Saturday, 8 August 2015

Hull City 2 Huddersfield 0: The view from the stands

Hull City bounced back from Premier League relegation just like they did the last time – with a 2-0 home victory. Here’s hoping the follow-up is somewhat different to 2010/11.

Pre-match the massive story was all about the absence of … Sone Aluko and David Meyler from the Tigers’ starting line-up! It was a brave call from Steve Bruce to leave out two of his established favourites, who’d had decent pre-seasons, for the two young Arsenal loanees but it was absolutely the right call.

City 4-4-2
Allan McGregor
Ryan Taylor – Michael Dawson – Curtis Davies – Andy Robertson
Ahmed Elmohamady – Tom Huddlestone – Isaac Hayden – Sam Clucas
Nikica Jelavic – Chuba Akpom

Curtis Davies probably owed his inclusion to the absence of Alex Bruce through injury but he grasped the opportunity and deservedly picked up the MOTM award. He was a towering presence alongside Michael Dawson and showed the sort of form that might have earned him England honours two seasons ago. At this level (I’ll try to stop saying that soon) this Dawson-Davies combination really is a class above and it showed today. Just before half time, Davies picked off a pass close to half way and calmly beat two attackers with a shimmy and a three-sixty. It showed a confidence and a swagger that he’s been missing for too long.

Isaac Hayden ran him close for the MOTM award. He had a fine debut alongside Tom Huddlestone combining impressive defensive responsibility with a hand in both goals. He’s a technically sound footballer and a good athlete and showed all of his facets. He needs to find some boots with actual, you know, studs but otherwise he was very impressive. He more than justified Steve Bruce’s decision to leave out Meyler, whose energy and tenacity weren’t really necessary in the first half, with an assured game in possession.

City dominated the first half with Huddersfield reduced to one half chance and very little possession. It wasn’t a high tempo attacking game but a snake-like slow squeezing to death. We stretched the game well and found the full-backs on the touchline time and again but there wasn’t always the movement in front of them to allow us to progress. As a result, we saw a lot of sideways and backwards which is fine if it’s with a purpose but it wasn’t always. We also tried to hit the ball in behind for Jelavic and Akpom early which was a ball that was always on but we never got it right and tried it too often.

City took the lead five minutes before half time when Hayden broke up play in midfield and fed Jelavic who initially ran at them down the right channel before laying off for Elmohamady. Elmo had a quiet game by his standards but put in a deep cross that Clucas met with a beautifully timed run exploiting the space left by the defenders who were all attracted to Akpom. Clucas met it on the volley which was saved but he stuck in the rebound [1-0].

Half time: Hull City 1 Huddersfield Town 0.

The second half was a complete reversal of the first period as a combination of Huddersfield discovering they had an extra man in midfield and starting to use him and our jitteriness in possession created mounting pressure on our goal and increased heart-rates in the stands. Jason Davidson, sporting the most ridiculous mini-bun on top of his head, should have equalised when Ryan Tylor (who otherwise showed a lot of quality) completely lost him from a ball over the top but the Aussie left-back panicked and volleyed over wildly when he had time to take a touch.

Huddersfield introduced the massive Ismail Miller off the bench and he caused plenty of trouble. His hold-up play created their first decent effort but Allan McGregor made a fine save from Jacob Butterfield – and pushed the ball well away from goal (Hurrah!) Miller then created a half chance for Wells as Steve Bruce replaced Taylor with Aluko in an attempt to get hold of the ball.

It was a substitution that worked well although Aluko had nothing to do with the clinching goal. Akpom picked up the ball and led a break away only to be clattered for about the 400th time in the game. He showed some really nice touches, good movement and a good awareness of how to play the position but couldn’t have a great affect because they kicked him from pillar to post. That free kick led to another which was taken quickly to Hayden, he found Akpom who played in Elmo and when his cross was cleared, Akpom picked it up in the box, took a step to the right and hammered an unstoppable shot into the far corner [2-0].

That goal broke Huddersfield and their keeper kept the score down with a smart stop from Huddlestone at his near post and a tremendous save to deny Clucas his second goal. It ended up a fairly routine win but it had been hairy for a while.

Clucas also took a while to get into the game but showed well for the ball, battled hard, made space for Robertson and took his goal well in almost “Stuart Elliott” fashion. Robertson had his usual couple of lapses but attacked well from deep and gave us some pace when it was sorely lacking in the first half. Huddlestone worked hard and had a couple of decent efforts on goal but still felt a little like he was playing within himself. Jelavic was quiet but looked much more interested than he has of late.

Greg Luer came off the bench for his competitive Hull City debut which was nice to see. The fact that the bench had three players on without league experience showed the lack of depth in the squad though. It’s great to see three kids involved (Dixon and Jahraldo-Martin were unused) and they all deserve a shot but a couple of injuries and we’re going to struggle to even fill the bench. I’m sure that’s Steve Bruce’s number one priority and he does have Moses Odubajo available now and Alex Bruce shouldn’t be far away.

All in all, it was a nice way to start the season in the KC sunshine. It’s way too soon to get carried away but a win, goals and a clean sheet is always nice. The crowd of 19,361 was very respectable too - given the chaotic nature of our summer and the price increases (though around 2500 Huddersfield fans helped).

Fancy missing games like these, eh?

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