25th April 1998
It was a dark time at Maine Road as Manchester City welcomed Queens Park Rangers to Moss Side. The blues sat in the relegation zone on 44 points with just two games remaining. Victory against QPR would not only boost City’s survival hopes but also drag Rangers into the relegation battle.
The visitors were four points clear of City, and a point would be enough to secure their safety and leave the blues to battle it out with Portsmouth, Port Vale, Reading and Stoke City in the fight for survival. Two teams would survive and City had to be one of them.
And it started so well for the blues. In the first minute, City won a free-click on the edge of the area and the little Georgian star, Georgi Kinkladze fired the ball home to give City the lead. A glimmer of hope shone from the Maine Road darkness.
It wouldn’t last.
Within six minutes, QPR were level and it seemed only fitting that a former blue in the form of Mike Sheron would come back and haunt the club he had scored so many goals for. Now the blues were up against it and would have to start again.
Enter Jamie Pollock.
No one in the crowd had an inkling if what was about to happen. There was little danger as a cross from the City right came in towards the QPR striker, which Pollock intercepted by looping the ball over the strike’s head. With the ball dropping, it seemed Pollock had a couple of options. He could hoof the ball left-footed into the Kippax. He could try to trap the ball as it came down, turn and whack it away, or maybe just hammer it behind for a corner. Anything, just don’t try to head it back to the keeper.
But that just wouldn’t be Jamie Pollock-esque. The midfielder, who had only signed for City a month earlier, decided instead to send a looping header towards Nicky Weaver. What Pollock didn’t see was Weaver at least six yards off his line and in no position to accept a header towards him at height. As the ball cleared the keeper and landed into the back of the net, as the QPR fans went wild and declared April 25th as Jamie Pollock day, the City fans held their heads in their hands, knowing that, with luck like that, they were doomed.
And then, if the day couldn’t get any more bizarre, the blues equalised three minutes into the second half with a goal from, of all people, Lee Bradbury, leaving City fans thinking they had entered into some strange paradox, a parallel universe that just wanted to make City the butt of its jokes.
Alas, they were still in the same universe they had been in all season and despite the best efforts of the team, City could not find another way through the Rangers defence. The game ended 2-2, leaving City needing to win at Stoke while hoping either Portsmouth or Port Vale would lose their final game.