Tag Archives: stage

Montrose 0 Rangers 0 – match report: Ally McCoist"s men crowned Irn-Bru Scottish Third Division champions

Montrose 0 Rangers 0: McCoist's men crowned champions despite goalless draw

By
Lisa Gray, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

15:22 GMT, 30 March 2013

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UPDATED:

02:00 GMT, 31 March 2013

Rangers clinched the Irn-Bru Third Division title on Saturday to complete stage one of their journey back to the top of Scottish Football.

The Light Blues were held to a goalless draw at Montrose in a noon kick-off but were confirmed as champions three hours later when a Stuart Leslie penalty secured victory for Elgin over Queen's Park.

The result at Hampden means nearest rivals Queen's cannot catch the Ibrox outfit in the title race, as Ally McCoist secured his first piece of silverware as Rangers manager.

Get the party started: Rangers players pose after winning the Third Division

Get the party started: Rangers players pose after winning the Third Division

Goaless: Rangers' Kane Hemmings tussles for the ball with Cammy MacDonald

Goaless: Rangers' Kane Hemmings tussles for the ball with Cammy MacDonald

His side have looked unconvincing at
times this term but have done enough to force themselves over the
finishing line with several games to spare, following their demotion to
the bottom tier of Scottish football after being consigned to
liquidation in the summer and losing their top-flight status.

Rangers made two changes following last week's drab stalemate against Stirling at Ibrox for the clash at Montrose.

David Templeton and Ian Black returned
from injury and suspension respectively to start, with Barrie McKay and
Fraser Aird dropping to the bench.

Rangers were handed a tough match the last time they visited Links Park in December, leaving with a hard-fought 4-2 win.

Chalked off: Montrose's Martin Boyle has finds the net only to have his goal ruled out

Chalked off: Montrose's Martin Boyle finds the net only to have his goal ruled out

This time around, they started sharply
with efforts from Robbie Crawford and Lee McCulloch blocked in quick
succession, before Kyle Hutton eventually rifled wide.

Templeton tested the goalkeeper when
he collected a Kane Hemmings header before unleashing an impressive half
volley that stung the palms of John Gibson.

The winger was threatening again when
he cut inside from the left before having another crack at goal but
Stephen McNally blocked for a corner.

Templeton then turned provider for Lee
Wallace and his effort was touched onto the bar by the keeper, as
Rangers kept up the pressure.

At the other end, a Paul Watson strike from distance took a massive deflection and spun just past the upright.

Champions elect Ally McCoist side could still become champions if Queens Park slip up against Elgin City

A matter of time: Ally McCoist side could still become champions if Queens Park slip up against Elgin City

Bolstered by the chance, the home side carved out another couple of decent opportunities.

David Gray – who has netted home and
away against Gers this season – forced a save from Neil Alexander,
before Alan Campbell glanced a header inches wide.

Montrose should have taken the lead
through Martin Boyle but his back post header was off target when he
should have had the net bulging.

The home side picked up where they
left off in the second half when Gray pounced on a poor clearance from
Emilson Cribari and lashed narrowly over the crossbar a minute after the
restart.

Crunch: Ian Black takes a tough challenge from Montrose's Terry Masson

Crunch: Ian Black takes a tough challenge from Montrose's Terry Masson

Rangers had a good chance of their own when Wallace's cut-back found Hemmings and his shot forced a decent save from Gibson.

Montrose thought they had taken the lead when they had the ball in the net after 65 minutes.

Alexander fumbled an awkward cross
that fell for Terry Masson. His shot was saved but the keeper could not
hold that ball, which was turned into the empty net by Boyle.

But the goal was disallowed by referee Kevin Clancy for a foul on Alexander.

It looked to be a controversial
decision and a let off for Rangers, whose celebrations came later in the
day as they made the trip back to Ibrox and took a major step in their
road to recovery.

Sepp Blatter blasts UEFA on Euro 2020 that will lack "heart and soul"

Euro 2020 will lack heart and soul… we may as well not call it the Euros! Blatter blasts Platini over plan to host finals in 13 different countries

By
Graeme Yorke

PUBLISHED:

11:41 GMT, 14 March 2013

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UPDATED:

13:52 GMT, 14 March 2013

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has denounced Michel Platini’s plans to stage the 2020 European Championship across the entire continent and called on UEFA to change the name of the tournament.

