Saturday 7th February

Manchester City 1 Middlesbrough 0
Barclays Premier League
At: City of Manchester Stadium
Kick-off: 12-45 pm
Attendance: 40588
Weather: dry, sunny though colder by full-time
Duration: first half: 46:24; second-half 48:08

I wondered after last weekend’s trip to Pinxton if ‘normality’ had returned to choosing my Saturday game without having to check for pitch inspections, doubts and postponements. How wrong I was with the week of weather we have had! Snow fell on Monday, followed by a lot more on Thursday. A host of postponements yesterday and forecasts of freezing temperatures overnight even gave thoughts/worries that today my even end up being a blank Saturday.

I seriously felt that finding a non-league game on to be equivalent to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack and that a top-flight game with undersoil heating may be the most sensible option. I’d seen Premier League football before at both Middlesbrough and Selhurst Park, so a game at the highest level wasn’t going to be a first for me.

There was plenty of ‘umming and arring’ yesterday until I decided after tea to take the plunge and book a ticket for City v Boro. Booking online, I was able to choose my seat which was between one on the lower tier near pitch-side or one up high up down the side on the upper (third) tier of the West Stand. I opted for the upper tier, curious to find out 18 hours later if I had made a good or not-so-good choice.

Rather than drive all the way to the City of Manchester Stadium, I opted for an improvised ‘park-ride-walk’ with a drive to Navigation Road station in Altrincham, a tram to the city centre and then a walk along the signed route to the stadium.

On arrival I got my programme (£3) from one of the numerous sellers, found the box office and collected my ticket, before taking the appropriate spiral ramp inside one of the external towers up to the top tier. Just like at Leicester City a few weeks ago, I emerged into a hidden world inside the stand of food outlets, TV screens, toilets and betting points. After having lunch, fish and chips with mushy peas (a bit pricey but excellent for stadium food), I found the appropriate entrance and got my first sight of the pitch and stands – a compete contrast to the places I normally watch my football. The steward told my seat was six rows from the back so up I climbed up to my seat them turned round to get an almighty shock – vertigo! It was like looking down from the top of the ski jumps I’ve been to in Oslo and Lahti. I soon settled to admire the 47, 726 capacity stadium with views of the snow covered hills to the east as a bonus.

I don’t see too many Brazilian players on my travels, if at all, so I was hoping that Robinho would be named in the starting line-up. He was, and Shay Given made his debut in goal for City having moved from Newcastle United.

Another thing I wondered beforehand was about the music and whether the sound of the Gallagher brothers would be blasted over the tannoy – answer ‘yes’ at 12-32 pm!

Manchester City (sky blue shirts, white shorts and sky blue socks) got the game underway, attacking the South Stand which housed the travelling Middlesbrough fans. I’d made a prediction for 1-0 to City on the Football Predictions League competition I’ve been doing all season (

I really thought for a moment that my prediction was going up in smoke in the 28th minute. Adam Johnson got down the right and pulled the ball back to unmarked Afonso Alves, just 8 yards out. The Brazilian looked certain to score until Given pulled off a superb save. That’s £1m of his transfer fee repaid already? The save seemed to bring the fans around me to life with their “C’mon City” chants. At the other end, Middlesbrough keeper Brad Jones equally excels with two saves to twice deny Craig Bellamy.

In the 39th minute, City went close again. This time Stephen Ireland headed against the bar. Soon after Stuart Downing sent a 27-yard free-kick wide and signalled an exodus of City fans to the refreshments queue some five minutes before the interval.

In front of a 40, 558 attendance, City broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute. Bellamy fired across the face of goal from the right and into the opposite corner of the net. Bearing in mind my prediction, I settled for it being the only goal!

The last ten minutes seemed to last for ages, with me getting colder and hoping for no more goals. City got four late corners, all taken short with no intention of doing anything other than ‘keep ball’.

Final whistle – 1-0 to City, three points for then and more importantly three points in the prediction competition.