Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Doncaster 3 Hull City 2

Silverware? We don’t care. So says the chant. It’s a pretty good job we don’t care given our appalling cup record. Throw in our poor record at Doncaster over the years and there was inevitability about this loss. You’d be forgiven however for thinking our luck had changed as we sat after half an hour coasting at two-nil up and having given the home side nothing to get excited about. You’d be wrong though.

The Tigers lined up 3-5-2 again, sporting Black shirts, amber shorts and black socks. Andy Dawson returned from injury and played as the third centre-half while Cameron Stewart took up a new role for him as a right wing-back:

Amos; Dawson, Chester, Faye; Dudgeon, Stewart, Cairney, Olofinjana, Evans; Simpson, McLean

Doncaster had barely had a touch of the ball when Aaron McLean put the Tigers in front on 36 seconds. McLean gathered Joe Dudgeon’s cross on the edge of the box, turned and fired a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner [0-1]. City continued to dominate with Stewart getting into great positions on the right and Cairney and Olofinjana stroking the ball around in midfield. A foul on Jay Simpson led to a free-kick 25 yards out. Cairney hit it beautifully but it struck the bar and Simpson bundled in the rebound [0-2]. McLean and Simpson were a handful and Doncaster couldn’t live with them. They looked a good pairing on this showing. Simpson has good movement, a burst of pace and good feet. McLean is good in the air, works right across the pitch and showed plenty of skill too. A deep Dudgeon cross was superbly nodded down by McLean but our old friend, Mr. Lack-of-numbers-in-the-box, was present. Or not.

The game changed within a few minutes of the first half. Doncaster pulled a goal back out of nothing as Harper found Syers who volleyed past Amos. It was a terrific finish [1-2]. Then Tom Cairney was caught by a horrendous looking tackle in their half. We were stunned when the referee didn’t even award a free-kick. He had blindness to “robust” tackles. James Harper threw himself into two unpunished, Aaron McLean was late on Husband and it took a really poor challenge by Keegan on McKenna in the second half before he finally produced a card. Cairney stayed down for lengthy treatment while the idiots in the home end booed him. Football should be ashamed that cheating is now so prevalent that a guy who is genuinely injured gets booed. TC limped back on but went down shortly after and had to be replaced by McKenna. Jay Simpson hit a low shot from (genuinely) 40 yards that the ‘keeper scrambled around the post and then in stoppage time, Aaron McLean wriggled past two in the box, stretched out a foot and got the ball across to Evans who sliced wide with his left foot. That should have been game over.

Doncaster dominated large periods of the second half. We didn’t often look in danger but we were chasing the ball and playing on the counter. The midfield area has been a bit of a worry in the previous games and it showed again here. We’re not keeping the ball well enough and we’re not forcing the opposition backwards. When we don’t have the ball, we’re not doing enough to get it back. Olofinjana used the ball neatly and spread play well but is a waste of time out of possession. McKenna looked like the effort in the rain at Charlton had taken too much out of his legs. Evans has the most energy of our trio but isn’t showing enough quality on the ball. It’s an area we need to improve if we’re going to do anything this season. While a Donny equaliser looked likely, when it came it was a massive disappointment. We dealt well with a couple of set-pieces. Eventually the ball was lumped towards the penalty spot and Rob Jones was able to leap and plant a header into the corner. It was a terrific header but under sod-all pressure [2-2].

The Tigers responded with a couple of breaks. Simpson ran from 40 yards into the penalty area but never got in a position to shoot and ended up on the floor appealing for a penalty without any support for his claim from his team mates or the referee. Next, we freed McLean on the left, he ignored Simpson, then found himself snuffed out by defenders before he somehow found a half-inch of space and fired a shot that was well saved by ‘keeper Woods. Then came the game’s other big talking point. McKenna and Rob Jones chased a ball towards their penalty area when Jones swung an arm and caught McKenna in the mouth. McKenna, unhappy, had a bit of a charge at Jones who shoved him away. They then went nose to belly button and Jones shoved McKenna again. Our friend, the referee arrived on the scene, spoke to McKenna at length and produced a red-card. Jones, who was just as, if not more, aggressive, then received a yellow card. Steve Bruce said afterwards that McKenna had “kicked out” which, if true, makes his red fair enough. How on earth the referee saw it as a yellow and a red though, I’ve no idea.

The ten men battled well for the remaining minutes. The game went end to end with Aluko, who’d replaced McLean, looking dangerous. Amos saved well from Donny sub Cotterill while Aluko’s first shot deflected off Jones, could have gone anywhere, and ended up in the ‘keepers arms. Alex Bruce replaced Faye as City prepared for extra-time. Aluko broke from the edge of our box, exchanged passes with first Olofinjana and then Simpson and fed Evans who initially tried a poor chip over the top but got the ball back and volleyed harmlessly at Woods. Oddly the Doncaster clock had said 90 minutes for about 5 minutes at this point, and the amount of stoppage time had yet to be announced. Cameron Stewart picked up the ball in our half, looked up, and played a super pass in behind for Simpson. He raced ahead of the defence, took a touch and slid the ball past Woods. "We’ve done it!" "Against the odds!" "Ah, bugger. It’s hit the post."

