Hull City 3-0 Barnsley
The key to the performance was surely the midfield pairing. It's a well balanced duo, one right footed, one left footed, one attack minded and the other a bit more cautious. Plenty of equalities too, excellent work ethic, intelligent and calm in possession and mentally strong throughout. They were superb, an example to everyone around them. The rest of the team matched the work they put in. We were gritty when and where we needed to be and showed a bit of finesse too. Unlike Saturday, we found an end product. The first, a calm finish following Windass's delightful through ball and the second a piece of individual trickery after Livermore had won the ball high up the pitch. The nice, early finish made the second goal. It could have been more, we had plenty of chances. In the end, it was left to Marney to wrap it up with a goal his performance deserved. It was a testament to his athleticism and desire too, he worked incredibly hard for 90 minutes and yet still had it in him to charge 60 yards to get on the end of McPhee's pass. Livermore almost got on the score sheet too, with a brilliant free-kick that hit the post.
It's difficult to remember the last time we had a centre back pairing as good as the one we have now. In fact, I'm pretty sure I haven't seen one. For about the first time, Brown was better than Turner tonight and Turner was excellent. He read everything that dropped around the box, saw passes before the Barnsley midfield did and played a real captain's role. When we started to fade a bit in the second half, he moved up a gear and lead by example. For about 5 minutes, he seemed to head or boot every ball that dropped into our box. On plenty of occasions, we've sat on the edge of our box for 20-30 minutes when leading, often to our cost, but he pushed and pushed people to get out and fill the holes further up the pitch. Alongside him, Turner won 90-95% of his battle with Odejayi, who's a tough customer. The only time he lost out was when he gave away a very harsh looking free kick. He might have scored too, connecting with a great ball in from Garcia after a tremendous City move. Ricketts took a quick free kick, Hughes played the ball in, Garcia dummied and spun off to receive Windass' lay off and played the ball across the goal, the better chance was probably Campbell's in the middle, but he failed to connect. The two full back's performed to a very high standard too, which left the back four looking very solid indeed. Delaney deserves a ton of credit. He had a very tricky opponent, Mr Campbell-Ryce, and took a little while to get to grips with him, but once he did, he snuffed out plenty of threat nice and early and grew in confidence at the game progressed, until he was strolling forward time and again to provide an option on the left. He dealt with everything that flew over Turner and Brown in the air too. Ricketts had a quite attacking game on Saturday, but looked better tonight. I don't think it's a coincidence that it happened when Windass was recalled. Ricketts is Deano's favourite out ball and he found him a few times tonight. Ricketts can go either way and he commits defenders and gives wingers a real problem. He thinks quickly too, such as the aforementioned free kick and a similar one in the first half when he set Garcia up for an easy cross but the Aussie dallied for too long and the chance went.
Garcia is a real mixed bag. There are times when he works back well, wins headers in midfield and storms out from the back with the ball. He also finds a bit of quality out wide, as he showed on two or three occasions. At other times, he looks a bit ponderous on the ball, loses concentration and gives the ball away cheaply. He's worth a place at the moment because the good is just about out-weighing the bad. If he finds a bit more focus and composure, he really could be a quality player. He's got a great physique and he can move once he gets going. He just needs to make a better decision. He had two very similar runs into the box, one in either half. In the first, he had the time to shoot and instead went for the bye line and rolled the ball across goal. In the second half, he had men across the goal, but instead he cut onto his left foot and had a shot blocked. Those situations show just a bit where he can improve. On the other side, Hughes had another quiet game. Been out left doesn't really suit him. To his credit, he's working hard and making some important challenges, but he doesn't give us a great option on the left. Playing fantasy manager, I would've included Elliott for Hughes from Saturday, along with Windass for McPhee. It's hard to knock PB though, because we've won comfortably. It's also hard to understand how much Hughes gives to those around him, he's an experienced pro whose strong mentally and willing to put in a bit of graft. That must count for a lot. As a foursome, the midfield looked very solid and maintained a bit of calm on the ball when it was necessary. In fact, the back 9 used the ball well and passed short whenever possible. It didn't always work out, but it's better to try and be a braver and fail sometimes than to not try at all.
Up front, Campbell stole the headlines, but Deano was back and it showed. We were better for his introduction on Saturday and it was the same tonight. He gives defenders a hard time, he challenges for everything, takes the knocks (as proven!) and wins the team good territorial advantage. His use of the ball is second to none, he brings people into the game and when the occassion calls for it, he has the vision and ability to find a killer pass. He didn't really look like scoring but we did as a team and he was a big reason. The partnership with Campbell is a classic. Old head and young whippet. Campbell is a bit of class, he's got pace to burn, a cool head and intelligent running. He showed a bit of determination and trickery too. McPhee had a good 15 minutes, replacing Windass, and held the ball up well, caused a bit of aggro and made the third goal. The only disappointment in the game was that Nicky Featherstone didn't get his first goal in injury time. It'll come though, PB's got faith in him and it looks deserved.
Browny is in a great situation at the moment, because he's seen 13 good performances tonight and we have plenty to come back into it, JJ, HP, CF, JW, RF and of course, Ash. It'll be very interesting to see what Browny does with Ash on Saturday. Leaving out Livermore would be very harsh, but Marney's suspension might just make things a bit easier especially as Sheffield United is the sort of game where an Ashbee-Livermore combo might be a good idea. It's unfortunate for Marney that the suspension has come as he's building a bit of steam. So we go onwards and upwards. Tonight is an obvious example of our progress. The first half had plenty of eerie similarities to the game last August. The soft under belly though, is long gone. Just as against Ipswich, we were professional, mentally strong and calm under pressure. We defended stubbornly and remained a threat throughout. We didn't really look like we'd throw it away. I came away with 10 finger nails, all in tact. I wouldn't fancy being Phil Brown this week. He's got a selection headache, alright. Somehow, I don't think he'll mind one bit.
Ratings: Myhill 7, Ricketts 7, Delaney 8, Turner 7, Brown 9, Garcia 7, Hughes 6, Marney 8, Livermore 7, Windass 7 (McPhee), Campbell 8 (Featherstone).