Robin Sainty: Keep the faith as point at Brentford may prove our watershed moment this season
PUBLISHED: 06:35 05 January 2019
The deeper the love the greater the pain when it doesn’t quite deliver.
So it was on Saturday as the unbeaten run finally came to end with City snatching defeat from the jaws of victory against a Derby team that had been almost battered into submission by 30 minutes of the best football I’ve seen from a City side for many years.
Although the schoolboy defending that followed won’t live so long in the memory City’s run has been amazing and, given the mitigating factors, the level of vitriol indulged in by some fans on social media after the game was wildly disproportionate, but spurned lovers are hardly known for their sense of perspective.
The fact is that most of us have bought into this team to such an extent that we feel any setback much more keenly than usual.
There are no real scapegoats in such a likeable squad and I think we have all now come to expect a miracle at the end of every single game.
Of course, life isn’t like that, and the death of a thousand cuts of City’s growing injury list, along with fatigue was always going to take its toll at some point.
The Championship Christmas fixture list is brutal and, while there will be those who point to a return of five points out of 12 as the beginning of the end, I would urge them to look at Leeds and West Brom who have also struggled over the festive period. In a 46-game season, even ignoring crippling injuries, it’s impossible to maintain top form indefinitely.
In fact, while a point away to a Brentford side which has struggled since the departure of Dean Smith seems an unlikely choice as a pivotal moment Tuesday’s game may well prove a watershed, because I don’t think that City will hit a lower ebb this season.
With tired players making their fourth appearance in 11 days and two more injuries to key players in Marco Stiepermann and Alex Tettey City were comprehensively outplayed and outworked by a home team who thoroughly deserved their half-time lead and could have sealed the game through Neal Maupay’s close range header had Tim Krul not produced one of the saves of the season.
For all the money in the world they looked dead and buried, but somehow, like all good teams, they raised themselves to dominate the closing 20 minutes.
It was a monumental effort, aided by some fantastic support and now buys Daniel Farke and his players 10 precious days of recovery time and the chance to get the likes of Kenny McLean up to speed as well as perhaps dipping into the market for reinforcements.
There’s still a long way to go, but there are 22 Championship clubs who would love to be where City currently are despite the recent drop off in results so there is every reason to keep the faith.
Of course, it is reasonable to question Farke’s decision to stick with an unchanged side for the last three games and whether fatigue contributed to the injuries to Stiepermann and Tettey at Griffin Park.
However, it’s worth pointing out that he made several changes in the corresponding game at Burton last season, where the game resulted in a mind numbingly awful 0-0 draw and, inevitably, the armchair managers slated him for it. It’s a no-win situation.
What is valid, though, is criticism of City’s ability to defend set pieces, although while zonal marking has been widely flagged as the culprit, it’s worth pointing that it has also resulted in eight clean sheets this season which suggests that it’s the current execution rather than the system itself that’s flawed.
Regardless, it’s definitely an area where improvement is needed, and I have no doubt that a great deal of work will be going into rectifying it at Colney in the next week or so.