A win, and a decent one at that. Paul Buller beholds a resurgence in quality that’s starting to outweigh our usual shenanigans.
Us ACNers weren’t hard enough to visit Hull on a Friday night in January so massive kudos to the 1300 or so who did. From my armchair view, despite a near-capacity stadium, the Hull fans seemed remarkably quiet in the first half. However, as the various perceived injustices for the home team mounted up the atmosphere became pretty febrile, especially as Hull edged closer and closer to scoring in the second half. Amid all of that, the hearty strains of ‘On The Ball City’ still washed across the stadium just when we needed it. It still makes my spine tingle to hear it sung at far-flung away grounds as we battle for points, and I’d like to think it does the players, too.
Much was made of the ‘strongest line-up’ we were finally able to put out. In the context of this game, ‘strong’ can be defined as physically and defensively strong – but that’s about it. The main points to take away are that Josh Sargent is far from match fit but is getting there; Duffy and Barnes played their roles perfectly and must continue to do so; we urgently need a new left back.
This line-up is yet to add real quality and composure to its solidity but if we’re being honest, it’s the solidity that saved us the game and two moments of quality that won it for us. So let’s not be too picky.
Jonathan Rowe’s dink-‘n’-weave goal was perfect in every sense. Norwich were looking ragged, Hull had just hit the bar and out of nowhere he picked up the ball and gave us the lead. His footwork was brilliant, his shot was superb and his big smiling face as he received the man of the match award was just lovely.
Dimi Giannoulis may have thought his superhero-style face mask allowed him to hide in the shadows. How else can we explain his decision to elbow an attacker in the face in front of 24,000 people and think he could get away with it? In a team that already struggles for composure, we don’t need hotheads.
When Ashley Barnes does 100% Ashley Barnes, we’re reminded of the reasons we bought him. He’s had a lot of criticism recently but with Josh Sargent back alongside him, Barnes is able to reprise his role of chief harasser/pain in the opposition’s arse. On 57 minutes he found himself unable to get off the turf but still managed to win the ball back three times, halting Hull’s attack.
He shithoused and harried but he also took time to keep the ball and bring players into play – much easier when you have someone like Sargent next to you. It was his composure (that word again) that set up the series of passes leading to Onel’s excellent cross for Fassenacht’s goal. It was his energy and intent that kept our generally sloppy midfielders on their toes. There are many things he’s not but he doesn’t give up and that’s just what we needed to save this game.
I really don’t know what to make of our team right now, or David Wagner’s tactics, which I find equally intriguing and depressing. Some of our players make such poor decisions, particularly those with more footballing ability. This game was the perfect example: Giannoulis’ foul; his replacement McCallum constantly playing the ball into danger from a seemingly safe position; Sara trying stupid tricks on the edge of the opposition box when controlling and shooting would’ve been much easier; Núñez under-hitting passes that schoolkids could manage. It’s infuriating. On the other hand, all of that nonsense brought the best out of Gunn, Duffy, Barnes and Rowe – four players who could see the game for what it was and used all their experience and/or skill to do everything they could to drag us to a win. It will be those players who may even drag us to the play-offs. What David Wagner’s role in it all is anyone’s guess. Still, we done a win, and hoorah for that.
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