Well, that was most certainly *not* what the doctor ordered. However positive the spin it was two points dropped and even off the back of Jamar Loza’s 98th minute equaliser the Canaries’ task of avoiding the dreaded play-offs and making the ‘automatics’ is now that little bit harder.
It has long been accepted that the run-in will be fraught with peril but I’m not sure any of us had envisaged a scenario such as last night’s.
That City found themselves in the position of chasing a late, late equaliser was the biggest disappointment and Alex Neil, as ever, pulled no punches post-match. His assertion that there were no positives to be gleamed from having salvaged a point at the very death gave us another insight into the mind of one so focussed and driven.
In my own amateur playing days I was party to a fair few post-match rollickings but I suspect all were pale in comparison to the one dished out my Messrs Neil, McAvoy and Holt last night. If the manager’s demeanour when in conversation with BBC Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham was a guide, then the Norwich dressing room at 9:45pm last night was not the place to be.
In the manager’s eyes it was a very simple equation: City possess better players than Huddersfield and therefore if they put in a committed, professional shift – regardless of the style of the performance – they should win the game. He expected it and it didn’t happen.
From a fan’s perspective it’s all too easy to panic – and I’ll no doubt get accused of more ‘tub thumping’ – but with 24 points still to play for and with several of those above and around still to play each other, there is still scope to make the top two. But with every dropped point that task becomes a bit more difficult.
Seven wins from the remaining eight games will still be good enough – particularly if Middlesborough are one of the seven – but it’s a big ask for a side that has won one in the last four. City have lost their way just a little at the wrong time.
The niggle, with that in mind, is that the last two games have had shades of those frustrating afternoons and evenings we endured at the back end of the Neil Adams era: profligacy in front of goal, silly goals conceded and a general sloppiness in the play.
For those scratching around for positives they came in the form of a fine second-half cameo from Wes – who has recently added the missing ingredient of goals to his armoury – and of course the goal from Loza, but there were clear deficiencies in defence that led to both Huddersfield goals and more of the same will definitely count us out of the automatic places.
The play-offs too are by no means guaranteed as all of a sudden we find ourselves within three points of seventh.
While it would be unfair to drag up the much discussed sense of entitlement that befell a few upon the arrival of the new manager, it is fair to say that last night the swagger was not backed up by the required level of professionalism. On an evening when City needed to be ruthless and clinical they were sloppy and wasteful – and that applied equally to both ends of the pitch.
But, having said that, I do not expect it to happen again.
Colney may not be a pleasant place this week and the management team – a dead-eyed bunch if ever I saw one – will be straining every sinew to right the wrongs of last night. Those who under-performed will be reminded accordingly but everything will lead to Saturday’s date with Nottingham Forest.
A game-plan will be devised, roles assigned and the chosen XI provided with the most unequivocal message possible of what will be needed to win the game. A repeat of events at the John Smith’s Stadium will not be tolerated.
Interestingly, last night both Jacob Butterfield and James Vaughan offered up performances that were a world away from anything witnessed in their time in the Fine City, even though the latter’s OTT goal celebration and subsequent long walk to the dressing room freed up sufficient time for Loza’s late late show.
By that same score let’s hope we are not privy to a Henri Lansbury masterclass on Saturday.
Either way we need to get back on track, and quickly. With Bournemouth locking horns with Middlesborough at the weekend, Watford entertaining Ipswich and Derby going to Wolves we have a wonderful chance of doing so – but only if the manager’s demands are heeded.
It sounds easy, and we all know football is far from an exact science, but it feels a little as if last night saw the players veer away from the very thing that have seen them play themselves into the play-off picture: doing the basics well.
The confidence will have taken a dent last night – for the fans too – but I still believe promotion is there for City’s taking. Even though the margin for error is diminishing with every dropped point.
Stewart Lewis says
Can’t argue with any of that. The main straw of hope from last night was Alex Neil’s uncompromising assessment. He has selection options, as well as tactical ideas and a sharp tongue to help prepare the troops for Saturday.
