So admit it, you forgot what it feels like!
I walked across the streets of New York, on my way to a rendezvous with the New York Canaries in the Football factory, with a feeling of trepidation. Was there any conceivable way that the result would be anything other than another defeat?
The team selection had the feel once again of the last 11 players standing. Kenny McLean being the noticeable absentee. For those who believe in the modern football ethic, it looked suspiciously like an old-fashioned 4-4-2 formation.
The game started brightly for City. Whilst never totally dominant, somehow, they managed to have the upper hand. Sorensen and Lees-Melou were working well together in the middle of the park, with the most promising moves coming down the flanks – the much-maligned Josh Sargent proving to be an awkward threat down the right-wing. And that’s where the goal came from. The American battled well before playing a ball to the near post which was neatly turned in by Keane.
An own goal but we’ll take it.
Here in New York, the noise was entirely disproportionate to the three of us City fans – yet better was to come.
Only a few moments later, Williams made a powerful run down the left. He cut inside and played a through ball to Idah that left the young Irishman with a lot to do. Two weeks ago, Idah would have cut back, mis-controlled, and lost possession. Instead, he took it in his stride and neatly side-footed past Pickford to make it 2-0.
For the remainder of the half, it largely felt like City were in control, without ever really dominating. The combination of Lees-Melou and Sorensen seemed to work well, whenever one pushed on, the other dropped deep to cover.
By half time, there was an uneasy feeling of unreality.
It would be too much to expect City to make this easy. At halftime, Benitez had the chance to deliver the proverbial hairdryer. He made changes, most noticeably Richarlison coming on, in an attempt to galvanize his ailing side.
Here in New York, the tension racked up with every passing minute. City were creating less, yet with the initiative surrendered to the visitors, Krul certainly wasn’t overworked.
For City, the resurgence of Adam Idah over recent games has been a bit like a January signing. Whatever has been said to him should be bottled and dispatched to Dereham. He looks like a different player, asking the awkward, physical questions that defenders hate whilst at the same time coupling it with pace and power.
If this is the Dean Smith effect, then long may it continue.
But it wouldn’t be right for Norwich to win a game comfortably – along came Norwich and all that! Everton won a corner, Krul punched it clear. The ball was played back in. He punched it clear once more only for Richarlison to produce a spectacular overhead kick to pull one back for the visitors.
That left what was possibly the tensest 20 minutes of football I can remember.
On the adjacent screens, Newcastle were beating Watford. Everton were managing to have the majority of the possession without producing too many threats on Krul’s goal. Williams went off with an injury, interestingly Byram was selected to replace him rather than Dimi Giannoulis. That lasted all of two minutes before Max Aarons left the pitch, unable to bear any weight on what looks like a nasty injury.
The game continued. with City managing largely to contain the Everton threat. At the other end, Lees-Melou had a number of speculative long-range shots, surely replacing Tettey as the recipient of the crowd ‘SHOOOOOOT’ chant.
As the end of the game approached, we speculated about how much extra time would be added. No one predicted seven minutes. With our numbers swelled to five by the arrival of two ‘Canaries of the Great Lakes’, the nervous tension exuded around the Football Factory.
City attempted to strike back, Tzolis feeding Idah only for the shot to be blocked. Everton causing palpitations with a succession of corners.
The final whistle went. A celebration entirely disproportionate to the number of fans present ensued. Coupled with a Watford equalizer, it felt like a grand day for the Canaries.
So Everton were, perhaps, not the most potent of opponents. City were able to restrict them to nothing more than hopeful high balls into the box. The only more threatening attacks were ruled out for offside.
In the first half, City showed attacking intent, troubling the Merseysiders, and creating more chances in 45 minutes than have been seen in the last six games. The second half was somewhat different though, never entirely backs to the wall. But not creating too much either.
At the end of the day, it’s three points. Confidence will flow from this prior to the next, critical game against Watford.
Thanks again to the New York Canaries – if you are ever in the Big Apple, get yourself to Legends, in the shadow of the Empire State Building. Downstairs you will find the Football Factory, a friendly welcome and hopefully three points!