Date: 4th May 2013 at 8:59pm
Written by:

Nick Sellers wiith a post match report on the spirit crushing defeat at the hands of Aston Villa…

Before we delve into the negatives, I think we should at least applaud the positive style of play we adopted for the game. Without trying to draw too many comparisons to our 3 years under Paul Lambert, some of our build up play was very, very good indeed. The passing and general movement brought back memories of not just the Lambert era, but great City teams of the past who had given supporters a style of football that was, at times, very easy on the eye. Jonny Howson for instance, who has faced criticism in many quarters of late, played out of his skin for the most part.

As hard as it may be to take anything positive from the game, I still think our overall play was much, much better. Before Agbonlahor’s winner, a point would’ve been quite welcome and the least that I think we deserved. We were far from boring, quite the opposite. Another plus for us is seeing Grant Holt get back on the score sheet. Yes, it was a penalty and no, it wasn’t a goal from open play, but it was coolly taken under some huge pressure and it was so, so richly deserved.

The mood going into half-time was very upbeat. The general build-up play was excellent, but as has been the case time and time again this season, the end product just wasn’t there. Still, we were nullifying the Villa threat and the boisterous home support were rallying behind the troops. For all the nerves and tension in the days leading up to the game, they seemed to have perished thanks to the improvements we were showing.

Sadly, it was Villa who came flying out of the blocks and sure enough, Agbonlahor gave the visitors the opening goal. Now would come the real test of City’s mental attitudes, and in all fairness they did respond well and kept trying to carve out an opening. But with final balls going astray and Villa holding firm, you couldn’t help but feel pretty hard done by considering we were, in many ways, the better team at that point.

Then came some Snodgrass trickery -fine performance by the way- and Joe Bennett couldn’t contain him, instead having to tug him down and concede a penalty. Holt’s conversion of it vanquished two rarities from this term; A Holt goal (only his 6th of the season) and the penalty itself, only the second of the whole season if I remember rightly.

What I was particularly pleased with, and what I’ll try and take away with me from this day, is that even after drawing level, we still kept getting forward trying to take the whole game. We didn’t settle for the point, knowing the enormity of the importance of attaining the extra two, and kept plugging away.

But Villa were by no means out of the game yet, and after a couple of scares Agbonlahor duly followed up with his spirit-crushing second; The goal which all but keeps Aston Villa in the Premier League. To be fair, their recent form has totally merited their stay in the top flight. Paul Lambert has taken something of a gamble with all the youngsters in the side, but after some harsh lessons about the unforgiving Premier League, they’ve come back stronger for it. Next season, they shouldn’t find themselves in the same bother.

There was STILL hope even after that, as City tried to get the ball forward. A dangerous cross saw Guzan race off his goal line, only to fall short as Holt pounced to get his noggin on the end of it. It flew JUST wide of the post, agonisingly, and from here you knew the game was up.

Now, onto Chris Hughton. In some ways I feel for him, because people will forever compare him to Paul Lambert and that isn’t totally fair. They’re two different managers who take two different approaches. Nothing wrong with that, right?

What I find surprising is the initial reactions from the game which state that we are “boring” under him. Today, we were the opposite of boring and the play was much improved, so it’s such a shame that the game ended in the way it did because, lets be fair, he abandoned his usual prudent playing approach and let the likes of Howson roam with freedom to attack and get at the Villa back line.

However, results just haven’t been good enough, and honestly, I just don’t know how much more time he has. Despite the improvements today, it looks to be too little, too late. Two wins in, well, forever, just isn’t good enough. Hughton himself will be the first person to tell you that, but if it just isn’t working, perhaps we need to look at other options next season. Who knows. I’m honestly trying to keep a brave face on things and not make a knee-jerk reaction to a defeat, but with Wigan’s victory closing the gap to 3 points now, and with Man City to play on the final day of the season, we are in big, big, BIG trouble.

So, what happens now? Well, obviously we need to beat West Brom to have any chance, but even then we could still be in the mix on the final day depending on how other results go. At this stage it will be between ourselves, Wigan (Who you just KNOW will fancy their chances of yet another great escape), Newcastle and Sunderland. Previously I thought the poor runs of the North-East clubs might just keep us out of the running by proxy, alas we’ll now have to wait and see how Sunderland get on against Stoke on Monday night. Wigan still have a game in hand too, which sods law says they’ll win at a canter. Actually, we could be on for another “Surival Sunday” if this keeps up, with four teams in the mix for the drop.

If we’re to have any chance now, we need to beat West Brom, and furthermore we need to keep up the positive, attacking style from today. If we were to go down, at the very least we’d go down fighting.

Squeaky Bum time? You bet.


9 Replies to “Distraught Isn’t The Word…”

  • A draw would’ve been a fair result but defeat is so hard to take. Glad to see Holt score though – I felt sick when he grabbed the ball to take the pen. How brave and with all that pressure? Steel cojones. Equally I felt ten times worse when the winner went in. Absolutely gutted. Normally I’d write a match report myself, but just can’t face it.

  • Its not just about today . Hughtons dire defensive *****e has dragged us down ti where we are now since he has been here . He must be sacked now.

  • agreed, today was too little to late and when it comes down to it we lost again

  • I have question marks over bunn for their two goals. It was like he was stuck on his line. A couple of yards out and he would he probably saved both goals

  • You might be right about Bunn, Woody – Ruddy is fit, surely he starts against WBA. As far as sacking Hughton goes, at this late stage that could do us more harm than good, unless he’s lost the dressing room but I don’t think he has. I think we’ve just got to go with what we’ve got and hope others do us a favour as well…

  • It was a tough game and we had some luck along the way. Don’t think it was a penalty, but Bennett should have been off really before that incident. Can’t see Norwich or us going down, it’s between Wigan and Newcastle for sure.

  • Agree we are in big big BIG trouble but there is hope – teams like Southampton and Fulham are also not safe and are well capable of loosing their last two games – this is dependant on us beating WBA and reaching 41pts – our goal difference is shot part from what Man City may do to us on the last day- having my say here is therapeutic have almost convinced my self we’ll say up!
    Keep the Faith…………

  • Any manager or player who states that getting a draw at home to another team that has also been struggling says tons about how wrong the attitudes are at NCFC these days. That is why we are where we are. There has been no belief or effective leadership to get us out of the rut and into a positive mentality – hence 2 wins in 19. No good sacking a manager now, it will just make things worse. End of season regardless of staying up/going down, major changes are needed with new ideas,tactics and players who earn the money they get paid and show more commitment to the fans. If we the fans can keep turning up and giving the support then its time some of the players started showing some metal and realised that the yellow shirt means something to us.

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