing Dave Bamber, had twice restored parity after a looping header from John Hendrie and then a sumptuous volley from an oddly Platini-like Vinnie Jones had given the unhygienic hosts the lead. Then Steve Doyle blootered in a volley of his own that touched the stanchion on the way in, and with 13 minutes to go, City were ahead.
Typical City has, of course, existed for as long as philosophers have identified a concept of seeking out failure as a preference to holding on to success, and an equaliser from Imre Varadi made it 3-3. Then the ageless (brilliant, actually) Gordon Strachan clattered an angled drive past Iain Hesford a whole one minute and 49 seconds into injury time. Leeds went up; City would wait almost 16 years to go to Elland Road again, and more than 22 years before they’d eventually get another win there.
3: Doncaster Rovers (a), 1997/8
The “thank God for Doncaster” season didn’t stop the worst league side in living memory still beating City when the two met at Belle Vue. The home side were doomed from the start thanks to a chairman in Ken Richardson who, after being denied the chance to build a new stadium, ordered three blokes to torch the old one. We can be but grateful that he didn’t choose to do so while people were in it.
City were having their own woeful time under the lousy Mark Hateley, and in most other seasons would have been relegated to non-league. Come the game at Doncaster, it was already confirmed who would be going down – in the days of just one down, one up, mercifully – and it was a bitter occasion in which both sets of fans invaded the pitch to protest at the shoddy ways their clubs were being run.
When football was played, it was of unsurprisingly low quality, emphasised by the dreadful communication between Mark Greaves and Steve Wilson in injury time that allowed former England schoolboys striker Adie Mike to score a winner that gained Doncaster only a fourth win of the season. Mike was one of only two senior professionals – the other was former City midfielder Lee Warren – in a Doncaster side that had been deliberately asset-stripped through the campaign. From City’s point of view, it was arguably the lowest point on a football field the club had ever had. We could simply be grateful that another club was concurrently going even lower.
4: Port Vale (a), 2004/5
One of those last-ditch defeats that few could complain about, just because the hosts had been the dominant force in the game, and yet also that many could moan like mad about, because City had equalised right on 90 minutes. City, with a swathe of new players, had been forced into something of a retreat, even when added time was being played.
It was an important game, however, because one Nicholas Barmby scored his first goal for the Tigers, and it came against the early run of play. The great man would score much more sophisticated efforts than this, but to open his account it didn’t matter that it was from Stuart Elliott flicking on a massive Boaz Myhill punt upfield. City were ahead and the local hero with the global name had made his first mark in black and amber.
Port Vale equalised through future City meathead Sam Collins, who stabbed in a rebound after Myhill failed to hold a free kick. They maintained momentum after the break and took the lead with a shot from Steve Brooker. City only began to exercise some influence in the last 15 minutes as they hunted down an equaliser, but had to wait until the 90th minute to get it, with Elliott steering in from close range.
That was that, it seemed. But, if Typical City can include losing with ten men against one of the world’s greatest clubs, losing to hated rivals on their own patch when winning with ten to go, and losing to the worst football team in Christendom, then losing after getting an injury time equaliser can be right up there. Brooker made sure of it in the 94th minute after City only half-cleared a corner and couldn’t regroup for the returning ball.
5: Scunthorpe United (h), 2001/2
We had no manager, and we lost to an injury time free kick, taken quickly when nobody in the City defence was concentrating. And it was Scunthorpe. At home. And then we thought Jan Mølby would be the answer.