And so all of a sudden, Omiya Ardija found themselves in a must-win game at home to Avispa Fukuoka, one of the worst sides in J1 and a team that the Squirrels had been lucky to draw against in the away fixture right at the beginning of the season. The inconsistencies in recent performances by Toshiya Miura's team have become more and more glaring, the list of supporters' complaints in relation to overall transfer policy, tactics and team selection at the same time getting longer and longer.
Put simply, the dissatisfaction at perceived underachievement coupled with the caution of Miura's strategic approach are now at such odds with the club's stated ambitions for 2006 that the only appropriate response to the crushing by Kawasaki at the weekend was a decisive and dynamic performance against Fukuoka.
But things could scarcely have got off to a worse start. Omiya, fielding what for coach Miura was an outrageously attacking 4-4-2 line-up headed by Kota Yoshihara coupled with the returning Hiroshi Morita, gave 20-year-old midfielder Hisashi Jogo far too much time and space as he advanced through the midfield and fired past Hiroki Aratani to put the visitors ahead in only the third minute.
Trying to fight back onto level terms, Daigo Kobayashi and Yoshihara in particular tried to engineer openings but this was a stuttering attacking performance at best from Ardija. At the other end, Avispa - fielding on-loan Squirrels midfielder Naoya Saeki - played more of a long ball game and were able to put Omiya under pressure without risking their own defensive security.
Ironically, one of the very few occasions when the men in orange enjoyed any success at all was thanks to a lengthy through pass of their own as Toninho fed Morita, but keeper Yuichi Mizutani was alert to the danger and the half-chance was lost. All in all it was a feeble 45 minutes of football from the Squirrels.
In an attempt to pep up his team, Toshiya Miura's reaction at the break was to take off Yasuhiro Hato in favour of Kazuyoshi Mikami, swapping Takuro Nishimura over to the right-hand side of defence in the hope that the possibility of overlaps would increase the team's attacking options. Matters did improve somewhat after half-time and in 59th minute Ardija pulled level when Yoshiyuki Kobayashi headed home a Daigo corner for his second goal in three games.
Shortly afterwards, a tiring Yosuke Kataoka was withdrawn in favour of Masato Saito. Yoshihara still worked tirelessly to create chances, but his finishing was not up to the standard of his approach play and to the frustration of the crowd a couple of headed opportunities went begging. Hayato Hashimoto on for Tatsunori Hisanaga with seven minutes remaining was Miura's last throw of the dice and even in that short space of time the young winger made a major impact, crossing low from the left-hand side for Morita to score from close range in injury time.
But this is beginning to look like a fragile, mentally weak Omiya side and even under these circumstances - having ground out a winning position despite a poor performance - Ardija failed to hold out for the final few seconds, Hokuto Nakamura's scrambled effort tying things up at 2-2 for Avispa.
"It was not an acceptable first half today, there were far too many errors and we had no rhythm in our play - it was very disjointed all round," said Miura afterwards. "But Mikami helped us to improve a lot during the second half, he was good going forward and played simple, effective passes which helped us to put them under pressure."
Hashimoto's intervention, too, received praise from many quarters. "When he came on for the last few minutes, that really swung the game in our favour," commented Daigo. "It was a great ball he fed in for the second goal, but we just couldn't hold out for the win."