Euro 2020 will be held in 13 cities across the continent with the semi-finals and final being played in the same stadium, UEFA announced in January.

But Blatter isn’t impressed with the plans and believes one host country is the best way to deliver
the event.

Wrong: FIFA president Sepp Blatter has criticised Michel Platini's plans to use more than one country for the 2020 European Championship

Wrong: FIFA president Sepp Blatter has criticised Michel Platini's plans to use more than one country for the 2020 European Championship

Euro 2020 details so far

12 cities will host three group stage matches and one knockout round

One stadium will host the semi-finals and final

There will only be one venue per country

In the frame to host the final are Wembley, the Olympic Stadium in Istanbul and the Allianz Arena

He told Kicker magazine: ‘A tournament should be played in one country. That is how you create identity and euphoria.

‘They have fragmented the 2020 tournament. So it is not a European Championship any more. It has to have a different name.’

‘I do not know what name. Such a Euro lacks heart and soul.’

UEFA said that 12 cities would be
awarded a package of three group games plus one knockout-stage game,
either from the round-of-16 or quarter-finals.

A
special 13th package would be awarded, consisting of the two
semi-finals and final with UEFA eager to split the costs for the bigger
tournament and celebrate its 60th anniversary across Europe.

The Swiss sports administrator also said
he planned to end his stint at the top of the world soccer’s governing
body in 2015 if FIFA was strong and stable.

Coming home: Wembley is one of the favourites to host the final after the FA said they would bid

Coming home: Wembley is one of the favourites to host the final after the FA said they would bid

First class: The Allianz Arena in Munich hosted the Champions League final last season

First class: The Allianz Arena in Munich hosted the Champions League final last season

Close contest: The Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul is also thought to be in with a chance

Close contest: The Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul is also thought to be in with a chance

Blatter, who took over the FIFA presidency in 1998, added: ‘I want to push through the FIFA reforms at our congress in Mauritius in May, then we go to Brazil for the World Cup in 2014 and after that everything is open.

‘When it is secured that FIFA will
continue to be led like that, that it will remain global and the pyramid
will not collapse then I will gladly hand over the sceptre to a new
president.'

UEFA chief Michel Platini is seen as a possible successor to Blatter.

‘I do not know if he wants to,’ said Blatter. ‘He has an idea about the future of FIFA which he has to explain to the continents at some point. But he has not decided yet.’

On the rocks: Blatter and Michel Platini have usually had an amicable relationship

On the rocks: Blatter and Michel Platini have usually had an amicable relationship

Andy Robinson set to be named as Bristol"s Director of Rugby after quitting Scotland

Former Scotland boss Robinson tasked with securing promotion for Bristol

By
Chris Foy

PUBLISHED:

14:20 GMT, 15 February 2013

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UPDATED:

19:48 GMT, 15 February 2013

Former England and Scotland coach Andy Robinson will be unveiled as Bristol's new director of rugby on Monday.

The 48-year-old resigned from his Scotland post late last year after they slumped to defeat against Tonga at the end of an autumn campaign which also featured losses to New Zealand and South Africa.

The long-time Bath stalwart as player and coach has retained strong West Country links and will be placed in charge of Bristol’s quest to gain promotion from the Championship back into the Aviva Premiership.

Andy Robinson

Andy Robinson being inducted into the Premiership Rugby Hall of Fame during at the Hurlingham Club on February 7, 2013

Andy Robinson has had mixed results as an international rugby boss but was inducted into the Premiership Rugby Hall of Fame earlier this month (right)

Robinson was forwards coach under Sir
Clive Woodward when England won the World Cup and he subsequently took
on the head coach role from 2004-2006, before resigning following a
dismal series of results.

He resurfaced at Edinburgh and made a sufficiently positive impression to be given the Scotland job in 2009. He led them at the World Cup two years later, but they suffered a pool stage exit for the first time.

Robinson also won eight England caps as a player.

Life after Andy: Scotland have lost one and won one in this year's Six Nations

Life after Andy: Scotland have lost one and won one in this year's Six Nations

Bristol are battling to secure a place
in the Championship play-offs, although Newcastle remain firm favourites
to secure the one available promotion spot.

Head coach Liam Middleton is set to remain in his role after Robinson's arrival.