They went up the other end. Coppinger ran at Dudgeon, Dudge backed off, Coppinger crossed and Syers volleyed in [2-3]. Inevitable. Every bit of it. Simpson won a free kick and Stewart delivered it well but Bruce, rising at the back post, headed into the side netting. It needed to go back across goal. That was our lot.

The Tigers are out of the League Cup in August. That’s nothing new. I’d love to say I’m bothered but I’m not really. Championship clubs are the ones who see the League Cup as a pain these days. Most accept that they aren’t going to win it and don’t particularly need the money a one-off game would bring. Hence the number of sides who have been beaten by lower-league opposition in the last few seasons. What is worrying is that our midfield, who provided a solid foundation last season, suddenly look lethargic and we’re passing the ball like Nigel Pearson’s work-in-progress side of two seasons ago. We need a couple of signings before the window closes if we’re going to compete at the top end of the Championship. That’s sad to say. We’ve taken a team that finished eighth last season. We’ve added seven players. Now we look like we need a couple more before we can even think of progressing one or two places up the league.

Those nagging doubts are back.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Charlton Athletic 0 Hull City 0

Early start, numerous counties, car, 4 trains, 3 seasons, 8 weather fronts, loads of dosh, nil-nil draw. Can only be another Hull City away trip!

The draw was probably a fair result overall but The Tigers produced a strong second half performance that could have, perhaps should have, seen us take all three points. We arrived at The Valley unsure of what to expect given the drop off in performance at Blackburn. Charlton are a vibrant, confident young side who have a bit of experience in all the right places. The Valley is a nice enough ground but scruffy at the away end and faded by the sun in the home end. The Tigers warmed up in front of the traveling fans (Video here), probably around 1000 in number again, which meant we were in danger of flying balls from the shooting practice. Fortunately Jamie Devitt was missing today but Aaron “The Crippler” McLean was present and broke a woman’s nose. Aaron and the City staff were concerned and came into the crowd to check her out and let her keep the ball as a souvenir. In fairness to the players, everyone can see them firing shots at the goal in front of them and if you choose to sit and have a chat while it’s going on, you are going to be unaware.

The Tigers were unchanged from the Blackburn trip with Steve Bruce sticking with the 3-5-2 formation that worked well for an hour at Ewood Park. It’s a cautious approach but that’s to be expected away from home against a good side who are full of confidence:

City- Amos; Chester, Faye, Bruce; Rosenior, Dudgeon, McKenna, Evans, Koren; Aluko, Proschwitz

The opening half an hour was an even contest with just a few half chances. The front two provided the danger at either end with Aluko trying to work off Proschwitz and Bradley Wright-Phillips looking to get onto Yann Kermorgant’s flicks. Kermorgant is more effective than Proschwitz; he understands the target man role. He knows where the ball is going and he wins a fair share of headers and Wright-Phillips gambles on where the flick is going. Only the sharpness of Ben Amos stopped Wright-Phillips getting in behind. Proschwitz doesn’t play as a target man, he doesn’t win the ball in the air (yet) but he showed signs of linking up with Aluko on the floor. Both City strikers had early strikes on goal, Proschwitz’s tame effort fielded by Hamer, Aluko turning sharply but then smacking way over the bar. The major difference between the sides was the number of players that found their way into the box. When Charlton spread the play, four or five players charged into the box. The Tigers were much slower to attack and only Evans or Koren found their way up to support the striker in the box. Obviously as the away team we were unlikely to over-extend ourselves and leave a break on but this has been a problem for quite a while. McKenna and Evans provide a really good base in the midfield, they defend well and can keep the game ticking over but we don’t have the dynamism from midfield that other teams have. We don’t have it in reserve either.

Bradley Wright-Phillips hit a shot from distance that flew up courtesy of a deflection and was saved and superbly held by Ben Amos. The best chance of the half then fell to Sone Aluko. Alex Bruce played a ball up to Proschwitz who chested down for Evans. He slid Aluko into space on the right of their box and Aluko drew ‘keeper Hamer but shot straight at him. He had to score. As half time approached, Charlton had the best spell of the game with wicked cross after wicked cross causing havoc in the Tigers penalty area. It started with a ball to the back post where Pritchard caught out Dudgeon. Dudge leant on him enough to stop him heading for goal, no Charlton player could connect with his knock down and it was scrambled behind for a corner. The corner was whipped brilliantly to the far post but no-one connected and Rosenior poked it behind. The ball was returned into the box from the cleared corner and Leon Cort headed just over from a fair way out. Charlton attacked again and Kermorgant met a low cross on the volley but Amos saved (Looked a clear foul on Aluko in the build-up). Another superb back-post corner followed and Alex Bruce got in between two attackers to head behind. Excellent defending. The last corner was another fantastic ball in with pace and Leon Cort met it but headed wide. The half-time whistle brought welcome relief after that onslaught.

