The Tigers closed out 2012 by taking apart Leeds United at the KC Stadium with one of the most complete performances in the club’s history. Unless you were lucky enough to see Cliff Britton’s all conquering side of the mid-60’s, it’s unlikely you’ve ever seen a better Hull City side than this one. Today was a pleasure from beginning to end. The opposition will make it even sweeter for some. Personally, I don’t care who they were. They were an inferior team who came to Hull to kick us about, kill the game and scurry off with a nil-nil draw. They were the epitome of “anti-football”. Fortunately, for football, the team who actually turned up to play won the game.
And what a team this is. We know they can play. We’ve been playing delightful football in patches for the past two years as the team evolved through Nigel Pearson, Nick Barmby and Steve Bruce. Before it was beautiful but one dimensional. Bruce has added several dimensions. We’re now a threat at set pieces. We have the ability to open tight games from corners and free kicks. We score goals from all over the pitch. We’re no longer over-reliant on two players. And then there’s Sone Aluko. He’s a different dimension all by himself. Today, he was utterly magnificent. He moves with the speed and grace of an ice dancer, the ball sticks to his feet like the wingers in old black and white football clips and he turns so quickly and in such small spaces that it’s near impossible to stop him.
Today, we saw the other side of this team. Leeds came to fight us. They had thugs all over the pitch and obviously thought they could kick us out of the game. Was Corry Evans intimidated by Michael Brown and David Norris? Was he heck? How about Stephen Quinn or David Meyler? In your dreams! Any evidence of Robert Koren or Sone Aluko not fancying it against bully boys like Alan Tate or Jason Pearce? Not a bit of it. Leeds came to put themselves about. Then they ran into David Meyler, to Abdoulaye Faye and to Jack Hobbs. And they left complaining that we were too physical. And you know what? They were right. We were too physical for them. We weren’t dirty like they were. We were men. We had bigger bollocks. We stood up and faced them eye to eye. And we beat them.
Tigers 3-5-2: [G] Jakupovic [D] Chester, Faye, Hobbs [M] Elmohamady, Brady, Evans, Meyler, Quinn [F] Koren, Aluko
City were dominant from beginning to end. You’d have been forgiven for worrying a little at half time that the goals weren’t going to come though as we missed chances and received very little from the awful referee. Leeds tried to match us with their own 3-5-2 system. The Tigers have perfected the system this season. Any team who tries to match it with a couple of days practice is going to fail. Miserably. Miserably was how Leeds started. Alan Tate headed poorly back to Paddy Kenny and Robert Koren pounced on the loose ball but his attempted lob drifted well wide. David Meyler then strode into the box, Lees had a big handful of his shirt, Meyler fell like a modern-day footballer and the referee gave nothing. It was a blatant penalty regardless of the exaggeration. A second penalty appeal was waved away when Sone Aluko outpaced Pearce on the right, cut in along the bye line and Pearce brought him down. The ref awarded a corner. Aluko was furious. It was almost identical to the incident at Elland Road earlier this season when Diouf drew a penalty for Leeds despite not actually being in the box. No chance of a homer referee at the KC Stadium. This idiot was deathly afraid of being the subject of Neil Warnock’s post match rant. It wasn’t just the penalty incident. There were pushes and pulls all over the place going unpunished, incorrectly awarded throw-in’s, allowing Leeds to steal yards on throws but refusing to allow City to steal inches. He was a muppet.
If we wanted anything out of this game, we’d have to take it ourselves and as we started to involve Brady and Elmohamady, we created chance after chance. James Chester found Brady in space on the left with a lovely cross field pass, Brady hit the near post and Kenny smothered Koren’s flick. Aluko then dummied Quinn’s pass to free Brady whose cross found Meyler in the middle but he couldn’t control the ball. Elmohamady retrieved the ball and fed Meyler again but he was closed down quickly. A deep Koren corner was then met by Faye but headed into the side netting. It was similar to the chance he missed against Leicester but at a more awkward height and with defenders close by. Leeds stepped up the dirty tactics when under pressure. Norris lunged at Chester’s head as he stopped for a header (fortunately he didn’t make contact) and was only spoken too. Aiden White finally picked up a yellow card for a poor, late lunge on Elmohamady. In between David Meyler gave Tom Lees a dig with his elbow which went unnoticed. That one helped counter the feeling of injustice.
Elmo was booed by the Leeds fans for being hurt by White. Hilariously he walked over to them, put his finger to his lips and told them to shut up. He spent a lot of time getting booed because he was busy skinning Lees and whipping in crosses with great regularity. Lees will definitely know his number tonight. And who sponsors the back of his shirt. And what the back of his head looks like. And how many studs are missing from his boots. Aluko held the ball up brilliantly with three midfield thugs trying to kick him. He then back heeled the ball to Elmo who crossed brilliantly across the six yard box, Robbie Brady ran in from the other wing and smashed a shot wide. It looked easier to score. Corry Evans then freed Elmo with a lovely switch from left to right, Elmo delivered across the 6 yard line again and Koren slid in but couldn’t connect. Leeds ambition was then summed up before half time. Michael Brown was asked to leave the pitch for treatment on a blood injury (Evans and Aluko grassed him up to the ref!). Brown argued that he was fine to continue. When the ref insisted he leave the pitch, he was suddenly so injured he practically had to crawl off. He then stood just on the pitch having treatment. Quinn waited to take the free-kick while the ref asked Brown to get off the pitch. Eventually Mr. Eltrigham grew a set and booked Brown. Brown didn’t mind, he’d wasted 2 minutes. The whistle came soon after. Leeds had what they came for.
