Hull City 2-0 Burnley

Last updated : 05 March 2008 By Rick Skelton
It was a real game of two halves at the KC tonight. It was a privilege to witness the first half performance, surely one of the best from a Hull City team in years, perhaps even decades. It will probably be overshadowed by the second half, when the abysmal referee took centre stage and sent off four players.

City absolutely dominated the first half. It's no exaggeration to say we could have, perhaps should have scored six times. Campbell scored when Jensen let a harmless looking drive slide under his body and before the half hour mark. Garcia lashed in a second from 25 yards. Folan went one-on-one twice without scoring and Campbell went clear three times. Okocha fizzed a free-kick just over and shot wide when he should have done better. Forget six, we should have scored eight! Burnley were poor at the back. Whoever thought of playing a high defensive line with Okocha supplying Folan and Campbell should be sacked on the spot. Elsewhere on the pitch, they were poor because we were sensational. They had no answer to our quality. When we didn't have the ball, we closed them down quickly, from front to back, took up great positions to cut out any space and forced them to give up the football. When we had it, we passed quickly and incisively and we ripped them apart. Folan and Campbell made intelligent runs in behind, they kept themselves onside and they used their blistering pace to maximum effect. Folan won everything in the air too.

Okocha was chief puppet master, pulling the strings and providing the majority of the passes but he was aided and abetted by Ashbee, Pedersen and Garcia. The whole team showed a great willingness to accept the ball and to try and use it properly. We rarely wasted the ball and for the last 20 minutes of the half, it seemed as though every City move ended with an attacker running in on goal. Burnley had 2 half chances but generally failed to break through the wall of City players. The work rate was phenomenal, particularly from our two wide men.

The second half was bitty, understandably and descended into farce. Burnley had actually started the better and City looked unsure whether to go for more goals or defend. We defended well though and had started to find our feet again when Folan was sent off. He'd had a running battle with the talentless Stephen Caldwell since the thuggish centre-back kicked him, off the ball, in the first half. Ashbee had to physically restrain Folan from sorting him out. In the second half, following a corner, Caldwell collapsed in a heap off the ball. Folan was sent off. Caldwell only booked. I have no idea what he was booked for, if he was involved in a scuffle, he should have gone with Caleb but if he was the victim, why the booking? Not satisfied with being a thug and a useless footballer, Caldwell then showed himself to be brainless too. A minute after his team, 2-0 down, had gained a numerical advantage he pulled Fraizer Campbell back as he ran into space on the right wing. The second yellow was a given.

It wasn't just the red cards that caused frustration towards the referee. He was inconsistent, gave cards for some offences and not others, penalised the attacking team by not playing advantage, and stopped one team taking free-kicks quickly because the ball was 3 feet from where the offence occurred, but let the other team do it. Worst of all he booked Richard Garcia for diving when he was clearly fouled and then gave a free-kick at the other end when a Burnley player launched himself into the air after a City player barely breathed on him. He saved the best for last though. As JJ Okocha stood waiting to defend a free-kick, Joey Gudjohnsen ran 10 yards to grapple him. Okocha flicked out his arm, as if swatting a small bug and unfortunately for us, at the same time, a helicopter flew over the ground and a marksman shot Gudjohnsen in the chest, causing him to collapse to the ground. Don't worry though, disaster was averted. Just as I was about to dial '999', the referee called Okocha over to him and Gudjohnsen made a miraculous recovery. After consulting with his linesman, who saw nothing, Mike Riley sent Okocha off anyway. He then gave Gudjohnsen a second yellow card, either for blatant cheating or for being stupid enough to show dissent to a referee he'd just conned. It sticks in the throat that Okocha will now face a three match ban, while their despicable, cheating little weasel will only miss one game. Despite the circumstances, Folan and Okocha really should have shown more restraint and they've let us down badly. We'll now miss two key players for three games when the squad is already stretched. After all that, the second half just sort of ebbed away. Andy Cole headed against the crossbar, Dean Marney gave us an entertaining ten minute cameo and that was that, three more points, thank you very much.

Myhill had one of the quietest nights he'll have this season. Michael Turner was, with one exception, an absolute tower of strength. He won everything against Akinbiyi and Cole in the air. Wayne Brown also dealt with whichever of the lively front men he came up against. His distribution is rotten but he's an excellent defender. He loves a scrap, he likes getting involved with the striker and he's calm under pressure. Alongside them, Ricketts and Dawson defended superbly, barring the time Dawson turned into a Burnley forward when he was the last man. They didn't really have to get forward all that much, the guys in front of them were doing a great job by themselves.

Ian Ashbee had another good game in our midfield. He didn't have to defend as much as he has in the last two games but he worked as hard as ever and was reliable in possession. Garcia and Pedersen worked as hard as any City players I've ever seen. At one point, Garcia tracked his opponent back and across the pitch and ended up winning a defensive header at the left hand near post. The desire from the two to get back and forward is incredible. They then have lots of quality on the ball to do damage when they have it. Okocha was irrepressible. He floated around the pitch, he took responsibility on the ball and he produced with it 9/10 times. He showed the skill and verve we know he has and he produced killer passes. He doesn't have the legs he had but he didn't need them tonight because he found space everywhere on the pitch. They couldn't get anywhere near him.

One of the biggest disappointments from Folan's red card is that it will break up the very promising partnership he has with Fraizer Campbell. They were much better tonight than against WBA. They made runs that complimented each other, linked up together and looked to have a real understanding of where the other would be. The ban for Folan leaves us desperately short up front. You'd imagine Pedersen or Garcia will move up alongside Campbell, with Hughes or France coming in. That's assuming Windass and Barmby are still unavailable.

I just hope the referee doesn't take away from a magnificent City performance. I also hope that even without Okocha, the other guys continue to be as adventurous on the football and are brave enough to play the smart, quick passing game we played tonight.

Ratings: Myhill 7, Ricketts 7, Dawson 7, Turner 8, Brown 8, Garcia 7 (Marney), Pedersen 7 (Walton), Ashbee 7, Okocha 9, Folan 7, Campbell 8 (France).