City win eases Pearce pressure

BREATHING SPACE: The Manchester City manager said that press speculation did not bother him after Richard Dunne gave the blues their first win in four


Wed, Nov 01, 2006 - Page 18

Manchester City boss Stuart Pearce shrugged off suggestions his players had secured him some valuable breathing space with Monday night's 1-0 win over Middlesbrough, insisting he had never felt his job was on the line.

City skipper Richard Dunne's first half header was enough to earn City the three points in what had become a must-win match in the wake of a 4-0 thrashing by Wigan in their last Premiership outing.

That performance was condemned as "embarrassing" by the club's chairman, John Wardle, prompting a sharp fall in the odds against Pearce becoming the top flight's next managerial casualty.

But Pearce himself maintained the crisis headlines had been overdone.

"I've had no pressure internally," he insisted. "Not once have I heard any disenchantment from the fans or the chairman or anyone else connected with the club. It comes from outside and its good media coverage. It is me this week, it was Iain Dowie [Charlton] last week and [Alan] Pardew [West Ham] the week before and it just wears a little bit thin."

"We are all professional people and we all know our job and we all know exactly what we have to do," Pearce added. "We will get judged on where we finish at the end of the season and I said that at this time last season when people said how well we were doing at this stage."

City striker Paul Dickov, whose return to the starting line-up was one of five changes made by Pearce from the side that had surrendered to Wigan, admitted the players had felt under pressure to put on a performance in front of their own supporters.

`Big Result'

"It was a big result for us after what happened last week," said the Scot. "We knew we had let ourselves down and we were all a bit embarrassed and hurt by it and it was really important that we bounced back."

Dunne fully deserved to pick up the man-of-the-match award after scoring the winning goal and marshaling City's defense with an authority that was conspicuous by its absence at Wigan.

Dickov had City's first real chance, running on to Joey Barton's chip. Dickov beat Boro 'keeper Mark Schwarzer to the ball but was unable to hit the target.

Two minutes later, City took the lead from a corner that Barton swung over to the back post, where Dunne rose highest in a group of players to send a header into the net high to Schwarzer's right.

City might have had a penalty just after the interval when a Barton shot appeared to strike Boro's German defender Robert Huth on the arm.

The home support will have felt hard done by over that decision but City rode their luck in the closing stages when Boro substitute Massimo Maccarone saw two shots strike the post in quick succession.

"We might have got something from the match at the end but it is questionable whether we would have deserved it," admitted Boro boss Gareth Southgate, who was an England team-mate of Pearce's when they lost on penalties to Germany in the Euro '96 semi-final.

"We lost the game in the first half. I thought Manchester City were there to be beaten today -- they looked edgy but we just didn't start the game well enough. It is disappointing to say the least but now we have got to go to Watford and get a result on Saturday," he said.