Tom Ince says he can make it at international level

Ince believes his double against Sweden proves he can cut it at the top

By
Dominic King

PUBLISHED:

22:30 GMT, 6 February 2013

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UPDATED:

01:54 GMT, 7 February 2013

Tom Ince believes he has shown his doubters he can be a force at international level after a watershed night in his England Under 21 career.

The Blackpool winger scored twice in the 4-0 thumping of Sweden on Tuesday to finally break his duck for England, six months and five games after making his debut in Azerbaijan.

Though his performances had been promising, the lack of goals had been a concern for head coach Stuart Pearce and he made a point of telling Ince so before the friendly at Walsall.

At the double: Tom Ince struck twice against Sweden

At the double: Tom Ince struck twice against Sweden

Watch how his dad reacts

Paul was watching as Tom hit a double, but did he celebrate enthusiastically enough Paul's wife didn't seem to think so…

But Ince’s response was impressive and now he is determined to spearhead England’s quest to win Euro 2013, which begins in Israel in June.

‘It is hard when you are scoring at club level and it is not happening for you at international level,’ said Ince, who has found the net 16 times so far for Blackpool this year. I had been trying to break the duck and I had been a bit unfortunate. That’s why it was so nice to get off the mark.

‘Things hadn’t been falling for me but I
feel that breaking my duck can now really help me push on. It has taken
the doubts out of my mind. It was a proud moment to score wearing that
shirt and hopefully there will be more to come.’

Proud: Ince was delighted to get firing on the international stage

Proud: Ince was delighted to get firing on the international stage

There is little doubt Ince, who has set himself the target of finishing the Championship campaign with 25 goals, will make the cut for England’s 23-man squad and it is likely Pearce will be given the green light to take several big names with him to Israel.

While Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere are set to travel to Brazil with the senior team, Pearce is hoping there will be enough co-operation from Premier League clubs to enable significant players such as Raheem Sterling, Wilfred Zaha, Jonjo Shelvey and Phil Jones to travel.

‘The trouble with being a professional footballer is you never know when your form's going to come and go,’ said Pearce.

Step up: Players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have been called up to the senior squad

Step up: Players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have been called up to the senior squad

‘I see a lot of players being rested but on my behalf, as an international and a patriot of this country, where would the priority be on the burnout

‘Should the clubs rest for the national team I've always said the same thing – unless you take your strongest squad you can't be competitive. Roy (Hodgson) had firmly echoed that and hopefully we will take a strong squad to the championships.'

Mark Cavendish takes overall lead inTour of Qatar

Cavendish claims back-to-back stage wins to take overall lead in Tour of Qatar

PUBLISHED:

14:54 GMT, 6 February 2013

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UPDATED:

16:05 GMT, 6 February 2013

British racer Mark Cavendish today claimed back-to-back stage wins and the overall lead at the Tour of Qatar.

The Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider won the 160km route from Camel Race Track to Al Khor Corniche, which is the longest of the race.

Stage success: Mark Cavendish on the podium after claiming a second consecutive stage win on the Tour of Qatar

Stage success: Mark Cavendish on the podium after claiming a second consecutive stage win on the Tour of Qatar

Yellow jersey: The win today, on the longest stage of the event from Camel Race Track to Al Khor Corniche, earned Cavendish the overall lead

Yellow jersey: The win today, on the longest stage of the event from Camel Race Track to Al Khor Corniche, earned Cavendish the overall lead

The 27-year-old from the Isle of Man, who quit Team Sky late last year, beat Holland's Barry Markus and Italian Andrea Guardini in the battle of the sprinters to claim the Golden Jersey after the peloton reeled in the leading breakaway group by 146kms.

Cavendish stayed clear of a crash in the closing stages to cross ahead of Vacansoleil-Dcm racer Markus with Astana Pro Team's Guardini in third.

Number One: Cavendish, of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team, celebrates crossing the finish line in first

Number One: Cavendish, of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team, celebrates crossing the finish line in first

Delighted: The stage wins have left Cavendish well placed to win the event overall

Delighted: The stage wins have left Cavendish well placed to win the event overall

The victory, and the accompanying 10-second time bonus, saw Cavendish take the overall lead by two seconds from American Brent Bookwalter of BMC Racing.

