Much like last season, Frank Schmidt’s side appeared to be coming into to form at the right time. Their victory over Jahn Regensburg last weekend was their seventh in ten games, with only defeats to Hamburg and Fürth plus a draw with Paderborn blotching their record.
Tim Kleindienst had been a big part, and against 1. FC Nürnberg on Saturday he scored his tenth goal in just 12 games since coming back on loan from Gent, whilst others have more often than not chipped in as well.
But with just three games left for them, their chances of even at least reaching the play-off – and a possible reunion with Werder Bremen – have diminished significantly following defeats to Bochum and Nürnberg.
The first half performance against Der Club was not bad on the surface. They went in 2-1 down at the break but probably had the best chances aside from the goals, with Kleindienst’s equaliser coming from the spot.
“That didn’t mean we played a good game,” said Frank Schmidt after the game, and his dissatisfaction with the performance was shown by making a double change at half time, having already hooked off Robert Leipertz, who had been booked, after barely more than half an hour.
The goals they conceded had not been pretty from their perspective. Kevin Müller was made to look very foolish by a flukey free-kick from Johannes Geis, which despite being taken from out wide curled wickedly. Their poor defending of a corner was then exposed by a strike by Fabian Nürnberger.
The second half was more reflective of the final 3-1 scoreline. Tom Krauß scored the third soon after the break and from that point on the result, which all but secures Nürnberg’s survival, was in little doubt. Schmidt concluded that his side had looked leggy after three games in a week.
Even if this was a second defeat in a row, it’s hard to say Heidenheim are completely out of it. The top two is asking too much now but they’re still only two points behind faltering Hamburg. However Holstein Kiel returned from quarantine with a comfortable victory over Osnabrück and all of their competitors having games in hand.
Victories against Darmstadt and Karlsruhe, who will both likely have little to play for, could be enough for Schmidt’s men to overtake HSV, but that now looks likely to not be enough. Those defeats to Hamburg and Fürth will, with hindsight, be the ones they rue the most come the end of the season.
The feeling remains that this has been a transitional season after the success of the last couple of campaigns and the way the spine of the team was torn apart last summer. Finishing in the top third of the table though will still be seen as a success, and that remains more than possible.