Hull City 2-1 Norwich City
We scored two nice goals. The first from a Norwich set piece at our end: it was cleared out to Windass, he passed into Garcia, who slid in Bridges down the right channel, Bridges burst away, then held up the ball waiting for support before sliding the ball back, Ashbee stepped over it and Windass hit a low curler into the right hand corner from 20-25 yards. Beautiful. It was well deserved, because we'd had all the play. Norwich hadn't managed a shot on target, while we'd had a couple of great chances and lots of passages of play that created opportunities to deliver the ball. Norwich chucked on Dion Dublin and started to hit the ball long. Within minutes, Garcia was shoved in the back, the ref missed/bottled it and Chris Brown flicked on for Dublin who belted in a volley from 20 yards. A great finish but it was an obvious foul. The sense of injustice multiplied by the fact it was Norwich's first shot.
Lots of City teams would've folded at that point. We were rocked back a bit, Norwich looked the better team for 2 or 3 minutes and managed a shot and a header that had Duke scrambling but we showed lots of fortitude to come back into the game. Another neat goal, Bridges released Windass, the Norwich defender pushed him wide of goal, he didn't panic, he just held up the ball before dinking a ball to the back post for the on-rushing GARCIA! to tap it home. The last 15 minutes was nervy, certainly far more than it should have been. We were a good 2 or 3 goals better than Norwich, but we failed to turn good situations into real chances. Our delivery was poor, Garcia had 3 or 4 good opportunities to put crosses in, Marney didn't make the most of our corners and free kicks and the final pass let us down often.
We were excellent at the back. Norwich didn't have the opportunity to create anything. We held a nice high line and we nipped their attacks in the bud. Delaney and Dawson cut out lots of passes. It's a while since Dawson looked that good at full-back. Neither were particularly composed on the ball, but took the no-nonsense option time and again. Lee Croft is a very good wide player, but Delaney didn't give him an inch. The only Norwich threat in the first half came from Otsemobor who stormed forward 2 or 3 times and Elliott didn't follow him. Michael Turner did everything we've come to expect from him. He headed just about everything and made a pair of great last ditch tackles when Norwich threatened to break. Chris Brown offered a very physical threat but Turner refused to back down and gave as good as he got. He was punished for a foul on the edge of the box when all he'd done was stand his ground while Brown backed into him. His partner was just as good. Wayne Brown is a great leader. He's always talking, always ensuring the line is held, offers help when his mates are in possession and applauds his defence when they've performed well. He's brave too; his last ditch block in injury time was a wonderful example. The ball bobbled around from a corner and fell to a Norwich player who must have thought he was scoring, but Brown flew across and was hurt making the tackle, as was Delaney who blocked similarly right on full time. The only blot on Brown's copy book may have been a penalty in the first half. I thought he'd handled in the box from a throw in, but the referee didn't give it. At the other end, he didn't give us a penalty either when Turner was tripped in the box. We'll call it even. Brown was the leader of the defence, Duke didn't give much help, he tended to come for the ball when Brown thought he should. Can we have Boaz back next week please? He's the better goalkeeper and there isn't a single reason for him not being involved. I wouldn't argue with any other decision Phil Brown made on the day, his starting line-up was right and he made the right subs at the right time. Duke for Myhill is the only exception.
We looked comfortable in midfield with the four, both in defence and attack. It meant we could play 2 up front and both combinations linked well, gave good options to the man on the ball and gave Norwich a real problem right across the pitch. Garcia scored and Elliott should've had two. Both wide players worked back well and looked a bit more alert than the last time they played at the KC. In the middle, Browny resisted the temptation to bring back Hughes, and Marney did about enough to vindicate the decision. He still disappears for periods, but he put in his share of tackles and made a few bursts from the middle. Ash alongside was excellent. He played the protect and destroy role very well and showed a few nice touches. Typically a few idiots jump on any slight mistake he made but refused to give credit for the numerous runs, tackles and passes he made that were crucial to the team performance. After all, that's what is important, the team performance and this one was as good as we've managed for quite a while. We pressed Norwich high up the pitch, starting with Deano and Barmby (and later Bridges) and continuing with the midfield four. Norwich don't tend to play route one football, but for 90% of the game they were forced to hit the ball far more quickly then they'd like. With the high line at the back, they weren't going to out run us and the back four connected with most through balls. Nothing clever, but strong, intelligent and effective defending, from front to back. On the ball, there was plenty to admire about City, generally when it involved Windass or Bridges. Ash and Marney were a bit static in possession. On occasion it wasn't so much "pass and move", more "pass and watch". Room for improvement in the middle, possibly with the return of Bryan Hughes.
That just leaves the front two. Barmby and Windass started again and probably struggled to get into the game. They worked hard and didn't do a lot wrong, but there was a bit of mobility missing. You sensed that any real threat might have to come from Elliott or Garcia. Bridges changed that. He pulled their defenders wider and made runs into the channel that opened up space in the middle. He generally passed the ball well and made good decisions in possession. He looked a real threat. He and Deano have good football brains and quality in possession. They looked a very good combination. I wouldn't bring Barmby back even if he's fit next week, I think Bridges earned a starting place with the performance he gave. Windass occupies defenders for every minute. Whether he's up front on his own or with a partner, he's a nuisance. He made one goal and scored the other and you can't ask for much more than that.
It's been a good start to the season. I think Browny would admit he made a mistake with his centre back choice against Plymouth, which cost us at least one point, but otherwise, we've looked pretty solid, capable of handling the football and we're creating good openings. It's nice to see a few players taking opportunities too. Elliott, Turner, Brown and Dawson have made the most of their chance and made themselves undroppable. We're 4 points better off than 2006/07, 4 points out of 9 this season, 0 out of 9 last. We're also 4 points better off than the corresponding games last time, when we lost at home to Plymouth and Norwich and lost at Coventry. Our current haul would translate to a 61 point season. Long may it continue.
Ratings: Duke 6, Dawson 7, Delaney 7, Brown 8, Turner 8, Garcia 7, Elliott 6 (Hughes), Marney 6, Ashbee 7, Windass 9 (Livermore), Barmby 6 (Bridges 8). Not Used: Myhill, Doyle.