This is really turning into a very odd season.
From the depths of despair, when it felt like we’d never win again, to five-goal salvos where the opponents of the day are given a proper footballing spanking. We’ve seen both extremes and not a great deal in between.
The trundling has been kept to a minimum. For the most part it’s been either breakneck or ponderous. Feast or famine. And yesterday was most definitely a feast.
The throttle is now being squeezed. We just have to hope it’s not been left it a game or two too late.
But this is a mess that Alex Neil’s men are most definitely threatening to get themselves out of. After an upturn in form that had the word ‘ugly’ running right through it – and to be fair, few were complaining – yesterday the after-burners kicked into life and it was anything but.
Jonny Howson’s brilliant volley was a thing of beauty.
So too Wessi chipping Stephen Henderson from 35 yards.
Ditto Josh doing a ‘Darren Eadie’ v Ipswich (who remembers that?).
And finally Alex Pritchard’s fine brace.
And in between the football swashed and buckled in a way we could have only dreamed of in the bleak mid-winter and even bleaker autumn.
That City conceded a sloppy goal has still been seized on by some but if ever there was a day to turn a blind eye to defensive frailties yesterday was it. Besides, when Ross McCormack’s 15 seconds of fame occurred the back-four contained only two of its starters.
We’ll continue to make the odd defensive rick – certainly until surgery is undertaken in the summer – but so will most when the pressure becomes ever more intense, and for now we must trust our free scorers to make them non-critical.
Those who can find an axe to grind in the midst of such a glorious afternoon are probably supporting the wrong team. I made my feelings on Team Neil pretty clear but right now the momentum is forward and the mojo is back. And long may it continue.
Ultimately we all want the same thing, The route we take to get there, for now, matters little.
As has been pointed out by many, it’s fun to sweep aside those for whom mid-table is home but where City have fallen short this season is when going toe-to-toe with those who currently reside in the top six. That needs to change, preferably starting on Tuesday evening.
We’ve played each of the top six once. It reads DLLLLL. One solitary point. Seven goals scored, seventeen conceded.
And therein lies the riddle that Alex Neil and his troops need to crack. With 45 points still left to play for there really is every chance that City could sneak into the sixth, maybe even the fifth, but along the way they will need to successfully engage with those above them.
For what it’s worth (bear in mind I was once a numbers man), over the last decade it has taken on average 73 points to take sixth place in the Championship. City currently have 50.
Obviously it’s only an average and the range is ten points – Ipswich on 78 in 2014/15 and Leicester on 68 in 2012/13 – but minus the ability to control the results of others City are realistically looking at the equivalent of eight wins from fifteen games to give themselves a reasonable shout at sixth.
And while it remains a big ask it’s one that’s made more feasible by performances like yesterday.
We’ve long dispensed with that ‘second best squad in the division’ nonsense but against Forest – who let’s not forget had won three of their last four games – they showed that if mindset and application are aligned there is more than enough quality in this group to swipe teams aside. Particularly if, like Forest, the opposition are up for a game of football.
Knowing that yesterday’s opponents would look to pass rather than hoof permitted Alex Neil the chance to play Wes, Josh and Alex P in support of Nelson Oliveria; a trio who on another day would have been considered too lightweight for a Championship tussle.
But yesterday it worked and some, and put paid to the fears of some (me) that City would struggle to get enough of the ball to hurt Forest. Alex called it right and credit to him for that.
But now’s not the time to stand, drool and admire. Now’s the time to turn the screw and, in doing so, turn up the heat on those we have in our sights.
City’s upturn is not going under anyone’s radar. The good folk of Yorkshire will have taken note and hopefully they’ll be feeling a little uneasy as the medium size Norfolk lorry threatens to turn into a juggernaut.
Now bring on the Toon.