In keeping with Alex Neil’s half-hearted (but partly understandable) attitude to last night’s FA Cup Third Round replay I’ll keep it brief this morning.
But having commented on so many away-from-home disasters it’d be a shame to pass on one that didn’t fall into that category.
A 1-0 defeat to a Premier League team courtesy of a 92nd minute winner sounds on the face of it like a valiant effort and in many ways it was, yet however dressed up it was also another defeat, another early cup exit and another fruitless away day for the gallant 1,000 plus who made the trip.
But what amounted to a Southampton XI v a Norwich XI was not without its positives, the most notable being an excellent performance by Ben Godfrey who, for once, was handed some first team stripes while playing in his favoured midfield position.
That the lad made hay was hopefully noted by Team Neil who talk of ‘young and hungry’ but have so far done precious little to promote it.
Defensively there appeared to be no major ricks albeit with a back five you’d expect there to be fewer gaps to fill, but credit where it’s due and it took the addition of Nathan Redmond and Oriol Romeu for the Saints to finally find a way past a stubborn City defence; not an adjective I’ve used too often (as least when describing our back-four).
As an attacking force City were clearly limited – that’s how they were set up to be – but still they offered the odd threat, mainly through triggering counter-attacks via the pace of Josh Murphy but chances were virtually non-existent and Kyle Lafferty offered little by way of quality service.
And that was pretty much it. So ends City’s interest in the cups of 2016/17, and you could argue so ends City’s interest in the season 2016/17.
From hereon-in it’s going to take something extraordinary to make something of what has been a rotten season, the only sniff of anything out of the ordinary so far being at the wrong end of the spectrum.
While on the face of it the eight point gap between City and sixth place Sheffield Wednesday may appear do-able over the remaining 20 games, is it really when your team has for the most part flitted between dire and dispirited?
Naturally we all hope it’s possible and Alex Neil can somehow galvanize the spirit of 2014/15 into the 2016/17 version but there’s little evidence of it happening, hence the talk of it being season over.
But we have hope. That’s it… just hope.
Alex meanwhile continued his unhealthy trait of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time when, in conversation with Chris Goreham, he alluded to his players being better suited going head-to-head with Premier League rather than Championship opponents.
I’m fairly sure he didn’t mean it exactly as it sounded – for a start there’s not a scrap of evidence of this being the case – but given the sense of self-importance that some of his squad appear to have it’s really the last thing they need to hear, especially with Paul Lambert’s Wolves just around the corner.
But it is what it is, and it certainly says something that my heart wasn’t broken by being knocked out of the FA Cup by a 92nd minute winner. I’m just not sure what.
“On the Ball City…”