Saturday, 16 January 2016

Hull City 6 Charlton 0: The best performance of the season

Hull City produced a ruthless display to dispatch struggling Charlton 6-0 at the KC Stadium – on a day where promotion rivals stumbled.

It was the most fun a City game at the KC has been since Fulham were walloped by the same score-line in the Premier League a couple of years ago. Not just because of the goals, and several were fabulous, but the utter dominance on display in all areas of the pitch and the quality of the football. I can’t remember ever seeing The Tigers move the ball better than they did at times today. The one touch passing and the movement to ensure a simple pass was always on was a joy to watch. In the first half Livermore and Hayden were pushed high up from midfield, Clucas was coming off the left wing, Diame dropped off the front and created angles that Charlton just couldn’t cover. They were pulled apart consummately and it was a pleasure to view.

City 4-4-2
Allan McGregor
Moses Odubajo – Curtis Davies – Harry Maguire – Andy Robertson
Robert Snodgrass – Jake Livermore – Isaac Hayden – Sam Clucas
Abel Hernandez – Mo Diame

In the opening six or seven minutes there was no sign of the dominance that was to come as Charlton started quiet brightly. Their front four, playing a sort of diamond, passed and moved with confidence. However eight minutes in their keeper, Henderson, chose to waste time by making Diame close him down before he picked a ball up. It was an obvious sign of no-ambition and it was punished seconds later when Middlesbrough loanee Rhys Williams (Cheers Boro!) dallied on a clearance and Hernandez charged it down and ran clear before sliding the ball under the advancing keeper [1-0].

The goal drew chants against the ownership of the club from the beleaguered Charlton fans and their mood wasn’t helped by Hernandez second before the quarter hour mark. He was allowed to stroll towards goal with the ball and as he entered the “D” he unleashed a lovely shot into the left side of the net with Henderson grasping thin air [2-0].

On 21 minutes the whole ground (Thank you, Charlton fans) stood to applaud the life of Rob Brown – a City fan who lost a brave battle with Leukaemia last week at just 21 years old. The club get a lot wrong and that’s a source of great frustration but their support for Rob and this beautiful gesture deserve much credit.

It was clear that all of the players were playing well and enjoying themselves. Isaac Hayden was having another very good game. David Meyler was unlucky to miss out after a good performance in midweek but I’d no issue with Hayden playing because he’s earned a start this week. He has a little tendency to over-play in his own half, obviously a habit they value at Arsenal where you always play to a man but that’s a churlish gripe. Steve bruce said after the game that he’d like to keep Hayden permanently. I suggested on Twitter a while ago that he’d be worth keeping for a small fee because he has plenty about him. That looked a fairly ridiculous proposition when he nearly went back to Arsenal last month!

City should already have been three up when Henderson saved a Hernandez volley from a Diame cross when Snodgrass did bag a third with a BEAUTY. Clucas opened up the game coming off the line, played a 1-2 with Hernandez and then when it looked like he’d missed a chance to play Snodgrass in, he gave the ball to the Scot who stepped inside and from the edge of the area curled a tremendous left footer beyond the diving Henderson [3-0]. The otherwise useless Williams headed just wide from a Charlton corner before City almost immediately made it four. Clucas was involved again returning the ball to a rampaging Robertson who hit the bye line and cut-back brilliantly for Hernandez to complete his hat trick [4-0]. Clucas lashed another tremendous effort just over before the ref relieved Charlton with his half time whistle.

Half Time: Hull City 4 Charlton 0

City have been guilty in many games this season, and throughout Bruce’s reign, of sitting on leads but today they were blood thirsty. Hernandez almost grabbed his fourth goal with a smart turn and powerful shot, saved, from a lovely pass by Robertson – guided through a crowd of players. Hernandez was tremendous. His touch for a near ten million pound player has been ropey but today it was silkier than Nick Barmby’s pyjamas. He’s clearly crucial to this City side and his return of fifteen goals for the season, fourteen in the league is outstanding. I still worry a little about his inability to complete ninety minutes. I make it just four times this season that he’s done so. It’s either lack of fitness or Steve Bruce being over-cautious.

Clucas, having his best game in a City shirt, should have scored after Snodgrass ran powerfully with the ball, slipped it inside to Diame and his touch allowed Clucas to cut inside a defender and leave just the keeper to beat. He tried to shoot right footed and spannered the ball into the stand. Harry Lennon then picked up a yellow card for an awful late challenge on Snodgrass before Charlton’s reprieve was proven short lived. A lovely phase of play ended with Robertson knocking the ball inside to Snodgrass who laid it off one touch and Diame half-volleyed it first time into the far corner from twenty yards [5-0]. On a day of lovely goals, this was the best of the lot.

Huddlestone replaced the (again) fantastic Livermore and City still kept pressing forward. Snodgrass had a shot deflected over, Diame just missed the target with another half-volley and Hernandez headed Robertson’s cross over the bar. After Aluko came on for Hernandez, who got an understandably tremendous reception, Hayden rounded off the scoring with another shot from distance [6-0]. This one looked pretty tame but left Henderson sat on his arse suggesting a deflection on the way.

Ryan Taylor came on for his first league appearance since the opening day of the season as City finally appeared to settle. They moved the ball well but without the previous purpose and ran time down. Charlton managed their first shot on target of the half and gave Maguire the chance to make a magnificent challenge in the box but the game had been done for a long, long time.

Full Time: Hull City 6 Charlton 0

There was a big cheer after the game as the scoreboard revealed that not only had Derby lost to Birmingham but Middlesbrough had suffered a late defeat at Bristol City. That completed a pretty perfect day. It needed Harry Maguire to thump one in to achieve actual perfection but this was close enough.

I’m not going to get carried away with this result. It should be celebrated, it was a phenomenal performance regardless of the opposition and their struggles. It’s also nice to finally give someone a good hiding – that’s been coming. It’s very obvious though that we have few problems at home. We’ve now won eleven and drawn two of fourteen home games. Our problems have been away, particularly at the homes of the division’s worst sides. We now face three successive away games, four with the FA Cup, and they will define our season. We’ve opened up a little gap on the play-offs now but that will disappear if our performances at Fulham, Burnley and Blackburn as pathetic as those seen last month at Leeds, Rotherham and Preston.

I’m sure Steve Bruce will be letting the players know that this week. For tonight he gets to sit back and enjoy one of the most attractive, ambitious and devastating performances of his three and a half years at Hull City. Have a glass for us, Steve.

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