Half-time also brought the weather. Rain had been threatening for most of the first half but we’d only had a small shower. During half-time a tremendous thunderstorm arrived complete with near-torrential rain. It was fun to hear the oohs and aahs from the crowd as fork lightning struck behind the stands. It rained for most of the second half which meant the game was played in really tricky conditions. The ground was sticky and heavy, the ball held up in places and defenders and goalkeepers were almost caught out numerous times while reacting normally to abnormal situations. I thought we could have made a positive change at half time by taking off Evans or McKenna, sitting Koren deeper and adding another attacking player. As it turned out, that was unnecessary. The Tigers experience meant we took control of the game in the second half and were only susceptible to the odd counter-attack and some stupidly conceded set pieces. Charlton had a goal disallowed early on as Wright-Phillips raced clear of Faye, shot at Amos and Kermorgant turned in the rebound. Either no-one had noticed the linesman was flagging much earlier or he game a very odd offside against Kermorgant in the second phase of play.

Robert Koren then crossed from the left, Corry Evans was arriving and had a first time shot on but Proschwitz controlled the ball, took it away from goal and then turned and hit a tame shot. It just needed a little communication between the two. Aluko hit a decent shot that had the sting taken out of it by a deflection while the state of the pitch stopped Aluko breaking from our half when it held the ball up as he tried to run clear. The Tigers were well in control with McKenna coping best with the conditions and pulling the strings and Dudgeon and Rosenior offering a great option out wide. McShane replaced the injured Bruce and then Jay Simpson replaced Proschwitz who got a warm applause for his hard work in tough conditions. McShane was caught in the air by Kermorgant and if the arm to his face wasn’t bad enough, he landed on his head and neck and folded himself in half. It was a scary looking situation and he didn’t move at first. I commented that he was as “hard as nails” but that was more in hope that he wouldn’t be badly hurt. After a couple of minutes of attention he refused the stretcher that had been brought on, and not only walked off but finished the game.

Jay Simpson’s arrival gave The Tigers a burst of energy up front and he and Aluko pressurised their defenders and were almost rewarded for it. Simpson was rolled in down the right but scuffed his shot through two defenders and it wandered wide of the far post. In stoppage time Simpson bullied Cort off the ball (illegally) but shot straight at Hamer while a good Tigers break saw Koren find Aluko who out-paced the full-back but shot harmlessly at Hamer again. In the midst of all this, The Tigers had the best chance of the game. Of any game, in fact. McKenna found Aluko who played in Simpson on the left. He poked a shot at goal that Hamer saved but let go and Aluko had followed up for a tap in. As the Tigers faithful behind the goal celebrated prematurely Hamer somehow turned the ball wide from his prone position. That was a sickener.

While it was disappointing that we didn’t win the game it was a reasonable point that most of us would have taken beforehand. The return of four points from two games isn’t bad when you consider that two of the three games have come away from home and two have been against well-fancied sides and another against the League One Champions who beat Leicester City in mid-week. The Tigers first 7 games also contain games with more of the bookies favourites for promotion in Bolton, Leeds and Leicester.  It’s a tough start that combined with bedding in new players and a new manager makes it imperative that everyone stays a little patient if we’ve not amassed a ton of points after 10 games.

The most encouraging thing from today’s game was that City finished strongly and didn’t drop off the pace after an hour as in the previous two games. We also created plenty of chances and looked lively around the box. Defensively we have a good unit who are gelling beautifully. Ben Amos was very assured at Charlton and the defence stood up to some incredible crosses, albeit with a bit of luck at times. We need to work on getting more players into the box and we must improve our delivery from set-pieces and wide areas. I’m sure it’s something that is being worked on and we’ve seen some variations from corners. We saw at Charlton though how vital good delivery is. They didn’t create a whole lot in open play but could easily have been a couple of goals up from set-pieces. It isn’t just our delivery that is the problem as we don’t even get near the good deliveries. We need to work on varying our movement in the box too while showing more desire to get on the end of the crosses.

Next up is Doncaster in the League Cup where we’ll hopefully use some of the players who’ve sat our recent games. Then it’s Bolton at the KC Stadium, another tough game. There’ll be some calls for Simpson to start after a couple of impressive cameos but personally, I’d keep him in reserve. I think McLean can harass defenders for an hour and introducing Simpson, who works his way into games very quickly, against tired defenders looks a very effective tactic. In terms of squad strengthening before the transfer window, I’d like to see us pursue Elmohamady from Sunderland as another wide option. I think we could also do with a midfielder with a bit more pace and adventure. I think we’ve got enough about us to be competitive but we’re just a tad short if we want to hit that top six.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Blackburn 1 Hull City 0

Walking away from Ewood Park the over-riding opinion coming from every Hull City fan was that this was a game we shouldn’t have lost. The home team were ordinary; the home support was small and fractious, and the Tigers played well enough for an hour to create an atmosphere of frustration. Had we pressed on in the last half an hour, I’ve no doubt that we would’ve won the game but regardless, we shouldn’t have lost it. In the end, it was the band of Hull City fans who left the ground frustrated. I think I’ll file this one under “typical City”.

Steve Bruce recognised that he couldn’t go away in the Championship and play 4-4-2 with two wingers so changes were expected. I don’t think anyone predicted a change to play three at the back. It took a little while for the players to get used to it but once they had, it suited us. It allowed us to play with three in the midfield and we have natural wing backs. Choosing between his son or Paul McShane as the third centre-half must’ve taken Steve Bruce at least 3 seconds.