Not being able to go, my impressions of last night are mainly based on the commentary of Chris Goreham and Mark Rivers. While many players were erratic, it did sound as if Redmond made a substantial impact. Can’t help feeling he needs to be on the pitch for a good part of the remaining games.
I went last night and although an attacking formation (4-4-2) was selcected by AN, Hooper really was ineffective and IMO we only looked a real threat when Wes was introduced. He should start on Saturday, as should Redmond (totally agree with Stewart’s comments above about Nathan), as he too was a constant danger down the right flank. Team for Sat IMO should be Ruddy, Whittaker (also played well last night), Martin, Bassong, Olsson, Redmond, Howson, Johnson, Tettey, Hoolahan and Jerome. How many times have we seen that starting line-up play well and win games ?? A lot….!!
Sorry, but I just don´t understand your last comment Mr Gowers. I presume when you say ´it´ it´s promotion you´re referring to, rather than automatic promotion. But in neither case is it ´there for the taking´, because it´s no longer in our own hands, we are entirely dependant on those above, and just below us, doing us a favour again. We have only one match left, where we can directly help our own promotion chances, and that is ´Boro at home in no other way can we influence promotion at all.
ER Ratic says
From grabbing promotion by the scruff of the neck a few weeks ago, we seem now to be nervously tickling its toes. The loss of Grabban has to be more than a coincidence for this change. Hooper just doesn’t seem to be able to/want to fill Grabban’s boots.
It’s impossible to predict the combination of results to come in the top 8 teams (Ipswich and Wolves are still in the mix) but there is little room left for dropped points for us now to get to the top 2. A revitalised Forest will be a massive test of Neil and the players (and the home crowd).
Stewart Lewis says
George (3): It’s more in our hands than you’d think at first glance. Look at the games coming up between the others in the top 6: plenty of points have to be dropped. The key thing – the only thing – is for us to do our job and win games. That’s why Gary was basically right (and he only said ‘I believe’ it’s there for the taking), and why AN was unimpressed last night.
There’s every chance for us, if we can go and grasp it.
Cosmo P. says
Well done to Jamar for beating Simeon’s 96 minute ‘latest goal’ record – never thought it would be done. Pity it wasn’t in such joyous circumstances. Who knows, that point could turn out to be the crucial one be it automatic or playoffs.
All teams suffer injuries in a season but it’s all about timing especially if it’s the strikers. Derby have been crippled at the crucial run in time and the loss of Grabban has clearly taken a cutting edge from us. Don’t wish injuries on anyone but if a Bamford or a Deeney were to get crocked at the weekend, that would have a big impact on their sides’ form and promotion push.
The fickle finger of fate can strike anytime.
@3 – George, of course it’s still in our hands, five points behind with 24 to play for. It’s impossible for all three teams above us to get maximum points because their are fixtures against each other still to be played. It’s how a league works
Gary Gowers says
Mr George (3) – Take your point re it being unclear what ‘it’ is. Have amended accordingly.
But I do still genuinely *believe* promotion remains in City’s own hands. Those above have to play each other – starting this weekend – and therefore not all can achieve maximum points. Without doing the maths I still firmly *believe* others will drop points and City can benefit accordingly. That’s all.
Evening all, It may not have sounded much like it, but I do happen to understand how things work, and I will tentatively go along with the notion that a top six finish is still perfectly possible. However that that will necessarily lead to promotion is less clear to me, because the play-offs are a complete lottery, and the autos still seem an awfully long way away at the moment. If we were on a streak of red hot form while the rest of our competitors were struggling, I might just concede that the top two were there for the taking, but Derby and ourselves have easily the worst current form of any of the top eight. With only 1 win in our last 4 matches, against considerably poorer opposition than we will meet in the coming eight games, I´m far from sure.