The fifth stage of the Tour of Qatar runs over 154km from Al Zubara Fort to Madinat Al Shamal.

Cavendish felt his results in Qatar back up the decision to part company with Team Sky, who helped drive Bradley Wiggins on to success at the Tour de France.

'I am really, really happy right now. Three wins already, shows me, and shows [team manager] Patrick Lefevere, that I made the right move to Omega Pharma-Quick-Step,' Cavendish said.

'I get along really well with the guys already, and we have a good ambience with the team. I hope this can continue and we can keep getting good results this year.'

Jack Collison targets West Ham return after successful comeback from knee injury

West Ham's Collison targets first team return after successful comeback from injury

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UPDATED:

11:16 GMT, 18 December 2012

West Ham's Jack Collison is looking
'onwards and upwards' after making his first appearance since
the Championship play-off final.

The 24-year-old has had to watch the
Hammers' fine start to life back in the top flight from the sidelines
due to a long-standing knee problem.

Boost: Jack Collison came through 45 minutes of Under 21 match

Boost: Jack Collison came through 45 minutes of Under 21 match

Collison, who last featured for first team as they overcame Blackpool at Wembley back in May, stepped up his recovery from injury with the West Ham development squad at Norwich on Monday.

The Wales international came through 45 minutes of the 3-1 Barclays Under 21 Premier League defeat and could not hide his delight at returning.

'It was great to be back out there again,' Collison told the club's official website, www.whufc.com.

'I am obviously a little bit rusty, but I have ticked a box by completing 45 minutes and hopefully it will be onwards and upwards from there.

'I loved it. It was great to be playing football again, even though it was not the best conditions out there. I thought the boys did well and were unlucky to not to get a point out of it.'

Collison's return is a welcome boost to injury-hit West Ham, who are without the likes of Mohamed Diame, Ricardo Vaz Te and Yossi Benayoun.

He will not, though, pinpoint a date for his first-team return, focusing instead on continuing his rehabilitation.

'I will leave that for the manager to decide,' Collison said.

'I have obviously been out for quite a while so for me it is all about building up my fitness and getting that sharpness back.

'I am not sure whether the reserves will have any more games or have arranged any friendlies [before the Elite Group Stage starts in January] but I will be training more now so hopefully I can return as quickly as possible.'

Adrian Lewis survives scare against Gino Vos at World Darts Championship

Vos almost hits the Jackpot! World champion Lewis survives a scare on opening night at Ally Pally

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UPDATED:

13:50 GMT, 15 December 2012

Reigning world champion Adrian Lewis was made to sweat on the opening night of the World Darts Championship as he came from behind to beat young Dutchman Gino Vos.

The two-time winner was out of sorts and had to recover from 1-0 down to see off Vos at Alexandra Palace.

Vos looked at home on the big stage right from the beginning as he took the first leg with a double 16 finish.

Not in the script: Lewis had to recover from 1-0 down to beat Vos

Not in the script: Lewis had to recover from 1-0 down to beat Vos

The two-time champion was the big draw for the crowd on the opening night of the tournament

The two-time champion was the big draw for the crowd on the opening night of the tournament

Struggle: The world champion didn't have things all his own way against the talented Dutchman

Struggle: The world champion didn't have things all his own way against the talented Dutchman

The crowd were enjoying themselves on day one at Ally Pally

The crowd were enjoying themselves on day one at Ally Pally

DAY ONE RESULTS:

Robert Thornton 3-0 Magnus Caris

Paul Nicholson 3-0 Co Stompe

Adrian Lewis 3-1 Gino Vos

Kevin Painter 3-0 Leung Chun Nam

The 22-year-old then hit a 180 in the next leg and, as the crowd chanted his name, he broke the reigning champion’s throw to take a shock 2-0 lead in the first set.

Lewis then couldn’t capitalise on the Dutchman missing three doubles in the next leg as Vos took the opening set 3-0 to stun the two-time winner.

Jackpot had to respond in the second set and he did so by moving 2-0 ahead before carelessly busting his checkout to allow Vos to break back. But Lewis took the fourth leg to seal the set and draw level at 1-1.

Lewis held his nerve to win 3-1 and book his place in the second round

Lewis held his nerve to win 3-1 and book his place in the second round

The smurfs were in the crowd to see Lewis's win

The smurfs were in the crowd to see Lewis's win

It looked like the rookie’s resolve would be broken by Lewis’s comeback but his promising form continued as he went 2-0 up in third set.

