It doesn’t feel any better this morning does it. Not one iota.
We’ve been kicked in the guts plenty of times – it comes with the territory when you’re a City supporter. This one however feels extra painful.
But not just because the survival odds have been tilted in favour of Sunderland – even though they have – or even because it was another spurned chance in a season that’s been littered with them.
This one really hurts, for me anyway, because we managed to confirm the collective belief of pundits and experts that we don’t have what it takes; that Big Sam would do a job on us and that our central defenders wouldn’t be able to handle Jermaine Defoe.
As a devotee of talkSPORT it was a painful week as presenters and ex-pros lined up to extol the virtues of Allardyce and eulogise over his Premier League record of having never been relegated and, in the next breath, tell us that Defoe will be the difference between survival and relegation for the Black Cats.
It was tiring. I so wanted City to prove them wrong.
Yet, in the spirit of ‘along came Norwich’ we succumb to both while, at the same time, contriving to end Sunderland’s six-game win-less run.
And, if that wasn’t enough, we suffer a thumping dent in our goal difference on a day when Newcastle, along with collecting three points, improved their own by three. We started the day with a seven goal advantage over them – almost worth a point as they say – but ended it just a solitary goal better off.
And then, for good measure, there was the Timm Klose news.
I half-expected to wake to the news that Jonny Howson suffered broken ribs as a result of Allardyce’s shove and will be out for the next four games.
I guess there’s still time.
But the point is there was something so ‘Norwich City’ about yesterday. It harked back to Fulham away in 2005. When crunch time arrives it seems we don’t even do narrow defeats.
The fallout was naturally crammed full of angst and those who, for a few weeks, have had no reason to launch into David McNally took the opportunity to do so yesterday for reasons, to me, that are not completely clear.
But it wasn’t just the chief executive who was in the firing line. Everyone, it seems, was fair game.
We needed someone to blame; someone or something on whom to unleash the venom that built up over 94 of the most agonisingly painful minutes I can ever recall. It was understandable maybe, given how we ourselves had built the game up to being bigger, more valuable, than the play-off final.
That some of those in the firing line were largely blameless for events as they unfolded mattered not.
Ultimately it simply boiled down to City not being quite good enough in periods and situations when it really mattered, as have so many of our bad days this season. When we need it to click we come up short, and it invariably comes down to the ‘q’ word.
We have enough quality to win a game of Premier League football, but only just, and not consistently. We need everything to fall into place and for the team to be operating at 100 per cent for this to happen. Other teams can dip below and still have enough, be it collective ability or nous, to see it through. We don’t.
At crucial moments the decision-making isn’t good enough. We take an extra tough when it’s not needed. The ‘eye of a needle’ pass hits the edge of the needle. We under-hit a cross. We mis-time a last-ditch tackle.
All relatively minor mistakes in the overall make-up of 90 minutes, and football being an inexact science it happens to every team in every league in the land, but we fail when it really counts more than most in the Premier League.
We don’t lack effort, or fight, and I simply refuse to believe the Canary Call suggestion that the players don’t care. They do. They’re just unable to deliver as consistently as is required for PL mid-table comfort.
Andre Wisdom, whether he managed to get a piece of the ball of not, made a challenge he didn’t need to make. He offered Andre Marriner the chance of pointing to the spot, which he gobbled up with undue haste.
And Seb Bassong, despite being fouled by Jan Kirchhoff, didn’t need to dwell on the ball in such a dangerous area. It was another error from Marriner but one that wouldn’t have even been a thing if Seb had taken one touch less.
There is just no escaping that this back-four minus the composure and leadership of Klose looks a completely different entity. We started to look organised but without him, as a unit – including John Ruddy – they wobble and creak. And that doesn’t bode well.
Neither does the fact that the Mbokani/Naismith partnership, which promised much against Newcastle, seems to have gone in reverse.
And, aside from both being generally non-threatening in front of goal, both seemed more intent on going to ground than staying on their feet. As a result when either were actually on the receiving end of a foul, Marinner already had a seed of doubt planted.
Naismith, along with Matt Jarvis, had an afternoon to forget and neither were able to justify their inclusion ahead of Wes and Nathan Redmond respectively; decisions by Alex Neil that he probably now regrets.
Sunderland, for their part, were surprisingly ungracious in victory, and the ‘Friendship Trophy’ appeared a dim and distant memory as the handbags flew in front of their dugout, but borne of years of experience they do appear well equipped to again successfully tackle a relegation fight.
They’re limited, ordinary even, but in Defoe they always have a goal in them and in Cattermole they have a scrapper made from the mould of his manager; a key component to any said fight. They’ve reportedly played well of late but while there was little evidence of it yesterday, the record books will show they had enough to win comfortably.
So, a thoroughly miserable one and with two weeks to cogitate on it before we play again, the next four games will be as challenging mentally as they will be tactically. Consecutive defeats in must-not-lose games have seen belief replaced with doubt.
But, for now we’re not in the bottom three and can only but hope there is a twist or two to come.
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