Sunday, 28 January 2018

Hull City 2 Forest 1: Much changed Tigers give Adkins selection dilemma



Would Hull City be “up for the Cup”? With an apathetic fanbase and a squad lacking in ability and desire in recent weeks, it looked doubtful. The opposition being a Nottingham Forest side who turned over Arsenal in the last round and Wolves on their own patch last week backed by 4,000-odd fans in the North Stand added further doubt.

Nigel Adkins said yesterday that he fancied a Cup run. And then made 8 changes from his last selection. That could have gone either way but he was rewarded by a committed performance from players who looked eager to impress in a well-balanced line-up.

Marshall
Aina – Hector - Mazuch – Clark
Stewart – Henriksen
Bowen – Irvine – Diomande
Dicko

Mazuch was the biggest difference maker. He’s a calm, no-nonsense defender who doesn’t take chances and doesn’t panic. Hector, who moved to the right side, looked much better alongside him. Aina was more comfortable on the right and Max Clark had an excellent game on the left. Going forward, Bowen also looked much happier on the right, Irvine’s effervescence has been missing and Diomande worked hard in front of Clark.

Forest weren’t as good as they showed on the telly in the last round or as they were at the KCOM in the league earlier this season. That might have changed had Carayol’s effort from distance not gone just wide after only 3 minutes. City worked their way into the game and Marshall was untested for the next 70 minutes or so. The ball was worked out of defence far better than recently with little drama. Aina was a good out ball and Stewart and particularly Henriksen offered a route into midfield while a big diagonal towards Diomande or Irvine presented a good alternative.

Henriksen had a low free kick pushed away by Smith and then Bowen just failed to get onto a Hector pass with the keeper out quickly. Smith and Worrall then got in a right mess from an Irvine flick on and Bowen instinctively shot first time towards the empty net but hit the post. Only a minute or two later, Dicko slid Bowen in on the right, he drove at Mancienne who deflected his shot onto the top of the post and it dropped over the line [1-0].

City were well on top with Stewart and Henriksen winning the midfield, Irvine irritating the life out of them and Dicko making intelligent runs wide to drag defenders around. We didn’t have much to show for it other than a tame Aina shot until five minutes before half time when Irvine looped a cross to the back post, Bowen won the header well and nodded it back for Dicko to beat Mancienne in the air and head it in, off the post again [2-0].

Other than ref Stuart Attwell being as inconsistent as ever, there hadn’t been much to worry City. Carayol did miss a good chance before the break though, running off Aina to head wide but not wide enough for it to become a tap-in for Brereton. In stoppage time, Diomande missed a golden opportunity of our own. Bowen slid him in, he turned down a shot with his left and when he cut inside, everything closed in on him and Mancienne kicked his effort away easily.

Forest were booed off by their 4,000 fans at half time. They’d clearly thought it was going to be a cakewalk and showed their anger at it being anything but. There was a lot of the Sheffield Wednesdays about them.

Half time: Hull City 2 Nottingham Forest 0.

Despite a double change by Aitor Karanka, Forest remained second best. Dicko was foiled by a good save from Smith after a slick passing move as City dominated territory but consistently failed to pick the right pass or cross around the box and turned down numerous shooting opportunities. Dowell hit the outside of the post with a free kick from nowhere and there was a goalmouth scramble after Marshall got caught under a corner.  Speaking of corners, we saw one of the worst ever from Dowell who whipped a corner low and hard and it went out of play almost before it reached the penalty area. It was hilarious.

City introduced Keane for Dicko and then Grosicki for Diomande. Both got generous applause for an afternoon of hard graft. Within minutes, Grosicki had found Keane twice but both times Smith saved tame efforts. Marshall saved superbly from Cash’s backpost header before Grosicki and Bowen had chances to shoot and made things easy for Smith in their goal. Bowen’s was a great chance. We could have been five or six up easily at that point but ended up clinging on after Cash’s superb cross dissected our entire defence and sub Vellios volleyed in [2-1]. We did so without much drama, in truth.

Full time: Hull City 2 Nottingham Forest 1.

The win was very much deserved and the performance a dramatic improvement on last week. Hector and Aina both looked different players in a defence marshalled superbly by Mazuch. That will give Adkins a huge selection dilemma against Leeds on Tuesday night. It’d be hard to justify any team that doesn’t have these four in it.

