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.