Sympathy for Neil Adams as negatives outweight positives – again

PUBLISHED: 10:29 06 December 2014

Jake Cooper scores Reading's second at Carrow Road. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Jake Cooper scores Reading's second at Carrow Road. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

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I would dearly love to have the chance to write a positive column about Norwich City.

It would be wonderful to talk about the club’s latest victory in the push towards promotion under a tactically astute and motivational manager, the commitment and togetherness of the players and the wonderful atmosphere at Carrow Road, but it won’t be happening this week.

So I’ll be writing about further examples of schoolboy defending, an inability to hold a lead and a second half which produced not a single shot on target.

Let’s start with the goals.

A lot of perfectly justified criticism has been laid at John Ruddy’s door, with both headers being made within City’s six-yard box, but the tactic of trying to mark Jake Cooper, the tallest player on the pitch, man to man was simply asking for trouble.

At any level of football, the standard way to deal with an outsize target is to put one man in front and one behind and make sure that he doesn’t get a run at the ball, because once he has momentum he’ll be almost impossible to stop. It’s hardly rocket science.

Of course, it couldn’t have helped that for the fourth consecutive match, Neil Adams changed his central defensive pairing.

Good defences are built on understanding and that only comes from playing together regularly, but with the current revolving door policy defensive cohesion continues to be a dimly distant prospect.

Conceding two soft goals so soon after taking the lead was bad enough, but the second-half performance that followed was as dire as anything produced during Chris Hughton’s tenure at Carrow Road. In fact, the lack of any real momentum or pattern on the pitch and the edgy, nerve-ridden atmosphere in the stands was horribly reminiscent of Hughton’s final home games at the club.

To be honest, given the level of post-game vituperation I hadn’t really expected to be writing about Adams in anything other than a valedictory context.

With chants of “what a load of rubbish”, angry crowds outside the main entrance and some personal abuse of players on social media, it seemed that we had reached a tipping point from which there was no return, but clearly the board still believe that Adams can turn things around.

While my personal view is that the gamble of giving the reins to an inexperienced manager has failed, I have a lot of sympathy for Adams, who is a decent, honest man who has been prepared to back himself and give it his best shot.

However, he is now in a classic no-win situation.

Should City lose again today to one of the division’s strugglers he can expect to have even more opprobrium heaped upon his head. However, if they win you can be sure that many will simply credit it to the Mike Phelan effect.

To Adams’ enormous credit his interviews are always honest, but, while it’s perfectly valid to repeatedly point out that had chances been taken or had defensive errors not been made, a better result might have ensued, fans, who can see the problems for themselves, are looking to the coaching staff to find solutions rather than simply stating the obvious.

There is a carrion odour hanging over the club at present and I half expected to see vultures perched on the roof of the Barclay on Saturday. I still can’t quite believe that things have gone so bad so quickly, but this is starting to look like the sort of downward spiral that is going to take some stopping, let alone reversing.

The board took a massive gamble in appointing Adams.

Only time will tell if they have taken an even bigger one in retaining him.

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