Hull City 1-3 West Bromwich Albion
I don't think we deserved to lose today. We created more chances, we had more of the ball, we got into dangerous positions and we had numerous crossing opportunities. West Brom were very good were it matters, at the front and at the back. Their defence was quick, tall, strong and aggressive and the forwards lively, intelligent and pacy. There were two simple differences between the two sides. They had pace at the back, which nullified Folan and Campbell. We didn't and they scored the two crucial goals by breaking quickly and bursting past our defenders. At the other end, they made good decisions. They got the ball wide and whipped it in and they played great balls through the middle.
Our decision making was poor. We had lots of possession in key areas. In particular, we had lots of the ball out wide. We didn't get into the positions enough to cross effectively. Time and again, we crossed too early, giving the strikers no angle to run onto the ball. On other occasions, we over-played out wide and wasted the opportunity or we chose the wrong pass. Despite all that, we still carved out 5 or 6 fantastic chances. If we'd been as clinical in front of goal as they were, we would've won comfortably. Their keeper made 3 or 4 great saves, they kicked one off the line, Folan headed tamely wide, Ash headed over from a set piece, Turner lost his footing in front of goal, etc.
Today was a big test for City. It was always going to be a marker for how far we've progressed. In March, we didn't even give West Brom a game. The gulf was that big. Today, we matched them, at least. There's tons of room for improvement in our play. If we can make that improvement, we can continue to move up this division, of that there is no doubt. We're a good side at the moment, a worthy 8th to 12th places side, but if we can find that cutting edge, make better decisions around the box and deliver the sort of cross that we failed to do today, Bryan Hughes apart, we can challenge the top 4 teams.
Being in the South Stand, it was interesting to watch Bo Myhill today, up close and personal. He was super. He made a fantastic stop from Miller to stop us going under, took all the crosses you'd expect him to and swept up behind his defenders. His distribution was absolutely superb. Sam Ricketts had a mixed game. Chris Brunt gave him a torrid time in the first half, but he just about got his measure and in the second half, he pushed on and forced his oppo to defend. His delivery was generally poor, but he found the right positions often enough. Delaney tried to drive on to. He just doesn't have the quality of delivery that Andy Dawson gives you. There was an idiot in the South Stand who kept shouting "Get Delaney off" from about the 50th minute, which was grossly unfair. He couldn't keep up with Morrison for the second goal, which was about his only crime. He doesn't have great distribution, we have to accept that. He worked hard today though, he'll always give you everything. Turner and Brown faced their biggest challenge of the season. Phillips was a `fox in the box' before the term ever existed and Ishmael Miller has every attribute you could want in a striker. He's tall, powerful, skillful and fast. I thought they coped pretty well after the first goal. Miller only escaped once. Brown put his head in front of everything that moved, literally. Ryan France continued his comeback today. He looked excellent.
We didn't see much of the two in the middle. It wasn't a long ball game, but nor did the ball stick around the midfield very often. Both teams wanted to get the ball forward very quickly and did so with quick passing, or balls in behind the full-backs. Marney was pretty anonymous for the most part, save a pair of sweet dead ball deliveries. Ash was always buzzing around and picking up clearances. He didn't do a lot of ball winning; there wasn't a lot to do. I'd have to see it again, but for the second goal, Phillips had a lot of space in Ash territory, I'd like to see that one again. For the umpteenth game in a row, our two wide players were our best players. Hughes was excellent, every chance in the first half game from his delivery. He was calm in possession, ran strongly and passed brilliantly. Garcia made strong runs from deep, pressurized them in possession and scored a wonderful goal. He was guilty of over-playing too and making poor decisions, like the time he had space to shoot and players running off him to both sides, but bizarrely passed to the defender. He cut inside and caused problems. He caused the first of Paul Robinson's yellow cards, which might have been a straight red, it was a vicious challenge and he should have won a penalty in the first minute when he was shoved down in the box. He gets better by the game. If we can iron out some of his little flaws, he'll prove invaluable.
Folan and Windass, fantastic of late, were probably the poorest performers. Folan's first touch was utterly woeful. Time and again, decent moves broke down at Folans feet. In front of goal, both were wasteful and Folan was weak. If he'd been stronger, I think Caleb would've bagged a hat-trick today. Windass just struggled to get into the game. He couldn't win anything in the air and Folan couldn't get in behind them. When good balls went into their feet, they bounced off. Campbell didn't fare much better. Then again, the referee wouldn't let him breathe without blowing for a foul. He obviously had him scouted. Fraizers reputation preceded him. The ref had obviously scanned pro-zone and noting Campbells awful record of 1 foul conceded in 14 games, thought he'd better keep a lid on the young man's temper.
When you've got a good game of football and two exciting, committed teams, you've got everything you'd want, but football is never that kind. This morning, a West Brom fan with an IQ of 6 wandered into Soho Square and asked the FA if they had any jobs going. Someone, in their wisdom, sent him to Hull with a black shirt and a whistle. That's not actually true, I made it up, however it could be true. I'm not going to suggest the referee was biased, although he did get in the bath with the West Brom team after the game. He was awful. He was pedantic, he appeared to give West Brom every decision and he spent the last 10 minutes inventing offences. He did send of Paul Robinson but it was about 50 minutes after he committed GBH on Richard Garcia.
So onwards and, hopefully, upwards we go. Today shouldn't upset our momentum. The players have nothing to be ashamed of. West Brom will win this division; they are the best team by far. Rock solid at the back and incisive and clinical up front. We weren't outclassed by them. For a long time, we looked capable of beating them. It's going to be a tasty 2008 for City fans. Hurrah.
Ratings: Myhill 7, Ricketts 6, Delaney 6 (France), Turner 7, Brown 8, Garcia 8, Hughes 8, Ashbee 6, Marney 5 (Campbell), Folan 5, Windass 6 (Barmby).
Lots of crossing practice this week, please, Mr Brown.