So it wasn’t a bad dream…
Despite giving Lineker and co a miss last night it felt as if every news, radio and TV sports channel had formed an orderly queue this morning to remind me that ‘newly promoted Hull City Tigers secured their first Premier league points of the season with a 1-0 win over Norwich, despite playing almost 70 minutes with ten men’.
I swear the last eight words were added for the sake of pure spite, however factual.
But there is no dressing it up. It was an away day that was right down there with last season’s no-shows at Wigan and Stoke.
An afternoon that promised so much yet delivered so very little, the massed ranks of the Yellow Army afforded all too few opportunities to ‘let rip’. And it’s those hardy souls we should really feel for.
Twitter ‘chatter’ throughout the morning, and right up until kick-off, had revealed a yellow and green mass that – thanks to the club’s travel offer – had travelled freely and in massive numbers, and who were expecting a performance from Hughton’s men.
Quite a reasonable expectation it was too.
Alas we now know it never happened and instead the ‘chatter’ on the homeward bound journey had a rather different tone.
Would it be churlish to suggest that if yesterday is repeated on many more occasions, free tickets to the games themselves might be an idea?
Unsurprisingly, those who spent large chunks of last season bemoaning the ‘Hughton way’ have been given an earlier than expected chance to mobilise, and already the manager finds his team selection and tactics being questioned.
All a little early in the day if you ask me and, at the very least, the new players have to be given time to properly integrate. And Hughton’s hardly to blame if the players are unable to fulfil the most basic footballing function of passing the ball.
My only question mark would be over the decision to play Jonny Howson on the right side of midfield because, while clearly expected to ‘tuck in’ and bolster an already crowded centre-mid area, the square peg and round holes adage was never more appropriate.
As if to prove the point, Howson’s second forty-five was infinitely better than his first and he, probably more than anyone, looked likely to make the breakthrough.
But it was the passing (or lack of) that was the real issue.
No lack of fight, no lack of willingness, no lack of desire, but instead a horrible lack of technique when it came to shifting the ball from A to B.
Yes, we enjoyed huge chunks of possession when faced with ten opponents in the second half, but with the ball shifted so ponderously Steve Bruce’s two massed banks of four simply shifted across – side to side – ensuring there were no gaping holes and forced City to play in front of them.
In the midst of last season’s mid-winter downturn we found ourselves bemoaning the lack of quality in the side, often excusing the poor passing as a by-product of where we were in terms of Premier League spending power.
Alas that particular argument will wear a little thin if yesterday’s passing becomes the norm, but I still remain hopeful that things in that regard will improve as the team becomes a more cohesive unit.
One who suffers more than most due to a lack of precision is Ricky van Wolfswinkel; his role as a lone striker relying on quality service rather than the ‘feeding off scraps’ existence he’s enduring at the moment.
Again, I’m happy to convince myself – for now at least – that his limited amount of touches/chances are a result of the team’s general lack of cohesion, but there’s no denying he cut an increasingly forlorn and frustrated figure as the game progressed.
RvW’s one bright spot was obviously that bullet header from Javier Garrido’s cross, and if clutching at straws is your thing that was certainly something to cling on to. Two chances in two games, one converted and one met with a brilliant save – the maths concludes if we feed him he will indeed score.
The other talking point, the awful passing aside, was the penalty.
While it’s been construed as harsh in some quarters it certainly fell in the ‘seem them given’ category. For Michael Turner to get even close to wrapping his arms around an onrushing striker as a cross is floated into the box gives the referee a decision to make. Chuck a whistle-happy Mr Jones into the pot and you have a recipe for disaster – which it was.
So – in true footballing fashion – we need to write this one off as a ‘bad job’ and move on to the next one. There’s no other option.
Snap judgements based on two games might be for some, but for most – especially with a team that includes several new faces – time should be afforded before concluding the worst.
Was yesterday good enough? Certainly not.
Was it a sign of things to come? I don’t think so. *crosses fingers*
So let’s not panic or overreact. We’re still only five points off the top of the table.