Only a sad sack like me could have a little moan about Daniel Farke after a truly titanic performance from the lads who were available to turn out against Preston North End at Deepdale in the Good Friday fixture most of us were dreading due to multiple late returns from international duty.
Seeing the teamsheet at about five past two I thought something like: that’s okay, we can surely get a point with that team selection.
And that so nearly proved to be all three points. That was the scenario until the 95th minute when that horrible double deflection on a Brad Potts shot deceived Tim Krul to earn the Lilywhites a point they richly did not deserve.
Farke came on strong afterwards about referee Dean Whitestone’s failure to blow the whistle on the 94th minute as Tim Krul launched one long. But we all know four minutes of added time normally means five at least these days and thus we were pegged back at the very end of the game for a 1-1.
Preston did not deserve a point and seeing them piling in together to celebrate with the dugout was heartbreaking. But despite the stomach-churning denouement, a point is a point, especially after Swansea’s implosion at Birmingham was revealed on Friday night.
And then Huddersfield nicking a point from the stuttering Bees yesterday dinner time made things even sweeter. The Terriers had to work bloody hard for their point and, playing a day later than us and having to travel to Carrow Road, let’s hope they’re knackered.
I’d never normally come out with a comment like that but it’s what I can sink to when the influence of the EFL fixture committee is upon me.
The Championship table looks pretty good from where I’m sitting. 15 points clear of third or 12 if Swansea and Brentford win their games in hand. And both of these have to play Watford yet. Oh, and we’ve got goal difference sewn up on the Swans, so make them 13 behind us.
So what’s my beef with our Daniel?
A simple one really. Goalscoring hero Emi Buendia had been battered from pillar to post virtually from the kick-off. Anybody watching on iFollow would have seen him limping off at half time and looking distinctly uncomfortable when he remerged after the break. I wasn’t expecting to see him reappear to be honest.
Referee Whitestone gave Emi neither protection nor regard as Preston seemingly took it in turns to ankle tap him. Several blatant fouls were ignored, let alone yellow cards produced. This led to Farke claiming:
“I am more concerned about him [Emi] than Max [Aarons] or Dimi [Giannoulis] for Tuesday. When the referee is not prepared to protect him I have to do it. He got two hits on his ankle and it was swollen at half time and full of blood. I wanted to substitute him then.
“But he said, ‘No boss, leave me on. I want to help the team.’ Even in the second half he tried to keep going. But he got another hit and was not able to walk.”
I don’t think I’ve often been critical of Farke during his time with this club but I would question him on this topic. If he knew Emi was getting a kicking, saw swelling and bruising on his ankle and realised the referee was weak, why oh why didn’t he overrule Buendia with a “you’re a brilliant player, but I’m a kindly manager acting in your best interests by taking you off” kind of approach?
To be really pedantic, I’d like to know the reasons behind this decision and what input Chris Domogalla and his team had.
Grant Hanley did a superb job in marshalling a back four who had never played together as a unit before. Xavi Quintilla and particularly Bali Mumba had fine matches but I must single out Andrew Omobamidele.
The Irish centre-back didn’t look like an 18-year-old making his first Championship start. Not to me anyway.
His positioning and reading of the game looked spot on and he fills me full of confidence as we attempt to gain a successful conclusion to the season. The best centre-back at that age I’ve seen since Chris Sutton. And that’s quite a compliment.
He’s got the right attitude off the pitch as well, judging from what he told NCFC’s official website after the game:
“Sometimes in football, there’s a lot of things you can rule out. Sometimes goals are a comedy of errors and other times you think, ‘maybe if I was an inch closer to the ball’.”It’s fine margins at this level.”
And on skipper Hanley?
“He’s a top professional. Even before the game he gave me a bit of confidence and kind of walked me through the game as well, kept me composed all the time. It was very beneficial to have him beside me.”
We now have a whole three days rest to properly evaluate the squad to face Huddersfield on Tuesday evening. I would expect to see Max, Dimi and Ollie Skipp reinstated in the starting lineup and if Emi isn’t fit maybe we might well play Todd Cantwell, the Stieperdude and Kieran Dowell behind Teemu [I was tired so I’ve got a justifiable excuse for not putting the game to bed despite three excellent chances] Pukki.
And I hope I’ve seen the last of that wretched petrol blue kit. It’s invariably been a harbinger of doom and I’m prepared to wager the Ancient Mariner wore the 18th-century version of it when he disrespected that albatross all those years ago.
I doubt that any of the players have ever heard it but this would have had the right message in the dressing room afterwards: