Another away day, another defeat. Ffion Thomas looks back on a return to familiar failings from Norwich on their travels.
Random star performer
Visiting the same old grounds and towns every season can get tiresome (just ask Ipswich), so it was a treat to go somewhere new – and Burton upon Trent, or to be more specific, the many pubs of Burton upon Trent, didn’t disappoint. Having barely made inroads into the many possibilities, let’s hope that if indeed we are in the Championship next season that the Brewers are too, so we can go back and do the rest. With hindsight, maybe we should have just swerved the game altogether to fit a few more of them in.
Moment of the match
Having been fairly comfortable in the first half, we proceeded to yet again press the self-destruct button, with Klose indefensibly failing to shepherd the ball out of play under what was not much more than speculative pressure. Similar to the first goal at Rotherham last month in its execution, it gave Burton confidence and meant instead of us building on the previously held momentum and creating more chances, the rest of the half was wasted and lacklustre.
After watching it back a few times, I still can’t see how the push in the back on Wes in injury time is anything but a stonewall penalty. Not that we particularly deserved the point it might have gained us, but the referee’s staunch refusal made it a suitably frustrating end to the afternoon.
Biggest positive to take
Not much you can take from this. We came out positively at the start of the second half, got a fortuitous equaliser, and in that instant, given the relative quality of the players at our disposal, you would have called only one winner – until within a few short minutes, another defensive switch-off did for us.
It seems ridiculous that we were even talking about play-offs when you look at our away form since mid-October; from 11 league games, several of them at relegation strugglers, we’ve taken just six points. These troubles seem particularly bizarre when you think that this time two years ago, under the same manager, it was our relentless ability to grind out Championship wins on the road that took automatic promotion almost to the wire – we lost three games between January and May that year, all of which were at home. In 2017 so far, although unbeaten at home, we’ve lost at Rotherham and Burton. These are opponents who, with the greatest respect (and both deserved their wins) we should be brushing aside with ease if we are serious play-off contenders. To have followed up the week’s two very good home results with yet another no-show on the road suggests that we are not.
Good noise on what was a packed and swaying terrace, but enthusiasm was stifled by the rapid and soft manner in which we allowed the home side to regain the lead in the second half. The vitriolic chants at the end were jarring given the general change in atmosphere around the club in recent weeks, but perhaps not surprising given the frustration that abounds when high hopes are struck down by weak capitulation.
The home games on the Saturday and Tuesday prior had represented two steps forward, but this was foot down in reverse gear. Not the best preparation for the derby next week, but at least we can be grateful that it’s on home turf. For them, and quite possibly for us now, those three points and the associated bragging rights are all that’s really left to play for this season – so let’s not mess it up please, lads.