What a disappointment? at half time I was confident that we were going to take all three points. We literally took the game to them in the first twenty minutes, scored and could well have had a second. For the rest of the first half we looked comfortable, all be it that we were playing deeper and deeper, but we looked like we could score on the break and I was convinced that we would not fail to convert a two goal lead into a win. To be fair, even before half time I could see City snatching a goal and causing panic in our defense.
The second half was very disappointing. At one point I mentioned to my 'guest' that I would take a 1-0 and that we could well hang on for the whole of the second half and tomorrow the table would show us as potential automatic promotion candidates.
Under Curbishley we often defended for whole games, let alone a half, without conceding a goal, and the more we dropped back the more I was relying on that clean sheet to see us home. City are not top of the table for no reason. They came forward wave after wave and we seemed to have no outlet other than punting the ball up for Big Chris to miss it or just to give a foul away. I did ask my 'guest' if he agreed that Chris was harshly treated as he has suffered a lot this season with decisions going against him. He reassured me that most of the decisions (if not all) were probably right, and that Big Chris is no angel and has probably got what he deserved. This did not improve my mood at all.
I feared that we did not have the character to come back from letting in a goal, rather like the Watford game. Apart from Sheff Wed in fact I don't remember us coming back from behind to win this season. This is probably something that I should be exploring in more detail, but right now I just can't be bothered.
The goal came from a corner. It's strange really, I have no problem scoring from set pieces, but to concede a free header from a corner is very disappointing. I was right about us not coming back from letting one in, but to be fair we did raise our game a little. I am, only ever so slightly, pleased that we didn't concede a second goal, but we didn't look the most likely to win in the last half hour, and we continued to punt the ball forward from just about everywhere. Even with 4-4-2 and Big Chris off we seemed to look clueless going forward. It is at times like this that I wonder what Pardew does with the team all week. From what I saw in the first half we should have been able to pass the ball pass City all night long, but as soon as the going gets tough the tough whack the ball forward from all over the pitch.
It was so predictable. Weaver/Halford/McCarthy/et al pump the ball forward and we give ourselves about forty seconds before the it comes right back at us. It's no wonder that we were under pressure for most (if not all) of the second half. We had our chance, we should have got that second goal in the first half. To come out in the second half with the attitude that we were going to literally smack every ball up the field in the hope that it would, therefore, not end up in our net worries me greatly.
Having said all that, and I am feeling very sorry for myself right now, it was a decent point towards our goal of finishing in the play off positions. Hopefully we will only need to perform for two or three of the potential six halves of football that we can expect in the play offs as I just can't see us stringing together three good performances back to back. Due to this division being, frankly, so rubbish I am not too worried about us finishing as low as seventh as the teams below us are not able to string much of a run together either. Aside from Plymouth there are no form teams that are below us and are trying to finish top six.
I know I am sounding rather defeatist, but at the start of the season I really wanted (and to some degree expected) to have another campaign like our Championship winning season. This has been nothing like that season, and I do not believe that there are enough straws in the world for me to clutch at to make me believe that we can secure second place now. It's not just the fact that we have a gap of five (plus nineteen goals), six, six and seven points to the four teams above us with ten games to go, but after tonight I'm not sure that we can maintain consistency for ninety minutes let alone ten games. No, for me, we are now officially out of the race for an automatic promotion place. I know that others will disagree with me, but to catch three of those teams we are likely to need to win most, if not all, of our last ten fixtures and as we haven't won back to back games since early December, and have only won fifteen out of thirty-six, it's ridiculous to suggest that we can win eight or more of the last ten.
So it's the play offs, hopefully? Right now I really can't get excited about that. Maybe that's a good thing as we need to get over the disappointment about missing out on the top two in plenty of time to be prepared for the play offs. The team that just miss out on second place rarely pick themselves up for the 'lottery' that is the play offs, so maybe tonight was a blessing in disguise.
It just didn't feel like it.