I’m not sure any of us saw that coming.
No, not the fact we lost at Craven Cottage. That’s almost a given. As sure as night following day. But the fact we stunk the place out in such a spectacular way – especially in that opening forty-five.
The form, while not earning the points we would have liked, has been okay and the last two home games have seen City serve up some decent stuff that was only missing a clinical edge in front of goal. ‘If we keep playing that way, the goals will come’ was on the tip of the collective tongue.
And it was true. It felt like someone eventually was going to get a walloping.
That still may be the case of course, but after another ‘nightmare on Stevenage Road’ to put the fingers in the ears and shout a few ‘la la las’ on the assumption it’s all going to soon come right would be a huge mistake.
In fairness to Neil Adams he acknowledged as much post-match.
Yesterday the goalscoring opportunities did dry up. One shot on target in ninety-four minutes of football was simply not good enough.
We have spent the last couple of months telling anyone who will listen that this City squad is the best in the Championship. We all believe it, even if it didn’t feel like it yesterday.
Well now is the time for that squad to be used. After yesterday it feels like it needs a shake-up.
The faith shown by Adams in his defensive midfield pairing of Bradley Johnson and Alex Tettey has been admirable, but when they are not producing and you have Jonny Howson, Gary O’Neil and Vadis Odidja-Ofoe sitting on the bench it just feels a little uncomfortable.
And while I’m not one to delve too deeply into footballing statistics, Twitter was abuzz with one that offered Johnson’s pass completion for the afternoon. The Norfolk Pirlo he most definitely is not, even if some like to believe otherwise.
His job in the side – and I’m sure folk will remind me – is not necessarily to spray the ball around, but instead to put his foot in and break things up when the opposition have possession. Therefore, he is at his best when the backs are to the wall and City are having little of the ball.
That doesn’t look likely to occur too often this season. Certainly nothing like as often as last. So what does Johno bring to the current party?
As the ball was bring continually offered back to Fulham from those central areas one can only imagine what was going through the minds of the aforementioned trio of unused substitutes.
To my overly simplistic mind the central midfield is the first area that needs addressing prior to the visit of Leeds. We need a presence in there of course, but equally as important is the need to keep the ball when we have it.
With Wes Hoolahan unlikely to make the starting XI on Tuesday evening – he apparently departed Craven Cottage in a protective boot – the scene appears set for Josh Murphy to make his long-awaited and much deserved first league start.
The youngster has impressed at almost every turn – even amidst some dark days last season – and with his curling drive coming so close to salvaging something yesterday he must surely be a shoe-in for the left wing berth.
With Josh on the left and Nathan Redmond on the right, and with no necessity to tinker with the formation to accommodate Wes, that looks a decent starting point. Let’s get back to basics.
The poor form of Lewis Grabban and, to a lesser extent, Cameron Jerome is also cause for concern. Neither looked happy yesterday and given his fairly obvious dearth of confidence it was a little surprising to see the former step up to take the penalty.
Alas it was one of those where no-one was too surprised when it didn’t find the back of the net. To have been afforded such a gilt-edged and fortuitous route back into the match and then spurn it was a blow to the solar plexus.
Fulham have only conceded four goals at home in the league. To miss a penalty, beside being ‘one of those things’, was indeed a recipe for disaster.
Grabban currently appears to be buckling under the weight of expectation, brought on in part by his flying start in the Canary yellow. He’ll likely come good but while going through one of those barren spells that all strikers suffer, it would be folly for Adams not to turn to a fit-again Gary Hooper and/or an in-form Kyle Lafferty (knee permitting).
I expect to see changes for Tuesday and with those changes a renewed vigour and spring in the step. It needs to be freshened up and now is the time for ‘the best squad in the division’ to start performing like one.
Adams too needs to show some. He needs to show those who deem themselves as irreplaceable that there is no such thing. He needs to show us the flying start wasn’t just the result of a prolonged honeymoon.
And, above all, we need three points.
I don’t wish to even consider the possibility of a Leeds win. Now that *would* hurt.