But he let Lewis let off the hook by missing two darts at double four which would’ve won the set and the world champion quickly levelled at 2-2 with a 108 finish in the fourth leg.

And Lewis showed his class by hitting a 180 at a crucial time in the deciding leg of the set before hitting double five to take a 2-1 lead. Vos continued to fight but Lewis won the fourth set 3-1 to advance to the next round next Saturday night.

A relieved Lewis admitted it was not a great start by him but that the most important thing was getting the victory.

He told Sky Sports: 'At the end of the day it makes no difference (the performance), I won. Forget about that game now, it's gone. That was first to three sets, now it's first to four sets. I'll settle a lot quicker and hopefully I can get the job done.

'The first round is probably the hardest one. That first one there was probably harder than the finals I've played, the simple reason being that you're nervous.'

In the first match of the tournament, UK Open champion Robert Thornton romped to a 3-0 win over Swede Magnus Caris.

Caris, who had lost in the first
round on all three previous appearances at the World Championship, only
won one leg and never threatened the dominant Scot.

The
Thorn checked out 150 in the first leg of the match and followed up by
winning the next two legs to take the opening set. The Swede then won
the first leg of the second set but Thornton reeled off three straight
legs to move 2-0 ahead and just one set away from victory.

UK Open champion Robert Thornton started the night with a comfortable 3-0 win over Magnus Caris

UK Open champion Robert Thornton started the night with a comfortable 3-0 win over Magnus Caris

The Asset: Paul Nicholson also won on the opening night as he beat Dutch veteran Co Stompe 3-0

The Asset: Paul Nicholson also won on the opening night as he beat Dutch veteran Co Stompe 3-0

Nicholson will play Thornton in round two next Friday

Nicholson will play Thornton in round two next Friday

And
the UK Open champion finished the match just how he started it with
back-to-back checkouts of 150 and 130 to cruise into the second round
with an impressive performance.

Thornton’s
opponent in the last 32 will be Paul Nicholson after The Asset brushed
aside Co Stompe 3-0. Nicholson lost just two legs to the Dutch veteran
to set up a mouth-watering tie with Thornton next Friday.

Both Stompe and Nicholson had trouble finishing early on as they shared the first two
legs, but Nicholson checked out 106 in the third leg and 76 in the
fourth leg against the throw to win the opening set.

The second set was a carbon copy of the first as Nicholson won back-to-back legs from 1-1 to go two sets up.

And
The Asset didn’t waste much time in finishing off his opponent as he
pounced on the Dutchman’s poor finishing to break his throw in the
second leg of the third set, before sealing his comfortable 3-0 win.

Kevin Painter rounded off the evening with a comfortable 3-0 win over qualifier Leung Chun Nam.

The
Artist won the first two sets, both by three legs to one, before winning
the third set 3-0 on an entertaining first night.

Day two sees Phil Taylor kick off his quest for a 16th world title with John Part, Dave Chisnall and Terry Jenkins also in action during Saturday's double session at Ally Pally.

The Artist: Kevin Painter eased to a 3-0 win over Leung Chun Nam in the last match of the evening

The Artist: Kevin Painter eased to a 3-0 win over Leung Chun Nam in the last match of the evening

The jester from Leicester: Snooker star Mark Selby was among the big names in attendance

The jester from Leicester: Snooker star Mark Selby was among the big names in attendance

Hatem Ben Arfa is fit for Fulham v Newcastle clash

Boost for Newcastle with magical Ben Arfa back for Fulham clash

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 9 December 2012

Hatem Ben Arfa returns to centre stage for Newcastle United on Monday night.

The France star has missed his side’s last four matches and Pardew, who is looking to build on last week’s win over Wigan Athletic, knows his side have missed the forward’s inspiration.

Ben Arfa, who is one of four Newcastle players Pardew hopes to have back from hamstring injuries for the game at Fulham, was injured in his first Europa League match against Maritimo over a fortnight ago.

Ready to go: Hatem Ben Arfa is set to make his return to action

Ready to go: Hatem Ben Arfa is set to make his return to action

The 25-year-old had just been handed a
new central role by his manager and Pardew is ready to let him loose at
Craven Cottage tonight.

