Hull City hit the top of the Championship with an impressive 2-0 win at Brentford – a fourth successive league victory without conceding a goal.
That’s right, top of the league. It was a complete performance full of class at the brilliant Griffin Park. Brentford’s tight little ground is well known for having a pub on every corner (though one of them is currently closed) but its proximity to local houses meaning it’s barely visible from most angles, it’s quaintly shaped club shop and its brilliant little terraces make a must do experience these days.
Brentford are a tidy side as their league position in each of the last two seasons suggests and were going for a fourth successive win themselves. They play neat and incisive football around the box but aren’t afraid to launch the ball into the box from all angles at set pieces. It was a tough and varied test of City’s promotion credentials and they came through it with flying colours.
Moses Odubajo – Michael Dawson – Alex Bruce – Andy Robertson
Ahmed Elmohamady – Jake Livermore – David Meyler – Sam Clucas
Abel Hernandez – Chuba Akpom
Brentford edged a first half that City grew into after weathering an early storm. McGregor twice denied Djuricin with hands and then feet before an injury to Alex Bruce forced Harry Maguire into the action. I like Alex and he never lets us down but he’s a substitution waiting to happen. Maguire impressed again with his composure and positioning which meant he was rarely stretched. On the rare occasion he made a poor decision, backing off Vibe along with Dawson, McGregor saved comfortably again.
The Tigers were limited to half chances, Clucas and Akpom just failing to connect with crosses from the other and Hernandez shooting over from distance when others were well placed. Meyler appealed for a penalty for handball after his strike was charged down in the box but the ref, who was sensible throughout in fairness, waved it away.
Half time: Brentford 0 Hull City 0
Djuricin started the second half as he did the first and beat Robertson will on our left before shooting wide. It was their last attack for an age as City took control of the game. Visibly stepping up a gear against capable opponents isn’t something we’ve seen from many City teams down the years but this one did it with ease and you sensed there was more to spare too. Their keeper Button remained untested but the football was vibrant, Meyler and Livermore opened up the game and full backs overlapped on both sides to give the men in possession an option. Akpom was busy, took the ball well and moved past defenders easily but made poor decisions around the box.
Meyler had two shots blocked, Clucas looped Robertson’s cross over the bar and after Clucas slid Robertson in beautifully – a defender reached the ball along with Hernandez. Kerschbaumer replaced Vibe for the hosts who sensed the huge shift in momentum and were trying to arrest it. It didn’t work. Odubajo forced a decent save after playing a neat one-two with Hernandez before the pressure finally told.
Clucas picked up the ball and carried it down the left before playing a magnificently weighted pass on the run into space for Robertson who didn’t even have to take a touch, he just lifted it inside the near post [0-1]. Button had gambled on Robertson crossing and the young Scot called his bluff with a tremendous finish. That pass though. It was utterly gorgeous. I’ve been impressed with Clucas since long before he joined City but I wasn’t sure he had moments of this quality in him.
Brentford managed a brief response as a Kerschbaumer shot swerved away from McGregor but against the post and then City charged down an indirect free kick in the box awarded after McGregor picked up a back-pass. Given the length of time it took for the ref to get the wall back ten yards – stoppage time should still be being played. Diame replaced Akpom who was tiring and had been booked. He immediately created a shooting chance for Livermore, kicked “off the line” by a defender, but was barracked by some idiots in the City end for being “lazy”.
Huddlestone came off the bench for Hernandez as City went striker-less again and as some fans got antsy that the team might be sitting back, they instead took a stranglehold on the game with Diame utterly unplayable. Button saved a controlled Huddlestone volley from a cleared corner and then Meyler shot straight at him before the second goal arrived. A right wing corner was half cleared with Diame fighting for the loose ball. Maguire shot from twelve yards or so, Button failed to hold it and Clucas pounced to tap into the empty net [0-2]. The City fans went mental again and, with Brighton drawing at Hillsborough, the opportunity was taken to gloat about being top of the league. It doesn’t happen often.
Brentford were desperate for the final whistle and grateful to Button for keeping the score down. He managed to get a boot to Meyler’s goal-bound strike with his left foot and then punched away Diame’s shot at the near post after the Senegalese tank had turned Ryan Woods inside out.
Full Time: Brentford 0 Hull City 2
City’s form in the last 10 league games now reads: LWDDWDWWWW.
We’ve conceded four times in those ten games keeping six clean sheets. There is a real sense that things are clicking into gear and the team passed their toughest test of the season with flying colours at Griffin Park. However the next test is upon us immediately with promotion favourites Middlesbrough arriving at the KC on Saturday.
That’s for another day though. For now we need to savour a fantastic away trip to that London in good company watching City win from a proper terrace. Not even the desperate need of the Highways agency to close every motorway in the country every night could spoil that. And The Tigers being top of the league. Despite four promotions in the last eleven years – that’s still an all too rare occurrence.
Did I mention that we are top of the league?