Oh for a successfully negotiated must-win to write about.
The knack of finding a win when we most need it appears to have deserted us, and at the worst possible time. Perhaps expecting one at Craven Cottage was pushing the boundaries a little too, far but armed with the anticipated ‘bounce’ of a new manager and with the Cottagers in the bottom three for a reason I fooled myself into thinking victory was a possibility.
In hindsight however, if your team has an inherent inability to convert chances at one end and concede soft goals at the other even Pep Guardiola would struggle to muster up a win. And so it proved.
The same old failings that have befallen Team Hughton all season were again laid bare at the Cottage and – not for the first time – City were left cursing their luck with nothing to show for a decent performance.
The passion was there for all to see, as we expected, and there was no lack of effort and desire from those in yellow, but ultimately when the crunch came they were found wanting.
Other than the two-on-one breakaway in the final minute, with City understandably committing numbers forward, Fulham barely had a chance, but when it came it was buried. The Canaries had several of a similar ilk. None were buried.
Again we’re in the realms of ifs and buts, but if Bradley Johnson had shown just an ounce of composure when he sliced horribly wide from ten yards in the first half or if Robert Snodgrass had used his right foot instead of his left to steer that agonising second-half chance home we’d be having a different conversation today. Alas they remain ifs.
And while we’re on the subject, if Ricky had not afforded Steve Sidwell a free near-post flick on, or the aforementioned Johnson had not given Hugo Rodallega a freebie from six yards it could have all been so different. But…
Credit where it is due however and there is no doubting there was a vigour and hunger about the performance that has not been evident over recent weeks, and the team had a decent looking balance about it.
Neil Adams’ first team selection was an interesting one, with the central defensive pairing of Russell Martin and Michael Turner the most telling change. As it turned out both equipped themselves well in difficult circumstances; Turner in particular doing a sterling job at both ends in his first game back after a lengthy injury lay-off.
Tactically few could have complaints with the new manager’s approach and it was refreshing to see a more fluid look to City as they pressed forward. The narrow midfield certainly plays to the strengths of Martin Olsson and in that good spell midway through the first-half it was the Swede who looked City’s most dangerous attacking threat.
If, at any stage, Neil Adams were to opt for a Magath-type three at the back formation, no-one is better suited to the role of left wing-back than Olsson. Quite who could patrol the opposite flank is open to debate, but having watched Kieran Richardson comfortably outpace Steven Whittaker in the lead-up to the free-kick I wouldn’t expect it to be the Scot.
The lack of pace in the side remains an issue and which is clearly why Adams is keen to get Josh Murphy involved; the youngster’s extra yard obvious to all when he made his late cameo. But Murphy aside, only Olsson and Nathan Redmond in the current crop have the ability to stretch and go beyond the opposition – and that makes us that little bit easier to defend against.
But it’s too late in the day to bemoan the inadequacies of the squad. Adams has to somehow – in just four games – revive the buzz that accompanied his arrival and translate that into a vibrancy on the pitch. Starting with Liverpool next Saturday.
The social media meltdown that followed yesterday’s defeat suggests that many have conceded relegation as a mere formality. But it’s still not over.
Of course City’s run-in is the stuff of nightmares (has that been mentioned?) but now’s not the time to throw in the towel. Home games against Liverpool and Arsenal can yet yield points and I don’t imagine Messr Mourinho and Moyes will be expecting an easy ride from a team on the cusp of the abyss.
Those around us are conjuring up unexpected wins. It’s time City started doing the same. If they don’t…
Typically the support of the travelling Yellow Army was magnificent yesterday – spine tingling at times – and showed to those gifted the chance to salvage City’s Premier League status, that the fans still believe. And will continue to do so until survival is mathematically impossible.
The sight at the end of Redmond and Snodgrass both visibly upset by defeat at least proves – contrary to some of the performances we’ve witnessed of late – that most of the players do care, and the current predicament is hurting them as much as it’s hurting the fans. And if nothing else it tells me they will be straining every sinew to rectify it.
It may ultimately prove to be too little too late, but I remain convinced there is a twist or two left in this season. The final few games often throw up some odd results.
I’m not prepared to chuck in the towel… not just yet.