Hull City 1-2 Norwich City
It wasn't a dreadful performance. It was similar to Sunderland in that it was a bit lacking in spark and imagination. We were beaten by a very good away performance. Norwich had a big, solid goalkeeper, gave nothing away cheaply at the back, won the midfield and fed their quick wide men with great out-ball's and super service from Dublin's head. We weren't good enough to break them down and we were susceptible to their quick breaks. Even then, they didn't create a great deal until we started to chase the game, but we gave away a cheap first goal that played right into their hands. I thought Boaz was fouled by Huckerby as he bundled in a near post header, but regardless, we should've had someone heading it away. You can't let a corner drop into your near post area, its schoolboy defending. It was probably Norwich's only corner of the game. From their, they hit us on the break several times through Darren Huckerby, who's lightening quick. He made the second goal with a breakaway run. It was possibly offside, but close enough that he deserved the benefit of the doubt. We got men back, but stood and watched Huckerby cross the ball, while Etuhu ghosted in unmarked to head in. We looked easy pickings on the break and the midfield has to take as much responsibility. They weren't anywhere near as good as last week. For the second goal, someone had to track Etuhu and no-one did.
The referee was poor. That shouldn't be a surprise, 90% of them seem to be. His inconsistency was irritating. He penalised Dublin on 7 or 8 occasions for jumping into defenders, but let Doherty and Shackell do the same for most of the match before he pulled it up. If it's a free-kick against the attacker, it is against the defender. He bottled big decisions. Norwich defenders handled in the box twice and he gave free-kicks for pushes instead. The one against Elliott was debatable, against Windass, it was diabolical. Towards the end, we had a cast iron penalty turned down, the Norwich defender charged down a shot with his hands. There was no decision to make. When I've seen the first goal on the TV, he may have got that right, but from my view, it looked a definite push on Boaz. Following the goal, he booked Boaz for charging out of goal to question the decision. Every decision featured a question from a player on either side, yet no-one else was booked. Boaz can't even have said something abusive, because he had the card out when Bo was 15 yards away. Mr Thorpe, massive thumbs down to you, sir.
We were unlucky at times. We were poor in possession, but we did create some half chances and we didn't get the rub of the green. Ash hit the inside of the post with a smashing left foot drive in the first half and Deano hit the post twice in the second. Firstly with a brilliant deflection on Peltier's powerful shot and then with a sweetly struck free-kick. We also had numerous shots charged down. Someone ran over a black cat this morning.
The rest was our own fault. We created so many good positions that we didn't turn into chances. We had a stack of corners, possibly more than 10. I thought they were well delivered in general but we didn't look like getting on the end of them. Peter Taylor always had the players working on different (often ridiculous) set-up's and movements from set pieces and they were often confusing but surely better than we have at the moment. We look a bit static and rarely do anything different off the ball. From open play, Marney put in a super low cross to the near post late on, but no-one moved for it, everyone was standing waiting, there was no gamble.
Free-kicks were poorly delivered. We also had numerous opportunities to cross from open play, but we crossed from deep every time. Everything was hung up high but far too close to the goal and Tony Warner came and caught everything. It was catching practice and very, very poor. There is a lot of sense in crossing early at times, particularly with a player like Elliott in the side, because it gives the opposition something to think about and creates an element of surprise. However, if you use it all of the time, like we do, there is no surprise. We had opportunities to cross closer to the bye line but didn't take it. Combined with the poor delivery, it led to a frustrating afternoon.
Individually, no-one was awful and no-one was good. It was a mediocre performance from everyone. Forster was well off form, he didn't cause as much trouble as he generally does. Ricketts had a poor game. He sliced into touch several times and looked indecisive. His distribution is poor and it must be better because he gets a lot of possession. He's got a great engine and gets into good positions, but he's not making use of the ball. Andy Dawson was very good again. His goal was a beauty and he really deserves the run he's having. He's put in a lot of work to turn around his early season form and he's consistently been in the top 2 or 3 players on the pitch for the last 3 months.
The team selection was interesting. We had a chat this morning and wondered whether playing the same team was wise. We hardly put together back to back results. The opposition often appear to have us well scouted after a good result. With Barmby fit again, I wondered whether swapping Elliott for Barmby would give Norwich something different to think about. In fact, if I was in charge, I would've made that change. There's no criticism attached to the manager though, because it's hard to change a winning team, or to justify it to the players. He obviously decided not to change it, but it didn't really work. Norwich knew all about us. Their three in midfield nullified ours. Peltier in particular looked very poor this week, despite his hard work. He won some ball, but used it poorly. To Browny's credit, the subs made a difference and we looked lively for the last half hour. Vaz Te is a clown, but he causes problems. He just needs a better final ball. Barmby brings bags of enthusiasm and determination to the front line. He's not a great sub generally, because he doesn't get his game going, but he inspires those around him. Marney also had a positive influence.
It's disappointing to drop three points, especially when wasting a precious, precious home fixture. Unfortunately, we've now given the sides below us a bit of incentive to go and win tomorrow. In terms of positives, we still have a decent cushion and plenty of fixtures. The last half hour and the attitude of the players should give everyone a bit of confidence going into Wolves. We showed character to turn the game in our favour and we might have gotten something out of it. In fact, we should have got something out of it. Whether we deserved it is irrelevant, we pushed Norwich back and earned the chance to equalise from the penalty spot. We need to focus on the positives. We can play and although we didn't for most of today, if we can for 3 or 4 of the last 5 games, we'll be fine. Barmby from the start on Monday, please.
Ratings: Bo 7, Ricketts 6, Dawson 7, Delaney 7, Turner 7, Ashbee 6, Parlour 6, Peltier 6 (Marney), Forster 5 (Vaz Te), Elliott 5 (Barmby), Windass 6.