Hull City suffered a third defeat in five games with a tame and demoralising showing at Rotherham United’s New York Stadium.
It was a low quality contest for the most part between a home team who by their manager’s admission are nowhere near good enough for this level and the visiting Tigers who continue to produce performances that defy the ability in the squad and the flair and confidence on display just a few weeks ago.
What settled the contest were horrendous mistakes in either half by City’s full backs. Odubajo stupidly conceded a penalty before the break after he’d dallied in clearing a corner and tripped one of theirs. The corner itself came from Robertson stopping to appeal for a throw-in and allowing Danny Ward to progress down our left. Just naïve all round. Robertson then lost possession outside his own box in the second half allowing Joe Newell to rob him and smash home a second to add to Lee Frecklington’s penalty. The finish was outstanding but the situation utterly needless.
Whether Rotherham would have scored without our assistance will never be known but it looked unlikely. They’re a poor side who set up with five in midfield at home and rarely committed men into the opposition half. I saw on Twitter some of their fans moaning that Danny Ward hasn’t scored all season but when he’s asked to plough such a lonely furrow up front – it’s no wonder.
City were well below par with many of the same issues that blighted the first half against Reading. Slow to move the ball and unable to get it to stick up front so players could get up in support. Akpom did a particularly poor job of holding on to the ball, Maloney, who thoroughly deserved to start, wasted possession and set pieces with regularity, Hernandez and Elmohamady were passengers and Odubajo crossed poorly.
In spite of that, we should still have come away with four or five goals. Akpom missed a sitter from a Hernandez cross in the first half when he tried to chest the ball home about a foot off the ground. He then hit the post twice in the second half, once unluckily and the other really poorly, and also had a shot saved at the near post when Hernandez was wide open in the six yard box. Maguire headed wide from a late cross when he was unmarked at the far post. Along with over sixty percent of the possession and ten corners City had plenty of opportunities to impose themselves on the game but never did.
I was fuming coming out of the ground at the end and did call the players and manager some nasty names on the drive home but in the cold light of day, our situation is still a good one. We’re three points off the automatic promotion places at Christmas. I’d have bitten your hand off for that during the tumultuous summer.
The form is worrying though. I make this six games in a row that our performance has been at least half awful. Even the two recent wins were unimpressive. It isn’t a new problem either. Many of this squad were responsible for last season’s needless relegation and continue to let the manager down. Without being overly dramatic, with the January transfer window approaching, I really think that if Steve Bruce is going to remain as our manager then he has to get rid of at least four players and replace them with players who are hungrier to succeed.
I’d start with four players who are out of contract in the summer, who have been the subject of speculation and all but one of whom consistently defy their ability with their performances. Ahmed Elmohamady has been a disgrace this season. We keep making excuses for him because he has been a magnificent servant to the club but he just doesn’t deserve it. He performs when he wants to, he no longer feels the need to track back and he has the demeanour of a man who would rather be in Syria than Hull. His agent spent the last summer trying to engineer him a move away and he’s never been the same since.
Tom Huddlestone has been a useless facet of our midfield for most of the past two years. His career at City peaked with a virtuoso performance in the 6-0 drubbing of Fulham on Boxing Day 2013 and you can count the number of good performances since then on two fingers. Apt. He’s fallen from looking like an England midfielder to being a sub for a Championship outfit. I give him credit for fronting up – he was the first person to come across and applaud the away fans at Rotherham when many of his mates scurried off quickly and his manager didn’t leave the technical area. But his time here has been unfulfilled and he needs to go.
Mo Diame might be the most talented player to pull on the black and amber but he’s a luxury the Championship rarely affords teams. We’ve no idea where to play him because, really, you have to build a team around him. He’s not a grafter which is OK when he’s producing something magical but not when he doesn’t. He’s got a value and we’d be better off with the money and a midfielder who can complement or improve on the Livermore/Meyler partnership.
The last one who has to go is Curtis Davies. Individually his performances haven’t been as bad as some. But ever since Michael Dawson arrived at City and took his captain’s armband, he’s been a shadow of the player he was. He played well earlier in the season but he plays for himself. We’ve seen recently with Daws’s absence the lack of leadership in our defence. Davies should be filling that hole but he’s not interested in doing so. He’s annoyed that he wasn’t given a new contract when he was flying here and resents that no offer has come this season. He’s biding his time here until something else comes along. Both the player and the club deserve better than that situation.
I want Bruce to achieve promotion here again. I’ve always liked the man. However I’m losing faith in his ability to motivate this group of players. The Championship is a tough league and winning games in it is never guaranteed. I don’t take it lightly and never will. But this squad is good enough to win it. Not a game but the whole league. It has every quality required to do so. We’re not seeing it though. At some point, and it’s coming very soon, either the manager will have to go or the players he can’t motivate will have to go. I still have (just about) enough faith in Steve Bruce to keep him and get shot of them.