Midfield will also give the manager a headache. Stewart and Henriksen were mobile, worked well off each other and moved the ball well. Henriksen couldn’t tackle a crossword in the Beano but this was possibly the best I’ve seen from him and did a god job of being in the right place at the right time at both ends of the pitch. Stewart still lacks something. Everything good he does is followed by something not-so-good. He turned brilliantly on the edge of their box and then passed to them. He made a superb interception on the edge of ours and then trod on the ball. It just seems to happen to him. You’d think Larsson would come back in with him having been our outstanding player in the last 6 weeks but dropping anyone is harsh.

To complete the set, there are decisions up front too. Dicko scored and lead the line brilliantly. Diomande protected Clark far better than Grosicki ever has but Grosicki’s cameo showed he’s a far bigger threat than Dio. And we just look a better side with Irvine in it.

I can therefore comfortably predict Tuesday’s team will be: Someone - Someone - Someone - Someone - Someone - Someone - Someone - Someone - Someone -Bowen – Someone.

Beyond that, we’re still in the Cup and can eagerly await Monday’s draw (Away to Wigan).

A good day.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Hull City: The Highs and Lows of 2017



The final blog of 2017 will look at the ten best and worst moment of Hull City's year.


Highs

Silva. An outstanding appointment that gave City a fighting chance of staying in the premier League when previously, we had none. Not just a very good coach and tactician but he came with his own staff and little black book of transfer targets, which was desperately needed. Improvement was immediate and obvious and the re-birth of players like Tom Huddlestone, who was in the form of his City career until his sending off at Everton, and the improvement in the likes of Harry Maguire showed Silva’s quality.

League Cup. The run to the semi-finals of the league Cup for the first time ever was the highlight of Mike Phelan’s reign and a credit to him. The second leg against Manchester United was a fantastic night at the KCOM Stadium spoiled only by the tiny crowd. It was by far the most aggressive performance I’ve ever seen from City. We had ten outfield players in Manchester United’s half pushing them back and the second goal was a beauty from back to front.

Liverpool. One of the rare occasions this year when the ground was full, we deservedly beat a very good Liverpool side with goals fron N’Diaye and Niasse. The Niasse goal being enjoyed across the country made it particularly memorable. This win made everyone sit up and take notice of Silva and his side.

Middlesbrough. Just a wonderful game of football and an outstanding attacking display from City. As usual under Silva, going behind didn’t bother us and we ripped into Boro. Markovic and Grosicki were out of this world.

Watford. This was one of our bravest Premier League performances. The (incorrect) decision to send off Niasse sparking a fantastic response from City and Sam Clucas’s world-class volley was the icing on the cake.

Southampton. A fantastic point was earned away from home by Eldin Jakupovic’s injury time penalty save. As we stood celebrating with the players in the away end at St. Mary’s that day, there was no way we were going down. I look back now to that moment and I still cannot quite believe the team that lost the next three games so pathetically was the same.

Bowen. After a tumultuous summer (see lows) watching Jarrod Bowen score his first City goal to seal a point at Aston Villa was a great pick-me-up. He has been the highlight of a shocking season so far and if not for all the misery going on around it – seeing one of our youth players step into the Championship and bag eleven goals in half a year would be far more celebrated.

Doncaster. As a regular watcher of the City “yoof”, I was proud to see a team full of them step up and give a League One side a really good game in the League Cup. Many lads made their debut that night and some will never make another appearance but it was a great moment for them.

Birmingham. The nature of City’s bi-polar team this year has meant that most of the few games we have won have been thumpings. This was a real hammering though as City tore a poor Birmingham side to shreds and the array of attacking players, many signed in the summer, filled their boots for one afternoon.

Brentford. Nigel Adkins first game in charge was a good one and in spite of the flaws in the squad he’s inherited, City showed a lot of character to come from behind to win – and should have scored two or three more goals in doing so. Brentford are the only top half team (and only just) that we have beaten this season so this is not a result to sniff at.



Lows

WBA. The end of Mike Phelan’s reign was another hapless away defeat against a rival at the bottom end of the table. The arrival of Marco Silva brought about many changes to the City squad and performances but the god awful defending from set pieces was never resolved.

Swansea. Silva’s first game in charge should have been an occasion. Instead, due to disinterest and fans boycotting, it played out in front of just 6,608. The club’s lowest home FA Cup attendance since the Kettering replay in 2000. Low gates have plagued the club for 18 months now. I wonder why?

