For the second consecutive month we took seven points from a possible twelve. It's probably as good a return as we expected - maybe I would have wanted eight or nine. I would have expected, though, at the start of the month, that seven points would have been enough to strengthen our hold in fourth. But the reality is that we now look less likely to get it than we did one month ago. Not through any fault of our own, but because of Tottenham's remarkable home wins over first Arsenal then Chelsea. Even with Spurs losing at Sunderland and Manchester United they had a good month and now look very narrow favourites for fourth. It started with two big wins against Birmingham and Burnley, before clashes with United and Arsenal. We were seconds away from grinding out consecutive goalless draws, entirely in keeping with Mancini's gameplan, and while Paul Scholes denied us at Eastlands, Arsenal could find no way through at the Emirates. Going into May the position is as it was before: it's a shoot-out with Spurs at Eastlands, presuming we can win our other two games.
Burnley (a) 6-1 (thoughts, ratings, reax, more reax)
Birmingham City (h) 5-1 (thoughts, ratings, reax)
Manchester United (h) 0-1 (thoughts, ratings, reax, more reax)
Arsenal (a) 0-0 (thoughts, ratings, reax, more reax)
Player of the Month
The hardest award for months. This month has seen four fairly balanced, coherent team performances. It's impressive, and the sign of a good team, but it does make this harder. There have been months this season when we've been carried, whether by Craig Bellamy, Shay Given or Carlos Tévez. This wasn't one of them. There was no real stand out performer, and so almost half a dozen contributors. Most obvious are the strikers: Emmanuel Adebayor scored four goals, and Carlos Tévez three in those two thumping wins at the start of the month. Then there's the centre-backs - Vincent Kompany and Kolo Touré have formed as good a pairing as we've had this season; conceding only three goals - one of which was a meaningless consolation - and both performing well individually. You could even make a case for Craig Bellamy who despite his tension with Mancini has continued to perform with grit and commitment. I could with real comfort bestow this award upon any of them. But instead I'm going to go for a personal favourite of mine: Gareth Barry.
After a mid-season blip he's rediscovered his autumn authority. In the first three games this month he played as the creative force in a midfield four, setting the tempo of games with his incisive forward passing. With no Stephen Ireland in the side there's a heavy burden on Barry to move the ball forward but he's crucial to our gameplan of releasing Adam Johnson and Craig Bellamy high up the pitch. On top of this, Barry has been admirable in his performance of the defensive work Fabio Capello demands of him for England. He's not an ankle-biter like de Jong but he's willing to throw his weight around when he needs to. He is back to giving us the assurance and composure in the middle that we so need at this point of the season.
Goal of the Month
There's eleven goals to pick from but none of them were that good. But I'm going to go for Nedum Onuoha's goal against Birmingham. He surged past three or four defenders and finished well on his weaker foot. Plus he'd been denied a goal earlier by Carlitos and it was his first goal at Eastlands since that header against West Brom last April.
Performance of the Month
Carlos Tévez v Burnley
Yes, it was Brian Laws' Burnley. But Tévez was exceptional in this game, running the game from behind Adebayor in his preferred second striker role. He scored one, made two and could have contributed even more were it not for the pitch.