On Tuesday night, for 120 minutes, Town fans were witness to a performance that was so reminiscent of last season, even the rueful finishing in front of goal brought back some promotion-season nostalgia.
Compared to the cagey containment tactics which had been deployed in Premier League, perhaps out of necessity or simply because Town were a side so low on confidence, there was something so refreshing about Town’s performance in the FA Cup 4th round replay.
Whilst Town have tended to play on the back foot and almost within themselves in the Premier League, this cup tie offered a momentary respite; an opportunity to play with freedom.
Critics may argue that it was merely Championship opposition.
However, the way in which Town took Birmingham City apart, through a bombardment of the Championship side to the point of submission, was a performance that demonstrated how far Town have progressed and the impact the Premier League has had on the club.
More so, as talks of a loss of identity and a loss of fighting spirit have loudened in recent weeks, this performance suggested otherwise.
To come from behind and win, against any opposition in any setting, was a testament to the character this squad has and will have to show over the coming weeks and months.
It was a performance and result that has bred much-needed confidence and self-belief, both in the fans and the squad, ahead of a crucial run-in.
It wasn’t only the dominating nature of the performance that was so pleasing, it was the means in which Town overwhelmed their opponent.
From the domination of possession to the twenty-six attempts at goal, thirteen of which were on target, their presence gave us a stark reminder of their recurring appearances in David Wagner’s side last season.
There was a real intensity to Town’s play, both in and out of possession. Out of possession, there was a fierce. relentless, collective press as Town hunted in packs to swarm the opposition. In possession, there was a real sense of purpose and more importantly, a re-found confidence and swagger to Town’s overall play, particularly when foraying forward.
This performance where Town overwhelmed the opposition by imposing their game and philosophy may have given David Wagner himself the belief he needed to make the brave decision to switch back from the containment tactics to the front foot philosophy that has been associated with Town and David Wagner over the past two seasons.
The performance was a brief glimpse through the looking glass. It reminded of us of the ‘full-throttle’ football that had got Town promoted to the Premier League and the appetite for it is clearly there as I, like many other fans, hope that it is transferred to the Premier League setting, beginning on Sunday.