Ryan Mason. An obvious one. As scary an incident as I’ve seen on a pitch. Whether Ryan comes back or not - that he’s able to live his life normally is enough.

Aways. In two leagues and three competitions, City’s away record in 2017 has been dreadful. Wretched performances have happened far too often. Fulham, Stoke, Palace, QPR, Derby and more.

2017 away record - P24 W1 D7 L16

Sunderland. One of the ultimate “typical City” days in our history. Coming off the win over Watford and the draw at Southampton, survival was in our own hands. Then came already relegated Sunderland at home and a result that was unbelievable and entirely predictable at the same time.

Spurs. Humiliating relegation the week before at Crystal Palace seemed as bad as things could get. And then our final Premier League game, and there isn’t likely to be another one anytime soon, saw us concede seven to Spurs. It was our heaviest top-flight defeat and our heaviest ever at home outside of Wartime football. A truly embarrassing day.

Sales. Relegation was always likely to see key members of the squad depart, especially as the owners had been so negligent when it came to contracts. However, the amount of departures surprised everyone. Players I’d expected to stay like Curtis Davies and Tom Huddlestone couldn’t get away quick enough once an offer came in. It was shambolic and made the new manager Leonid Slutsky look a fool day after day. It would have been worse still had Abel Hernandez not suffered a serious injury in August. He’ll likely now walk for free in the summer.

Signings. Losing Marco Silva and half of the squad was bad but it could have been tempered by sensible recruitment. Instead, we almost exclusively signed players on loans and free transfers ahead of the start of the season and then spent only a fraction of the money raised by sales late in the transfer window. By that point, pre-season and several games had gone meaning crucial league games became the testing ground for the new manager and his squad to get to know each other and the environment to try and get players fit. In both cases, we failed miserably.

Sheff Utd. The end of the road for yet another manager. Performances under Slutsky were abject for a while but this was the lowest of the low. A hammering to a rival in a game we took the lead in, and conceding four times to bloody Leon Clarke, was inexcusable. While he’d been let down badly by his superiors, it was obvious that Slutsky couldn’t get anything out of the players he had been left to work with.

Allams. Demolished the squad. Devastated the staff. Decimated the fanbase. The club is going nowhere with them in charge.

Happy New Year, Hull City fans!

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Favourite 15 Hull City matches from 15 years at the KCOM Stadium

I decided on picking my 15 favourite matches from the 15 years at the KC/KCOM Stadium and then immediately regretted it.



Amongst the games that didn’t make it are an FA Cup Quarter Final victory, our first since 1930, a League Cup semi-final win over Manchester United, three wins over Liverpool in the Premier League, Dean Windass’s first City hat-trick in 13 years, Jon Parkin’s televised brace against Sheffield Wednesday, the opening game win over Hartlepool on Boxing Day 2002 and one of my favourite late winners ever – Ian Ashbee’s towering header against Crystal Palace to keep automatic promotion hopes alive in 2008.

15- Hull City 2 Leeds United 0 – 29/12/2012

Steve Bruce’s first season had many highlights and the win at Elland Road was one of them. It was topped off by City doing the double over Leeds with this outstanding team performance. Corry Evans and David Meyler beautifully finished off lovely moves and the two-goal deficit was the least City deserved.

14- Hull City 2 Swansea City 0 – 07/08/2010

This is more memorable for a moment than the game. The newly relegated Tigers went into the game after a tumultuous summer (a now overly familiar situation) and stunned Swansea with one of the best debut goals I can remember as John Bostock, on loan from Tottenham, unleashed an unstoppable shot from 30 yards. Ian Ashbee put the cap on an impressive win which proved a very false dawn. City were in the bottom three by November. We eventually recovered and finished 11th after the Allams bought the club from Russell Bartlett. Swansea won the play-off final and have been a Premier League club ever since – most recently at our expense.

13- Hull City 3 Everton 2 – 25/11/2009

November 2009 was the month Jimmy Bullard returned from injury suffered on his debut at West Ham and briefly sparked City’s season into life. Very briefly. Though after beating Stoke and drawing with West Ham at home, the latter with ten men, he was left out for a midweek game with Everton. That wasn’t a problem as Stephen Hunt and Dean Marney struck either side of an Andy Dawson free kick to give City a 3-0 lead in half an hour. Kamil Zayatte’s weekly own goal and a penalty from Louis Saha – conceded by Zayatte – made it 3-2 but City held on for a first win against Everton since 1952.

