So it was there all the time. The answer I mean.
Bolt Timm Klose into that back four; go 4-2-3-1; sacrifice 75 per cent possession; scrap it out; put bodies on the line.
I jest of course (and yes I know Klose has been injured) but I’m sure the irony of only our second win of the season being achieved in a style befitting one Alex Neil was lost on no-one.
While we did our best to brush it off at the time, that fateful afternoon in Cambridge in mid-July has been costly, highlighted perfectly by the solidifying effect a fit Klose had on the back four yesterday.
And there’s irony in that too. The same Klose who was derided for a series of loose and below-par defensive performances last season – and who never recovered from that mauling by Daryl Murphy on the first derby day – has now entered the realms of defensive saviour.
His revealing post match chat with Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham included confirmation from the man himself that last season was underpinned by a ‘this’ll be a stroll’ attitude, only for it be horribly undone. That he was honest enough to admit it was quite something and if his bullish vow to right that particular wrong comes to fruition then we’ll see a very different Timm Klose this season.
And yesterday was a fine start.
With Grant Hanley literally waiting in the wings for the green light to kick off his City career, all of a sudden Daniel Farke has defensive options at his disposal, not all of whom have had their psyche scarred with some early season thumpings.
Key too to yesterday’s clean sheet was a reshuffling of the defensive shield given to that new look back four. Gone was Harrison Reed – a rising star if ever there one was one but who has struggled to single-handedly stem the tide in the last two away games – and in from the cold came one Alex Tettey alongside Tom Trybull; a name I’ll never tire of saying or typing.
The upshot was instead of the midfield ballast being provided by an energetic youngster who was straining at the leash to ‘join in’, there were two older, more experienced heads there who were content to ‘sit’ and allow the Maddison, Vrancic and Murphy triumvirate a free hand to create and support Nelson Oliveira.
As it transpired, as the game wore on, ‘Arry’s bunch of newbies (for once it may have been handy for them to have their names on the back and front of their shirts, and possibly their foreheads) did get rather more than a foothold, and so to have that effective shield protecting Messrs Klose, Zimmermann and co proved invaluable.
To have restricted the Blues, for all of their second-half possession, to just two dangerous free-kicks was a sterling effort in the aftermath of such recent defensive horrors and showed the last two weeks at Colney to be have been used effectively.
Of course we’re still a long way from where we want to be – and from where Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke want us to be – but it’s hard to overstate the importance of that win against the backdrop of our disappointing start. However early the day and however much patience we can collectively call upon, to have been beaten by a side that included six debutants and is managed by a second-hand car dealer would have caused ripples that I dare not even consider.
But the nerve was held, the chests were puffed and the world seemed just that little bit better at 5pm.
As an attacking force there is not too much to add. On another day we’d have added to the solitary goal and even if playing two defensive midfielders takes away one option in our rotating and fluid attacking midfield, we still looked a threat throughout, especially when the ball was at the magnetic feet of James Maddison on the edge of the opposition’s box.
Josh too again showed plenty of signs that he is emerging from that Murphy shadow and now has a swagger befitting one who can consider himself a regular. The decision making may not always be perfect and he and Marco Stiepermann did get themselves in a defensive muddle or two early on, but the knack he has of beating the first defender as if he’s in quicksand is priceless. So too that extra yard of pace to leave that defender once he’s past him.
And then of course there’s ol’ Nelson swaggering away up front. Few can do swagger quite like Mr Oliveira.
Fresh from from scoring for his country in the week, his early goal – from Klose’s cross-shot that looked like it was going in anyway – offered a fillip of the perfect variety and allayed my own personal fears of our current struggles with chasing a game.
With our noses in front it matters not then if the build up is a little ponderous and over deliberate, and it offers those tasked with keeping a clean sheet that little bit extra incentive to make that tackle and not miss that header.
And so it came to pass. With Klose as a partner, Christoph Zimmermann provided an almost error-free performance, and crucially found himself close enough to his partner not to permit any obvious gaps while still not being attracted to the same ball at the same time. One suspects Zimmermann will be the one to make way for a fully up-to-speed Grant Hanley but yesterday will have done his confidence the power of good.
Elsewhere, Ivo Pinto rose to the challenge of being handed the armband and did what Ivo Pinto does: cavaliering and swashbuckling in a forward direction in a way Greg Downs was rightfully proud of and making us all nip up when faced with a one-on-one and back-peddling. But he got the job done, as did Stiepermann after those early positional travails.
So, a win. A valuable one. And we find ourselves at the dizzying heights of 17th. A win on Tuesday against Burton and it’ll be a par start to the season.
And I think we’d have all taken that.