Robin Sainty: Farke’s spirited City squad won’t take a backward step at Portman Road
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It seems that regardless of how many times we repeat the mantra “work in progress” in regard to City’s development, when it comes down to it we all perhaps expect rather more than is reasonable at this stage.
While last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Hull was incredibly frustrating until that heart-stopping final minute it’s important to keep things in perspective, because although there are clearly some negatives, the positives outweigh them and that ratio increases game by game.
First and foremost, let’s remember that this is a squad riddled with injuries, including Alex Pritchard, the man we all expected this season’s midfield to be built around, and with its main goal threat limited to cameos in recent games.
Secondly, while it looked like being a third successive goalless Carrow Road appearance for the Canaries, there was much more action in and around the opposing penalty area than against Burton or Bristol City, and City had genuine chances amongst the 23 efforts on goal recorded by Sky.
Thirdly, despite conceding a poor goal, which actually had more to do with the ball being lost too easily in midfield when both full-backs were pushed on leaving the centre-backs split than rank bad defending, the back four once again looked solid and Angus Gunn had little to do.
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Inevitably it will be pointed out that City were playing against 10 men for a third of the match, but sometimes you have to credit the opposition, and the Tigers showed tremendous resolve and organisation as they withstood the increasing barrage.
Having said all that, City’s build up play can still be very staid and predictable, and after an opening 15-minute spell when they threatened to overwhelm Hull the pace dropped significantly as the visitors got themselves organised, and only really picked up again after the red card.
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There are times when they appear to be trying to score the perfect goal and the repeated attempts to dribble through the congestion around the Hull box were as frustrating as the poor quality of the crosses on the occasions that the ball was worked wide.
Nevertheless, City still remain undefeated since their black day at the New Den and 15 points from seven league games with only two goals conceded is better than any of us could have realistically hoped for on that miserable afternoon.
As has been said many times before, the Championship is an endurance test and I have no issue with the fact that City are still striving for their best football as winter approaches. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from peaking too soon.
Once again, the league looks to be wide open, and, as long as City are in touch with the play-off places at the turn of the year, and the injury situation improves rather than worsens, I see no reason at all why they won’t be in the mix come May.
Saturday wasn’t a great performance by any means, but the never-say-die attitude shown by both the players and the manager, who sacrificed both holding players, suggested a burning desire to grind out results which was rarely evident last season.
That augurs well for the future, but will be vital tomorrow, because Ipswich will be looking to test City’s appetite for battle, as they did so successfully last year and found it wanting.
I don’t see that happening again this time around, but there is nothing quite like a derby game, particularly when the balance of power has been so heavily weighted in one direction for so long.
I suspect that this could be the toughest trip to Suffolk that City will have endured for some time, despite the hosts’ recent dip in form, and Town will feel that the law of averages is on their side. If it was the City of last year I’d be more worried, but this squad won’t be taking a backward step.