12- Hull City 3 Burnley 0 – 26/12/2015

The promotion season of 2015/16 saw City win a lot of games but most unremarkably. We tonked Middlesbrough in a top of the table game in November and then did the same to our “bogey team” Burnley on Boxing Day. Jake Livermore opened the scoring, Abel Hernandez cut in from the right wing to curl in a beauty and Sam Clucas knocked in a third in a very impressive win. Despite being top going into March, we’d fall away and need the play-offs while Burnley ran away with the league.

11- Hull City 2 Leicester City 1 – 03/12/2011

Just two and a half weeks after Nigel Pearson left City to re-join Leicester, the Foxes were the visitors at the KC Stadium in the feature match on ITV’s Championship highlights show (try and get “What a beautiful day…” out of your head now.) Matty Fryatt gave City the lead from the penalty spot after Matt Mills fouled Aaron McLean and was sent off. Paul Konchesky equalised with a daisy cutter and a frustrating second half ensued but revenge was gained sweetly when Robert Koren hit an absolute beauty with his left foot in the dying minutes.

10- Hull City 2 AS Trencin 1 – 07/08/2014

When the KC Stadium opened in 2002, the chances of it hosting European football came down to the possibility of the Anglo-Italian cup returning only for Serie C and D sides or the FA offering an Intertoto Cup spot for sides whose name has no letters you can colour in. Regardless of how aggrieved you feel that City’s run in Europe was too short, the fact that we hosted a Europa League tie, having qualified as runners-up in the FA Cup is still remarkable to me. Goals from Ahmed Elmohamady and Sone Aluko gave City a 2-1 aggregate win after a 0-0 draw in Slovakia but the game was less relevant than the occasion.

09- Hull City 4 Oxford United 2 – 17/01/2004

The first truly outstanding game at the KC Stadium was a top of the table clash in the third division. Oxford would eventually fall-out of the promotion picture but were formidable foes going into the game. City swept them aside with a fantastic second half performance in a game that was 0-0 for nearly an hour. Ben Burgess curled in a sumptuous goal after a brilliant Stuart Elliott dribble and Danny Allsopp scored twice after lovely link-ups on the edge of the box. Steve Basham and ex-Tiger Matt Bound scored for Oxford either side of an own-goal by current City assistant manager Andy Crosby that sealed the win.

08- Hull City 6 Tranmere Rovers 1 – 18/12/2004

A ridiculous game best remembered for Tranmere emerging for the second half with City-great Theo Whitmore in goal. Their keeper Achterberg was hurt in a challenge with Stuart Elliott and sub Howart was injured trying to stop Ian Ashbee opening the scoring. The glee was palpable at the KC as Theo went in goal with no-one knowing how it would turn out but certain it was going to be a “car crash”. Stuart Elliott scored a second half hat-trick while Nick Barmby and Allsopp added to the score-line with Eugene Dadi very briefly making it 2-1 with one of three goals in three minutes. The goal that brought the ground to tears of laughter was Elliott’s hat-trick sealer from the penalty spot. Whitmore looked like a little kid facing a big kid in a school PE lesson as he tried desperately not to get anywhere near Elliott’s thumping pen. A crazy afternoon.

07- Hull City 2 Cardiff City 2 – 04/05/2013

Speaking of crazy afternoons! You all know the story. City need to win or match Watford’s result to seal automatic promotion to the Premier League. Already promoted Cardiff are the opposition and take the lead through former City striker Fraizer Campbell. At Watford, visitors Leeds are also playing party-pooper but an injury to Watford’s goalkeeper creates a massive delay that means their game will finish 15-20 minutes after ours. It’s all irrelevant when goals from Nick Proschwitz and Paul McShane turn the game around and we’re coasting to promotion. We’re given the chance to seal it with a last-minute penalty, as they go down to ten men, which Proschwitz MISSES and then Cardiff get their own penalty in stoppage time, score and leave us on the pitch waiting for the game at Watford to finish. After several agonising minutes, Leeds score a second and we all cheer it (ugh). Only City could win a historic automatic promotion while giving you a heart attack.