City flew out of the blocks in the second half but two or three chances went begging and the nerves began to jangle a little. Nothing would’ve been more frustrating for the Tigers faithful than watching this anti-football mob escape the KC with a point in their swag bag. Aluko had the first effort, cutting in from the right, holding off the rugby tackles, and shooting just past the post. Paddy Kenny was never worried by it but it was close. Stephen Quinn then led a break and found Meyler on the edge of the box. Meyler chose to place his shot but it was too close to Kenny and he saved well. Aluko then ripped them apart on the right of their box and slid a cross through the 6 yard box and just beyond the sliding Meyler. That was the “is this going to be our day?” moment. Minutes later, we had the goal we deserved. We passed the ball beautifully through midfield, Aluko received and squirmed his way past a defender before feeding Koren who held the ball up like a striker and then turned and fed Evans like a playmaker. Evans took a touch and hit a shot low and hard across Kenny and inside the far post. Fabulous move. Fabulous finish [1-0].
Before Leeds could get their breathe back, Koren got into a similar position to Evans on the right but shot towards the near post and Kenny turned it into the side netting. Brady delivered the corner and Meyler rose and thumped a terrific header inside the near post from 8 yards or so [2-0]. If anyone deserved a gal, it was Meyler. He gave a proper box to box performance. He’s always getting himself into the box but works back as well. He passed the ball tidily, he stood up to their dirtiness and made himself available time and again. He gets better with every game. Here’s hoping Martin O’Neill stops pretending he’s going to recall him from his loan and lets him stay to the end of the season or longer. There was an odd hush over the KC Stadium after the second goal. City dominated possession. Leeds gave up. There was a resignation amongst their supporters and a quiet disbelief amongst ours. Where we really dominating such a stubborn old foe in this fashion? Warnock didn’t even try to respond. He threw on Rudolph Austin, a token gesture. He looked around him, wondered what he had on his bench to halt the prowling Tiger and realised he had nothing. So he stood, arms folded, bitter and jealous and watched the Tigers stroll to the finish line. Kenny saved from Quinn and from substitute Proschwitz but otherwise, City passed the ball around, threw in the odd flick and trick and took pity on the sad opposition. You’ll notice a lack of Leeds chances in this report. It’s not bias there just simply weren’t any. Brown and McCormack shot well over in the first half. And that was as close as they came.
It’s hard to convey just how majestic City were. If you’re doing ratings out of ten, there isn’t an outfield player worth less than eight. Corry Evans produced his best home performance ever. His distribution lets him down at times but it was excellent today. Quinn is the hardest working footballer I’ve ever seen. You can count on one hand the number of times his season that a winger and a full back have doubled up on our left hand side without Quinn being in position protecting Dudgeon/Brady. His partnership with Brady is improving by the game. They link beautifully together. I mentioned Brady last week. He’s unrecognisable from the frustrating little sod we had last season. I laughed when Alex Ferguson tried to make him a full-back. I’m an idiot.
Defensively we had a relatively easy day. Any Leeds threat was quelled quickly and effectively though. Faye won key headers and Chester kept McCormack very, very quiet. Our defence was excellent before. Bruce and McShane have had great seasons. It says everything about Jack Hobbs that he’s come back in and improved us. He’s terrific. Robert Koren’s best position is playing off the striker. He’s a game changer. He showed it again today. You think he’s not in the game and then he pops up with a goal or an assist. He’s the first name on the team sheet every week for me. Which does suggest an impending dilemma? If we’re in the market for the striker we all think we need and we can keep David Meyler, which looks a must right now, how the hell do we fit new striker, Aluko, Koren, Meyler, Evans and Quinn in the same team? I wouldn't leave anyone out. I’m glad I’m not picking the team.
On the subject of strikers, Steve Bruce was quizzed about the plans for January by Burnsy on Radio Humberside after the game. Bruce declared a very real interest in signing Fraizer Campbell and stressed it’s something they will try to do. He also confirmed his admiration for Swansea’s Danny Graham but agreed with Burnsy that it’s a very expensive option given that Swans paid £3.5m for Graham in the summer of 2011. Bruce is also keen to buy David Meyler and Robbie Brady. On hearing he interview, Mr. Allam must have locked his doors, turned off his phone and turned out the lights! I think Bruce can be quiet persuasive. The riches on offer in the Premier League next season are beyond comprehension. We’ve got a real chance of promotion. It might well be a gamble worth taking. Just don’t gamble on the future of the football club Mr. Allam. We’re all excited at the moment, how the hell could we not be? Just make sure you remain calm and keep one eye on the pennies. Because we could do without spending a dime. We’re not just good, we’re bloody excellent. Today proved that.
Have a prosperous 2013 everyone. Here’s hoping it’s another 2008 for Hull City AFC!