Saturday, 22 December 2007

Bye Danny

Be in no doubt, this was worse than anything that has gone before. Hull are a pub team and showed such little ambition that they should have been sent back home with nothing. As it was we were worse and it was only their ineptitude that prevented them from winning, despite the assistance they received from a gormless display by Danny Mills. We had one saving grace: it was surprising, given the news in the days before the game, to see Zhi, Ambrose and Iwelumo all make the starting line-up. Presumably they didn’t train much during the past week, so maybe they have some excuse.

We knew it was going to be difficult, with a team racked by injuries and a suspension up against a highly motivated team nursing a sense of grievance from the match earlier in the season. That is no excuse for an inability to show basic skills and to work to create space. The 11 we put out I believed were better players than that. Maybe I’ve been wrong. Far too often players were static rather than working to create space. Too many players just failed to perform. We had one attempt on target in 90 minutes, if we leave aside their goalkeeper’s only save (from a bad defensive back-header). The one, which was the goal, was the result of an awful piece of defending.

To recap on the game, the high point was Bryan Hughes taking a corner in the first half, to a mix of polite applause and boos (why on earth boo him? He wasn’t the best player we have had but never gave less than his best and we let him go). He managed to pass the ball out for a goal kick. There was a spell of maybe 10 minutes during the first half when we looked as though we were causing them problems. But it came to nothing. And just when you thought 0-0 at half-time was no disaster a clearance rebounded off Chris Powell to their guy, who finished with ease.

By that time Sodje had gone off injured, to be replaced by McCarthy. He managed to argue with Weaver and Powell, but maybe he was right on both counts. McCarthy actually went on to be one of the better performers. The second substitution came at half time, with Sam – who had been poor, beaten to the ball and seemingly intimidated by their antics – replaced by McLeod, with Ambrose moving back out wide. After looking so effective in the hole against Ipswich he had lapsed back to being peripheral in this game. Nothing much changed with him out wide, with McLeod doing nothing to suggest that he deserves a run in the team (or indeed that he should have been given the nod over Dickson).

The second half became a slugging match between two bad teams. We contrived an equaliser as a free kick was floated in after their entire back line pushed up and then retreated, with Bougherra putting the loose ball into the net. If it had been scored against us Pardew would rightly have been tearing his hair out. We didn’t look like scoring and Hull managed to avoid winning with a Keystone Cops moment towards the end when a procession of their players lined up to miss in front of goal.

In between came Mills’ sending off. Any hope of an onslaught towards the end went with him. You’d need to see the video replays to see whether he had been elbowed, punched etc in any number of incidents. Whatever. He ended up getting booked, along with a Hull player, for carrying on a verbal fued. And the ref finally tired of his language (I assume) and gave him either a second yellow or a straight red. It was totally brainless and cost us dear, reminiscent of Thatcher’s dismissal at Blackburn last season. At half-time a friend had said we will be the team to get a player sent off and we thought Mills could lose it. He managed to set dismissed not for decking one of their players but because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. If it’s a three-match ban he has presumably played his last game for us. Did he think a sending off and I can have Christmas and New Year with the family before leaving Charlton? It’s the only explanation that makes any sense.

After that getting away with a draw was a bonus. Hull deserved nothing. Even against 10 men they wasted time and failed to take advantage of a totally disjointed opposition. The fact that they are mid-table is a savage indictment of the lack of quality in this division. But if we play like that for the rest of the season it’s going to be horrible watching. The January window is open soon and suddenly Song looks not so much a good move as a necessity.

Player Ratings:

Weaver: 5/10. A couple of good saves, but it’s becoming monotonous. Hull knew he wouldn’t come for crosses, so they were able to drop them a couple of yards off the line. It could have cost us dear.

Mills: 1/10. Just no excuse. If you wanted to give us a reason to say goodbye Danny you just did.

Powell: 6/10. Less tested than against Ipswich and West Brom. Substituted late on for Semedo.

Sodje: 6/10. Didn’t last long enough to get a proper rating.

Bougherra: 7/10. Didn’t look totally convincing, but scored a goal and helped restrict Hull in the second half.

McCarthy: 7/10. Perhaps the only bright spot in that he came on and looked as if he could play a role in the rest of the season.

Thomas: 7/10. Flattered to deceive sometimes, but at least he looked as if he could deliver.

Holland: 6/10. Not bad, not great. No lack of effort.

Zhi: 4/10. Others disagreed with me, but I thought he looked a liability as one of a central midfield two. Lost the ball going forward too often. He may have not been fully fit.

Sam: 4/10. Very poor first half, no complaints about being replaced at half-time.

Ambrose: 5/10. As with Zhi might not have been fully fit. But didn’t threaten in the hole or out wide in the second half.

Iwelumo: 7/10. Struggled manfully with little support and no decent service, but looked as though the ankle was giving out again.

McLeod: 5/10. Disappointing. Did nothing of note and annoyed me by losing the ball and then standing and watching after we regained possession.

Semedo: 6/10. Didn’t look comfortable at left-back. Not really his fault.

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