Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Hull City 1 Rochdale 0: The view from the stands

Hull City scraped past lower league opposition again to make the third round of the League Cup with a 1-0 win over Rochdale.

(C) Hull Daily Mail
With a league game on the horizon on Saturday and having toiled through the heat last weekend, Steve Bruce made many more changes than he did in the last round but while the side may have been unfamiliar – their lackadaisical performance wasn’t.

City 4-3-3
Eldin Jakupovic
Ryan Taylor – Harry Maguire - Alex Bruce – Andy Robertson
Isaac Hayden – David Meyler – Mohamed Diame
Abel Hernandez – Greg Luer – Sam Clucas

The big news on the team front was the inclusion of Mo Diame who was starting for the first time since Everton away in December – since when he’s only featured twice as a substitute in April. Having snazzily created the colours of the Sengalese flag with his green boots, red tape and amber socks – Diame set about reminding everyone of his quality with some nice touches, driving runs and smart passing.

He took a few knocks and everyone held their breath but he bounced up again and made a mockery of Steve Bruce’s pre-match comments that he may not be back to his best until the New Year. We shouldn’t get carried away because players often get through early games on adrenaline and then have a dip but he’s certainly looking like the player we missed badly after his injury problems last season.

City started very much on the front foot and were rewarded for some early pressing with a well taken goal. Hernandez played a neat pass to his left and found both Diame and Luer in space. The young striker signed from Burgess Hill last summer took the responsibility (as any good striker would) and finished neatly around the stranded keeper from 18 yards [1-0]. After a powerful run, Diame slid in Hernandez on our left but he shot wide of the near post and then Robertson failed to either pass or shoot after making a good run onto another Diame pass.

That was as good as it got before the break as City took their foot off the accelerator again and coasted along. It’s becoming a frustrating habit and it drew Rochdale into the game. There was a lack of urgency in the play from back to front but also a lack of quality in possession. We stroked the ball around slowly before giving it away cheaply time and again. We seem to have a belief as a group that games are over at one-nil but that couldn’t be further from the truth. As a result of the slow tempo, moving the ball forward becomes difficult because we’re not creating gaps.

Half time: Hull City 1 Rochdale 0

The City players went through a little warm-up before the second half to try and address the slow starts after the break. Perhaps as a result, we started the second half as brightly as the first and created an excellent chance when Diame and Clucas combined to feed Robertson and he brilliantly put the ball on a plate for Hernandez at the back post but he somehow shot over from four yards. Despite that miss and a later one set up by sub Elmohamady, Hernandez had another decent game and put a lot of effort in – particularly in the first half. Robertson had another mixed game. He made one or two important challenges but made poor decisions in defence too often and almost cost a late equaliser running out to close down leaving their sub Allessandra to exploit the space he left and, fortunately, shoot over.

The 4-3-3 system seemed to work well early on when Meyler, Diame and Hayden were busy and the three strikers pressed as a unit but as the game went on we ended up with one striker isolated and no threat from the right. Ryan Taylor’s been a good player but it’s hard to see where he fits in at City. He’s not got anything like the pace or athleticism these days to challenge Odubajo or Elmo for a right back spot and he was equally useless in midfield. He looks a waste of wages.

Sam Clucas is a better investment but he’s playing within himself. He looked far more confident playing for Chesterfield against us recently so it may well just be a case of allowing him to adapt to new surroundings and get used to playing with big name teammates.

The second half went the way of the first and The Tigers ended up clinging on. The crowd of 10,430 – a decent turnout for the early rounds of this competition these days – got more and more agitated with the lack of quality and perceived lack of effort. It all became a bit unambitious. At one point Clucas attacked down the left before realising he had little support and chose not to take on the full back. Instead he went backwards until he found Hayden in midfield and he dropped the ball off to Maguire. Left wing to centre half in two passes.

For all their possession and our jitteriness – Rochdale never really threatened. They might have had a late penalty when Maguire tried a diving header a foot off the ground and landed on top of the ball. There was a big handball shout but the ref waved it away. It definitely hit his hand and I’ve seen them given. He was certainly lucky. In the end, just getting through and avoiding having to watch another half an hour was a relief.

Full time: Hull City 1 Rochdale 0

They say you get what you pay for and having got into this game for free – it was certainly true of this evening. David Meyler picked up the Man of the Match award which he deserved but there wasn’t a great deal of competition. Only the return of Diame, looking as good as new, and the beautifully taken goal of Luer were highlights.

Bring on Swansea at home in round three. Somehow, I don’t think they’ll be scared.

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