Hull City returned to the top of the Championship, for 48 hours at least, with a fine 2-0 win at Ewood Park, Blackburn.
|(C) Hull Daily Mail|
Who’s your Hull City cult hero? I was asked to pick mine recently. Four names spring to mind immediately (I’m way too young for Waggy and only saw the last knockings of Billy Whitehurst’s time at City): Dean Windass, Justin Whittle, Ian Ashbee and Duane Darby.
Deano’s an obvious one and despite his controversial comments about the “Hull Tigers” fiasco, is still my hero. Ash is a club legend who battled to prove himself after each of his three promotions and two serious injuries. “Sarge” is arguably the most important signing the club has ever made. Darby might be a personal choice but I loved him after he took up the incredibly difficult task of replacing Dean Windass and his six-goal haul against Whitby and appearance on “Goal of the month” just cemented him as my favourite Tiger in a dreadful era.
On to a group of players looking to achieve cult following themselves. City made the trip to Ewood Park. A return of three wins from thirty trips, the last coming in 1986, mean it’s been far from a happy hunting ground historically. One of the scorers on that last victorious visit was a youth product called Steve Corkain who was making his debut. I’ve not seen every player of the last thirty years but I thought I was familiar with all of them. I have to say – he’s one I’ve never even heard of before.
Moses Odubajo – Michael Dawson – Curtis Davies – Andy Robertson
Robert Snodgrass – Jake Livermore – Tom Huddlestone – Sam Clucas
Abel Hernandez – Mo Diame
The one change from last week’s narrow defeat at Burnley was Huddlestone for Hayden. I’ve no idea why that was the case and there was no change of system to justify it. If the plan was for Huddlestone to get on the ball and make things happen – it didn’t happen during a dull first half. Blackburn were garbage. I was trying not to tweet it for fear of “jinxing” us but it’s true – they made Fulham look like Real Madrid. Jordi Gomez looked like he might pull some strings early on put if he was the puppet master, his puppet is knackered. It’s old and falling to bits. They seriously lack quality and the one player of any creative ability that they have, Ben Marshall, plays right back these days.
In spite of their uselessness and City’s superiority in possession, Allan McGregor was worked most of the two keepers. He saved low to his left from Marshall and later to his right from Craig Conway. At the other end, Jason Steele was tested only by Clucas’s tame volley after a lovely move involving Snodgrass, Hernandez and Odubajo.
City defended with calm assurance and had the majority of the ball but were clearly still playing within themselves. Hernandez was a willing runner but we rarely committed men forward and didn’t have enough of the ball in areas around the penalty area from where we could do damage. It’s always difficult to know whether it’s the manager or players holding something back but it’s clear that we go into away games showing a great respect for all opposition and like to feel our way into those games. It feels like we could dominate if we wanted but a level of caution is understandable given that not long ago we strode confidently into games at Rotherham and Preston and came unstuck against poor opposition.
An unmemorable half would have been anything but if Mo Diame had shot six inches lower on the half hour. He picked up the ball on the left wing, turned a first defender, put the ball through the legs of a second and then drove as a third and gave him another nutmeg before unleashing a decent effort from twenty yards that flew over. It was breath-taking stuff.
Half time: Blackburn Rovers 0 Hull City 0
If the team were restrained in the first half, they were unleashed after the break. Hernandez broke brilliantly down the right but ran out of steam as he hit the box and then Diame beautifully freed Snodgrass who faced one defender and had Hernandez in support but made a mess of a great opportunity. Robertson, who had a whale of a time roaming forward into the space left by the increasingly fractured Blackburn defence crossed for Hernandez who killed the ball instantly but shot powerfully wide of the near post. Next, Odubajo broke away and found Hernandez who set up Clucas to drive low and hard but wide of the far post. After a quiet forty-five minutes, we’d created four openings in the first six of the second half.
Just two minutes later and we’d lead. Snodgrass won the ball in our half and it found Diame who strode away, got a little lucky when his through ball was deflected rather than cut out and Hernandez raced on to the pass, rounded the keeper and slid into an empty net in from of the 1,311 City supporters at the “Darwen End” [0-1]. That’s sixteen goals for the season for “Abel H”, eitheen if you add his League Cup equaliser against Champions-elect Leicester and a World Cup qualifying strike for Uruguay.
Blackburn forced a couple of corners in response to the goal and Robertson had to clear off the far post after one awful delivery somehow bobbled past everyone until Ward met it but was denied by the Scot. The hosts would regret that spurned opportunity as Huddlestone dinked a pass over the top, Hernandez exposed their horrendous offside trap and as keeper Steele came out, Abel unselfishly slid the ball to his left where Diame stuck it into the once again open goal [0-2].
That was the end of the game as a contest in truth. City took their foot off Blackburn’s throat and with the usual raft of substitutions made it clear they were happy to see out a more than useful two-nil win. Tom Huddlestone, who’d put in as good a shift as he’s capable of, showed some magnificent touches and the again impressive Livermore added steel in the middle but produced a couple of moments that showed his tremendous vision. As City sat off, Blackburn were able to force some set piece situations, mostly awarded by the generous referee, and Dawson and Davies had to stand up to some balls into the box. McGregor made two fine saves from a powerful effort strike by Marshall and a dipping volley by Evans on their right.
City could have wrapped it up when Robertson, who turned up on the right several times in the game leading counter attacks, fed substitute Akpom but he shot straight at the keeper from six yards. I thought Akpom was offside but the linesman didn’t and it should have been buried.
Full time: Blackburn Rovers 0 Hull City 2
This game was won in the quarter of the game after half time. City’s ability to break in numbers at pace and composure in the penalty area put paid to a hapless Blackburn side. I’m sure it will lead to a discussion on just why we play with such tempo and quality only in short bursts but it’s hard to argue with the approach taken by Bruce given this was a fourth away win in five games and we are sitting pretty in a very competitive league.
Thanks to the joys of sat nav, I headed home via Rossendale. It’s a beautiful country road that twists and dips and in the last of the daylight, I was able to enjoy the combination of open fields and dense forest, the stone walls and the occasional building made of tough, local stone. There are worse places in the country to hear Radio 5 live announce “Hull City returned to the top of the Championship”.