Hull City scraped a win against Fulham despite dominating the first half at the KC Stadium.
The performance was similar in many ways to the first home game against Huddersfield with the key difference being that Fulham punished The Tigers sloppiness after the break. They’d been very ordinary for the first forty-five minutes but were encouraged by City’s lax attitude.
I imagined a buoyant home dressing room at half time with a pumped up management team encouraging the players to keep up the tempo and energy that Fulham couldn’t live with. Instead they left that in the dressing room and looked a shadow side. Fulham didn’t exactly come out roaring but just grew into the game as a result of enjoying more possession and more space and with every loose pass and failed dribble – the crowd got edgier until we were punished.
Bruce made three changes from Sunday with Jelavic rested, Hayden dropped and Clucas not risked from the start given his slight knock this week.
Moses Odubajo – Michael Dawson – Curtis Davies – Andy Robertson
Ahmed Elmohamady – Tom Huddlestone – David Meyler – Sone Aluko
Abel Hernandez – Chuba Akpom
It was an orthodox 4-4-2 when we lost possession with two lines of four but when we got on the ball, Aluko or Elmohamady would come inside to work behind the front men and create space for the full backs to attack. We started fairly slowly but it began to serve us well and Obubajo in particular looked dangerous.
Hernandez was experiencing the Championship for the first time and he played well. He started quickly, almost getting in after thirty seconds and worked hard to press from the front. Whether you think he wanted to pay back the club he’s let-down for the last year or wanted to impress prospective suitors is by the by. He put in a decent shift which hasn’t happened too often and he deserves some credit for it.
Fulham have some tidy players in midfield and up front but they were ineffective. Lots of swaggering around looking like footballers but no appetite to get involved in any sort of contest. Meyler dominated the game winning possession time and again, passing incredibly well for him and providing good service to the wide players. From his ball, Elmohamady crossed over everyone, Aluko retrieved and put the ball back in where Elmo won a good header and saw his knock-down put behind for a corner. Dawson flicked Huddlestone’s dead ball on and Davies crashed a half-volley against the top of the crossbar from twelve yards.
Hernandez also hit the bar from an Elmo cross after great work form Odubajo but he’d committed a foul. That lifted the comatose crowd though and they were soon roaring as Robertson delivered from a short corner and Elmohamady climbed highest to nod beyond Bettenelli [1-0].
The Tigers dominated up to half time. Tom Huddlestone passed the ball beautifully (one first-time pass on the volley after the ball dropped from a high clearance was sublime) and Aluko was bright with the ball at his feet. Their goalkeeper went off on a stretcher and half time came at the wrong time for us – as they say.
Half time: Hull City 1 Fulham 0
Aside from Dawson and Davies - who had another excellent game together and coped well with being exposed by some poor losses of possession and the hapless positioning of Robertson – no-one played well in the second half. Meyler had been all action before the break but chased shadows. Huddlestone and Hernandez were blowing out of their backsides. Elmo disappeared and Akpom and Aluko looked able to carry the ball at them but made poor decisions.
The tension mounted as they grew into it. Cairney had been utterly invisible in the first half but suddenly had time to pass the ball and became more involved. A long ball over the top put Richards clear on their right and he cut inside Davies but Robertson retrieved the situation. It was good covering by Robertson but heaven only knows where he was in the first place as Richards exploited the space he’d left. From the corner Shaun Hutchinson found himself free of all defenders but headed over. He knew how costly that might have been.
Clucas replaced Hernandez to give an injection of fresh legs but little changed and City’s failure to even keep the ball started to drive the crowd mad. A deep cross from our right tempted Mcgregor to come for it. He tried to knock it down and then gather but knocked it too far and then crashed into one of theirs. We managed to clear to Aluko but he tried turning in a tight area and gifted the ball back from where they found Cairney and he lashed into the top corner [1-1]. He celebrated wildly. So would I if I’d scored that.
Jelavic replaced Akpom and later Hayden came on for Huddlestone. We were lucky to have quality to bring off the bench and Jelavic changed the mentality a little getting the ball to stick up front and offering an outlet for balls into space in behind. Robertson made an incredible run, nutmegging two, and creating a shooting chance for Aluko. Robbo can’t defend to save his life and he gifts them at least two balls in our half per game but sweet Jesus he can run. He picked up the MOTM award – I’ve genuinely no idea how. Meyler looked a sure thing at half time but I’d go with Dawson overall.
McGregor pushed away a deflected McCormack free kick. That may well of been the £11m striker’s (stop laughing) only contribution. Clucas missed a half chance from Elmo’s cross when he got the beating of his defender at the far post and then diverted his header towards Manchester. And then to the relief of everyone – we nicked it. Hayden dribbled past a couple on the edge of the box, the ball spun into the air, he lifted it towards the penalty spot, Jelavic won the header and Aluko was unmarked to crash home a finish off the turf [2-1]. On the balance of the whole ninety minutes, we just about deserved it but we’d spent the previous forty trying hard not to.
Full time: Hull City 2 Fulham 1
Ex-Tiger TC got a couple of rounds of “Cairney, Cairney, What’s the score?” for his trouble. That was a bit harsh but if you’re going to celebrate like you’ve just won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in front of your 150 travelling fans then you’re going to get it back, I suppose.
Despite a gloomy Summer, City have started impressively in the Championship. Joint top of the table, unbeaten in four league games, five in all comps and ten if you include friendlies!
I’m taking it game by game. Who knows who’ll even be here in a week? At the moment we still have a squad to challenge. We look very classy in parts. Perhaps Charlton away on Saturday would be an opportune time to look classy in both halves? It’s just an idea.