Tigers: Amos; Chester, Faye, Bruce; Rosenior, Dudgeon, McKenna, Evans, Koren; Aluko, Proschwitz.

Sone Aluko was allowed to play anywhere he fancied while Robert Koren was the foremost of the three in the middle. Alex Bruce played as the left sided centre-half and the switch seemed to suit Abdoulaye Faye who coasted through the game. Blackburn enjoyed the bulk of the possession early on as the City players tried to work out their defensive shape and when to press the ball. Blackburn forced the first half chance while we were adjusting. The play was played inside Dudgeon for Jason Lowe who outpaced Alex Bruce and crossed for Kazim-Kazim-Kazim whose powerful shot went wide with Amos just about covering it. I don’t think they had another effort on goal in the half.

Nick Proschwitz settled well and his first few touches were all good. He looked full of running and when Koren and Aluko were up with play, he found them well. He turned Scott Dann well and hit a fierce shot that was quickly closed down. Aluko then created a chance through sheer persistence, winning the ball twice inside their penalty area. He looked up and fed an on-rushing team mate who arrived about 10 yards from goal and just had to hit a first time shot with his right foot. Unfortunately it was Dudgeon arriving and he, well I don’t really know what he was trying to do but he made a mess of it. The Tigers were starting to get on top and were breaking effectively. Blackburn got into some decent crossing positions, particularly through Olsson who was giving Liam Rosenior a chasing, but City defended really well. David Dunn attempted to run from midfield but was met with the tackle of the season by James Chester. A harmless looking cross caused havoc when neither Bruce, Faye, Amos or Dudgeon took responsibility for it and they were lucky that Blackburn’s forwards seemed too surprised to do anything about it and then an excellent cross from Murphy was met by Bruce just ahead of Kazim-Kazim-Kazim.

The referee was a bit of a joker. The ball was headed out for a City throw amid screams for a foul by Kazim and Steve Kean. Decision? Blackburn throw-in. A few minutes later the situation happened in reverse. Either a clear Blackburn throw or a free-kick to the Tigers. Decision? City throw-in. He mentally flipped a coin to decide another throw-in. It wasn’t a difficult game to referee with fouls committed and just the one contentious decision. He did let a lot of niggly fouls go which is good for the flow of the game if they are made by your team but absolutely disgraceful when they are against you! On with the game; Paul McKenna won the ball in midfield and found Aluko who fed Proschwitz (or Proscgwitz according to Ewood’s big screen) on his left foot to the left of the goal around 12 yards out. Proschwitz hit a powerful rising shot that Robinson met with a strong right hand. Dudgeon then cut out a poor pass in our half and played a first time ball between their centre halves that Proschwitz, stretching, just couldn’t bring under control. Great vision though. City played some good one touch football in the first half and another neat move saw Rosenior freed on the right. He skipped past Olsson and delivered a devilish cross which a defender swung at and the lucky so-and-so saw caught just enough of the ball to take it off Proschwitz’s toe but not enough to turn it into his own net. Then came the contentious decision. Proschwitz received the ball on the edge of the box and found Koren who got a shot away but was clattered in doing so. If it was anywhere else on the pitch then the referee would have awarded a free-kick for a foul made while releasing the ball but didn’t give a penalty. It should have been though.

During half time the Ewood screen placed host to the greatest propaganda piece ever seen outside of wartime Germany or North Korea. A fantastic video package showing happy fans mingling with smiling players, goals, action, raucous crowds and the manager, smiling of course, signing autographs for his waiting public. It was wonderful.

The second half was pretty poor fare. You could count the number of chances on a couple of fingers. If you’re not sure which two fingers, just ask a Blackburn fan his opinion of Steve Kean. City started well enough but our form fell off a cliff somewhere around the 55 minutes mark and the last half an hour proved massively frustrating. Liam Rosenior sliced a cross from the right hand side that had Paul Robinson scrambling across his goal as it dropped towards the far post. As the ‘keeper dived desperately and the net shook, I joined a few other City fans in celebrating a goal. Then I noticed the ball wasn’t exactly in the net. The ball had dropped just wide of the goal and Dudgeon poked it into the side netting. A really good City move saw Alex Bruce take the ball down in our half and squeeze between two onrushing attackers to find Faye who fed McKenna who found Koren who slid the ball across the box to Aluko. Aluko had Rosenior outside him and men in the box but tried to be too clever and ran out of play. That was the start of the frustration.

The Tigers passed the ball poorly and kept coughing up possession. Twice the ball was played straight into touch whilst attempting short passes to Dudgeon. Scott Dann passed straight to Koren who then over-hit a pass to Aluko. Aluko himself stumbled into defenders. We invited Blackburn onto us time and again and Proschwitz become a spectator. Blackburn looked an average side and didn’t do a lot with the ball. Olsson put in a few decent crosses that either evaded the forwards or were met by a City head. The back three looked pretty comfortable but their workload was increasing because we couldn’t keep the ball. Blackburn sub Bruno Ribeiro cut inside from the left and hit a decent shot that was heading inside the near post but an alert Ben Amos saved it well. Amos took a couple excellent catches from Murphy corners and, bar one dodgy kick, looked excellent. Steve Bruce recognised the need for City to keep the ball and replaced Evans with Tom Cairney.

