Hull City 0-5 Wigan Athletic
We started brightly and for four minutes, we looked like we'd run riot. The team was the same as at Blackburn, with Folan replacing King (on loan from Wigan) and Brown replacing Gardner (injured?). Fagan linked well with Geovanni and played in a left footed cross that was cleared and then Geo slid in Fagan who shot hurriedly, and wide, from 18 yards.
Nightmare on Walton Street #1:
Wigan won a corner on our left. It's a miss-hit in-swinger, Ricketts moves out to defend it, realises it's going behind him and takes a wild swing at it, causing it to jump over Myhill and in. This will end up on your Christmas blooper DVD's. After only 4 minutes, it was a horrendous start.
We didn't let it get to us. The fans reacted well and the players got over it quickly. The game was even, as it would remain throughout, pretty much, and we were having some joy when the ball found Geovanni.
Nightmare on Walton Street #2:
City won a corner on Wigan's left. Dawson came across to take it and Ricketts, who's ALWAYS the guy who stays back for corners, inexplicably turned up on the edge of their box and then trotted across to assist Dawson with the short corner. They made a bit of a mess of it, but eventually Dawson delivered. Bramble headed it out and then one of their midfielders headed it on to Valencia, who, despite being 60 yards from goal, only had one defender in his way. To our horror, we realise it is Wayne Brown. Valencia skipped past him with ease and then raced away to slot past Myhill.
Again, the response was good. We kept plugging away and as half time approached we were on top and putting some good pressure on them, without ever really causing much alarm. Folan did well to get a cross in when the ball looked to be running out of play, but Geovanni didn't react and their defender poked it over the bar. Fagan linked well with Dawson on the left and delivered a nice ball that was just too high for Folan. Wigan looked quick and strong on the break and we gave them more opportunities to break than we should have. We were too direct (lazy) with the ball and it just didn't stick up front. Garcia was sluggish and the centre of midfield was non-existent for the most part. We seemed to lack communication, not just for the goals, but in general play. Too many players were happy to leave the ball to someone else rather than taking control. The lack of communication was odd as 10 of the guys played together all through last season.
We started the second half brilliantly. We put pressure on them, forced a corner and a free-kick in a good position and created two seriously good chances. First, Turner squandered a free header over from a corner and then Garcia was slipped in by Geo after Folan had robbed a defender, but shot poorly, too close to Kirkland. A goal was coming.
Nightmare on Walton Street #3:
Wigan won a free-kick on our right touchline, about 35 yards from goal. They switch to Valencia, who's in acres of space behind Dawson. He slides the ball across goal and our defenders let it run nicely for Zaki who takes a touch and gives Myhill no chance.
That was the killer goal, our heads went down and we couldn't wait for full time. We put on Barmby, Windass and Mendy, but none of them had any effect at all. Nightmare #4 came soon after. A long ball forward dropped to Wayne Brown. He either misjudged it, or tried to flick it back to Myhill, but whatever the case, the ball slid off his head and fell beautifully for Heskey to race onto, skip around Myhill and whack it low, through Turner's legs. Turner missed another good chance from a free header and then they made it five. Zaki hit a good shot form just outside the box. It hit the bar, bounced down and then spun away from goal. There was no appeal from Wigan, but the linesman, stood a million miles away on the opposite side of the goal, flagged for a goal. Nightmare. There was still time for Mendy to hammer wastefully over from close range when slid in nicely. The final whistle was welcome in the end. For the last 20, Wigan broke away at will and caused us trouble.