Naturally two of our opponents playing against each other will lead to a loss of points to one or both, but that does necessitate that we also win at the same time. On our current form, can anyone really be sure of that? Forest at home, Brighton (with Hughton) away – I see two draws there, Sheff W at home – win, then two games I would much rather be without if a win is a must, Bolton and Leeds both away, before a little matter of Middlsbro at home, and honestly if we have to pull a win out of the hat on the last day of the season, we all know who we have visiting then.
Sorry, I´d love it to happen, but I´ll see promotion first before I believe it.
Martin Scott says
Sorry to disagree but to state “none of the teams above us can achieve maximum points” is totally incorrect. Some of them do indeed have to play each other, but fact is one team Middlesborough have 8 games to play and they can win them all, they only way they couldn’t is if they played themselves and that doesn’t happen in any league. Them winning all 8 means some of the teams they play then cannot get maximum points, that is true.
However with the facts straight, it is most likely that the teams above us will drop points somewhere along the run in and City have to go on another good run to overtake them, the Middlesborough game being a massive 6 pointer as they say, though yet again mathematically incorrect, a 6 point swing is not the same as 3 points won.
Gary Gowers says
Martin (10) – Point taken. You’re quite right and it should have read, ‘not all can get maximum points ‘.
Stewart Lewis says
Not sure there’s much underlying argument here. If Norwich get, say, 19-20 points from the last 24, we’ll likely go up automatically. But it’s a big ‘if’. We’ve won seven of the last ten (great) but only one of the last four (not so great). I think we’ll get a good idea this Saturday of our prospects for the rest of the season.
Peter C says
Stewart, I think the problem with looking back over 10 games is that for the first 6, which we won, we had Grabban. There is no doubt that momentum has been lost since his injury as illustrated by the last 4 results against lowly opposition and a misfiring Derby.
The team that started last night, on paper an attacking side, has started two of those last 4 games and failed to score, the substitutions coming to the rescue last night. I agree with the comments above and that, overall, Hooper has been a disappointment.
I also agree that Saturday will give a good indication as to what the rest of the season holds. Lose or draw that to a side buoyed up by tonight’s performance and probably in as good or better form as ourselves and the 19-20 points almost become an impossibility. Fortunately, after a home defeat and a draw it should be time for another win!
Agree with Stewart (12). We need a win on Saturday – one way or the other – and then there’s two weeks to re-charge the batteries, (hopefully) get Grabban fit and/or a loan signing in the door. I may feel more optimistic then. At the moment, I feel sceptical that this squad of players can demonstrate the consistency and concentration required to break into top two – despite the best efforts of a manager I am increasingly impressed by.
Neil N. Pray says
I thought Wes was a deserved MOTM on Saturday, but didn’t mind him being rested last night, because Hooper had looked impressive when he came on against Derby, and the line-up looked more than capable of getting the victory. But apparently Hooper was very disappointing, and looking at the highlights our finishing was too, just like at the weekend.
7 wins in 8 has become 1 win in 4, and I can’t help feeling the top two dream is slipping through our fingers. Watford, Boro and Bournemouth will fight it out for the automatics. There’ll be another 3-way tussle for 6th between Brentford, Wolves and Ip5w1ch, with us and Derby in between.
I was getting so excited but now it feels like a real letdown. We’ll just have to do it the hard way at Wembley I suppose!
Dan R says
I only saw the highlights, but however did Hooper miss that chance in 1st half set-up, beautifully, by Howson? Completely fluffed an open goal in the 6 yard area. I had my doubts about Grabban earlier this year, but am coming round to the view that his absence could be terminal for us and the autos.
Stewart Lewis says
Neil (15) and Dan (16): Can I suggest we hold off from dismissing automatic promotion until the end of Easter Monday? By then we’ll have played 3 winnable games, while Watford will have faced Ipswich,Boro & Derby, and Bournemouth will have faced Boro. While I agree we’ve lapsed a bit and miss Grabban, things WILL look different by then – perhaps rosier for us. OTBC.