It’s easy to get blasé over a win in the Premier League – especially when you’re in the midst of your third consecutive campaign – but those who scoff or take them for granted should think again. They’re hellishly hard to come by and – as proven yesterday by the league’s bottom club – every single one has to be earned the hard way.
Equally, those who agonised over yesterday’s stop-start second half had a point – Pele’s vision of the beautiful game it was not – but if anyone had offered us a 1-0 win courtesy of a deflection off Chris Foy’s backside before the game we’d have taken it without question.
As it happened the goal was a good one and, while he’d have expected to score from ten yards, Gary Hooper’s second goal in as many home games suggests we may indeed have the ‘poacher’ on our hands we’d been promised. His overall contribution was certainly a step up on anything we’ve seen before and his ability to make the ball ‘stick’ when back to goal and bring others into play, especially in the first-half, was doubly pleasing.
Wes Hoolahan’s contribution to the goal was also worthy of note and – as mentioned by Chris Hughton post-match – few would have had the vision and composure to put it on a plate for Hooper in that same situation. Also heartening to see was that for a good 70 minutes, until the legs got heavy, Wes’s feet were dancing and his brain ticking; a timely reminder for the manager – and the rest of us – that when he’s on song everyone’s favourite Dubliner still has plenty to offer.
Of course, had it not been for the double injury blow to Snodgrass and Pilkington, his main contribution would have been to warm the bench and take the applause of the Snake Pit, but with fate handing him an opportunity Wes took it and pushed himself, again, to the forefront of his manager’s thinking.
Mercurial he may be but with that comes a sprinkling of magic… something that’s been in a little short supply of late.
Those of us (ahem) who questioned Hughton’s wisdom in playing him as a wide man in a 4-4-2 were made to eat our words with his ability to ‘float’ inside and get enough of the ball to be a nuisance proving an art all of its own.
As my dad reminded me pre-match, our first sighting of Wes *was* as a traditional left-winger while playing for Simon Grayson’s Blackpool against Glenn Roeder’s City (sorry to mention that) – a match that ultimately served as his Norwich City interview – but since adorning the yellow most of the magic has stemmed from central positions.
Either way, I’m glad he played yesterday and even more glad he gave us more than a few glimpses of him at his best. With said dearth of fit wingers I’m expecting to see plenty of those dancing feet in the weeks ahead and that in itself can be no bad thing.
Nathan Redmond is another who excited in glimpses, although being the traditionalist my preference would be to see him ply his trade more often on the right flank where he could he could take his full-back on the outside. All too often – for my liking at least – attacking momentum is lost when he cuts inside from the left only to run into ‘heavy traffic’.
With the passing continuing to be fairly ponderous I wonder whether by switching him over to the right we would attack with a little more oomph?
Just a thought, although probably says more about my out-dated views than anything else. It is after all trendy to have your wingers cutting in from their ‘un-natural’ wing in 2013, so what do I know. But don’t ever get me started on those multi-coloured boots…
In my post-match Metro blog I took an admittedly cheap shot at some English central midfielders who have managed to get themselves on Roy Hodgson’s radar ahead of our own Jonny Howson, but behind it was a serious point. There can be few who are performing better than the ex-Leeds man right now and with his level having been consistently high since the closing weeks of last season I can’t be alone in thinking he deserves a shot.
He was excellent again yesterday, even in the turgid moments of that second half, and has been a steady 8 of of 10. That Hodgson will doubtless ignore him says more about his penchant for those who frequent the top six than it does about Howson’s abilities to mix it with the best.
Talking of which, Wednesday night’s date at Anfield promises not to be one for the squeamish. While the Yellow Army will be there again in numbers they’ll be anticipating a buttock-clenching evening, with City’s recent record against the red half abject in the extreme – the only bright spot being the point earned by Grant Holt’s header in 2011.
While the ‘in hope rather than expectation’ cliché is wearing a little thin, it certainly rings true for away trips to Liverpool – even more so off the back of a miserable run of away form and with a snappy little Uruguayan lying in wait.
In all honesty it could turn ugly quite quickly, but let’s hope lessons have been learned from the Emirates and Etihad and that Team Hughton can come up with a plan that offers some hope to the travelling faithful… and that the players deliver.
Otherwise it could be a Black Wednesday.
Of course it’d help if that bloomin’ ball wasn’t so light… give me one with a lace in it any day.