For the first time in ages I was unable to watch yesterday’s game. In my capacity as dad/taxi driver I was unavoidably detained elsewhere. I was even denied the uninterrupted luxury of BBC Radio Norfolk and the dulcet tones of Chris Goreham and Adam Drury.
Instead I was at the mercy of the BBC Sport app and the #NCFC Twitter timeline. It did little to lighten the mood. The first-half in particular made depressing reading.
For those who have sampled the BBC’s blow by blow account of a game, you’ll know the routine. It went something like…
2:29: Foul by Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe
8:25: Foul by Lewis Grabban
10:00: Misplaced pass. Bradley Johnson
12:15: Attempt saved. Lewis Grabban right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved
15:09: Foul by Cameron Jerome
22:30: Offside. Lewis Grabban
30:00: Misplaced pass. Bradley Johnson
35:00: Offside. Lewis Grabban
44:00: Offside. Lewis Grabban
Interspersed among the vast array of fouls, mispaced passes and a couple of missed chances was the occasional flurry from Sheffield Wednesday. Sound about right?
That City went in at half-time having drawn a blank will have been a surprise to no-one.
The optimists among us (I remember those days…) will point to the fact the back-four again held firm, but to have now gone ten games without scoring a first-half goal is almost unbelievable. Especially with those ten games being played out in a division where we are supposed to be one of the ‘big boys’.
The second half was better, by the sounds of it, and was enhanced by the arrival of Gary O’Neil . The ex-QPR man, over the years, seems to have developed a healthy habit of passing the ball to a team-mate, although one hopes the injury to Vadis Odidja-Ofoe – which prompted his arrival – is not a long-term one.
Again chances came and went – although none were as clear-cut as those afforded Lewis Grabban and Russell Martin in the first period – but ‘the Keiren Westwood show’ ensured that the travelling faithful would again depart riddled with the ‘f’ word.
Neil Adams’ post-match interviews also had a horribly familiar ring to them. He was clearly happy with the number of chances created in the second half and was left to bemoan the series of ‘worldies’ from Westwood, but remained confident that more of the same will eventually see it all come good.
He may be right. Perhaps those of us who are left feeling a little uncomfortable when the league table comes into view are jumping the gun. Perhaps I should be affording Adams and co the same level of patience that I unreasonably, and unfathomably, offered to Team Hughton.
I really hope we can just sit tight and watch it all come good.
In truth, the second half does appear such that, on another day with the wind in the right direction, we would have made the breakthrough and gone on to win the game. Alas City are in the midst of one of those runs where good fortune is in short supply.
But that still does little to explain the paucity of quality in yesterday’s first-half and the nine that have gone before.
I stand to be corrected, but my guess is that the build up play was slow and pondersome, the passing poor and a decent final ball almost non-existent? Thought so.
The starting line-up was also intriguing. While Nathan Redmond’s appearance on the bench was likely due to a touch of the ‘Raheem Sterlings’, the option to recall Bradley Johnson with O’Neil still on said bench was puzzling. At least it was to me.
Johnson was presumably dropped because his passing and overall form were poor in equal measures. I fail to see what could have occurred on the fields of Colney in the space of three days to change that. O’Neil should consider himself very unlucky not to have made his first Canary start.
Another who is clearly struggling for form – and who appears to have done himself no favours yesterday – is Steven Whittaker.
With a ready-made right back currently filling in alongside Michael Turner and three new, fully fit centre backs all waiting in the wings the solution appears obvious.
Otherwise, why did we bring in three new central defenders over the summer? Ed (Couzens-Lake) made the same point on here this week. Once Ryan Bennett makes it back to fitness that will be four viable alternatives.
As things stand it just feels a little… well, odd.
For those of a statistical leaning the numbers are looking bleaker by the week (unless the percentage of possession turns you on) and even Mr Adams would struggle to spin something positive out of three points from the last fifteen, or one win in eight.
But, the Championship being what it is, City still remain just three points from the top with a more than decent goal difference. And that – in itself – speaks volumes. They are also just four points from 13th place.
The league appears jam-packed with average teams, all of whom are capable of winning on a given day. And right now City seem to be fitting nicely into the pack. Unexceptional.
On paper Adams’ squad, at this level, appears very good. On the grass it appears average.
Only time will tell if it is indeed a good squad that is under-performing or an ordinary squad that we just think is a good one.
Right now I can’t decide.