If you could have written down what was needed before Saturday’s game, I don’t think you’d have been far off with having exactly what was played out in an emphatic 5-1 drubbing of my old club Norwich City.
I was absolutely delighted with how we set about the game, we started with plenty of pace to our play and really ‘got at’ Norwich and never really gave them the opportunity to settle. I’ve been critical of how we’ve started games this season but not this week, we passed with pace and a purpose and I love to see the ball fired into our centre forwards nice and early. We created a bucket load of chances and were really clinical.
Jordan Rhodes continues to impress me, especially with his aerial threat and bagged himself a brace. I thought from front to back we were as good as I have seen us all season. It was great to see and the whole place bouncing again, a bit like last year. There were plenty of excellent performances - Barry Bannan looked to be back to his best, far more positive and he ran the game.
Fernando Forestieri was electric, sharp, creative and nothing but a thorn in the sides of the Norwich defenders. Sam Hutchinson epitomised his character with his part in the first goal and it was lovely to see the whole team celebrate with him after Ross Wallace’s effort put us one up.
In the past Carlos has spoken about the number of games in this division that come thick and fast and how we are a better team when we have had that bit more rest. Whether it was coincidence or not, you cannot argue with the guy as it was plain to see that our energy levels were fantastic.
Tuesday night saw the arrival of a completely different proposition in Burton Albion. For all of Norwich’s desire to try and pass the ball through, Burton, for most parts, would try and do the opposite.
Again, I have got to be fair to the players and I thought we actually started the game really positively again. We started with a good tempo and it looked as though Burton had come to have a go and there were going to be plenty of opportunities for us to take advantage of. Once Wallace’s opener went it I’m sure, like many others, I thought we’d possibly run out easy victors.
Unfortunately, Burton had other ideas. Over recent weeks we have conceded, in my opinion, some preventable goals, but sometimes in football you have to hold your hands up and say there is not much we could have done about that one! Irvine’s volley from a defensive headed clearance flew in off the post and to be fair was a great strike. It not only drew the visitors level but it also changed the dynamic of the game completely, especially after the break.
Burton decided to play with a back five, have three midfielders sat in front of them and would defend heroically and try and hit us on the break. It turned out to be a very frustrating 45 minutes of football and it just shows the difference what a change in attitude and tactics can do to a game of football. Burton made the centre of the pitch as compact as possible, denying us any space and the desperation in our play was plain for all to see. We have struggled to break teams down when they come and do this, that is not uncommon and I have spent many days on the training ground doing just this, with attack versus defence. Even with the attacking side having an overload of players we have done this for hours on end without conceding. Once the players are in this mindset it takes something special to break them down, the spaces are smaller and tighter and the longer the game goes on the more frustrated you become.
When this happens the space is out wide, and on the occasions we attacked from wide and with pace, we opened them up and I felt we were unlucky not to nick a winner in the end. It was one of those occasions when you have to give the opposition credit for coming and doing a job and it looked like it just wasn’t to be our night, things just didn’t quite go our way. It is undoubtedly frustrating when this happens but when teams are scrapping for their survival and they feel they have a lifeline to hang on to they will defend with their lives, which is exactly what Burton did.
Overall, when you sit back and evaluate the game it was two points dropped, and having come of the back of such a resounding victory just a few days before it would be all too easy to become too disappointed. The rest of the results mainly went in our favour and so you just dust yourself down and go again on Saturday.
I thought we looked a little tired on Tuesday night; our energy levels weren’t as intense as they were on Saturday and this is understandable with only a couple of days rest. Hopefully the players will get their rest in before the trip to Villa Park this weekend that will bring another completely different challenge.
They seem to have turned the corner a touch in the last few games but the onus will be on the home side to come out and take the game to us and this should play into our hands. There are ten games to go, the prize for getting there is as big as it has ever been and although we scrutinise every game and appearance, if we can get into one of those play-off spots by the time that final whistle of the season is blown it will all be a distant memory!
Jon Newsome is the owner of prestige, sports and performance cars specialists, Automarques Unit 1, Old Barracks, Sheffield. S2 4EE