Hull City 5-0 Southampton

Last updated : 15 March 2008 By Rick Skelton

It's hard to remember a more perfect afternoon spent watching Hull City. A bit of sunshine would have been nice but I think that's just being greedy. We've been thinking for a couple of months now that City were going to give someone a good hiding before long. We've been playing well and creating chances in most games but haven't really found that killer instincts. In the last fortnight, we've beaten Burnley and Scunthorpe easily at home and we should have scored more than we did. Today was different, we battered Southampton in the second half, never took our foot off the pedal and we were ruthless in front of goal.

It wasn't just the result that was perfect, there just seemed to be little things falling into place. Dean Marney had his best game of the season, while Bryan Hughes had a great spell late on and scored his first goal for City. With Okocha available for Tuesday, there is a real selection problem in the centre of midfield. Dean Windass returned and had a fantastic effect on the team. He fought and scrapped for everything and he inspired everyone around him. There's another selection dilemma up front. Most pleasing was probably the performance of Neil Clement. Wayne Brown has been terrific this season and replacing him is no mean feat but Clement stepped into his boots with great effect.

We started well as we seem to do at home. Saints created the first half chance before we scored a terrific opener. Marney' sublime pass over the top put Campbell away and he finished coolly as the 'keeper committed himself. Saints gave us a little scare, Stern John wriggled onto a through ball and shot tamely at Myhill and then John lashed in a fantastic volley but was flagged offside. To our credit, he barely touched the ball for the 75 minutes thereafter let alone finding any sight of goal. Saints aren't a bad side, they have some decent footballers and they were better on the ball under massive Tigers' pressure than Wolves were but they couldn't break through our excellent rearguard and they couldn't cope with the pace and movement of Fraizer Campbell. We dominated the chances for the rest of the half. We didn't create many of the clear openings we managed against Scunny but we created a plethora of opportunities to deliver the ball, from crosses, corners and throw-ins, our new secret weapon. We had a 10 minute spell in which we were a bit sloppy in possession, over running the ball and probably over complicating things a bit but once we got over that, we were magnificent. The work rate without the ball in the first half was incredible. There isn't a team in the division that works harder than we do and there isn't a fitter team either. We put incredible pressure on the ball. As mentioned, Saints coped quite well in midfield, but their defenders either surrendered the ball or booted it into touch.

In the recent home games, we've done the business in the first halves and cruised through the second. Today, we really applied the pressure in the second half. We used the ball well; every move had an end result, generally a cross, a set-piece or a long throw but also with plenty of shots on goal. We moved the ball across the pitch; we had great balance on each side and Dawson and Ricketts were at their best. Ash and Marney picked them out and both linked well with those in front of them. With Campbell chasing everything up front and the middle four putting more and more pressure on them, we kept winning the ball back and we didn't give it back easily. I thought one of the reasons we kept the ball better was the inclusion of Clement at the back. Wayne Brown obviously has a lot of defensive qualities but when it comes to receiving and using the football, Clement smokes him. He's very comfortable in possession, he doesn't panic on the ball and he tends to find a teammate with his passes. He and Turner collected a lot of balls ahead of their feeble front line and used it better than we usually do. Goals 2 and 3 will please Phil Brown. Managers love it when players score from set pieces. For the second week in a row, a long throw caused chaos, Garcia battled well and Pedersen lashed it into the roof of the net. Also like last week, Mike Turner headed in from a set piece, at least I think he did, I was busy watching the replay of Pedersen's goal on the big screen! Dean Marney hammered a fourth into the bottom left hand corner and then Hughes finished off a neat move with a curler into the top corner. We could easily have had more, most notably when Garcia forced a tremendous save and when Bridges hit the post late on.

Every player had at least a good game and they all worked well with each other, with the end result being a tremendous team performance. My hill was untroubled for the most part but collected 3 high crosses comfortably and made a world class save late on. Ricketts and Dawson were rock solid at the back and adventurous in attack. The Ricketts-Garcia combo is the best we've had on the right in 20 years. Both wings look great at the moment, 4 good footballers, lots of strength and stamina, good in the air and comfortable on the ball. The two wingers are a serious goal threat and when they come off the line, the full-backs attack the space left, Ricketts especially. It was a tough game to judge Clement on because there wasn't a lot of Saints threat but he did everything he had to do calmly and with some style. I can't remember ever seeing a guy in our back four who looked so good on the ball. In fact, he looks better on the ball than just about every midfielder we had between 1990 and 2006. Turner did his usual sterling defensive job and caused agro when he went forward. The only thing wrong with his play this season was the lack of goals and he's putting that right.

