I feel partly responsible.
I write a small #NCFC piece for BBC Sport every Wednesday, and in yesterday’s I referred to City being amid a ‘mini-revival’, based on them losing just twice since the start of December and being unbeaten in 2024.
‘Revival’ felt a bit of a stretch even when I wrote it given how underwhelming much of the football had been during that spell, but there was no distancing myself from it once the good folk of the Beeb had used it in the headline.
Therefore defeat, and the end of the ‘mini-revival’ was inevitable. Sorry guys.
Back in the real world, there’s no escaping it was an opportunity missed to make a statement result. Leeds were, and still are, flying at Elland Road and so to have taken points off them would have served notice to those around us in the battle for fifth and sixth that Norwich mean business.
It didn’t happen of course and, while Daniel Farke – ever the gent – was effusive in his praise of City’s performance, the fact remains that despite them putting in a thoroughly decent shift, they only touched the ball seven times in the Leeds penalty box.
One of those was a gilt-edged chance that was spurned by Gabby Sara on the stroke of halftime but for all the goodness on display, including 20 minutes at the start of the second half when they dominated possession, seven touches in your opponent’s penalty box is not enough.
In many ways, to have had that dominant spell of possession – during which, in truth, Leeds were happy for us to have the ball – and to have still made so little impression in the final third adds to the disappointment.
It certainly wasn’t the walloping that some had feared a few weeks ago, but it yielded the same number of points and was a return to the glorious failures of which we have specialized in our recent past.
Having said all of that, I do get why #NCFC social media was flooded with ‘good effort, ‘no disgrace’, and ‘proud of them’ type messages because performance-wise it was a step up on what we produced for most of the autumn.
They showed bravery and intent to keep the ball and move it progressively – of that there can be no doubt – but against a Leeds side who were not at their best, it still felt a bit like one that got away. It also left me wondering (again) if a different head coach would coax more out of this group, which certainly feels capable of engineering more than seven touches in an opponent’s penalty area.
But, the fact we’re disappointed at losing 1-0 at Elland Road is progress in itself, and the ever-growing influence of Kenny McLean on this group is becoming increasingly clear. Alongside Marcelino Nunez in the double pivot, the Scot was undeniably magnificent last night
All eyes now turn to Anfield, I guess, in what will be labeled a Wagner-Klopp reunion but all I wish for from Sunday is for them to avoid a morale-sapping humping in full view of a live TV audience.
Of infinitely more importance is the home game against Coventry that follows, where Wagner’s men have the chance to go again in their quest to stay in the race for fifth and sixth. Three points there and the defeat at Elland Road (and anything untoward that happens at Anfield) will soon be forgotten.