Wow, what a win! We all know how important it was. Nobody outside the club could be sure how the team would perform after the enforced break; I don’t think we could have asked for more. Of course it wasn’t perfect, but whereas at the break we might have been fortunate to be ahead (even though in addition to scoring we had the best chance), at the end Hull could have no complaints about the result. Indeed, we should have scored more while Hull looked increasingly impotent, like a side that has forgotten how to win. For that the credit goes to Lee Bowyer and his team for the preparations, and to Lockyer and Pearce for their marshalling of the defence.
We lined up with Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce and Oshilaja in a flat back four in front of Phillips, with Sarr and Purrington the two missing out and on the bench. McGeady, Pratley, Cullen and Morgan made up the midfield, with Hemed and Bonne up front in what looked like a straightforward 4-4-2. With nine on the bench and three absentees, I’m not sure anyone missed out.
Both teams were pretty open in the first 20 minutes, perhaps adjusting to the situation and working each other out, which made it quite an entertaining spectacle although I suspect most of us would have preferred something tight and dull. Hull started the brighter but we did get into it after a while to suggest we could hurt them if we had enough of the ball. However, if there was a difference between the two sides, which ran through the first half, it was in the forwards’ ability to hold the ball and retain possession. Theirs could and ours couldn’t, with the result that we were unable to build pressure and found ourselves increasingly under the cosh.
We also found ourselves ahead after 20 minutes. A corner should have been dealt with by their keeper but he flapped and Pearce put his head in among the boots at the far post and bundled it into the net. Brave when it mattered, just what we needed.
We also had the chance to extend the lead when a ball across the face of the goal only needed a touch but Hemed arrived at the far post too late. But Hull were having the bulk of possession and for a period of time we seemed to wobble, giving away a series of free kicks. Oshilaja not only gave away a few but also seemed to get concussed with a clash of heads, then injure himself stretching to give away a foul just outside the box. For that period he looked flustered. But when their chances came Hull didn’t take them. There was an air shot, shots wide and over the bar.
At the break we were probably fortunate to be ahead, on chances and balance of play. But it wasn’t our fault that Hull didn’t take advantage of good situations and their keeper failed to deal with a cross.
Early in the second half our problem still seemed to be an inability to retain possession but as the minutes ticked by we were coping and if anything starting to boss the game and had the chances to extend our lead. A ball in saw Bonne in space in the area but he put the header wide. He really should have put that one on target. Then good work down the left saw Oshilaja in the clear only to fail to pick out a red shirt with his ball across. Of course we worried that not scoring again from such good positions would prove very costly.
The changes were started by Hull with a triple substitution after around an hour, including the introduction of Magennis, who proved to be a handful from the off. Our first change saw Morgan give way for Doughty. Morgan had done well but the change perhaps gave us the possibility to have someone capable of carrying the ball into their half. Not long after Purrington came on for Oshilaja, who had looked more composed in the second half, then Aneka for Hemed. We now had a couple of players capable of running past players – and Chucks announced his arrival by breezing past one of their defenders.
Going into the final 10 minutes it was Williams on for Bonne and Field for McGeady, who had played his part, with legs no doubt getting heavy. But through it all Lockyer and Pearce continued to repulse everything thrown at them, as Hull increasingly resorted to long balls forward.
The final spell was by no means comfortable, it never can be at 1-0 and we’ve conceded too many this season in stoppage time. But it was played out without disasters and we were all able to celebrate in our own ways, with Hull looking very down and out.
We’ll worry about QPR in due course. For now we hope everyone returns from Hull safely and Bowyer, his team and squad are able to enjoy the trip back. Pat yourselves on the back guys, you did yourselves and us proud.
Phillips – 7/10. Can’t remember a real save he had to make, but can’t penalise a keeper for that. Dealt with what came his way.
Matthews – 7/10. Tested in the first half in particular by their guy, who is a handful, but stuck at it and came out on top.
Lockyer – 9/10. Outstanding. Timely tackles and blocks, kept calm under pressure, my man of the match, just edging out …
Pearce – 9/10. Gave his all, scored the goal, and the fact is Hull looked progressively blunter as the game went on.
Oshilaja – 6/10. Has to be marked down slightly for the spell when he was conceding free kicks, picked up the yellow. Perhaps he was concussed. Certainly looked more composed in the second half.
McGeady – 7/10. Decent game, showed flashes of what we hoped he would deliver for us.
Pratley – 7/10. No shortage of effort as usual and sterling performance in front of the back four.
Cullen – 7/10. Tough test for a first day back and stood up well.
Morgan – 7/10. Pretty good stuff, given accolades by the commentator when substituted.
Bonne – 6/10. We did struggle to hold the ball up front and he failed to convert the good chance in the second half.
Hemed – 6/10. As for Bonne, and he failed to connect with the ball across the box in the first half.
Subs: Doughty (7/10 – made a difference with his ability to run with the ball and relieve the pressure); Purrington (7/10 – played his part, no mistakes I saw); Aneka (7/10 – would have been an 8 if he’d held the ball better in the final minutes when we were crying out to keep possession, otherwise was a real handful and hope to see more of him); Williams (7/10 – unable to see much of the ball once on but brought fresh legs); Field (7/10 – can’t remember him featuring but was only on for the period of seeing out the game).