Cairney had barely had time to get his boots dirty when Blackburn took the lead. It wasn’t a lead they deserved but the Tigers can have no complaints because they provided the open invitation. Etuhu crossed to the far post, Givet (I think) found some space behind Chester and cut back for Gomes who miss-hit an acrobatic volley. Bruce met the loose ball but smashed it straight into Givet and it fell for Kazim-Kazim-Kazim to poke into the net [1-0]. It was really scruffy defending from an otherwise excellent back three. We’d allowed them too much of the ball and the confidence to squeeze up the field. Otherwise they could still be playing on Friday and they wouldn’t have scored.

The Tigers response was pathetic. Bruce replaced McKenna with Simpson and then Rosenior with McLean. Quite what system has three centre halves, one wing back, two midfielders, three strikers and one Aluko, I have no idea but it didn’t cause Blackburn any trouble. Aluko scuffed a shot from a good Koren through ball, McLean headed a corner over and wide and Aluko hit a late free-kick over the bar, the wall being about 6 yards away, and Blackburn held on for three points that came gift-wrapped. They didn’t seem particularly pleased about it. “ONE NIL AND WE WANT KEAN OUT”.

Its early days in the season but there were a few worrying traits in the City performance. I don’t think we look particularly fit. We’ve faded pretty badly in both games so far. The first half was really good which just increased the frustration in the second half. It’s not like they are incapable of playing good football. Perhaps if either of Koren or Aluko had gone off the boil then we could have worked around it but when they both went together, we struggled to produce anything. We won’t see the best of Proschwitz until we start working the ball into the box more often. That remains a frustration from last season.  The system worked well enough with the three defenders (and Ben Amos) our best performers. It meant we competed in midfield and Rosenior and Dudgeon did really well to provide a wide option. At times it left space behind them that a better team may have exploited. In the first half we used Proschwitz well as a focal point and the lively Aluko picked up the ball from him and caused problems. The second half was inexplicable.

I think there’s enough about City to be positive enough but this does create a few nagging worries. At the moment, it can be put down as a one off but I wouldn’t like to see too many more periods as poor as the last half an hour at Blackburn. That the manager thought chucking strikers on willy-nilly would change our fortunes is also a worry. I’ll now leave for Charlton on Saturday hoping for the best but expecting the worst!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Hull City 1 Brighton 0

Never mind the League Cup, the serious business for Hull City started today with the opening Championship game of the season against Gus Poyet’s ambitious Brighton and Hove Albion. It wasn’t a game that had the fans flocking with an attendance of just 15,794 but that was probably a good job given the trouble we had with the new Supermarket Self-Service aisle entry system. The low attendance can in part be put down to the fact that we’re still in holiday season, while Brighton’s 600 hardy followers or so didn’t put a lot on the gate but some of the drop-off will have been caused by the rising prices and the discontentment at times this summer. That will only change if the Tigers play winning football.

It was certainly a Hull City side that was picked to win the game. You’d have to go back to sometime in the Autumn of 2008 for the last time we saw such an attack minded line-up, on paper anyway. Sone Aluko finally received his international clearance from the morons at the Scottish FA who’ve spent the summer making a mockery of their game and the past few weeks doing likewise with ours. Surprisingly he went straight into the team. I say surprisingly only because I’d imagine the team prepared to be without him. His inclusion meant captain Robert Koren started a game in the centre of a midfield pair for the first time in a while.

Tigers: Amos; Rosenior, Dudgeon, Chester, Faye; Stewart, Aluko, Koren, McKenna; Proschwitz, McLean.

What looked on paper to be a traditional 4-4-2 was actually more of a lone striker system as right winger Cameron Stewart lined up on the left wing, striker Aaron McLean on the right wing and left winger Sone Aluko somewhere in the middle between Koren and Proschwitz. Brighton play a tidy 4-3-3 with three very mobile front players and a well-balanced midfield of Andrew Crofts, Gary Dickers and the excellent Liam Bridcutt. While the opening exchanges were pretty even, Brighton’s midfield three began to boss our two and it would require some tinkering from the manager before we’d really get to grips with the game.

City suffered an early scare when Mackail-Smith slipped past Faye and slid the ball in for Noone who steadied himself but saw Joe Dudgeon nick the ball off his toe. Sone Aluko tested Kuszczak after wriggling free in midfield and hitting a low shot that the former Manchester United custodian pushed wide. Brian Clough would’ve called their Polish goalkeeper a clown. And unlike in 1973, he would’ve been spot on this time. We were supposedly interested in Kuszczak in the summer. Thank heavens we got Ben Amos instead. As well as their tidy passing, two other features of Brighton’s game were their combative challenges and their long range shooting, which was nearly excellent. Craig Noone was the first to curl a shot just wide of Amos left hand post while Barnes and Bridcutt were both lucky to escape bookings for strong challenges. They were lucky that it was early in the game on the opening day but I also thought that Stuart Atwell, despite his reputation, took a sensible approach to the game. Aaron McLean might also have had a yellow on another day as he caught Noone while trying to block a clearance. Atwell was especially lenient on McLean because Noone made a meal of it. Noone would be the first player in the book after barging into Rosenior as he headed clear. It was clear that Mr. Atwell had lost his patience with this one, the card was out before the challenge went in. The lenience almost cost City in the second half when Noone, obviously already booked, made a challenge identical to McLean’s on Liam Rosenior. Gus Poyet then withdrew him before he was sent off.

