MANCHESTER CITY 1 WEST HAM UNITED 2 IN Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby describes the misery of FA Cup-ties for the fanatical supporter, the stomach-churning dread that obliterates all other emotions. The followers of Manchester City know that feeling sickeningly well.
They can be proud that their side played a full part in a thrilling fourth-round match against West Ham, yet they left Maine Road with only a sense of despair at their team's hideous misfortune.
Not only did Uwe Rosler miss a penalty that would surely have given the English League first division side a match-winning lead, but the injustice was compounded by West Ham's winner just two minutes later, scored with a certain inevitability by former City star Steve Lomas.
Even their mild-mannered manager Frank Clark could not suppress his frustration at such a cruel finale.
``It sums up our season,'' he said. ``Not only do we go and miss the penalty, but then Steve Lomas comes back and scores when he hardly ever scores.
``I don't want to blame Uwe for the miss there are few players who would have wanted to take it but you have to hit the target. If the keeper makes a save you hold your hands up but that didn't happen.''
Clark felt City had raised their game after the break and did not deserve to bow out.
``We were second best in the first half, but, after the break, we really had a go and in the end didn't deserve to lose.
``We got at them, created chances, and took the game to a side in the top half of the Premiership.''
Clark saluted Kinkladze's performance, saying: ``He was brilliant, but he has been like that a lot for us this season.
``It was a great goal but he's capable of scoring that sort of effort.''
Kinkladze gave up taking penalties for City earlier this season after missing two on the trot.
And Clark said: ``Rosler is the designated penalty taker. He took and scored the last one. Geo doesn't want to take them anymore.''
West Ham boss Harry Redknapp admitted: ``You were frightened every time Kinkladze got the ball. You were just praying it didn't get to him.
``The man's a genius. We didn't have anyone who could man mark him, it would have meant changing our entire system.
``But even when there were people around him he still beat them, so there wasn't much point in putting a man marker on him.''
City did not deserve to lose or rather, Georgi Kinkladze's performance did not warrant a Cup exit.
The little Georgian midfield player is frustrating in the extreme, reserving as he does his best displays for matches such as these, but his efforts had to be admired.
He went deeper and deeper in search of the ball and still almost destroyed West Ham on his own. One first-half shot, from 25 yards, possessed so much venom that Hammers keeper Craig Forrest did not see it until the ball had exploded on to his crossbar.
By then, West Ham were leading thanks to a delightful move after 28 minutes that underlined their growing confidence and class.
The visitors dominated the first half and deserved more for their troubles than a wonderfully executed goal from Eyal Berkovic.
Abou started the move and fed the impressive John Hartson, whose ability to hold up the ball so unsettled a vulnerable City defence.
The centre forward took a touch and then glided a pass between two markers for Berkovic to score with admirable precision.
Hartson was denied only by an offside decision and Samassi Abou only by Muxtak Shelia's blatant penalty-area obstruction, but if the Premiership side began to feel comfortable, they forgot about Kinkladze's latent menace.
There appeared little danger when he took the ball on the right in the 59th minute. Then Kinkladze slalomed around Berkovic, Steve Potts and Rio Ferdinand, put Ian Pearce on his backside and the ball into the net.
Twice soon after, City's talisman almost won the tie when he again wriggled free in the box only to shoot wide.
It inspired false hope among those poor City supporters, who must have felt that their bad luck had finally turned when Potts tripped Paul Dickov in the penalty area in the 74th minute.
It was Rosler, not Kinkladze, who stepped up to take the kick. A mistake. Earlier in the match, the German had placed over the crossbar a chance easier to convert, when Forrest rushed from his goal. He displayed similar profligacy with the penalty.
It was then that the City supporters discovered that familiar feeling in their stomach as Lomas, of all people, wielded the telling blow.
An ambitious club would not have sold him a year ago and he underlined the fact by smashing a clearance by Kit Symons from a corner back into the net from just outside the penalty area.
After the match, Clark was momentarily lost for words as the eccentric tune of a mobile telephone stopped his flow.
Quickly though, he asked: ``It's not playing the last post, is it?'' Given City's luck, he was probably closer to the truth than he knows.
MAN CITY Wright, Brightwell, Shelia, Brown, Symons, Edghill, Whitley, Russell, Dickov, Kinkladze, Rosler.
WEST HAM Forrest, Potts, Ferdinand, Pearce, Unsworth (Breacker 19), Lomas, Lampard, Berkovic, Lazaridis, Abou (Dowie 87), Hartson.
REF D Gallagher (Banbury).
The Times, London.