“THREE consecutive clean sheets? Pinch me, I’m dreaming….
The words of one of our own – Mr Edward Couzens-Lake. And Ed, I’m happy to confirm it wasn’t a dream. It actually happened and in circumstances as trying, as hostile and as tricky as they come.
By the same score I had to check this morning that I hadn’t dreamt that the Sheffield Utd manager – Chris ‘getting increasingly’ Wilder is his name I believe – had one of the biggest primary school-like blubs I’ve ever seen when he was supposed to be explaining to the press why his side had lost a game of football.
If you haven’t heard it, it’s here. It’s ten minutes long but well worth a listen.
In case you haven’t got time, here’s a quick précis as to why Norwich won and Sheffield Utd lost:
- They had five strikers missing and Ched Evans was only 50 per cent fit.
- Our coach driver hadn’t done his prep.
- They didn’t get the ‘run of the ball’.
- Nasty old Norwich ran the clock down.
In a nutshell, we didn’t sing to his tune and he didn’t like it. That he was sent to the stands for sending some water bottles flying in the City technical area was somehow fitting but also added fuel to a fire in the stadium that was already ablaze.
With tensions at boiling point, Wilder’s actions did little but stoke them further and while the bloody aftermath – in which City fans leaving the away end were randomly assaulted – didn’t correlate directly to his actions, they clearly did little to help.
Also worthy of note is that City’s directors and their guests too were given horrible abuse by United fans sitting in their vicinity; all driven by the same venom that drove Wilder to kick those bottles and rant at the press, and which gave those hooligans – maybe only a few – the trigger to go and beat up supporters who had gone to see a game of football.
Sheffield Utd we salute you.
But enough of what transpired off the pitch. On it we picked up a rare away win and three priceless points – and that’s far more worthy of a few words than the behaviour of a few morons.
That we saw it through courtesy of some professionalism is fine by me but perhaps we need to be a little less sniffy when it happens to us. We did to the Blades what Burton and Master Bywater did to us.
C’est la vie.
What’s more interesting and telling is that all of a sudden we look tough to beat. The three clean sheets Ed referred to at the top of this piece have come off the back of two away-day horror shows in which we shipped eight goals.
To have achieved this tactically has not been rocket science – a fit again Timm Klose has been bolted into a back-four that is now supported by a Trybull/Tettey combo – but crucially what also appears to have changed is the mindset. Hesitancy has been replaced by determination; obstinance and dogged resistance now appear the order of the day, from one to eleven.
Those two weeks that straddled the international break were extremely well used.
Burton was a joyless grind, no question, but it now feels like another small step on the road to defensive solidity; something we’ve craved for many seasons. There will of course be days when it goes awry – that’s football – but those three clean sheets at least prove that the Class of 2018 do have the wherewithal and know-how to grind it out when needed.
And make no mistake, yesterday was a stern test. Despite Wilder’s wide-eyed claims of being hard done by in the striking department, the Blades are a good side who’s star is in the ascendancy. Four wins on the spin and with a win taking them to the top of the table made yesterday arguably City’s biggest test of the season to date.
To have emerged with a 1-0 shows that Team Farke is indeed learning. The curve may be steep, along with that of several of the players, but it’s being met head on. And, irony of ironies, for the third time this season a win has been achieved with City having the minority of possession – all against the backdrop of a desire to dominate it.
It suggests the laudable ideals with which Daniel Farke and his team arrived have had to be re-assessed and tweaked to deal with the vagaries of the Championship. And if the last three outings are anything to go by they are on the way to being addressed positively. Sure, we’d like to sweep all and sundry aside by virtue of 70 per cent possession but in this league that’s simply not going to happen.
To be able to pass the ball is of course important, but in the second tier the ability to scrap sits alongside it, and on days like yesterday trumps it. And that technical players like Tom Trybull and Marco Stiepermann emerged from yesterday with their colours flying is huge in the context of the 38 games that are to come. So too the belated emergence of the power and goal-scoring ability of Yanic Wildschut.
So, after a frustrating week in which too many too toys flew out of too many prams we now have to keep a lid on it and not get carried away by the oddity of an away win.
Oh sod it … let’s enjoy the moment.
In the same way my opening gambit was from a MFW colleague, so too will be the final word. From Steve Cook on Twitter…
“NCFC fans frustrated by Burton time-wasting moan about it
SUFC fans frustrated by Norwich time-wasting beat up away fans”
Never mind the danger…