At last… a win to describe. And an away win at that.
No, it wasn’t pretty. It probably will have papered over a few cracks and there are far tougher tests awaiting. But, for now, who cares.
Some, if we use Canary Call and Twitter as a fairly unreliable barometer, perceived the win as nothing more than a temporary lifeline for Neil Adams – and who can say – but for the majority earning three points was all that mattered.
As one MyFootballWriter contributor put it: ‘Breaking out of a bad run doesn’t happen with a flowing performance; it happens with a gutsy one’.
And, regardless of the rights and wrongs, some credit for yesterday’s win should be awarded to Adams. Plenty of eyebrows were raised, including mine, upon the announcement of the teams, yet all of those big calls were ultimately justified.
A midfield with no width, and which included Bradley Johnson, was clearly designed to do a job; to stifle the threat of what was, on paper at least, a decent looking Wigan line-up. And a clean sheet suggests it worked.
The inclusion of Carlos Cuellar, partnered at centre-back with Russell Martin, also reaped its rewards courtesy of the same clean sheet. With a certain Grant Holt likely to hover into view next Saturday, Adams will be hoping he’s stumbled upon a partnership that can cope with the physical and mental demands of the most sly fox in the Championship.
It will be fascinating.
But for now we should revel in all that was good about yesterday.
City certainly made one of their brightest starts of the season and for twenty minutes the football was as fluent and ‘zippy’ as it’s been for some time. Minus any natural width the narrow midfield four did an excellent job of keeping the ball moving and some intelligent running from Gary Hooper and Cameron Jerome made for a bright opening.
Jonny Howson’s goal, when it arrived, was no more than City deserved – even so early in the game – and came by virtue of some quality hold-up play from Hooper. The ex-Celtic man appears to be showing signs of what is known in the trade as ‘form’ and, even if the cynics assume it’s related to the pending transfer window, it’s a timely fillip for Team Adams.
With the Cameron Jerome/Hooper combination having done enough against Reading to warrant another outing, and an injury to Lewis Grabban ruling him out of yesterday’s game, the forward line was the only unit left un-tinkered. And in fairness, signs of a bona fide partnership are emerging.
Both have a CV that suggests goals in the Championship are in the proverbial locker and if, in tandem, they could find said goal-scoring form it could yet pull City, and Adams, out of a fairly big hole.
Because if there is one thing that these traumatic few weeks have taught us it’s that this season’s Championship in unexceptional. To have won just twice in eleven games and yet still be only two points off the play-off places speaks volumes.
And so, almost regardless of what is happening behind them, if your strikers hit a rich vein then you have a chance. Equally, at the other end of the pitch, clean sheets can be enough to keep you in touch with the pack.
You don’t need to pull up trees to get in and around the play-off places. That much we have learned of late, and which is why, despite the ongoing angst, City are still in with a shout.
Hopefully, yesterday’s win won’t, a la Hughton, to be a one-off win that merely buys time before the next crisis looms. It needs to be the beginning of the end of the crisis; the start of an improved run. At the very least it needs to be a halt in the slide to oblivion.
It’s too early of course to say if that’s the case, and next Saturday’s clash with Huddersfield in front of a still fractious Yellow Army will be the acid test, but for now we can at least have six days free of recrimination.
There is still much work to be done, and one swallow indeed does not make a summer, but we finally have three points to mull over instead of defensive paucity and tactical ineptness.
In this regard yesterday was a little different. There were no defensive howlers. There was a clean sheet for an under fire John Ruddy. And the substitutions, when they arrived, came accompanied with a dollop or two of logic. And best of all… they worked. Job done.
I’ll leave the final word to our own Mick Dennis, whose post-match tweet summed it up perfectly: ‘Ugly and organised. Marvellous’.
Dani Smeal says
“Ugly, direct and turgid..” – the new ‘Norwich championship way’! To think of all the flak the previous manager got for that approach in the PL!
That’s fine as long as we turn on a bit of style at home from now on.
A big relief but didn’t feel like the shot in the arm we were hoping for. Wigan, with all their problems, were there for the taking and a Bournemouth or Derby would have made mincemeat of them.
It still feels like a Hughton-esque reprive for NA – only a much better show against Huddersfield will begin to convince the doubters.
I’ve said all along that under Hughton, the style of football became the key barometer for the fans. However, for me, it was the fact that we were simply poor and losing too many games that was Hughtons downfall, not necessarily the style directly being the problem.
Nobody questioned the style when we beat both Arsenal and Man Utd at home under Hughton, yet they were certainly from the ‘keep it solid and nick a goal’ page of the managers handbook.
If you are losing games regularly, confidence will be low and you will be playing poorly. Winning games however, and that breeds confidence and better football.
Football is all about winning games and getting points. Do that and the majority will always be happy.
No team, however good, can win 4-0 every week, playing flowing football, dominating the game. Even the great title-winning sides of old often had to grind out an ugly 1-0. Man U had a big run of one-nils when they last were champions. It was a frequent scoreline for Chelsea in Mourinho’s first stint.
I think it’s an encouraging sign that City seemed to have learnt how to win without playing well. Let’s face it, we were well overdue one of those, having performed well in so many games earlier in the season without getting three points.
Every game is a big one, and the next is no exception, but the big test will obviously be at Derby. That’s when we’ll really find out what this team has. We could get murdered like we were at Boro, but if we give them a good game and get something out of it, the push for promotion will be well and truly back on.
Stewart Lewis says
Got to agree with comments 1-3. But next Saturday is also a big test – after Reading, the home fans (including me) need to have their faith re-built.
We can turn on the style, as long as the basics are in place. Turner was great in the early games, but with his form dipping we needed to take advantage of the experience of Cuellar. The squad is good if we make best use of it; one of Phelan’s key roles, perhaps, is to help Adams get that bit right.
Dave B says
If a team had come to Carrow Road and done the same to us we’d be lamenting how their manager knew how to win and ours didn’t. So in the same vein, proper job Adams.
Pete Long says
A win is a win, no matter how ugly it may have been. OTBC.
I suspect that some fans will never be satisfied. If we play reasonably well, but end up drawing or losing, then we should have just played to win, however ugly. If we score first and then play it tight to protect that lead, it’s not entertaining enough and the manager should go. Away wins aren’t easy to come by but City have won 5 out of 10 away matches and people still complain. We needed a win and we got one.
Judgements are probably being clouded by the fact that we have the 5th best away form (16 points out of 30) in the Championship, but only the 16th best home form (14 points out of 30).