The Tigers 100% home record this season was ended in a 1-1 draw with QPR at the KC Stadium.
Considering the quality in the two sides at Championship level and the fact both were relegated from the Premier League last season – the game slid under the radar. Despite having shed a large numbers of players between them, there was a lot of quality on show including England internationals Rob Green, Tom Huddlestone, Michael Dawson and Paul Konchesky as well as recent national call-up Charlie Austin and big money signings Mo Diame, Matt Phillips, Abel Hernandez, Moses Odubajo, Nedum Onohua and Massimo Luongo.
Both sides contained players they’ve held on to over the summer, some surprisingly, alongside young or unknown players brought in to replace those who’ve gone. Neither have been ruled out of the Championship promotion race but few are talking about them either. For two clubs who’ve enjoyed plenty of press in recent years, things are very low key right now and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Michael Dawson – Alex Bruce – Curtis Davies
Moses Odubajo – Tom Huddlestone – Mo Diame – Sam Clucas – Andy Robertson
Sone Aluko – Abel Hernandez
City had much the better of the opening 25 minutes with Sone Aluko looking back to his best and Andy Robertson marauding down the left. Robertson was our most potent weapon and Michael Dawson’s diagonal balls out of defence opened up the game and allowed Robertson to destroy James Perch for pace. The only way Perch was getting near the young Scot all afternoon was if he queued up outside the ground for an autograph.
Aluko forced a parry from Green, Robertson’s delicious cross just evaded Aluko’s outstretched boot at the far post, another cross was too high for Diame and Aluko just failed to gather Diame’s chip over the top. There was only one side making the running so obviously it was the visitors who took the lead. Tjaronn Chery’s tame effort from distance started a spell of slightly heightened ambition from Rangers who then won a corner which Cery planted on Austin’s head and it crossed the line via Robertson and the crossbar [0-1]. It was a well delivered set-piece but Curtis Davies let the best striker in the division get the run on him.
The Tigers took a while to get their breath back following the sucker-punch but driven by the energy of Clucas, Diame and Robertson they won a series of corners and slowly dragged themselves back into the ascendancy. Clucas was fouled on the left – it was a soft free kick if I’m honest – and Tom Huddleston delivered to the near post where Michael Dawson got the run this time and planted his header beyond the static Green [1-1]. Both sides had half chances from corners but Angella’s header bounced to McGregor while Alex Bruce’s flew wildly over.
Half Time: Hull City 1 QPR 1
The second half contained little to report. Despite visibly wilting and settling for a draw with half an hour left, QPR had the best chance to win it. Matt Phillips, who’d spent the first half being offside, finally got at Robertson who once again failed to cut out the cross which flew across the six yard box and as defenders tried desperately not to touch it, Chery arrived at the back post and volleyed it over from a couple of yards.
That chance aside, City made all the running and made positive substitutions including Akpom for Bruce (with a tactical switch to 4-4-2), Maloney for Aluko and Elmohamady for the rapidly tiring Diame. They weren’t able to turn the superiority of possession into chances. The football was pedestrian. The energy required to make purposeful runs with and without the ball was lacking and only Robertson looked likely to make something happen but he made a couple of poor decisions in good areas. Several corners came to nothing. Into four minutes of added time (lord knows where that came from) Chuba Akpom burst through two defenders and as Maloney and Hernandez made runs towards the six yard box, he pulled the ball back to the penalty spot. It was a tap in for anyone arriving but no-one was. An indication of the effect the exertions of Cardiff away and two long treks this week had taken on the players.
Full Time: Hull City 1 QPR 1
The result was more than fair in the end. Neither side could claim to have done enough to win it. There were no poor performances from The Tigers but few played at the level we know they can. The back three had another fine game. Alex Bruce stood out with some fine blocks and tackles but Dawson and Davies stood strong for the most part and Dawson’s passing was a very effective outlet with Robertson to aim for. Robertson is naïve defensively which is abated somewhat by the wing-back system but most disappointingly this season he’s been ineffective going forward. He put that right here with some tremendous rampaging down the left, phenomenal acceleration, outstanding ball control and one cross that was world class.
In tight home games, more energy from midfield and better movement up front will be required. This was justifiable with Bruce admitting he should have, with hindsight, considered changes despite the team wining well on Tuesday but is vital in future games. Aluko showed the vitality that made him such a threat at this level three seasons but Hernandez gave his usual mixed performance. He just often looks short of stamina. He battled well at times in the first have and produced a magnificent turn on the goal line that left the defender at Hull Station waiting for his train home. He was summed up in one move at the end of the first half. He held up the ball strongly and laid it off to Huddlestone who lifted it beautifully into the space behind and Hernandez turned and raced away. Heading for the penalty area, he then went without the ball and when it eventually caught up the defender recovered and Abel threw himself to the deck. Perhaps that fitness will come – Hernandez finishing a game is still a very rare occurrence.
Overall this felt like a reasonable opportunity to win at home that went begging but the point isn’t a bad one and with that mythical “judge the team after ten games” point approaching – City are just short of two points per game, third in the league and while playing quite well – have room for improvement.
Blackburn visit the KC Stadium next Saturday. Steve Bruce may need to consider re-introducing a back four at home to pressure the opposition switching to his 3-5-2 away to get numbers in midfield and counter attack in numbers. It’s a fine balancing act but we have players with the intelligence to take it on board.