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’.