Hull City bounced back from last week’s disappointing defeat at Rotherham to clinically dispatch fifth placed Burnley at the KC Stadium.
|Haworth Park - A world away from the KC Stadium|
The Tigers have struggled against Burnley in recent seasons, particularly in Premier League meetings in which the Clarets have won all four games. Talk of hoodoos and bogey teams from City fans meant the game might as well have not taken place. Burnley should have just been awarded the three points! It’s all nonsense of course – an easy excuse for poor performances but it is at least a coincidence that they often come against Burnley.
Moses Odubajo – Harry Maguire – Curtis Davies – Andy Robertson
Ahmed Elmohamady – Jake Livermore – David Meyler – Sam Clucas
Mo Diame – Abel Hernandez
This was my second game of the day. I went along to watch “Hullclassico”. A Boxing Day local derby in North East Counties Division One between Hall Road Rangers and Hull United at a windy Haworth Park. The pitch was heavier than Jan Molby sitting on Jon Parkin’s shoulders which made for a pretty low quality game. It’s a decent setting though. They serve a decent pint which you can drink while you watch the game. It’s a world away from Championship football. Some positive. Some negative. That quality for one. There’s great honesty on display and bundles of effort which I appreciate but I also appreciate the quality you get at the top level. Hall Road won 2-1 if you were wondering.
For the first fifteen minutes at the KC, as Burnley tried to make an early breakthrough, there were elements of that earlier match. Burnley play unashamedly simple football. They put the ball into the channels for Andre Gray to drag centre halves out of position or they hit a long diagonal looking for the head of Sam Vokes or one of the wide players in behind a full back. It did turn City time and again but never looked like creating a goal. Harry Maguire coped well with Gray’s threat and our two full backs, disastrous last week, were tremendous.
The first half was scruffy. Neither side created much with only strikes from range by Boyd for them and Diame for us working the respective keepers. City worked the ball well up two thirds of the pitch but lacked a focal point up front with Diame wandering to little effect and leaving Hernandez isolated. Jake Livermore was the pick of the City players. He worked box to box tremendously, carried the ball strongly, passed well and was quicker than Joey Barton to everything. Barton resorted to assault to get anywhere near Jake but in his defence, it wasn’t his usual thuggery – just complete and utter inadequacy.
Half time: Hull City 0 Burnley 0
The Tigers started the second half well and worked crossing positions for Livermore, who brilliantly outfought Barton and Marney, and Robertson which saw Clucas and then Hernandez head wide. Before the break, we hadn’t always crossed when we had the chance, particularly from the left, and lacked bodies in the box. That was starting to be remedied. When we eventually made the breakthrough it looked a bit like something from Burnley’s “playbook”. Maguire switched play from right to left and Clucas showed them how to attack space wide before lifting in a cross that found Livermore waiting and he magnificently volleyed back across Heaton and into the far corner [1-0]. The goal came off the back of both sets of supporters trying to lift their teams. In fairness to them, the Burnley fans continued to be loud even after falling behind.
City really turned the screw after the goal and looked likely to add a second. Clucas wasted a brilliant crossing position after a fantastic dummy by Hernandez and then curled in a corner which Maguire met but headed over. The visitors then squandered their big chance to equalise when Marney’s cross was poorly back heeled in the box by Maguire, a rare gaffe, and Gray smashed wide from eight yards. The Burnley fans were so sure he’d score that they celebrated anyway. Diame wasted a great opportunity to seal it when he nicked the ball on half way and decided to shoot – from half way – rather than feeding Hernandez through. Hernandez made sure it didn’t matter though when he ran on to Diame’s pass on the right, cut inside and beautifully smashed in to the far corner [2-0].
Burnley made three subs, including the departure of George Boyd who got a lovely reception from the City fans, and despite Joey Barton being absolutely garbage in midfield, he wasn’t one of them. They did put a little bit of pressure on winning some set pieces and a couple of corners. Steve Bruce made some changes as you’d expect with another game in 48 hours and we ended up with Sam Clucas playing as the lone striker. I saw him do that job for Chesterfield against us in pre-season (stop shouting “It’s only pre-season”) and he was impressive. He’s got really intelligent movement and he’ll always offer a ball in behind. I think we underutilise him in that area when we’re struggling for strikers. He had a fantastic fifteen minutes and scored a clincher after Robertson brilliantly dribbled through them and passed to Snodgrass who, at the second attempt, hit the bye line and cut back for Clucas to lift the ball in off the bar [3-0]. He then almost nabbed a fourth when Elmo got in behind and laid off to him to miss the far post by inches.
Full time: Hull City 3 Burnley 0
It barely needs saying but this performance was a billion times better than last week at Rotherham. It’s hard to believe it’s the same group of players. There was so much more quality, composure and control of the game. We defended excellently, Maguire and Davies being almost immaculate, and completely smothered them in midfield.
It’s not particularly surprising though because it’s obvious that the problem with this City team isn’t quality. We’ve got that in abundance. It’s inconsistency. In some games, particularly away, we don’t fancy the battle. Last week I slaughtered the team – and rightly so, they were garbage – and picked out four players who I don’t think are having the right effect on the team. Diame, because he just doesn’t fit anywhere, Elmohamady and Davies because their contractual situation seems to be affecting their attitude and Huddlestone because he hasn’t been good enough for months.
Steve Bruce said this week that talks have started to sort out that contractual situation. If the club can tie down Elmohamady and Davies and end speculation about their future then I’d absolutely keep them. I should have said that last week really but it just didn’t seem likely. Both players need to show commitment to the club though – as well as the club providing it in return.
Hoodoo? What chuffing hoodoo?