City were held to a second successive goalless draw at home by an unambitious Sheffield Wednesday.
The visitors probably edged a tight first half but then came out in the second half a completely different team. Being wary would be understandable given our improvement in the second half of most games but this something else – fear. Sadly, The Tigers couldn’t punish their lack of purpose but it wasn’t for the lack of trying.
Moses Odubajo – Michael Dawson – Curtis Davies – Andy Robertson
Robert Snodgrass – Jake Livermore – David Meyler – Sam Clucas
Abel Hernandez – Mo Diame
City started brightly with Odubajo looking a real threat from full back and Snodgrass pulling the strings. Wednesday got behind the ball quickly when we attacked and the two holding midfielders dropped but they were leaving four up front to counter if moves broke down and when that happened – they shifted the ball quickly and cleverly and caused some problems. For all the good approach play, City’s crossing and passing around the area let us down time and again – particularly from Odubajo who is tremendous running with the ball and has great movement off it but his crossing can be anywhere between excellent and diabolical.
Wednesday forced the first save of the game when McGregor stuck out a right boot to spare Davies’ blushes after he deflected Forestieri’s cross goalwards. City went down the other end, Snodgrass opened up space on the right, Livermore found Odubajo and his cross fell to Snodgrass, now at the far post, who forced a save with a powerful volley. The game was swinging towards Wednesday who had a little bit more threat around the box thanks to the enigmatic but dishonest Forestieri. He forced a tremendous save from McGregor from a direct free kick at least thirty yards out and minutes later smashed the crossbar with a drive from equal distance but way out on the right hand side.
Half time: Hull City 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0
The Tigers improved after the break but were helped by their attitude. I genuinely can’t imagine what was said in their dressing room at half time. Something along the lines of “You’ve done well boys, you’re threatening on the break and you could win this so get ten behind the ball, stop picking out passes and waste as much time as you possibly can. Capiche?”
Forestieri hit another pot-shot early in the half that took a slight deflection but didn’t fox McGregor. Diame then took an absolute age to get a shot off and when he finally did, it also took a big nick and dropped just wide. Clucas then missed the best chance of the game when Robertson slid a ball in behind, their defender got himself completely confused and as the keeper closed the angle on his right, Clucas lifter the ball over him but it drifted into the side netting.
That was a big miss because had it gone in, they’d have had to get men forward and we could have exploited the space left. Instead, they continued to retreat and space in behind was non-existent. City probed, passing the ball left to right and trying to open them up but they showed a lot of discipline and we had to work hard to make half-chances.
A rare Wednesday foray down our right was brilliantly halted by a Peter Beardsley-esque sliding tackle from Snodgrass who then found Diame and then Livermore, on to Clucas who carried it over half way, gave it back to Diame and he played in Hernandez who almost looped a shot over Westwood from eighteen yards. Nick Powell replaced Meyler in a positive substitution before Snodgrass went down on the goal line heading for the box. The ref said there was no contact which meant Snodgrass should definitely have been booked but wasn’t. I can’t for the life of me imagine why he’d throw himself down in that position when he’d just nutmegged left back Bennett and was heading goalwards. Unless he was trying to get Bennett sent off as he’d just been booked. Snodgrass looked furious regardless.
Powell initially took up a position on the left with Clucas moving centrally but then Powell spent most of his time running from between Livermore and Clucas. He’s an odd one. He plays the game without any sense of urgency which is often a sign of quality but didn’t particularly help here. When he didn’t have the ball he was excellent putting in two great tackles (as he did vs. Arsenal) and piling into their giant sub Nuhiu as he tried to waste time in the corner. He’s definitely got quality on the ball but when it’s not coming off, he looks lackadaisical.
Wednesday became increasingly negative and subbed on Ross Wallace to do nothing but chase Andy Robertson towards his own goal. They were clinging on but it was a risky strategy as the indefatigable Clucas played a one-two with Livermore and stroked a lovely shot against the post. Davies then headed wide from the resulting corner and Hernandez tested Westwood twice before the end, forcing a close range block after the keeper had dropped a cross under pressure from Akpom (on for Diame) and then a comfortable save from a curling effort after Powell and Livermore had opened them up.
They managed to waste most of the last ten minutes and the five added minutes to hang on for a point but not before they’d lost Forestieri to his second red card in six days. He pulled back Robertson on the counter for the first and then “dived” for the second. He was actually jumping out of the way of a late challenge from Dawson so was a tad unlucky but when you’ve a reputation for cheating – these things will happen.
Full time: Hull City 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0
The result isn’t disastrous given the good away victory on Tuesday but it is disappointing because we bossed a huge portion of the game and suffered a similar fate to the last home game. This is going to become the norm between now and the end of the season so we’re going to have to learn the lessons from it.
I’d question whether Diame should be starting up front at home. As against Brighton, he was fairly anonymous. There’s no doubting that he’s often involved in our best moments but he’s deeply frustrating for the rest and his failure to get hold of the ball and keep it was a big part of them wresting the advantage in the first half. I’d like to see two strikers at home so we can press the opposition high up the pitch and to give our excellent wide players a target.
Regardless of that, our decision making and crossing has to be far better in wide areas. Snodgrass, who looks fitter, stronger and quicker than he ever has in our colours, and Clucas had excellent games but wasted a lot of good situations. As did both full backs who worked tremendously hard but lacked a decent ball in and around the box.
We need to pass the ball quicker, particularly when making forward passes before the opposition get themselves set. There were times we did it well in the second half but other times when we missed the opportunity and then had to spend time prodding and probing. When the opposition are determined to get ten men behind the ball though, it’s easier said than done.
Off the pitch, perhaps a full stadium might help? Once again, for a clash between the top side in the division and a rival and near neighbour, there were thousands of empty seats. At thirty-three quid a ticket and upwards it’s hardly surprising. I know the club are aware of the situation and they’re messing around with advertising and videos and such to try and entice customers (none of it mentioning our name, of course). However, they appear to be steadfastly refusing to do the most obvious thing. Drop the bloody prices. Ten, fifteen, twenty. Charge what you like. But somebody reading this please recognise that you cannot charge thirty quid plus for a game that is on the telly in the (nice, warm) pub and expect a crowd.
Whinge over. So, it’s a point. Two fewer than we wanted but one we have to take and try to build on. It’s handed Middlesbrough an opportunity to take control of the title situation but otherwise, it keeps our destiny in our own hands. We’ve played two of the top ten this week, picked up four points and not conceded a goal. We’re greedy so we want more but on reflection – that’s not at all bad.