Robin Sainty: Squeaky bum time, but City remain in the driving seat
- Credit: Matthew Usher/Focus Images Ltd
I’m really not sure how much more of this I can take. The last three games have been an absolute roller-coaster of emotions; each of them ending as a draw, but all provoking very different reactions.
To concede a last-minute equaliser to Reading having apparently snatched victory from the jaws of defeat was gut-wrenchingly hard to take, while Sunday’s game at Wigan, in which City’s ball retention was as poor as I’ve seen it for over a year felt like a great escape.
However, Friday night was off the scale. The home side looked to be cruising until Fernando Forestieri’s bolt from the blue and then the game see-sawed as City reeled from a goal that should never have been allowed to stand before regrouping to lay siege to the Sheffield Wednesday goal and being thwarted by solid defending and referee Geoff Eltringham’s infuriatingly random decision-making.
It was a game that had everything (apart from a competent referee) and both sides played some excellent football. There was goalmouth incident, great passing moves and one of the best saves you could hope to see from Tim Krul to deny Forestieri, but to all intents and purposes it looked like ending in frustration for City until Mario Vrancic’s magnificent free-kick.
So are City choking? I don’t think so. Clearly nerves are starting to creep in, as evidenced by the fact that so many passes went astray in the closing 15 minutes or so as players occasionally tried to force things to happen, but generally, much to chagrin of the guy in the South Stand who spends the whole game screaming “Get it up there!” at City’s defenders, they stuck to their patient build-up and were rewarded.
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The celebrations were unbridled, but it was clear from the post-match interviews that Daniel Farke is nearing the end of his tether about the decisions going against his side. There is no doubt that City have been on the wrong end of a number in the last few games, but we’ve already seen the effect of paranoia on Leeds, who have been nowhere like the side of early season since Spygate and their growing belief that there was some sort of conspiracy against them.
Don’t get me wrong, a bit of “us against the world” is a good motivator, but my view is that if City continue to concentrate on themselves and not get too distracted by things that they have no control over they will be fine.
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Decisions and luck tend to even themselves out and while there is no doubt that City are overdue a break I hope, and expect, that having got things off his chest Farke will regain his usual cool demeanour, and with Emi Buendia back at Stoke he will once again have the X factor that City have missed since the QPR game.
The support on Friday was magnificent. From the brilliant pre-match flag and banner display which was the culmination of so much hard work and fund raising by the fan groups Along Come Norwich and Barclay End Norwich, to the singing that was still reverberating even when it looked like the game had slipped away, Carrow Road was unrecognisable from 12 months ago.
Of course, much of that is down to what’s happening on the pitch, but even when City were doing well under Alex Neil and Paul Lambert the atmosphere was rarely as electric as Friday’s, although there are clearly still a few who feel that beating the traffic is more important than cheering their side over the line.
The Stoke game will be tense but tell me, City fans, with a maximum of nine points left on offer would you rather be five points ahead of your challengers or five points behind the leaders?
City’s fate is in their own hands; that’s not a luxury available to Leeds or Sheffield United.