Before I start I should warn you I’m not as angry as some. If you’re looking for some Dean Smith-related rage look away now.
Yes it was disappointing, and yes we were profligate in front of goal and sloppy in defence, but those of a certain age have seen this a hundred times before. It’s football.
Yet those for whom Smith is the devil incarnate are fuming; incandescent with rage. Again.
For them, this was yet more evidence that Smith and Craig Shakespeare are *never* going to be the pairing to take our club forward.
They may be right, but this outcry every single time we fail to win or replicate the spirit of Barcelona 2015 is tiring. For me anyway.
For all the kamikaze defending and general malaise, it was a more entertaining afternoon than I’d anticipated. I’d prepped myself for a 0-0.
In the end, we got five goals, several pantomime villains, and an afternoon of something that was not remotely boring.
That we came out the wrong end was a gut-wrencher but was just further evidence of something we already knew – that in the Championship anybody can beat anybody.
And after writing 1000 words on Wednesday morning about the lack of entertainment so far this season, it’d be hypocritical of me to now bemoan the fact we didn’t win what was an incident-filled game.
Maybe it’s an age thing.
There were though, without question, plenty of things that went wrong yesterday afternoon and the analysis team will have a field day putting together a video of yesterday’s bloopers for Dean Smith’s delectation. In the Eighties, we’d have called it a video nasty.
Yet none of us could have foreseen that after what someone once famously called a blistering start from Norwich.
It really was.
Smith’s decision to re-jig the line-up to accommodate Teemu Pukki and Josh Sargent as a front two and Aaron Ramsey as a ’10’ appeared a good one as we ripped into Preston.
Sargent’s goal came from him drifting in from the left – an area he’d not have inhabited if he’d been wide right – and was further confirmation of his being infinitely more effective as a central striker.
At that point and for the 15 or so minutes that followed everything was tickety-boo.
The passing was accurate, the movement decisive, and the tempo high – just how we like it. Chances came and went and then, as the visitors gained a foothold in the game, that control dissipated.
And we never regained it.
The Preston equaliser, when it came, was not wholly unsurprising although it was a shock to see Robbie Brady hit such a pearler of a cross with his right foot! The less said about the marking in the box the better.
The start we made against a side that neither scores nor concedes many was perfect, but to allow PNE to gain that foothold and then score rendered it useless.
The rest of the first half was the type of fare to which we have become accustomed – passes going astray and there being a general lack of control. In the spells where we did have controlled possession, the laboured passing enabled Preston to defend comfortably.
To go from such a position of domination to struggling to make any headway was, as ever, puzzling.
PNE deserve credit of course, and no team turns up at Carrow Road with the intention of making it nice and cosy for City but, aside from that opening blitz, we continue to struggle to find a way of creating chances when armed with plenty of possession but faced with massed ranks of defenders.
The man to whom we want to turn for this creativity, Marcelino Nuñez, is currently experiencing the dip that many predicted after his flying start to his City career, and Aaron Ramsey, for all his promise, is yet to impose himself in that area of the field – at least consistently.
The second half was more of the same but with added defensive blunders.
Tim Krul’s pass to no one was what precipitated PNE’s second goal and their third, despite a wicked deflection, was a shot that found its way inside his near post – a definite no-no in the goalkeepers’ code of conduct.
In between, we huffed and puffed sufficiently to conjure up a nice equaliser from Gabriel Sara – who had a game of great promise – but it did feel like one of those afternoons where it was destined to go wrong.
With City in the ascendancy and level, it felt like it should have been one of those where we pushed on and grabbed a late winner, yet it still came as no surprise when Preston pipped us to it.
That we scored twice against the league’s meanest defence was, of course, good; that we conceded three against a team who’d scored just four before the game was obviously bad.
I guess City’s early goal brought Preston out and made for an infinitely more open game than anyone expected.
Typically, the blame for defeat has been laid solely at the door of Dean Smith but he’s not personally responsible for very presentable chances being missed or individual defensive and goalkeeping mistakes. The lack of general cohesion and fluidity are, however, in his and Shakespeare’s court.
But, for me at least, yesterday wasn’t the prelude to Armageddon many are predicting. It was our first defeat in ten; the football in the opening 20 minutes was the type of football we have been demanding, and Sara had his best outing so far in a City shirt.
If you want to be angry about it, that’s fine. If you want to demand the head coach’s head on a plate, that’s also fine.
But I’ll sit this one out.