Not looking good is it.
With a win and a draw or two required for safety even the most optimistic City fan will this morning be struggling to muster the belief that the Canaries can surivive.
Yesterday was a hammer blow, and not just the result. For the first time City looked like a side who are on the cusp of relegation.
Up until now the horror shows have been saved for the magnificent, travelling Yellow Army but with Carrow Road now having been exposed to the standard fare for away fans it feels a little like a turning point. And not the good kind.
The poisonous air that enveloped Carrow Road upon the final blast of Mark Clattenburg’s whistle was the clear result of frustration that has been bubbling for months and, in truth, was hard to contest.
Those who follow City home and away will have been thinking ‘what’s the fuss about… we see this every other week’, but for 25,000 to witness such a listless, lacklustre and abject performance in a game that just had to be won was hard to take.
Chris Hughton’s decision to entrust the job with those who succeeded with some aplomb against Sunderland – Hooper for van Wolfswinkel being the only change – backfired horribly and was basically undone by a soft goal in the 16th minute.
And that was it. Game over.
On a day of damning statistics, for me, the most telling one was the fact City haven’t equalised in a Premier League game in 2014. Just think about it – the instant we’ve gone behind in any game that has been it. No response. And while there were more than enough wrongs to mull over following the performance, and all that accompanied it, that stat troubled me more than any other.
How on earth can any team face up to a relegation battle when for three and a bit months they have failed to respond to going behind? We know the answer.
The last thing you can afford to do against the ilk of West Brom, who had set themselves up to soak up pressure and hit City on the break, is concede a soft, early one. To do that in the knowledge you rarely pull level from that position must be crushing. And it showed.
Any modicum of belief that was there early on quickly drained away the second Morgan Amalfitano’s low shot eluded John Ruddy’s right hand and, despite Russell Martin’s gallant attempt to convince us otherwise, there looked to be a horrible absence of genuine desire to get back into the game.
To be fair to City’s club captain, at least he was prepared to put his head above the parapet – and there is no doubt he himself was ‘hurting’ – but, rather than hollow words, 25,000 fans would have much preferred to see decisive actions on the pitch.
Instead we watched as the ball was shifted, painfully slowly to and fro as West Brom’s two banks of four – assisted by two front men dropping off to make it a midfield six at times – shifted from side to side to plug any gaps. It didn’t work from minute one and yet for 94 agonising minutes City played in that same way with virtually no variation.
There were no obvious changes in formation, the substitutions were all on a like-for-like basis and it all played out with an underlying sense the players were waiting for something to happen rather than actually making it. As ever, there was no plan B, barely any tinkering with the formation and even the quaint notion of wingers swapping wings wasn’t attempted.
Instead the most rigid 4-4-2 one can possibly imagine was persisted with, and it failed.
It doesn’t help of course when the ‘2’ in that formation is a unit that simply doesn’t function. While I hear the platitudes around lack of service etc, it still seems clear that whichever combination Hughton puts together it doesn’t work. Half-chances came and went yesterday with an all-too familiar inevitability.
The lack of invention is clearly a problem, so too the lack of pace. While I’m an unashamed devotee of the passing game I wouldn’t have been averse to City trying the direct approach in search of the equaliser – but no. Of course Jonas Olsson and Gareth McAuley would likely win the first ball – as they did all afternoon – but to pick up the second ball would possibly have created a chance or two. Didn’t happen.
To have turned said giant centre-backs towards their own goal may have caused a problem or two; was at least worth a try. Didn’t happen either.
In short I doubt Pepe Mel and his team could believe their luck. Not only were they gifted an early goal but they were then confronted by a side who lacked belief, height, pace and invention. Yes, the woodwork was struck a couple of times – both from distance – and it did improve a little in the second-half but when you’re scratching around for those as positives from a relegation six-pointer you know it’s been a bad day.
And it was. About as bad as it gets.
Then, to cap it all, we then had the sight players clashing with supporters and those godforsaken clappers raining down on the pitch; an atmosphere akin to that which followed the 4-1 defeat by Burnley that signalled the end of Nigel Worthington.
Yesterday was a dark day – the darkest yet in a long line – but now is not the time for throwing in the towel. In the cold light of day there is still a glimmer and, I may be alone, but remain convinced there are yet a few twists.
Armed with virtually no logic I’m still of the belief that Craven Cottage can yet yield something positive and the final four games a point or two.
But don’t expect me to back it up with facts. After yesterday all I have left is a gut feel… and to date that hasn’t served me particularly well.