In terms of performance levels yesterday’s offering at Elland Road was up there. The passing was fluent, the ball was worked rhythmically through the thirds in the way the head coach demands and amidst it all we did create some chances.
But we lost 1-0. Again.
And, aside from a few horror shows that we still find it hard to talk about, that’s been the story of our season. A habit of dozing at vital times defensively, particularly from set pieces, and an equally nasty habit of squandering chances that do come along.
The form table now reads one win in ten and it takes an extreme optimist to pluck that solitary win against Sheffield Wednesday out as evidence that the club’s trajectory is anything but southward. In some ways it would be easier to comprehend if we were stinking the place out every week (let’s not try it by the way) but in those nine win-less games there is nothing that remotely constitutes a hammering.
The margins remain fine yet we have developed an incredibly unhealthy habit of almost always coming out the wrong side. Games that are finely balanced tend to swing on the aforementioned creaking at the back and the missed opportunities at the other end. It’s become the norm. It’s what we do. Our shtick.
And despite the warm glow we all felt after last Saturday’s second-half, in reality the momentum is such that it isn’t the results of those above us that we should be concerned with.
Stewart Lewis, in the week, eloquently put forward a logical case for City being the ones to emerge from the pack to make a late charge for the play-offs. His theory assumed our starting point to be mid-table, which at the moment we’re just clinging on to, but the current slide is such that the next four games – against Brentford, Birmingham, Burton and Millwall – have taken on even greater significance.
As things stand we’re ten points off Sheffield United in sixth but rather than needing a short, sharp burst to get back in contention, the current run of form makes closing that gap feel more like a 10,000m race, if not a marathon. And it needs the ball to start rolling for us and for us to be on the right end of any iffy refereeing decisions; the complete antithesis of which was the free-kick award that led to Leeds’ goal.
Social media of course did its thing last night and the predictable calls for Daniel Farke’s sacking gained more prominence than they deserved. The German is indeed still learning and, by his own admission, has had to tweak his footballing ideology to cope with the vagaries of the Championship but those who call for ‘managerial’ change should consider for a moment the hand he has been dealt.
He arrived at a club in transition and before he’d even had a chance to make his Colney office his own some good players were shown the door for reasons of finance. Those same players were replaced by cut-price versions and he was then, before the season even began, hit by a whole crop of injuries including two of his nailed on starters.
What followed was, and still is, a roller coaster and all of it being played out against the backdrop of him being told that to keep the club afloat we will be losing some of our best players.
I don’t envy him.
He has made mistakes, will continue to do so and has to find a way to turn this rotten run around by making us more potent, but calls for him to be replaced, for me, are premature. Those fingers are being pointed in the wrong direction.
I’ll not re-enter the Dexit debate because our own Steve Cook and former EDP columnist Richard Balls have said, in the last week, everything that needs to be said but there’s something just a little heartbreaking about watching the potential of James Maddison and Alex Pritchard in the knowledge that before too long one or both will be sold for no other reason than to balance the books.
I was criticised (which is fine by the way) for likening these two to employees who are working out a period of notice but, through no fault of their own, this is precisely how it feels. I suspect there are others, possibly Timm Klose, in that same boat. And those in power, from the outside looking in, appear content to let this happen.
Talk too of Ben Godfrey being courted by a couple of Premier League clubs should be given short shrift, given he’s barely kicked a ball in anger in a yellow shirt, but in our current state it’s almost certain that Messrs Webber and Stone will have to give every single bid serious consideration. Things are that precarious.
So, tricky times even if the performance yesterday was a decent one. Let’s hope the mood can be buoyed by some points over the next four games.
A message from Rick…
As promised a couple of weeks ago, MyFootballWriter has now officially entered the Mobile Age with the launch of our free mobile app.
Our aim has always been to make your life as simple as possible – to bring you all the MFW content and comment you love, where you actually live your lives in 2017 – on your mobile phones.
So here they are… an iPhone app
And one for Android
Alternatively just search for MyFootballWriter in your app store and there it will be – FREE to download with all the usual NCFC goodness from Gary and the team plus the usual ability to comment on their thoughts whilst on the go.
For now it’s all ad free too… how we help local small businesses in Norwich message this local audience simply and safely is something for the New Year.
We’ll keep you posted on that.
For now just help yourself to our new, free mobile app and enjoy…