To paraphrase: ‘But can they do it on a miserable Tuesday night in Barnsley?’
Answer: Well, yes and no.
In the greater scheme of things, a point at Barnsley is not cause for celebration – especially given the success City have had at Oakwell over the years – but as it transpired, and in challenging circumstances, Daniel Farke’s relief at leaving South Yorkshire with a point was just about justified.
But still, if you strip away the injury and illness crisis, and ignore the depleted resources available to Team Farke, then last night’s first half was about as ugly as it gets.
Against a Barnsley side who epitomised the term ‘fighting for their lives’, City came off second best all over the pitch and in terms of artistic impression, the spectacle on offer was more ‘Sunday morning after a night out’ than ‘just like watching Brazil’.
Having returned to a back-three – albeit one that included a stricken Christoph Zimmermann – there was a renewed defensive solidity for City but one that very much compromised their ability to attack with even the slightest hint of menace. When Oli McBurnie gave the Tykes the lead on the stroke of half-time, it was no more than they deserved.
Farke most likely doesn’t do flying teacups and undiluted rage, and there was certainly little evidence of the players being given ‘a rocket’ in the lukewarm opening exchanges of the second half, but a turning point came on 50 minutes, when Zimmermann could resist the call of the bathroom no longer and was replaced by Onel Hernandez.
A shift to 4-1-4-1 worked for City, and enabled them, for the first time in the match, to ask questions of the home side. Josh Murhpy was shifted to a more familiar role on the City left and with Hernandez on the right flank, there was a dual-threat that had been absent for the first 45.
Still the quality on offer reached no great heights but City had a foothold in the game and the threat from the red shirts slowly subsided.
When the equaliser arrived it was just reward for City’s second-half industry and it was fitting that James Husband – who had a testing but nevertheless impressive evening – should be the provider. When his low cross from the left arrived at Josh’s feet there was still plenty to do, but a good first touch and a fizzed left-foot drive from an acute angle gave Barnsley keeper, Adam Davies no chance.
It was a finish of quality. Something we’ve not seen enough of from one who should now have moved beyond the ‘promising youngster’ tag.
Unfortunately, the late drama didn’t involve another eleventh-hour goal but instead a very nasty looking injury to Alex Tettey. That initial fears of a ‘career-ending’ injury were unfounded was a massive relief but depending on the diagnosis, one wonders if that’s the last we’ll see of the Norwegian in a yellow shirt.
Let’s hope not. He deserves better.
So, seven without a win and there now feels a real danger of this season fizzling out into not very much. Being in transition feels like a convenient excuse for a paucity of quality but it shouldn’t be. Equally, Farke has been hindered by having injuries to key players, and so, maybe, it’s unfair to judge too harshly.
But, there is no escaping this feels like a limbo period. Phase one of the revolution appears to be drawing to a fairly uneventful close and phase two can’t really kick on until the summer transfer window opens.
Whether it takes us forwards, backwards or neither will only become clear in August.