The Newcastle boss said: ‘I was very
disappointed to lose him in that Maritimo game because I wanted to get a
full 90 minutes out of him performing that role.

‘He is going to put the ball at risk
there, but on the plus side, he is also going to really increase the
flair in and around the central areas.

‘I am sure there will be games where I think it is right to put him there or even start with him there.

‘We had Hatem playing as a No 10 last
year. Mentally and physically I think he is in much better shape to play
that role now than he was back then.

‘I have not really had any significant
problems with Hatem. I think my experience of dealing with the likes of
Benayoun, Tevez, Mascherano — players who came over here in difficult
situations — has helped.

‘I am fortunate to be 52, still in the game and have that experience behind me.’

Newcastle also hope to have top scorer Demba Ba back tonight to add to his 10 goals in 16 appearances.

Watching brief

Roberto Mancini says Manchester City can cope with pressure

Mancini claims history shows his stars can cope with big game pressure

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UPDATED:

15:12 GMT, 8 December 2012

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has no concerns about his players' big-match temperament ahead of this weekend's much-hyped derby against Manchester United.

The champions have struggled to replicate the intensity of last season's dramatic title run-in at the start of the defence of their Barclays Premier League crown.

They did beat Tottenham last month but in other clashes against the competition's leading lights this term – Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton – they have been forced to settle for draws.

They can handle it: Joe Hart and David Silva will need to be at their best on Sunday

They can handle it: Joe Hart and David Silva will need to be at their best on Sunday

Their Champions League campaign was a dismal failure with losses to Real Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund seeing them knocked out at the group stage.

The pressure is now on again as City, trailing by three points, battle with leaders United for top spot and local pride on Sunday but Mancini is far from worried.

City are still unbeaten in the Premier League and Mancini said: 'Against Chelsea we dominated the game and were missing only a goal.

'Against Arsenal we deserved to win and they scored only in the last 10 minutes.

'With all the problems we had from the start of the season, to be there, only three points behind United, is a good thing in this moment.

'I don't think we have the same qualities we had last season in the first 15 games but I think this year we had big problems with players injured.'

Mancini also feels the task of defending a title is much harder than winning it for the first time.

The 48-year-old can speak with experience on that subject having won three successive Serie A crowns in charge of Inter Milan.

He said: 'I think it is difficult in every country to win two titles in a row but to win here is very, very difficult.

'This is normal. This can happen to a young team like us that won its championship after 40 (44) years.

Visit: Roberto Mancini chats with City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak

Visit: Roberto Mancini chats with City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak

'The day after is more difficult because you need to work more.

'The first thing is to forget everything you did until here and work more because it is normal that it is more difficult the second year.

'We want to try because we are champions and we need to defend this title.'

City appeared vulnerable in the early part of the season and did not keep a clean sheet until their seventh Premier League game.

They have improved in that area and now boast the best defensive record in the competition but Mancini feels problems have switched the other end of the pitch.

After 15 Premier League games last season, City had scored 49 goals. This time they have scored 21 fewer.

Mancini has called on his much-vaunted strike quartet of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli to deliver more goals several times in recent weeks.

Ball boy: Mario Balotelli looking suspicious

Confident: Mancini believes his men can cope

Goal time: Mancini (right) wants his strikers, including Mario Balotelli (left), to contribute more

He said: 'We had a problem with the defenders and conceded more goals at the start of the season.

'Now we improved that situation and we need to work to improve our situation with the strikers.

'I think that our season depends on our strikers. If we start to score like last year we have a big chance.'

While losing and falling six points behind United would hardly mark the end of City's challenge with much of the season still to play, Mancini is well aware of the importance of derbies.

City's stunning 6-1 win at Old Trafford last season ultimately proved crucial in the final count as the title was settled on goal difference.

Group chat: Mancini gives his players the low down

Group chat: Mancini gives his players the low down

Victory over United again in April then swung the race back in City's favour with just two games of the campaign remaining.

Mancini said: 'It was important for us because we played the first derby away and we won 6-1.

'There are some important games that can change your season and the derby was one of the first games like this for us.

'They have three points more than us and they have a small advantage but a derby is a really difficult match for both teams, and it is important.'

City are hoping playmaker David Silva can recover from a hamstring injury to feature after missing the midweek trip to Dortmund.