Myhill still hasn't made a save in the three games so far. I think that indicates that we've defended pretty well in general but when the oppos have had chances, they have been deadly. Being ultra critical, you'd wonder if he could've shouted for Ricketts to leave the first one to him. He had no chance with the rest. His kicking was poor today, but he had far, far too much of the ball and when he had it in hand, there was no movement at all by anyone who might want the ball played short. Ricketts was OK. He had trouble with Zaki in the first half but gave as good as he got. Quite what he was doing up for the corner that led to their second goal, I'll never know. I'm not sure if it was an on-field decision or it was planned, but whoever decided it was a good idea for Ricketts to be in that position with Brown exposed is a moron. Ricketts got forward into some decent positions but his delivery was poor, far too high and slow. It gave defenders a good chance of dealing with it. He needs to cross from a better position, closer to the touchline and with more pace. Dawson was having a fair game until the third goal. He didn't do anything extraordinary, but he did his job simply and well. I thought he was unlucky to be hooked for Mendy; he wasn't the worst defender out there. Turner had a tough time against Heskey, who won a lot of ball in the air and was bullish on the floor. I thought Turner did a fair job. He was always in the right positions and fought for everything but he could do nothing about the sort of mistakes others made. I'd have to see it again, but he might have done better when the ball came across for goal number three. Wayne Brown was very poor. Some of us spent the whole summer worrying that his lack of pace would be exposed at the top level and it was. As was his lack of height and abysmal distribution and he then threw in a very uncharacteristic error for number four. His best assets are his organisation and motivational skills but they were nowhere to be seen. It was a terrible reintroduction to the top level for Browny.
It's hard to comment on the midfield today, because for the most part, I don't think we played with one. Ashbee was poor. He didn't get anywhere near them, he didn't lead well and he didn't use the ball well. He was booked for petulantly kicking the ball away. Marney had some flashes of brilliance and to his credit, he ran his socks off and put his body in where it hurt but he just wasn't good enough. He wasn't disciplined enough to keep the team ticking over, keep moving the ball and trying to bring our full backs forward. He just tried too much, too often, and generally just hit long passes at their full backs. Between the two of them, they didn't pick up enough loose balls, didn't win tackles and didn't force us to play. Garcia was too slow; he wanted too much time and too many touches and then failed to use the ball constructively. In truth, he was pretty wretched. On the positive side, Fagan was very good. He held his position well, his first touch was excellent and he carried more threat than anyone else. He didn't give the ball away, he caused problems and he delivered the ball well, for him. It was reminiscent of some of the games before he left, both in his performance and the fact the rest were rubbish! The only negative for Fagan was the number of fouls he gave away. Some of them were really stupid. He needs to keep his discipline.
Folan put in a decent shift up front but he spent most of it chasing long balls. He wasn't able to hold up the ball like King has and he didn't threaten the goal. Windass made his first league appearance of the season and had a similar lack of success. Geovanni had a couple of really good spells, finding lots of space, picking the ball up and linking up with Fagan, but most of the game passed him by. If we're going to play him off a front man and then insist on playing the ball forward in the air, the ball has to stick up front so that Geo can get involved.
I thought the referee had a good game today. He kept his cards to himself and didn't over-react to anything. He kept the game flowing and dealt with every situation well. He was a touch inconsistent with a couple of advantages and I was baffled by the decision given against Fagan for raising his foot. The offence is dangerous play, not simply high foot.
A tough day for Phil Brown. He didn't have a lot of choice in the team selection, given the absence of Boateng, Gardner and King and the unimpressive form of Halmosi and Bendy. We lack quality in depth at centre-back, but again, that's something he's been trying to address all summer and has done what he can. Substitutions were hard today, given the lack of options on the bench and the situation we were in. I think he should've pulled Garcia off at half time and introduced Halmosi. I wouldn't have taken off Geovanni either; he was the only one with any spark. Again, he could've pulled Garcia and dropped Geovanni deeper.
In all, we shouldn't be too worried by the one performance. We look a different team with Gardner, King and Boateng through the spine. The lack of depth is scary though. At the moment, we look like we need another 4 or 5 players, as well as McShane, who signed today on loan. Phil Brown won't panic though. The break next week has come at a good time, it gives us a chance to get players fit and to rebuild a little bit of confidence we might have lost. The crowd were amazing today. The singing at the end was great. The players need to take that home with them, we believe in them.
Ratings: Myhill 6, Ricketts 6, Turner 6, Brown 5, Dawson 6 (Mendy), Ashbee 5, Marney 6, Garcia 5 (Barmby), Fagan 7, Geovanni 6 (Windass), Folan 6.