06- Hull City 6 Fulham 0 – 28/12/2013


At half time, this was a fairly nondescript game against would-be-relegated Fulham. It was two days after City put in a monumental effort to lead Man Utd 2-0 before we eventually succumbed to a 3-2 defeat and the legs looked heavy. The second half was wonderful though with Tom Huddlestone putting in by far his best performance for the club to that point. He ran the game and there were starring roles for old favourites Robert Koren and Matty Fryatt who both scored, Koren twice, along with Elmohamady and George Boyd and Huddlestone himself who then got a haircut on the touchline having been growing his mop of hair until his next goal. His previous one was two and a half years earlier.

05- Hull City 1 Leeds United 0 – 01/04/2006

The 2005/06 season was City’s return to the second tier for the first time since 1991. It was an enjoyable but unremarkable season for the most part with City bobbing along just above the relegation places for most of it and the really enjoyable games coming away from home such as the wins at Coventry and Luton and the 3-0 win at Stoke in which Bo Myhill saved two penalties. Then came an early kick-off on a gloriously sunny day against Leeds United which drew the biggest crowd of the season. With a quarter of the game remaining, Stuart Green lofted a cross to the far post and Jon Parkin rose like a whale from the water to head home and prompt a roar from the crowd that I’ve never heard beaten.

04- Hull City 2 Leicester City 1 – 13/08/2016

Hosting the League Champions on the opening day of the season after you’ve won promotion, failed to strengthen at all, lost your Wembley match winner, lost your manager and injuries have left you with eleven fit outfield players isn’t a recipe for a good start to the season. In amongst the chaos of the most ridiculous pre-season I can remember, City somehow beat Leicester in the Premier League curtain raiser with the whole world watching. We were unscathed in the first half and scored on the cusp of half-time when Abel Hernandez and Adama Diomande completed the Premier League’s first ever synchronised bicycle kick. Leicester equalised from a Mahrez penalty that never was but ten minutes later Robert Snodgrass swept in a lovely goal and despite not being able to make a substitution – City held on. We beat Swansea away a week later to go top of the table. And the rest isn’t a happy story.

03- Hull City 1 Swansea City 0 – 30/09/2003

Despite everything that’s happened since including wins over most of the biggest teams in the country, this game is still amongst my absolute favourites of this modern era. The KC wasn’t at full capacity with the whole North Stand reserved for the handful of away fans which wasn’t an issue with the gates that season. Then Swansea came to town for an evening game between two sides who’d started the season very well. There were queues outside the ground, people complained that they were locked out, the works. Unseen at City in my time. Perhaps heard of in the bygone days when gates reached almost 50,000 at Boothferry Park. The crowd was up over 7,000 on the previous home game (the excellent 6-1 win over Kidderminster). The game was a good one too - very hard fought. It was settled by Stuart Elliott’s thumping header that sent the majority of the 20,903 in the KC into rapture.

02- Hull City 4 Watford 1 – 14/05/2008

The away leg of this play-off semi-final is right up amongst my favourite ever away days. We won 2-0 and just had to do the job at home to reach Wembley for the first time in our history. It was a nervy KC Stadium though, fearing typical City, and it didn’t get any less tense after Henderson’s early goal for Watford. On the stroke of half time though, Nick Barmby bundled the ball over the line at the South Stand end and worries were eased. The KC was well into party mood when Caleb Folan sealed it and late goals from Richard Garcia and Nathan Doyle, in between premature pitch invasions, just added to a surreal occasion. Wembley. Maybe Premier League. Beyond our wildest dreams.


01- Hull City 2 Fulham 1 – 16/08/2008

Choosing between this and the Watford game is like picking your favourite from your children but today, I’m going with this as number one. I can’t remember a game I’ve ever anticipated more after the release of the fixture lists and the significance of this being our first top flight game ever, coming off the play-off final with that squad of players and the way the game went makes it near-perfect. Only the subsequent fall from grace of Paul Duffen leaves me a little cold in hindsight.

The KC was rammed in the sunshine but fell a bit quite after Seol gave Fulham the lead. Then Geovanni rifled in the fourth best goal we’ve scored at the KC** and it was party time again. A draw would have been fine but Craig Fagan picking a defender’s pocket and sliding across for Folan to slot in the winner was the icing on the cake on a fantastic day.

I can’t think of what could possibly top this. A big night game against a real giant of European football – which we win – perhaps? Or winning a league title, something we’ve not done since 1966. Highly unlikely bit all I can think of that would top this.

** 1. Elliott vs. Brentford, 2. Delaney vs. Rochdale, 3. Bostock vs. Swansea