It’s all about how Norwich City react after the folly of Newcastle
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It's ironic that the fates chose this week to provide me with a salutary reminder that there are much worse things in this life than losing a game of football because if not I would have been wailing and gnashing my teeth after Wednesday's calamity at St James Park – along with everyone else.
There is no doubt that City, for all their expansiveness and range of threats going forward, have been riding their luck defensively all season, and it was always likely that a top class side would make them pay. The fact that Newcastle nearly didn't shouldn't mask the danger signs that have been evident ever since the opening-day romp at Blackburn.
While it would be easy to point to the absence of Timm Klose, inset, on Wednesday the problem isn't that simple. While Russell Martin and Sebastien Bassong were error prone at Newcastle the fact is that Klose himself has had a far-from-dominant season so far and appeared visibly disconcerted by the sheer physicality of Daryl Murphy in the derby and Clayton Donaldson in the defeat at Birmingham.
Worryingly, his worst performance came last Saturday as he got himself into all sorts of tangles against a completely different style of striker, Burton's Jamie Ward, whose pace and ability to find space in the seam between Klose and his full-back disconcerted him to an extent that appeared to feed through to his usually excellent passing ability and decision making.
Burton's lack of quality and City's overall dominance meant that no real harm was done, but it was obvious that such latitude could not be afforded to a side with Newcastle's quality.
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Unfortunately, City's start at St James Park was even sloppier and in truth Newcastle could, and should, have put the game to bed in the opening 25 minutes. However, one thing that City do have this season is a resilience which was so often lacking last year, and the ability to create something out of a minimal amount of possession, and so it proved again, but the goals conceded were all individual horror shows, the second in particular, given the critical state of the game at the time, being one that a half decent Sunday League team would have been embarrassed to concede.
From a situation where they should have been able to go on and comfortably close out the game City suddenly threw Newcastle a lifeline which led to the inevitable onslaught which they were ultimately unable to survive, although the manager's decision to remove their most threatening player on the break in favour of another centre half did nothing to discourage the home side from throwing men forward.
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To some extent any City centre back deserves some sympathy for having to cover the space left by both full-backs bombing forward to provide width in attack, but that doesn't justify being beaten by long punts downfield or leaving men unmarked when everyone is back.
Wednesday was a horrible, horrible night and will scar both players and fans. However, it is over and the key now is the reaction to it. While the world may have appeared to have ended, the facts are that City are still in second place, and could, with the right results elsewhere, go back to the top with a win today.
To quote a popular aphorism, 'It's not how many times you get knocked down that count, it's how many times you get back up', and that's the message that Alex Neil will have to get across to his players this afternoon. The Championship is unyielding and while it offers little time for the licking of wounds it also offers opportunities for almost instant redemption.
City have been knocked from the saddle; today they need to get back on the horse.