Hull City 1-1 Sheffield United
We started 4-4-2 again, with Ash replacing Marney. We had a good attacking shape in the first half, but didn't really take advantage of it. For 2/3 of the pitch, we were calm and patient in possession and we built quite well, but in the final third we struggled again to find any quality. We looked better when we fired the ball forward quickly and picked up the pieces from the aerial battle up front. When we moved forward with the ball at our feet, we struggled to find gaps. Hughes was the major culprit, giving the ball away time and again. He's obviously not a left midfielder, but that's no excuse for being so careless on the ball. The only real chance we made in the first half came from a quick ball forward and a neat one-two between Deano and Campbell. Fraizer took the chance early but didn't get enough on it. He might have taken the ball on a bit, but it was bouncing and defenders closing in on him. Sheffield looked the same as us, comfortable in possession to a point, but with very little quality in the last third. The first half was a bit of stalemate with only half chances on either side. Unfortunately, they found the only bit of real quality: a great ball inside Brown, who was a bit flat footed, but couldn't really do anything about Stead's run in behind. It was a perfect pass, run and finish and we just had to swallow it.
The second half started brighter, we looked a bit more lively and moved the ball forward quickly. Windass and Campbell started to win more challenges and forced the Sheffield defence into hurried clearances. The equaliser came out of nowhere really. Campbell forced a throw-in on our left, Hughes, thinking quickly, threw it into Campbell, who was also switched on and when Campbell released the ball, he was booted up by a centre back. Windass finished calmly. The goal gave us a lift and we started to rip them apart. Livermore and Ash passed quickly, Delaney and Ricketts pushed up the pitch and Garcia, who'd been sluggish for 50 minutes, lit up like a firecracker. He ripped Naysmith to pieces for 15 minutes until he was withdrawn. We should have found a winner, Campbell headed an excellent Hughes cross wide, a gilt-edged chance and Garcia hit the bar after Deano flicked on Delaney's overhead cross. The advantage slipped away when Okocha replaced Livermore. We lost the impetus and the shape. Okocha wasn't fit, he didn't get involved at all and strangely, he didn't take a corner kick we won either. Injury forced Garcia off, which was a shame because he had his tail up. Featherstone slotted into a 3 in midfield and Okocha wandered around off McPhee and Windass. Sheffield forced one last chance when Delaney, in cutting out a dangerous cross, poked it towards the line before recovering himself to clear it off the line. Incredible bottle from the big man. We had a few long throws late on and if any side was going to win it, we probably were, but we couldn't create the killer chance.
Myhill had a very solid game. He collected almost every cross they put in. I can't remember him making a save though. We defended very well against 3 threatening strikers. They had Beattie in the middle, he's big and strong and provided an aerial threat, while the lively Webber and Stead worked from wide into what I think the old 'un's would call the inside right and left positions. We dealt pretty well with the threat, right across the back. The goal was the only time they looked like getting in on goal, although Webber twice forced great positions on the wide edge of the box. Turner and Brown dealt with the Beattie threat, they either won the ball or they stopped him doing anything with it. Delaney continued a very good run in the side with a super performance, at both ends. He's looking more confident in possession and starting to make runs on the overlap like Ricketts does on the opposite side. He was sound defensively, he didn't lose a one on one challenge all game. One awesome moment saw him nick the ball on the half way line, brush off two fouls and charge forward on the left. They would've needed weapons of mass destruction to take him down. Ricketts was a tad below-par. He didn't really get forward like he can. Garcia hugged the touchline a bit more than he sometimes does, so there wasn't always the space for Ricketts to overlap. He defended well, his only aberration was a needless foul on Beattie that gave Sheffield a free kick in a very dangerous area. Watching Wayne Brown is a great experience. He's always in control and always helping people. He's not the sort to just point and shout, he follows up everything. He makes himself available to receive the ball and he reads the game. There was a Sheff free kick in the second half that went into the box, Brown organised everyone on the edge of the box, constantly glancing to his left, knowing almost to the blade of grass where the ball was going. When it came in, he took a couple of steps back and across and nutted the ball clear. Superb.
The midfield missed Marney's drive. At times there was quite a big gap between the midfield pair and the front two. Livermore was quite, although he often is, he just goes about his business. His mate in the middle was absolutely tremendous. Whatever the opinion of Ashbee in the summer, and there were plenty of them, all different, he's blown everyone out of the water. Today he was an all action midfield player, who passed well, tackled hard and drove into the penalty box to force a great block (first half) and a great save in the second. He did a great job in our box, defending set pieces too. When we won promotion from Division Three, he looked out of his depth. Four years later and another level higher, he's improved beyond recognition. His use of the ball was first class. Garcia continues to be inconsistent. It's not a game by game inconsistency, it's almost minute by minute. In the first half he was quite, he struggled to get into the game and he slowed us down when he was in possession. Just prior to HT and into the second half, he came to life and started to run rings around Gary Naysmith. He delivered a bit of quality and fired up the crowd and his mates. Hughes, playing wide left again, had a rotten first half. He constantly failed to find an amber shirt. His set piece delivery was better, it was average instead of awful. Credit to the guy again, because he's mentally strong. Despite having a 'mare, he kept plugging away and eventually a couple of things came off for him. His quick throw led to the penalty incident and his superb cross was headed wide by Campbell. His move into the middle didn't really improve his general play. Nicky Featherstone got another 10-15 minutes. He's getting stronger by the game, last season he was very weak physically, but he did a good job in the middle and stood up to a big physical challenge. He's tidy in possession too. He had one change to hit a shot at goal but tried to pass and lost possession. He needs to have a bit more confidence and have a go. He's a good striker of the ball. I'm not quite sure what his best position will be, he doesn't appear creative enough to play off the front man/men, but is looking like a good prospect as a midfielder, he's developing a good all round game.
The front two, and later McPhee, toiled away, but didn't have a lot to work with. We couldn't feed Campbell the sort of pass we did on Monday and Sheffield had him well scouted. unfortunately the best chance fell to his head and not Deano's. Deano worked the centre back's but didn't get a lot out of them. He took the penalty brilliantly and played a few decent balls. Some of his passing was below par.
The manager picked the right team. We matched up well against Sheffield United and looked a good match for them. Whatever he said at half time was inspired. He fell over on the key substitution. We lost our momentum when JJ came on. I think in hindsight, Browny would have played him up front with McPhee, JJ in the midfield didn't really work. It looked as if the other 3 midfielders, deliberately or not, held back when he came on to compensate. On the whole, it's been a decent week. 4 points was the minimum requirement from 2 home games and we got it. We've got to translate that into good away performances against 2 sides that we are more than capable of beating. Having Pedersen back will give us a better option on the left and Folan gives a totally different threat up front. The squad is starting to take shape. We've got to keep picking up points, especially on the road if we're going to stay in the safe position with one eye on the top 6 or 8.
Ratings: Myhill 7, Ricketts 6, Delaney 8, Brown 7, Turner 7, Garcia 7 (Featherstone), Hughes 5, Ashbee 8, Livermore 6 (Okocha), Windass 6, Campbell 6 (McPhee). Not Used: Duke, Dawson.