Naturally, along the way there have been a commensurate number of duds – for every Dean Ashton there has been a Dean Coney and for every Andy Linighan an Andy Hughes – but crucially the production line never stopped rolling.
To concede three in the manner we did was unforgivable. I’ll refrain from dissecting the all too obvious wrongs in each goal, only to say the defending for the second was of an ilk that would have earned me an earful in my amateur playing days.
Three seasons in the Premier League clearly propelled the club forward in a way that surprised, thrilled and angered in equal measure – finances and esteem both benefiting – but as a result the bar was raised dangerously high.Nowwe find ourselves back in an ever-growing group of Championship clubs who see the Premier League as their rightful place.
In the battle of the technical areas I can think of few occasions this season where City have triumphed. In the game of chess that is Championship football, all too often Team Adams found themselves in check, often checkmate.
The decline has been equally steady, but in the opposite direction. Top of the league turned into some dallying around in the play-off places before, courtesy of last night’s walloping in the north-east, slipping to seventh.
While the rationale behind Adams’ 73rd minute changes were completely understandable – Jerome because of a gashed knee and O’Neil because he was walking a red card tightrope – the impact was such that City found themselves hanging on.
Perhaps those of us who are left feeling a little uncomfortable when the league table comes into view are jumping the gun. Perhaps I should be affording Adams and co the same level of patience that I unreasonably, and unfathomably, offered to Team Hughton.
Unlike some of those around me, I don’t have a particular problem with the ball being played backwards and sideways as long as it is done so with purpose and pass, but when it’s done so slowly and with no conviction the problems begin.
The faith shown by Adams in his defensive midfield pairing of Bradley Johnson and Alex Tettey has been admirable, but when they are not producing and you have Jonny Howson, Gary O’Neil and Vadis Odidja-Ofoe sitting on the bench it just feels a little uncomfortable.
At that time the only seats in the ground were in the old Main Stand from where its occupants would frequently hurl cushions – presumably there to provide comfort from the wooden benches – to express their disdain at events on the pitch
Neil Adams and his troops do need to find a way of grinding out home wins, especially from games where they have massively dominated possession. It goes without saying that the majority will arrive in the Fine City and park the proverbial bus.
Few have faulted Adams for playing a second string. With 30 players to keep happy – all of whom could expect a first-team start at some stage of the season – the cup competitions offer a perfect opportunity to offer game time to those on the fringes.
City will have better days although I was gobsmacked to hear a ‘Canarycaller’ bemoan the start they made to the game. Yesterday’s opening was, compared to recent offerings, of a tempo that threatened to overrun the visitors.
Whether McNally just got lucky, or whether it was yet another masterstoke, will have to wait for another day but one suspects even the chief executive will be rubbing his eyes at the start Adams’ new charges have made to the season.
Out went the tippy-tappy passing in front of the Cardiff back-four and in its place was a more direct approach that played to Jerome’s strengths – with balls being slid into the channels. And crucially the tempo and intensity were upped significantly.
The confidence is high, the squad well-equipped and the manager bristling with bravado. And, as if to highlight the point, in yesterday afternoon’s press conference Neil Adams reminded us, “… it will be the same as every game, we’ll look to try and win it”.
Vadis Odidja-Ofoe has clearly been bought to fill the void left by Leroy Fer and, if YouTube is to be believed, is of a similar mould. He looks to be a box-to-box type with an eye for goal and will not have made a move to the Championship on the premise of being on the City bench. Alex and Brad – you’ve been warned.
The arrival of two centre-backs made perfect sense and with both coming from good, wholesome footballing stock the element of risk that comes with every new signing appears to have been mitigated as much as possible.
And the stock of Neil Adams continues to rise. Four wins in a row is impressive by any standards, but with the fourth of those being achieved by an XI that comprised youth with a smattering of experience was doubly pleasing.
For their part the home side were a huge disappointment. The passing principles of years gone by have been abandoned in favour of an approach that is more Wimbledon Crazy Gang than Barcelona’esque tiki-taka.