The Tigers had the better of the 15 minutes before half time after Steve Bruce tinkered a little bit and we reverted to the 4-4-2 that we looked set to line-up with pre-match. McLean joined Proschwitz up front; Aluko went left and Stewart right. Brighton had been in control, playing the ball out of defence into their midfield, getting the full-backs wide and working the ball into Mackail-Smith or Barnes on the edge of the box far too easily. Not only did the changes give the full backs something to think about but McLean’s high pressure game meant the defenders couldn’t stroll out with the ball but hit it longer more often and allowed Chester and Faye to compete and win the ball back. Chester and Faye had switched sides after the early exchanges, presumably to counter Mackail-Smith’s pace. In a crazy spell, both ‘keepers had a touch of fortune in quick succession. Amos came out of his box in similar fashion to Rotherham last week when Chester had a situation under control. Instead of being able to pick up a back-pass calmly, he ended up having to take it on his chest and boot into the stand. It was a decent recovery but a worrying trend. At the other end, Kuszczak chose to punch a harmless looking Stewart cross despite it being a foot off the floor and no striker been in sight. He was very lucky that his punch evaded the City players.

With half-time approaching Andrew Crofts hit a great drive that flew wide of Amos right hand post. It was followed by the best piece of play in the half. Aluko, having just switched to the left, picked the ball up about 30 yards out, played it into space on the left wing and left Bruno for dead. Then, when you expected him to put a cross in, he hit a stunning shot from around 20 yards from goal and 16 yards from the goal line. It beat Kuszczak all ends up but hit the bar. A truly excellent effort. Half time came soon after with the scores level and neither side deserving to be behind.

The interval saw Hull’s Olympic goal medallist, boxer Luke Campbell, paraded around the pitch to a tremendous ovation from both sets of fans. I felt a little bit choked up as Luke passed us in the East Stand and a chant of “There’s only one Luke Campbell” broke out loudly. The applause was dying down from the East Stand when Luke received a nice ovation from the Brighton fans which prompted the East Stand to start up the applause again but this time for our visitors. Luke then spoke to Steve Jordan on the pitch but as the PA system in the East Stand is appalling, I’ve no idea what he said.

The Tigers started the second half brightly, controlling possession and creating a couple of half chances. First Paul McKenna hit a super half-volley from around 25 yards that was arrowing into the top corner before Kuszczak turned it over the top. A world class save. Then Cameron Stewart  was freed down the right and produced an excellent cross but unfortunately neither McLean nor Proschwitz had bust a gut to get into the box. At the other end, Craig Noone produced a cross out of nothing that Mackail-Smith met ahead of Chester but smacked the top of the crossbar. Noone then nicked the ball of Rosenior, ran at the back peddling defence and curled a shot a couple of feet wide of the far post. There were oohs and aahs from the Brighton fans but the East Stand and, more importantly, Ben Amos could see it was always going wide. In between, a tiring Faye was booked for chopping down Mackail-Smith who’d got away from him on halfway. A Tigers corner was flapped at by Kuszczak and met by Faye but the ball dropped harmlessly in the six yard box. There was a big handball shout from the South Stand but difficult to see any Brighton defender from our angle.

Brighton took hold of the game after that. Substitute Kazenga Lua Lua gave them added impetus and a tiring Tigers outfit were struggling to press the ball and to pass at high tempo when we had it. Corry Evans replaced Nick Proschwitz who worked hard but struggled to have any impact on the game, while Alex Bruce came on for Abdoulaye Faye who’d gifted a ball to Mackail-Smith moments earlier; a sign to Steve Bruce that he was knackered. There was some frustration in the crowd during this period with some of the backward passes receiving much harsher criticism than they did last season. One guy shouted “you’ve got to go forward to score goals, City”. I’ve asked that he writes it down for them because it’s clearly an inspirational bit of wisdom that they aren’t aware of.

Jay Simpson replaced Aaron McLean, who’d put in a great shift, in a desperate looking last throw of our dice. A draw against a good side who’ll finish in the top ten wasn’t the worst result but you felt sure that if a winner came, it’d be a Brighton winner. Lua Lua hit a fierce shot that Amos put two fists behind to keep out. It was a bit continental for my liking but it was effective enough. Then, the breakthrough came and despite the Tigers looking a little worse for wear, it was a black and amber winner. Joe Dudgeon made an excellent run in behind the tiring Bruno and Koren found him superbly with a defence-splitting left foot pass. Kuszczak charged from his goal with no chance of beating Dudgeon to the ball and could only clatter into Dudgeon after the left-back had prodded the ball past him. It was a clear penalty but Mr. Atwell held on that split second and Jay Simpson made it academic by turning it into the roof of the net [1-0]. A great moment for Simpson but in truth, most people could’ve scored the goal. Not many could’ve made the run or pass that preceded it. The last five minutes of play and the four minutes of stoppage time passed quickly with only Paul McKenna’s inevitable yellow card and a wild miss from Simpson to comment on. And then Mr. Atwell blew the whistle. It was an excellent three points and a great start for Steve Bruce.

