As if we needed reminding, two draws and a defeat in the last three home games have confirmed the Championship to be as unpredictable as it enthralling.
Few could have predicted that, following on from a season of wretched away performances, City would win four of their first five games on the road. Equally few would have seen us eking just two points out of home games against Bournemouth, Birmingham and Rotherham.
Upon arrival back in the second tier we were reminded constantly that ‘anyone can beat anyone on a given day’ and so it’s proved. Proof of this has manifested itself at the other end of the A140.
Having watched Mick McCarthy’s bearded bunch of hapless hipsters surrender so meekly in the August derby, only Nostradamus could have foreseen them go on an unbeaten run that would take them one away win in Nottingham away from pulling level with those at the top of the division. Yet here we are.
But it remains fun.
Even the rain soaked yomp back to the car post-match was free of the angst that accompanied last season’s equivalent. Admittedly being top of the league helps.
But Neil Adams and his troops do need to find a way of grinding out home wins, especially from games where they have massively dominated possession. It goes without saying (although I’m about to) that the majority will arrive in the Fine City and park the proverbial large multi-passenger motor vehicle.
Even more so because it won’t have gone unnoticed that those who have tried have succeeded.
Of course, for all the tactical changes and tweaks in formation that flick though the mind of Adams, and remain the staple of your average ‘canarycaller’, you still need Lady Luck on board. Right now she’s deserted us (perhaps she’s enjoying the delights of that small town to the south).
Kyle Lafferty’s double-deflection that kissed the post was a perfect example. And the numerous goalmouth scrambles just needed a break in a yellow direction.
Of greater concern would be if we were having circa 65 per cent of possession without creating a chance, but that’s not the case. Alas the sight of Bradley Johnson awkwardly blazing that gilt-edged first half chance over the River End bar with his right foot summed up City’s week in front of goal.
As Adams has reminded us, the bigger worry would be if the chances were not being created. They’re not plentiful but they are there.
Lewis Grabban, having mad a blistering start to his City career, is struggling a little in front of goal right now and – while it may be pure coincidence – has looked less dangerous since the emergence of Cameron Jerome.
But his all-round game continues to impress and he certainly puts a shift in. I remain confident it is just a matter of time before the glint in the eye returns.
Adams now has a fortnight to contemplate changing the 4-4-2.
If he were to consider reverting to the 4-2-3-1, in Jerome he has one with perfect credentials for playing the role of lone striker. Grabban, as one of the three sitting just behind the striker, may then be afforded the chance to get ‘between the lines’ as opposed to being slap, bang in the face of a centre-back.
Worth a thought.
Equally that change would enable Wes Hoolahan to revert to a more central role. Wes had a decent first-half yesterday and, although his role in a 4-4-2 is defensively wide left, when City have the ball he’s clearly encouraged to drop inside to get on the ball. At the moment, at home that tactic is not working.
The second he drops inside the width is lost and the central area, that is already crowded with a bank of four supported by a bank of five, becomes even more bereft of space. It’s hardly any wonder there is so little room to find those eye of the needle, threaded passes.
And on that subject, while it was great to see Jonny Howson back – and his performance yesterday got better and better as the game went on – much seems to rest on the sturdy shoulders of Bradley Johnson at the moment.
With opposition sitting tight we’ve become familiar with the sight of Johnson dropping off to collect the ball off the centre-backs in – dare I say it – the style of Andrea Pirlo. Except, however hard folk try and convince us, he is no ‘Norfolk Pirlo’. Far from it.
He has his qualities. Precision passing isn’t one of them.
At the moment it feels a little as if, either by design or otherwise, he’s one City are looking to, to get things moving and looking for the killer pass. Again, neither of which are high up on his list of pros. We need him to be marauding, breaking things up, put in tackles – not being the playmaker.
Perhaps, while wholesale changes are clearly not required when you sit at the top of the league, now is the time for Team Adams to consider delving a little deeper into its squad of proven quality and consider a different midfield mix. One that, when some invention is required, can deliver.
But, for all the frustration, the current crop are showing a desire that befits a squad desperate to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking. On that score Adams and his team have ticked all the boxes.
Those of us who questioned the new regime’s ability to motivate have had the question emphatically answered. While the quality of the final ball may occasionally be found wanting there is little doubting the hunger.
If Lady Luck pays us a return visit sometime between now and the end of the season we’ll be there or thereabouts.