That was a tough one to take in the circumstances. In the midst of the worst injury crisis most of us have seen as City fans, to have gone so close to winning the three points against a thoroughly decent Coventry team was an outstanding effort.
If the game had just meandered out to a 1-1 most of us would have taken a point in the blink of an eye, and it was only the lateness of Cov’s equaliser that stung.
But let’s be honest, they deserved it. No complaints.
There was of course the double-whammy of conceding a goal from the same move that left Max Aarons in a heap with what looks a nasty injury.
He now joins the dozen or so others in a treatment room that must, in old money, resemble A&E on a Saturday night just after the pubs have kicked out. At this rate, they’ll be reviving those old Portakabins at Colney to use as a physio room overspill.
While, of course, our crisis isn’t as acute as Jurgen Klopp’s at Liverpool, it is unprecedented and we’ve almost reached the stage where points earned are of the bonus variety, and the name of the game is staying in or around the top six until we can get some more bodies fit.
To be top of the pile, having picked up 24 points from the last 30 available, while having to overcome so many hurdles along the way is extraordinary.
The dam is just holding… just. There are leaks aplenty, water squirting out everywhere but somehow it’s yet to burst.
All we can do is hope it doesn’t burst in Luton and, in fact, holds for the next few weeks. Then we just have to pray that Daniel Farke is on Father Christmas’ good list.
So far, Farke has been spared having to delve into academy ranks to call on the services of young players he deems ‘not ready’ – Josh Martin had already been earmarked for some first-team involvement this season – but the Aarons situation may have changed that.
The likable Mark Robins suggested that our squad has sufficient depth to field “two first-teams” – a boast many were making at the start of the season – but we’ve reached the point where that theory is being tested to the limit.
Two first teams in terms of pure numbers maybe, but that doesn’t allow for, for example, all of your strikers getting injured at the same time.
Marco Stiepermann, despite taking some Canary Call flak, did a sterling job in an unfamiliar role and it should have been no surprise to anyone that he was unable to offer the same movement of Teemu Pukki, the aerial presence of Jordan Hugill or the speed and power of Adam Idah.
Why would he?
I was critical of Stiepi’s first touch and sloppiness against Stoke but have nothing but praise for his efforts in difficult circumstances yesterday. If we’re going to judge and then launch into those who are being asked to fill in then it really is time to give up.
Similarly, those who have singled out Michael McGovern for not being Tim Krul are helping no-one. Other than that one heart-stopping bar-of-soap moment in the first half, he did all that was asked of him, including some okay distribution to both centre-backs (despite Greg Downs’ incredulity that he wouldn’t just HOOF IT).
The Ulsterman will, injury permitting, be in goal for the next four games, so we may as well get used to it.
And we may as well also get used to the fact that while the squad is being stretched to its limits, mistakes will continue to occur. Not because the players are “simply not good enough” or because they’re “ambling around like they don’t care” but because they’re physically and mentally spent.
Aarons was, for once, in the firing line for his role in the Coventry goal – a certain pundit citing him for a poor stating position and then a reckless challenge, both of which were arguably true – but both were the result of a tired mind and creaking limbs.
If there’s one thing that Max doesn’t do it’s dive into challenges. Rarely does he go to ground and it was only through trying to compensate for getting caught under that cross-field pass that he uncharacteristically slammed into Ryan Giles.
A disaster all round but one borne of fatigue.
Luckily the pivotal pairing of Ben Gibson and Grant Hanley remains unbroken (at least for now and as far as we know) and so anyone who comes in or is tasked with a role they’re unfamiliar with will have two booming voices to guide them through. If those two weren’t important enough anyway…
What will continue to be an issue though will be Farke’s inability to make changes to freshen up his team in the latter stages of a game. Robins used his five substitutes yesterday to excellent effect and with such limited options available to him, the German was unable to respond.
Until the injury crisis eases, this is one issue that isn’t going away.
But, we’re still top of the league, Mario Vrancic is back in the house (and scoring) and we have Emi Buendia back for the trip to Luton. Quite who will line up around him remains to be seen. I suggest we all have a stiff drink ahead of Tuesday lunchtime’s presser.