The three points were especially useful as City face two tricky away ties next at Blackburn on Wednesday and Charlton next Saturday. We shouldn’t fear anyone though; we’ve got plenty for others to worry about too. Sone Aluko was probably the man of the match. He’s a real livewire who looks likely to make something happen every time he gets the ball. He’s got excellent dribbling ability and turns “on a sixpence” as they used to say. He over-shadowed Cameron Stewart who had a quieter game than last week but did a good job for the team and looked effective when he got the ball wide. Cam can still continue to improve by playing the game simpler at times but he’s already shown in the past couple of weeks that he’s listening and learning in that department. Koren and McKenna worked hard and put themselves about in midfield but faced a difficult task against three opponents. Koren showed his quality when it really mattered. Defensively we were pretty sound. Brighton are quick, intelligent and lively up front and for the most part we coped well. Despite their possession and attempts from distance, Ben Amos only had to make one save of any significance. It was nice to see Joe Dudgeon have a hand in the goal because he gets forward well but hasn’t really produced a lot once he’s got there in the past. Andy Dawson is going to have a job to get the place back. I heard a rumour that Wayne Bridge was going to play at left back for Brighton but for some reason, he didn’t turn up!

As for negatives, I’m a little worried that we’ll be over-run in midfield if we try and play with two wingers and two strikers. We’re going to really have to take games to the opposition to make it work and we don’t look fit enough to do that at the moment. Ben Amos is clearly a much, much better goalkeeper than Peter Gulacsi so I’m not worried about him generally but his now traditional walkabout in each game does frighten me to death. Nick Proschwitz hasn’t done a lot so far. I hope people don’t get on his back because it’s not easy to adjust to our game. He’s working hard and has some nice touches but hasn’t had much to work with inside the penalty area. Our crosses into him, assuming they were intended for him and not for catching practice for Kuszczak, weren’t up to much most of the time. Everyone needs to be a little patient with the guy, forget how much he cost and he’ll get better the more he plays with those around him.

The team are winning. There’s no point isolating individuals. The team is all that matters. And after 265 minutes of Championship football against Brighton in that last 10 months, we finally scored a goal. Hurrah!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Preview: Hull City vs. Brighton & Hove Albion

After the unusual event of the League Cup first round preceding the start of the league season, the “real” season opener has finally come around. Hull City and Brighton both struggled in the league cup last week. The Tigers needed a penalty shot-out to dispose of League Two Rotherham (Report) on Saturday while Brighton were thrashed 3-0 by League One Swindon Town live on TV on Tuesday evening.

Brighton are upwardly mobile under Gus Poyet and are keen to improve on last season’s 10th place finish. They've shown ambition again this summer with the signings of Tomasz Kuszczak, Bruno and Wayne Bridge.

Brighton is not an opponent I look forward to facing. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen City defeat them on a couple of fingers and they are responsible for possibly the most soul-destroying game of football I’ve ever witnessed. It’s November 1998. The Tigers are rock-bottom of the football league with 3 wins from 17 games and face mid-table Brighton at Boothferry Park. Despite the visitors playing most of the game with ten men and some of it with only nine, they run out comfortable 2-0 winners. Fortunately for our history, Warren Joyce turned the season around soon after.

Team news

City: Matty Fryatt (Achilles) and Andy Dawson (thigh) are unlikely to feature. Corry Evans has a small chance of being involved as does Seyi Olofinjana. Eldin Jakupovic is now eligible to play for The Tigers but has a hamstring injury. Sone Aluko is still awaiting international clearance.

Brighton: Craig Mackail-Smith (groin) and Kazenga Lua Lua (hamstring) both missed the Swindon game with slight injuries but should return. Will Hoskins will miss out with a broken toe but Will Buckley has a light chance of being involved as he also recovers from a hamstring injury.

Quick History Of Brighton & Hove Albion 

Formed: 1901 
Won: Nothing of any significance. A few lower division titles. 
Famous for: Their nomadic existence between 1997 and 2011 and losing the 1983 FA Cup Final Replay after a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United. 
Record Attendance: 36,747 vs. Fulham (1958) 
Record Victory: 10-1 vs. Wisbech Town (FA Cup 1965/66) 
Record Defeat: 0-9 vs. Middlesbrough (1958/59) 
Rivals: Crystal Palace 

Brighton in Mnemonics 

B is for Bloom, Tony. Brighton’s chairman bought the club from Dick Knight in 2009 and has overseen Gus Poyet’s transformation of the club from League One also-rans to Premier-League wannabes. 

R is for Ritchie, Andy. He became Brighton’s record signing in 1980, costing £500,000 form Manchester United. The record stood for 31 years until it was broken by Will Buckley (and then Mackail-Smith) last summer. 

I is for Iovan, Stefan. Romanian international had a short spell with Brighton in 1991.

