When Stuart Atwell pointed to the spot after he was adjudged to have handled in the box, Joleon Lescott's face said plenty. Lescott wore the expression of a player both low on confidence and struggling for form.
After small steps forward in the goalless draw at Birmingham, it was very much a case of a step backward in yesterdays 3-3 draw against Burnley, a frustrating fifth draw in succession. All three goals were as a result of poor defending on our part, with Lescott very much at the heart (and hand) of all three - although he was not helped by Wayne Bridge (something that was well scrutinised on MOTD) throughout.
Hughes has been very careful not to criticise Lescott (or the defence as a whole) so far, trotting out the 'collective responsibility' line:
"Defending is a collective duty. We have to stop things at source before they develop. Maybe we have to work exceptionally hard to stop balls coming in to their front men. That's a part of our game we are not doing very well at. It's about working hard and making sure we improve."Although his City career is very much in its infancy, with Lescott playing only 9 (league) games since his big money, protracted move, the statistics are not favourable. Since his arrival, we have shipped 14 goals, with two clean sheets in two games prior to him signing.
Defensive partnerships though do take time to develop and there have been formative signs that a Toure-Lescott one can be a fruitful one, but not only does it seem to be a confidence issue (which is understandable) but more worryingly, a technical one too. His positional play has at times been questionable, with goals - even prior to yesterday - coming from errors that can be attributed directly to Lescott's positioning.
It is a difficult decision for Hughes. Not only did he pay such a high fee for Lescott, but jettisoned Richard Dunne in the process - a huge decision on his part so naturally he will be reluctant to cast Lescott aside so soon, given the best way to usually fix defensive problems is through playing time to help develop a partnership.
But what the riches ADUG have brought has done is allow Hughes to increase quality competition in the squad, where names and ego hold no water and the likes of Petrov, Robinho and de Jong have all spent time on the sidelines. In recent games, Vincent Kompany has stepped in and looked very assured (alongside Lescott it has to be said) so Hughes has options and can only go so long justifying not making a change.
The dropped points in recent week have not caused terminal damage to our hopes, but there is no doubt we have let a big opportunity this past month slip by, and there is an urgency in that the recent slide has to be arrested.
What has been shown so far in his time at the helm is that Hughes hasn't been afraid to make tough decisions so far during his time in charge.
The issue of Joleon Lescott is fast shaping up to be his next one.