Just when you thought this lot had exhausted every possible way to lose a game of football…
Last night they achieved what the entire Universe assumed to be impossible: conceding a goal after having limited your opponents to zero shots on target.
It’s a statistical quirk of course – Martyn Waghorn’s shot that hit the post and deflected in off Grant Hanley was officially deemed off-target – but it’s pure Norwich City.
Its ridiculousness summed up this season and this group of players perfectly. So too the result.
Not only have we struggled to overcome teams who inhabit the top six, but we’ve also now developed an irritating habit of failing to beat teams who are rooted to the foot of the table.
Wigan were bottom of the pile when we went to the DW and proceeded to stink the place out. Now Huddersfield.
Bottom of the table. No goals in four games. Off-field problems affecting performances and mood. Colin in charge. Seemingly without a prayer.
The final line of our Andy’s pre-match piece: “We really should be smashing this one“. In Freddie’s preview, he cited the Warnock factor but plumped for a 3-1 City win.
But along we come…
I suspect that in the same way Tony Mowbray clearly saw City as the perfect opponent to help his side end a run of three straight defeats, Warnock also sensed an ‘along come Norwich’ moment and fancied the Terriers’ chances of ending their’ own run of horrors.
We remain the gift that keeps on giving.
All of which appears even more incredible when you consider the almost total dominance City enjoyed for the entirety of last night’s first half. I say entirety – there was that first-minute aberration that they got away with and which we hoped would be the only one of the night.
But oh no.
The first half resembled much of Sunday’s game in that, for the most part, it was a defence versus attack training session, albeit on this occasion we did manage to create a clear-cut chance that we also managed to convert.
That should have been it. That should have settled any lingering anxiety and enabled us to play with confidence, patience, and poise, secure in the knowledge that at some point Huddersfield would have to come out and have a go and we’d have more space in which to attack.
To have ended up drawing a game from a position of such comfort was quite something.
But with the Terriers only a goal down at halftime, Warnock knew there was a chance. He’d have reminded his players at halftime what a lily-livered bunch this Norwich team can be when the tempo is upped and the crowd gets involved.
He’d also have reminded them – in his own inimitable way – that nothing can be achieved against Norwich by standing off them and admiring their pretty passing patterns.
And sure enough…
In a season that’s been mainly notable for the paucity of the football, with a few exceptions, last night’s second half has to be right up there with the worst of them.
The tactical tweaks made by Colin, together with the significant increase in intensity that he demanded, serve to nullify the threat City carried in the first half. The second was scrappy, lacking in quality, and was reduced to nothing more than a battle of attrition. An ugly one at that.
Huddersfield’s goal needs no explanation other than to say it was borne of the type of defensive mess that has become our specialty. The only thing, right now, at which we’re exceptional.
And we rarely looked capable of responding.
That we ended the night with ten men and with two more players in the treatment room merely added to what gradually revealed itself to be an unmitigated disaster.
That this team, which is inconsistency personified, has to win a minimum of six of its remaining nine games to even give itself a chance of making top six renders their cause almost hopeless.
There’s a chance of course – there’s always a chance when it’s mathematically doable – but this group’s tendency to buckle when asked serious questions and when put under even moderate levels of pressure doesn’t bode well.
There are tactical and technical limitations to this group too that will have become obvious to David Wagner as the days of disappointment have clocked up. The methodology that Wagner brings has necessitated some square pegs in round holes and will continue to be a thing until he eventually gets a squad to call his own.
And it’s not just around the edges that this squad needs refreshing. For me, the spine of this team looks jaded and bored. Just as we are with it.
Even the big, established names shouldn’t be spared this summer’s overhaul. Right now, it looks like a team that’s enjoying its football about as much as we are watching it play.
The verve, energy and high tempo that Wagner promised when he arrived has fizzled out. It was nice while it lasted but this group appears not to have it in them to produce it regularly and as second nature.
Even during last night’s first half, which (to be fair) many seemed happy with, much of the passing and movement was laboured and ordinary.
And the system doesn’t routinely enable goalscoring chances to be created. Instead, we rely on moments and flashes of quality. The end-to-end, free-flowing football of an era gone by, when five, six, or seven players would be involved in a move that led to a goalscoring chance, appears to have gone.
All of which adds up to a bit of a muddle.
With Stoke (a) to come on Saturday, they quickly need to rediscover from somewhere the mettle shown at The Den or it could be a really tough old afternoon.
Talking of muddles – and as a bit of an aside – does anyone know when we’re likely to hear who, if anyone, has taken on the ownership of the club’s new share issue?
All in all, it just feels in need of a boost from somewhere. On and off the pitch.