Remember that game last season when Neil Warnock got the hump with Nuno Espírito Santo after Wolves had beaten Cardiff 1-0 thanks to two injury-time penalty saves by John Ruddy?
Remember how Wolves celebrated at the final whistle and Colin lost it because the Wolves manager forgot to shake his hand?
Well, that was at the exact same juncture of the season as where we are now – 41 games. This, as you’ll recall was the expensively assembled Wolves side who were playing the “best football the Championship had ever seen”, and who had been wearing the ‘champions-elect” badge for at least a month.
Wolves had 89 points – just four more than City – and a goal difference of +38, also four more than City. Okay, so that win extended their lead over Cardiff to nine points compared to our six over Leeds, but hopefully you get the gist.
To some, Reading’s late equaliser was the death knell to our chances of promotion, but in the real world, this was just a minor blip on an otherwise imperious march to promotion. These things happen. This is football.
Even Barcelona, PSG, Real Madrid, Man City and co drop points occasionally. Games of successive winning runs do, I’m afraid, come to an end and if anyone expected them to win 14 consecutive games, they were always destined for disappointment.
So, take a step back, look at the table, transport yourself to a parallel universe, replace ‘Norwich City’ with ‘Wolves’, and would you expect them to blow it?
No, neither would I. So chill people. We’ve got this.
Maybe if performance levels were suffering and there were signs of choking, there would be a slight cause for concern. But, despite dropping two points last night, I saw no evidence of either.
I’m old fashioned when it comes to stats because in football [cliché klaxon] there is only one that really counts, but last night’s made for compelling reading. They told me that on almost any other day, City would have won that game.
Credit to Reading though. They were organised, fought as if their lives depended on it and had a keeper who was bang on it. They also belied the belief that relegation threated teams who wear blue and white just roll over and invite opponents to tickle their belly.
The other thing to say is that at the clock ticked to 85 minutes, I’d have given anything for a single point. It looked for all the world like (just for once) being one of those nights, where sweat, toil and silky passing would go unrewarded.
Luckily, Ben Godfrey is rather less defeatist than me, and a slick one-two with Marco Stiepermann later and even Martinez couldn’t get even close to what was the very epitome of a thunderb@stard.
The relief around the old place was papable but nothing compared to the explosion of sound triggered by Christoph Zimmermann’s towering header – from Kenny McLean’s only real quality delivery of the night.
Those eight minutes between Zimmermann’s header and Andy Rinomhota’s last-minute equaliser were why we go to football. Simple as that.
That the Reading leveller felt like a dagger through the heart at the time is undeniable – I’m pretty sure if we had listened hard enough, we’d have heard the roar from Yorkshire – but perspective is everything at times likes these, and what was important was that City kept the points ticking over.
The Colney debrief will no doubt reveal what we all know – that City should have won the game – but equally, through no fault of Todd Cantwell who did all that was asked of him, we did miss the invention of Emi Buendia.
Why wouldn’t we? He’s the best player in the league right now and for all the neat passing, his ability to see a pass a milli-second before everyone else was missed; the result being everything was a little too deliberate and therefore happened a little too slowly. With Reading opting to sit tight, the lack of zip made for a tough 45, made doubly difficult by Reading’s sucker-punch on the half-hour.
The tempo was better in the second half and City will always create chances, it was just a question of finding a way past Martinez and taking a couple. That we did and it was almost enough was thanks to two centre-backs who epitomise the spirit, fight and belief in this group.
Amongst the star names, we have unearthed a centre-back pairing who have been colossal – both fully invested and committed to the cause – and there was something fitting about those two taking us to the brink last night.
There was, of course, some online nonsense from a few after the game, who expected us to steamroller Reading, but for the majority it was another step closer to what was once just a dream but is now a goal.
There’ll be further blips ahead, and Wigan on Sunday lunchtime will not be for the faint-hearted, but nothing emerged from last night to suggest this group don’t have it all in hand.
Daniel is calm and taking it in his stride. We should try and do the same.