Spieltag 5: Nürnberg vs FC St. Pauli
“Hier im Frankenland, spielen wir euch an die wand” has never been more true. No Sobiech, no Buchtmann and no Bouhaddouz. Frankly, all hope was aimed at damage limitation. But once again FC St. Pauli find a way to surprise us when we least expect it. In a game where we never really threatened to threaten, Weldemar Sobota’s smash and grab goal was all it took for three points to make the long trip home to Hamburg much more enjoyable.
Litka, getting a start alongside Allagui, got a half chance early in the first half, but it came to nought as he fired into the side netting. St. Pauli receded from here on, and resolute defending became the distinguishing feature of the night. No-one embodies this more than goalkeeper, Robin Himmelmann, who was drawn into action around the half hour mark, making one great save with his legs and shortly after kept himself big to avert danger. We don’t need Batman, we have Robin!
Come half time, all the signs were there that at some point we would cave in, which does an injustice to Avevor (whom I have been critical of in recent weeks) and Hornschuh, who were remarkably solid at the back, assisted by our midfield sitting quite deep.
Nehrig opened up the second half by getting himself booked, and Nürnberg opened it by hitting the bar, twice, in 15 seconds. It almost felt like a form of torture, teasing us with the eventual goal. Margreitter rattled the bar with with a curling shot, then Werner clipped the top of it with a dipping strike, whilst it was still vibrating from the original impact.
Nehrig then appeared to add himself to the injury list, making a shocking tackle that may have earned him a card, but suffered instead an injury to his left calf. He took some time on the sideline while St. Pauli fans looked for anyone who could play centre-midfield in the 2000 strong visiting contingent. Thankfully, he was able to finish the game.
Sobota’s goal came completely out of the blue. In a lazy boxing metaphor we could say they had been sat on the ropes, and came out with one killer punch. But it was far more languid than that. A simple hoof upfield. Margreitter got his head to it, but only cushioned into the path of Sobota and it became a race between Waldemar, a defender and the keeper. Waldemar got their first just outside the box and poked the ball past the keeper into the bottom right corner. It was not pretty, but it will certainly do.
Time to park the bus, build the wall (more on Nürnberg and their America ties coming up this week) and man the barricades. Don’t let them score. Don’t take it lying down, unless you’re Marc Hornschuh stopping an attack inside the six yard box. What became clear during this period was that we desperately needed to be able to hold the ball in midfield!
Full time came with a mixture of disbelief and confusion. No one was quite sure how we won it, but we did. A solid team performance at the back. Going forward we clearly miss a striker who holds the ball up. There were positives too. Litka looked lively going forward, Neudecker and Schneider looked good off the bench and started to manage some of that ball retention we had so desperately lacked until their arrival on the pitch; Avevor too is developing into a sturdy deputy at the back.
As ever, taking home the three points is the most important thing. Ugly wins and jammy wins – we will take them. The last two wins have somehow come about when we didn’t expect them. That is a good sign for a team with such an injury list and who usually managed to grasp disappointment from the jaws of joy.