Hull City 0-1 Sunderland
There's no one area to point the finger at. We're all over the place. On paper, we've got a better squad than last season, in every area but one, but yet we've not put together a great performance in 17 games. We can't defend crosses, we don't make chances, we don't win or keep the football, we don't put crosses into the box, it's just gutting. The manager will get slaughtered tonight but is it his fault? It's got to be hasn't it? He took over a squad that stayed up and had great team spirit, he's had a ton of money to spend and plenty of games, both in pre-season and in the league season, to get something out of them. He's got a great set of strikers but otherwise, on anything else but paper, the squad looks poorly prepared, poorly organised and devoid of ideas. We only play well when we're two down.
Delaney on the left of midfield was a strange tactic. God only knows what he was there for. If it was to stop their players getting crosses in, it didn't work. If it was to win headers, it didn't work. If it was to add height to our set pieces, at both ends, it was an abysmal failure. At 0-0, in stoppage time, Bo Myhill was time wasting. At Home. Not only is it a complete lack of ambition, but it didn't even work, because we still managed to lose. The goal was a ball over the top, no idea where Dawson had gone, but having Barmby left against a winger doesn't inspire confidence. Personally, I think Nick should have chopped him down before he entered the box, but he played fairly and we lost.
Individually, there wasn't a good performance. Bo wasn't tested really. All Sunderland's pressure saw great balls out into the box but they didn't get a lot of shots in, he made one good save late on. Ricketts and Dawson didn't stop crosses coming in. They defended OK in the box, but it was very desperate stuff. Mills is too small to play centre back, he didn't get near anything. Turner had a good second half, but he wasn't at the races in the first half. He's slow to react and slow to move. He's comfortable heading balls out, but weak physically and not good enough in the tackle. As a whole, the defence defended crosses pathetically, both in open play and from set-pieces. We didn't stop them coming in and didn't get close to heading them out.
The midfield hardly had a kick. Ash and Welsh put in a few tough tackles out of pure frustration, but in general, they didn't get near anyone. Only Welsh looks like he can pass the ball. We didn't put 3 passes together all game. Ashbee had a terrible first half, but came into the game later on, making a few tackles. Over 90 minutes, he was as ineffective as he's ever been for us. Delaney wide wasn't a disaster; he just didn't touch the ball. Fagan was garbage. He's so frustrating. He's got bags of pace, an incredible work ethic and a trick or two but he doesn't have anything upstairs. At one point in the second half he beat a man on the half way line with an exquisite flick over his head, raced 1 on 1 against a full back and tried to kick the ball past him and run around the other side. Except he wasn't quick enough and he kicked the ball about 15 yards, when he was 8 or 10 yards from the touchline. Such a waste. He failed to get a shot in when he had our best break into the box and on another occasion, he had 3 men in the box and chipped the ball into the south stand. He panics in possession or tries outlandish passes which cost us possession.
The Beast had a good first 15 minutes, when the balls into him gave him a chance, but after that, he chased shadows. He can link up play and we know he can score goals, but he didn't have a chance to hit on goal at all. Forster worked hard but again with nothing to work with. Everyone loves Barmby, he came on, got nothing into his feet and did nothing, same for Bridges. Barmby isn't the answer, the problems are deeper. Barmby is the 4th best striker in the squad, we need to concentrate on making chances for the other 3, because they'll score goals.
As for answers, that's a toughie. Bringing in loan players might help. Lee Hendrie is a good example, he's revitalised Stoke City. With this squad of players, we need to get two players in the midfield who can win and use the ball, which probably means Welsh and Livermore at the moment. We also need to get the ball wide, beat players and put balls in and that means getting good wide players and full backs who'll support and threaten. On current form, that must be Elliott ahead of Yeates, with France on the right and Mills and Ricketts at full back. Dean Marney has obviously got a ton of ability but absolutely no confidence, so we've got to get more out of him. Whether that means moving his Mum to Hull or having him 'round at Parky's for his tea every night, we need to try something. Parky hasn't impressed at all, but there aren't any outstanding candidates available and plenty of other clubs have sacked manager after manager and still ended up going down and down. The question is whether the players still have faith in him and will give everything for him and if they will, he should stay. Preston and Watford say they will, today states otherwise.
Ratings: Bo 6, Ricketts 6, Dawson 6, Turner 6, Mills 6, Fagan 5 (Bridges), Delaney 5, Ashbee 5, Welsh 6 (Barmby), Parkin 6, Forster 6 (France).