A tale of full-backs, disappointments ... and Kyle Lafferty

Kyle Lafferty prepares to enter the fray during against Bristol City. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus

Kyle Lafferty prepares to enter the fray during against Bristol City. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

On the surface, two clean sheets and four points against two well-organised teams who are both tipped to be pushing for promotion seems like a decent week's work, and that conclusion would be supported by the league table, with City going into tomorrow's derby in second place on goal difference.

However, any neutral observer would have been surprised by both the noticeable booing at Saturday's final whistle and the adulation afforded to an 88th-minute substitute on Tuesday whose contribution to the club over the last three seasons has been significantly more yellow cards than goals and an FA conviction for illicit betting.

I love an underdog as much as the next man, but the deification of Kyle Lafferty in some quarters is totally incomprehensible to me. If only as much noise had been generated in support of the team when Bristol City managed decent spells of possession we might have had some atmosphere in the ground.

The Sheffield Wednesday game hopefully acted as a wake-up call to both players and fans that there will be no easy games in this league and that City's status as a relegated team will only make opponents keener to bring them down.

Wednesday looked a very good side and were marshalled superbly by Barry Bannan. Having said that, City looked comfortable defensively and, despite the threat posed by the increasingly rotund Gary Hooper sniffing around their penalty area like a portly piranha, they conceded just the one clear-cut chance when Bannan's effort was superbly saved by Michael McGovern.

The problem was that Wednesday's goal was similarly unthreatened as City's inability to string more than a handful of passes together blunted their attacking threat. Unfortunately, City's intricate build-up play can be breathtaking when it clicks but immensely frustrating when it doesn't and Saturday was certainly a case of the latter.

Alex Neil's preferred formation relies on his full-backs getting forward to provide width, but that is in turn dependent upon ball retention, and against Wednesday neither Robbie Brady nor Ivo Pinto was able to get forward anything like as much as either they or the manager would have liked.

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Against Bristol's slightly more adventurous formation, City were able to increasingly dominate midfield, eventually pushing the visitors deeper and deeper and creating the same divide between their midfield and strikers that City had experienced themselves at the weekend. As a result, both home full-backs, as at Blackburn, were able to operate as virtual wingers and City looked much more threatening as a result.

However, the real progress is being made in defence where City are looking increasingly assured and were able to hold a high line against Bristol's pacy strikers due to the covering pace of Pinto and Brady and Timm Klose's superb positional sense. The presence of a more mobile goalkeeper in McGovern may well have played a part in that too.

Certainly Klose's partnership with Ryan Bennett looks promising, and if the latter can eradicate his occasional lapses in concentration they will be a formidable pairing this season, but the anxious wait for additions to Neil's striking options is understandably playing on the patience of fans, although I'm well aware that a great deal of work is going on at the club to resolve that situation.

However, it won't be sorted in time for tomorrow's derby where the form book will go out of the window and the result will come down to which side wants it most on the day. Ipswich are a threat from set-pieces and Freddie Sears has caused City problems in the past, but if the Canaries can match Town for work rate their superior quality should come out on top. Having said that, we're all well aware of the law of averages...