Credit where it’s due… the Match of the Day production team excelled themselves in finding five minutes worth of highlights from yesterday’s war of attrition. No complaints either that, despite there being two other goalless draws yesterday, City’s game was in the ‘and finally’ slot.
There were a few positives – the obvious one being the clean sheet – and it was important that we ended the four-game run of defeats; but to quote the BBC’s commentator, ‘it was not one that will last long in the memory’.
And he wasn’t kidding…
Thanks to the ten-game unbeaten run we still find ourselves in a fairly comfortable mid-table position, even if the heady days of us being equidistant between a European slot and the relegation zone appear long gone.
What is obvious is that we’re currently in dire need of a win – and in terms of winnable games, they don’t come much better than Newcastle at home; particularly when the Toon are in the midst of an indifferent run and an injury crisis.
For those of us who have played the game – however local and amateur those playing days may have been – we’ve all had afternoons where little goes right for you personally and for the team as a whole. The type of day when the harder you try to put things right, the worse they get. I’m sure I had more days like that than most.
City had one of those yesterday.
The tone was set from minute one, when Sebastien Bassong – the rock upon which our defensive improvements have been based – attempted to allow that hopeful long-ball to run out harmlessly for a goal-kick. Luckily for City it fell to the equally harmless Gabriel Obertan, whose cross was comfortably collected by Mark Bunn.
Just imagine the wrath of the River-End (new website opportunity?) if the now-departed Demba Ba or an in-form Papiss Cisse had been afforded that same opportunity. Things could have been so much worse.
As it happened it took Bassong a good 20 minutes to get that early shocker out of his system, but overcome it he did and the City defence went on to have arguably – Peterborough aside – its quietest afternoon of the season. Michael Turner – who despite signing in the summer, didn’t begin his Canary career until October – turned in another faultless performance
Calm, composed and always in the right place, Turner has provided a perfect example of how to win over a home crowd; the same crowd that, a few months ago, were calling for a premature end to his fledgling City career.
I’m happy to assume that the sponsors’ decision to award Man of the Match to Wes Hoolahan was taken off the back of an enjoyable afternoon’s hospitality. Wes has had, and will continue to have, many fantastic days in the yellow shirt.
Yesterday wasn’t one of them.
For what it’s worth, Turner would have got my vote, closely followed by the assured Javier Garrido.
As an attacking force City had a ‘nearly’ afternoon. All too often the final pass lacked finesse and precision and we had to wait until the last fifteen minutes for two glimpses of quality that provided our two best opportunities.
Robert Snodgrass’ final contribution of the match was a lung-bursting run which, after cutting inside, ended with that precision pass to Anthony Pilkington. Like Chris Hughton and 25,000 others, I fully expected – once Pilkington’s ‘Cruyff’ turn had worked the ball on to his right foot – to see the net bulge. Unfortunately, Tim Krul decided that was the moment to prove to us all why he’s seen off the challenge of one Fraser Forster, with a fine save.
The only other piece of real attacking quality came courtesy of Elliott Bennett, when his 90th minute far post cross picked out Grant Holt in full-flight and at full-stretch. Alas on this occasion there were to be no late heroics, and we collectively agonised as Pilkington was just too advanced to steer Holt’s header goalwards.
Like I said… a ‘nearly’ afternoon.
It’s been said many times; the Premier League is an unforgiving environment, and afternoons of the nearly kind rarely produce three points; the Championship, yes… but not when you’re playing with the big boys.
So… a disappointing one; a little reminiscent of those two early season draws against QPR and West Ham. Probably best to consign it to history and move on, just as our friend from the Beeb suggested.
But let’s not get too carried-away, things could be much worse… much worse.
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Give Bennett a go and switch Snods to the left for one game…Elliott looks like he really, really wants the opportunity right now. Can’t hurt Pilks knowing there’s someone pushing him.