Ash led the midfield again and did a great job. He put his foot on the ball, he played the most efficient pass 99% of the time and he kept our game ticking over. He pulled out 1 or 2 great passes too. Off the ball, he played like any good defensive midfielder; he swept up in front of the back four, picked up loose tackles, tracked their runners and made tackles. Ash continues to improve as the season goes on. A lot of people suggest that the addition of Wayne Brown has taken some of the pressure off Ash and that might be true to an extent but I really feel that the addition of better players around him has challenged him to be better. He's braver on the ball, he doesn't panic and hoof it anymore (much), he's looking for a pass and he can be confident in those around him to receive passes and continue to move the ball on. There's also less pressure on our midfield because of the work rate of the front guys and the quality of the defenders. Marney looked strong alongside Ashbee. He worked hard as always but showed some real quality on the ball. He played some great longer passes and got on the ball high up the pitch. He looked like an attacking midfielder rather than someone trying to do a job that a Livermore or Walton would do. He needs to get on the ball in the last third because he can deliver a decent pass, cross or shot, which he did well today. He needs to work back and get a foot in, which he also did, but when he's doing that primarily, the game passes him by. Garcia was probably the least effective of our players but still really good. He struggled to get into the game in the first half but he made runs that created space for Ricketts to exploit and worked to help his defence. He went roaming a bit in the second half and found more of the ball. Pedersen look ungainly but has great feet and gives us good width. He just doesn't have bad games. He's deceptively fit and once he's moving, he's still quick. He's got a knack for scoring goals, like Garcia. Hopefully, he, Okocha, Hughes, Folan and Windass will be very strong in the run-in having missed some of the season.

Windass returned, replacing the injured Fagan, and gave Saints a torrid 55 minutes or so. He gives us a good physical presence up front, great work ethic and he'll compete for every thing. He didn't win much but he forced their defenders to head the ball back to us and our midfield did a great job of picking up those loose balls. Campbell worked well around him and also threatened to get in behind them often. Campbell was sensational. His work rate is phenomenal. Most kids who go out on loan from Premiership clubs have a bit of attitude and often look down on their temporary surroundings but this kid isn't like that at all. He's here to better himself, he's working hard, he's scoring goals and his all-round game is coming on a bundle. He's making better runs, he's rarely caught offside, his touch gets better by the week and he looks more able to bring others into the game. He's a credit to his club and his profession, he's selfless and honest. Michael Bridges made a rare appearance off the bench and did about as well as you'd expect in 10 minutes. He dropped off and tried to get the ball through to Campbell. He was unlucky not to score too. France played a super through ball into Marney, who initially looked to be clear but as a defender closed him down, he retrieved the ball, moved wide of the 'keeper and tried an audacious chip into the far corner; it just drifted wide where Bridges made a great run around the back and tried to squeeze it in but could only hit the post from a difficult angle.

We showed great spirit to bounce back from the disappointing Cardiff game with a super performance and a real goal-fest. It moves us up into 5th place, 8 points off the top with a game in hand. It's very tight behind us, so Tuesday's trip to Colchester is a great opportunity to cement our place. We have a tough run-in, with only 3 of the 8 games being at home, but we're showing a great level of consistency and real quality on the pitch. Hughes and Windass came back today, Okocha and Folan are back for Tuesday, Brown and Fagan won't be far behind them, Clement looked great today, Hughes got off the mark and Marney had an effective game and scored a great goal. We are looking really strong. What we have to do though, is continue to show the same level of desire and work rate as we did today. We can't take anyone for granted; every game will be really difficult. In terms of the season as a whole, today was a real highlight for the quality in the last third. Long may it continue!

Ratings: Myhill 7, Ricketts 8, Dawson 7, Turner 7, Clement 7, Garcia 7 (Bridges), Pedersen 8 (France), Ashbee 8, Marney 8, Campbell 9, Windass 7 (Hughes).