G is for Gordon Smith. “And Smith must score” is a famous piece of commentary from the 1983 FA Cup Final when, with the score at 2-2 between Brighton and Man United, Smith went clear on goal and missed. They lost the replay 4-0. 

H is for Home. After 14 years spent playing at Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium and the awful Withdean Athletics Stadium brighton returned hom to their beautiful Amex Stadium, Falmer in 2011. 

T is for “Tug” Wilson. Brighton’s appearance record holder played 509 times. 

O is for Oatway. Commonly known as Charlie Oatway, he’s actually named Anthony Philip David Terry Frank Donald Stanley Gerry Gordon Stephen James Oatway after the QPR squad of his birth year. Cult hero who was instrumental in 2 promotion campaigns.  

N is for Norman Cook. Along with Des Lynam, “Fat Boy Slim” is their most famous celebrity fan. His record label “SKINT” even sponsored the club for 9 years.

All-time record vs. Brighton

Played 44, Won 12, Drawn 12, Lost 20. Scored 42, conceded 59.

All-time home record vs. Brighton

Played 22, Won 11, Drawn 6, Lost 5. Scored 29, conceded 17.

Highest home attendance vs. Brighton

25,374  – Saturday 5th February 1966 – Division 3. Hull City won 1-0 with a winning goal from Ken Wagstaff.

Lowest home attendance vs. Brighton

2,421 – Tuesday 23rd January 1996 – Division 2. A nil-nil draw.


Tigers manager from 1946 to 1948 Major Frank Buckley was a former Brighton player … Brian Horton played for Brighton for 5 years between 1976 and 1981 and later managed them … Gary Hobson left Hull for Brighton for £60,000 in 1996 … Greame Atkinson joined Brighton from Preston in 1998 … David Lee ended his short spell with the Tigers in 2001 by joining Brighton in exchange for Matthew WicksPeter Taylor led the Seagulls to the (then) Division 2 title in 2002 but left that summer and took over at Hull in November … A host of players followed Taylor from Brighton including Steve Melton, Daniel Webb, Michel Kuipers (loan) and the infamous Junior Lewis who’d been on loan on the south coast … Paul McShane was Brighton’s player of the season in 2005/06 whilst on loan from Manchester United … Nicky Forster left Hull for Brighton in the summer of 2007 (his step-son Jake Forster-Caskey is a current Brighton player) … David Livermore followed Forster a year later … Billy Paynter had a loan spell at Brighton from Leeds United last season … Brighton hitman Craig Mackail-Smith and the Tigers’ Aaron McLean formed a potent strike partnership at Peterborough United … Hull MP and then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott gave the go ahead for Brighton to build their stadium in Falmer.

Last 5 vs. Brighton

Division 3 – Brighton 3 Hull City 0 – Friday 10th March 2001

A rare disappointing result in the second half of the 2000/01 season as Brian Little’s Tigers ignored the club’s administration, impending doom and the lack of wages being paid into their account and made the Division 3 play-offs. Any Friday evening fixture at Brighton or Southend equals an inevitable City defeat.

Championship – Hull City 2 Brighton 0 –  Saturday 20th August 2005

The Tigers first win in the second tier of English football for 13 years was secured thanks to an excellent first half volley from Ryan France and a Ben Burgess tap-in. Burgess’ goal was his first since April 2004 after he missed the entire 2004/05 season with a knee injury suffered at home to Huddersfield later that month.

Championship –Brighton 2 Hull City 1 –  Friday 16th December 2005

This was a disappointing loss against a relegation rival who hadn’t won for 10 games. Stuart Elliott put City in front after only 5 minutes but Seb Carole equalized minutes later and Charlie Oatway scored the winner before half time. Andy Dawson hit the bar late on. The Tigers had the last laugh avoiding relegation comfortably while Brighton finished bottom and were relegated.

Championship –Brighton 0 Hull City 0 –  Saturday 15th October 2011

The Tigers first visit to the Amex Stadium produced the first of two entertaining nil-nil draws between the teams. The game kicked off late because of some stupid University opening day but started in the sunshine thanks to the last taste of summer appearing on the south coast that day. Aaron McLean smashed the cross bar in front of the travelling Tigers fans while Adriano Basso saved a fantastic dipping volley from Mackail-Smith to earn the draw.

Championship – Hull City 0 Brighton 0– Wednesday 22nd February 2012

This was as good a nil-nil draw as you are ever likely to see. Barmby’s Hull City played tremendous football despite tricky conditions but could not manage a breakthrough while Brighton were a constant threat on the break. There were almost 30 shots on goal between the sides and nearly 15 on target. Oddly, the entire game is on YouTube:

Videos (uploaded by TigerTubeAmberNectar)

Rick’s XI for Brighton

Rosenior – Chester – Faye – Dudgeon
Stewart – McKenna – Koren - Cairney
Proschwitz – McLean

Please feel free to leave a prediction for the score and first goalscorer in the comments. I’ll give anyone who is spot-on a name-check in the match report.

Tranmere 0 Hull City 3: Short and sweet match report

City progressed in the League Cup on a first visit to Tranmere for 14 years since a Craig Fagan inspired win in League One en route to b...