It’s hard to know where to start.
I was desperately hoping to be picking the bones out of an emphatic win where, in a West Brom style, City threw off the shackles and put their hapless opponents to the sword.
Alas it wasn’t to be and a combination of inspired goalkeeping and rotten luck meant that while the shackles were removed and the opponents did appear a little hapless we drew another blank in front of goal.
In terms of incident, as 0-0 draws go it was about as entertaining as they get; goalmouth action and talking points aplenty with a pantomime villain thrown in for good measure.
Surprisingly, while the role of said villain was written for Craig Bellamy, it was his understudy, David Marshall, who grabbed it with both hands – along with every single shot and header that was fired in his direction.
Unfortunately – as Twitter and the messageboards painfully reminded us on Saturday night – it was more of the same from City, with a good level of performance bearing no fruit.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the passing was again of a decent quality, the stats show we enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, we played with an attacking intent throughout, created a shed load of chances and had 31 attempts on goal.
As several of the players reminded us after the game via Twitter, on another day we could have won by three or four.
Indeed there will be days when we play far worse and win… that’s football.
But patience is in short supply right now – the Hughton-outers waiting to pounce at the merest hint of a setback – and the continued promise of good things ahead is starting to wear a little thin.
And I can understand that. For those looking for a stick to beat the manager with, a recent record of one win in six comes gift-wrapped. Simply not good enough. Relegation form… no question.
Where it starts to irk is when *every* decision Hughton makes is questioned. Some are simply looking to crucify him at every turn.
The fans demanded he releases the shackles and plays with a more attacking mindset… sorted. The fans demanded a midfield that retains possession… done. The fans demanded a more fluent style… tick.
While I’m not suggesting those changes have been made off the back of fan-power – despite a common belief otherwise, Hughton does want his side to play attractive football – they have all been achieved in the last few weeks as the team slowly starts to play to the strengths of the new players.
Yet those who are of an embedded belief that Hughton is not for us choose to ignore this.
“Lack of ambition is soul destroying”.
“Monotonous safety play”.
Two of the comments I seized upon on Saturday night as his pros and cons were mulled over for the millionth time. But lack of ambition? Really? And unless I was watching a different game I didn’t see even the merest hint of ‘monotonous safety play’.
But that’s what he’s up against.
As I said in last Sunday’s column, we’ve reached a crossroads on our critical path. In the stands and, sadly, behind the keyboards (although I’m not sure that really counts) we’ve arrived at a point when for many the die is cast.
Any successes will merely be perceived as blips; every backward step seized upon and used in evidence; wins merely ‘papering over the cracks’; defeats merely confirming he’s not the man for the job.
And it’s a complete no-win (pardon the pun) situation. We’re Norwich City – a middling Premier League club at best – where defeats and draws will always outnumber wins while we dine at the top table. So do that maths…
Not much to look forward to if you ask me as we descend into near meltdown every time we miss out on three points.
Of course the mood would be improved considerably if we were able to translate good performances into wins – apologies for stating the obvious – but even then I suspect some will simply lie in wait for the next backward step… and then pounce.
And my biggest fear is where it is all going to end. I don’t see any obvious closure to the current off-field malaise until the outers get their wish.
On the flip side David McNally is made of sterner stuff than a vociferous minority and some keyboard warriors and so it may just be an impass that we’ll have to begrudgingly learn to live with.
But back to the match itself… in terms of the missed chances, none were what could be described as ‘sitters’ – unlike Jordan Mutch’s first-half effort that was brilliantly saved by John Ruddy – although Russell Martin may consider the late chance he sliced wide as one that was more than presentable.
Other than that, most were kept out by a goalkeeping display that seems to be the sole preserve of returning Marshalls.
I’ve deliberately not dwelt on the Leroy Fer ‘goal’. While it may be commonplace in the Eredivisie not give the ball back in such instances, in the Premier League it is. The PR of having won the game by virtue of such a goal would be not worth thinking about and I’m happy to assume if Michael Jones had seen fit to award the goal City, would have reciprocated in similar fashion.
So… another bitterly frustrating and disappointing afternoon that’s added fuel to a fire that’s already flickering.
The crossroads has been reached. My faith in McNally steering us down the right road remains.