Fortress Carrow Road it is not right now. Far from it.
That’s not to say there wasn’t a buzz around the old place as 25,000 made their way home; 96th minute equalisers tend to have that effect on home stadiums. They feel like wins.
Equally, behind the adrenalin rush that accompanied Nelson Oliveira’s late late show there was a collective acknowledgement that what had preceded the goal for 95 minutes and 50 seconds wasn’t great.
Daniel Farke, behind the obvious charm, is clearly a stats man and was as ever quick to point to some impressive numbers that included 72 per cent of possession, 25 shots and a success rate of 65 per cent ‘in our duels, but, to coin a well worn phrase, ‘there is only one stat that really counts’.
That City laboured to break down Hull’s well marshalled back line and were within a whisker of firing off three consecutive Carrow Road blanks is however something to be worried about, and while the away-day conundrum of last season appears to have been addressed there is now a very different one for those in charge to mull over.
Apologies again for broken record syndrome, but the method of play Team Farke demands – which is not necessarily the way we are setting up away from home right now – is, to me, not conducive to chasing a game. It almost necessitates getting our noses in front and having a lead to protect. Then it doesn’t matter if the passing is a little slow and laborious; there’s a purpose to the possession game and while we have the ball the opposition cannot hurt us.
But when trying to break down two banks of four who are both content to shuffle back and forth in a tight, structured manner while we methodically shift the ball sideways it becomes, in my layman’s eyes, just a little too comfortable to defend against. It relies then on a flash of genius (which to be fair James Maddison is more than capable of) or someone – like a Yanic Wildschut or a fit Josh Murphy – to use power or pace to go past defenders and take them out of the equation.
To be fair, Wildschut did his best to offer that threat yesterday and, in his own inimitable and not particularly refined style, he did impact on the game and offered some rare moments of concern in the Hull City ranks. The final ball tended to let him down however, something that yesterday was far from unique to him. All too often when a good space had been created out wide, the quality of delivery gave Cameron Jerome virtually no chance.
And I guess that too was part of the problem. Cameron Jerome tends mostly to be the only target with none of the attacking midfield triumvirate regularly joining him. To pick out a single target with a pinpoint pass or cross is not easy even on a good day but when encountered with the massed ranks of a Championship defence who are protecting a one goal lead it becomes nigh on impossible.
But I’m not about to criticise all that Farke and his coaches have achieved because we are in a good place right now and they will be well aware of the work needed to turn home draws into wins. September was a revelation based on its starting point and the curve is still definitely upward
Oliveira’s exquisite back heel from Jerome’s flick on was of course enough to bring the house down but it was more than that. A defeat would have seen the good work of September hit the buffers. Boos would have emanated from the River End (some real miserablists in there yesterday). The mood as we departed would have been flat.
But there were no buffers; there were no boos; the mood was buoyant. And then to hear the Head Coach talk so excitedly and passionately post-match and explain away some of the travails of a difficult afternoon was actually quite inspiring. If there was any doubt over whether or not we are in safe hands there it was, in two minutes of interview.
To learn afterwards that Farke has sprinted Klopp-style onto the pitch to celebrate the goal, incurring the wrath of referee Stroud in the process, merely added to the Head Coach’s ever burgeoning reputation. And his line ‘Listen, if I have to do that again I will go in the stand because it would mean we had won the game’ had the makings of a stand-up routine all of its own.
It’s a charm that’s infectious and draws you in; makes you want to be a part of what’s happening. And it’s clear he’s positioned himself in ‘running through brick walls for the coach’ territory with regard to his players. That both Marco Stiepermann and Oliveira were both champing at the bit to impact on the game despite being some way off 100 per cent fit is indicative of this collective desire to do it for the coach and it was fitting those two would be involved in the goal.
Said collective will is not without irony though. Upon his arrival we all expected a Germanic theme to emerge mainly in terms of its technical proficiency, organisation and efficiency. What we hadn’t bargained for was the passion, unity and togetherness that would be engendered within just five months of his arrival. Just the sort of thing that comes in handy when next up is a trip to play your nearest and dearest.
So, it felt like a win, was only a point, there’s work still to be done but the momentum is still very much there.
Final word this week has to go to a City fan who has had a difficult week but who, through it all, has shown class and dignity (and just happens to be one of the greatest players to ever wear the yellow and green).
Draw that feels like a win ?? #Ncfc
— Darren Huckerby (@hucks6dh6) October 14, 2017
What a man.
‘On the Ball City…’