Robin Sainty: Fans can inject new life into tired City legs
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
In recent weeks Daniel Farke must have felt like Hans Brinker, the little Dutch boy who saves his community by plugging a leaking dyke with his finger in the story by Mary Maples Dodge.
However, as the injuries have continued to pile up, it was always inevitable that that dyke would eventually burst - and so it did at Kenilworth Road on Wednesday night.
Whilst the refereeing left a lot to be desired, with City on the end of some poor decisions, the fact is that they were well beaten by a Luton side that was sharper and more committed in most areas and whose manager, Nathan Jones, had clearly done his homework.
Little space was offered to Max Aarons to get to the byline, while City were always given the chance to play out to Jacob Sorensen in the knowledge that the stand-in full-back was never going to be an attacking threat and would always need to check back onto his right foot.
Equally, Josh Martin and Emi Buendia were tightly marshalled, but Alex Tettey,, a player who for all his qualities is never going to unpick a defence, was allowed to see plenty of the ball. The result was that City spent a considerably greater amount of time going sideways and backwards than forwards.
Coming off a hammering at Cardiff on Saturday, Luton were clearly fired up and their work rate and high press was tremendously energetic and ultimately too much for a City side that displayed tired minds as well as tired legs.
It also didn’t help that the Canaries created their own problems, with the first goal coming while they were still disputing the decision as Luton took a quick free-kick, the second stemming from an unnecessary foul by Sorensen and the third, albeit one of the softest penalty decisions you’ll ever see, after a panicky pass from Michael McGovern had thrown the defence into disarray.
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However, it would be wrong to be too critical with City still top of the Championship, despite an injury list for which the word crippling does scant justice.
The problem is that they are now in a vicious circle in that the lack of available players means that there is little scope for rotation and therefore the stresses on the bodies of those who remain fit become even greater.
It’s ironic that Premier League clubs are bemoaning the relentlessness of their fixture list when those in the Championship, often with smaller squads, are required to squeeze in eight more games than them in this shortened season.
The signs of how deep the crisis at City goes were already there on Saturday when Farke was largely limited to untested youngsters on the bench while Coventry were able to bring on five experienced substitutes whose fresh legs made all the difference in the closing 20 minutes.
There will be those who will feel that he should have taken the gamble of throwing some of them on anyway, but in all fairness, he has never shown a reluctance to play a youngster who was considered ready and I trust his judgment.
At least Teemu Pukki is expected to return this afternoon and it seems that a couple more players will become available in the next couple of weeks, but for the moment all City can do is dig in and try to grind out whatever points they can.
The 2,000 fans who are allowed in this afternoon will have an important part to play, and it was noticeable that even the 1,000 home fans at Luton on Wednesday night created a degree of hostility that seemed to influence some of Darren England’s decisions.
At least today’s visitors, who had to play for over an hour with 10 men on Wednesday night, are likely to be equally fatigued, and that is why the crowd could be such an important component this afternoon.