Left-back Gael Clichy and midfielder James Milner are also hoping to return after ankle and hamstring problems respectively.

Northampton 6 Ulster 25: Saints and Dylan Hartley face early exit

Northampton 6 Ulster 25: Future bleak for Saints and Hartley as early exit looms again

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UPDATED:

23:36 GMT, 7 December 2012

Northampton's hopes of avoiding a
second successive Heineken Cup pool-stage exit were all but extinguished as they were smashed aside by unstoppable Ulster.

Six days after England managed to end
the All Blacks’ 20-match unbeaten run, one of the Aviva Premiership’s
leading sides emphatically failed to end another double-digit streak.

Catch me if you can: Ulster wing Andrew Trimble scored a try in a brilliant performance at Franklins Gardens

Catch me if you can: Ulster wing Andrew Trimble scored a try in a brilliant performance at Franklins Gardens

Their Irish opponents came to Franklin’s Gardens on the back of a dozen consecutive victories this season, and having already beaten Glasgow away from home, this bonus-point triumph in a traditionally inhospitable arena leaves Ulster firmly on track to top Pool Four.

The runaway leaders of the RaboDirect Pro12 league gave a vivid display of the power and cohesion which has swept all before them. Up front, they had the likes of Iain Henderson and Chris Henry providing the strong-arm graft, while Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson pulled the strings cleverly and Jared Payne ran amok from full back.

For Northampton, this was a damaging indignity, inflicted on their first-choice line-up. Visiting teams don’t tend to come to these parts and dominate so emphatically. In theory, Jim Mallinder’s chastened side go to Belfast for the reverse fixture next Saturday with the their qualification prospects still alive.

In reality, they are surely sunk, as it was at Ravenhill where their local rivals Leicester suffered a record defeat last season.

Just to add to the bleak outlook, Saints captain Dylan Hartley appeared to use his forearm in an altercation with Ulster hooker Rory Best which is bound to attract scrutiny from the citing officer. Northampton could do without losing him to a ban so soon after his return from injury.

Hartley dismissed suggestions of anything untoward, saying: ‘I don’t think it was an incident.’

Try time: Jared Payne of Ulster races clear to score in the heavy defeat of Northampton

Try time: Jared Payne of Ulster races clear to score in the heavy defeat of Northampton

But the Saints skipper was brutally
honest in assessing his team’s performance, adding: ‘They are unbeaten
but we made them look very good. It’s all about intensity — we can’t
just go out there and expect things to happen. We need to sort our form
out for next week but we are capable of going there and winning.’

In the 10th minute, the visitors gave
an illustration of their form and confidence. When Ben Foden sliced a
clearance kick, Ulster’s pack rumbled forward from the lineout. Their
dynamic maul was stopped just short of the home line but the reprieve
was fleeting. The ball was shipped left, Paddy Jackson sent a delicate
chip to the corner and Andrew Trimble nipped in to touch down.

Jackson missed the conversion and the kicking difficulties continued on
both sides, with Ryan Lamb landing only two of his five first-half
shots.

His Irish counterpart slotted one penalty of his own and six minutes
before the break, Ulster struck again. Pouncing on loose ball from a
Northampton lineout, they battered the ramparts and forced a breach.
After Henderson and Trimble were kept at bay on the left, good hands
took the ball to the far flank where Tommy Bowe stormed over.

Ulster turned around 13-6 ahead and within four minutes they were out of
sight. Lamb’s high kick was taken by Payne, who ran back strongly.
Darren Cave burst clear down the right and after Henry drove on,
Trimble’s superb flat pass released Payne again. The Kiwi’s dummy
wrong-footed Foden and he ran clear to touch down. Jackson’s conversion
went over to make it 20-6.

Following sustained Northampton pressure at the other end, Payne sent
Dan Tuohy over in the right corner to clinch the visitors’ bonus point
and complete a miserable night for the Saints.

Putting the boot in: Paddy Jackson kicks a penalty for Ulster as they put the English side to the sword

Putting the boot in: Paddy Jackson kicks a penalty for Ulster as they put the English side to the sword

Salt in the wounds: Dan Tuohy of Ulster dives over for a last minute try on Friday night

Salt in the wounds: Dan Tuohy of Ulster dives over for a last minute try on Friday night