|Bradford City 2|
|Hull City 1|
|Lewis OG (24)|
By Alex Scott
Mark Hughes reflected after the defeat at Barrow that his side “got sucked into a game that we’re clearly not very good at”. A refreshingly honest statement from Hughes, though one not entirely reassuring.
Not unlike former England cricket coach Chris Silverwood reassuring fans about their extensive scenario planning before the Ashes, “OK, we expected this” after Rory Burns was bowled first ball at the Gabba, Hughes’s quip, whilst I’m sure is true and well-meaning, does perhaps raise the question why City didn’t try to get better at pretty standard League Two-Ball.
Nevertheless, Tuesday’s game against Championship side Hull presented Hughes’s men with an opportunity to get themselves sucked into a game they were perhaps better at.
The intervening few days since the Barrow defeat saw City enter the loan market for Crystal Palace winger Scott Banks, who went straight into the side against Hull. The young Scot’s most recent experiences have come in Premier League Two for Palace, continuing a clear new recruitment strategy for the team.
He was joined in the starting eleven by Saturday’s goal scorers Jake Young and Andy Cook who came in to create an entirely new forward line alongside Harry Chapman and Banks. It was a notably aggressive starting line-up for City with Alex Gilliead joining Richie Smallwood at the base of midfield, clearly signalling an intention to take the game to Hull.
That said, Hull quickly got into their stride, and their pressing up the pitch quickly began to cause City problems as they tried to build out of the back. Hull gave up 500 passes against Preston North End at the weekend, but they dominated the ball early at Valley Parade as City perhaps showed them too much respect.
Much of the conversation before the game revolved around new City captain Richie Smallwood who left Hull in the summer, somewhat surprisingly until his replacements arrived in the form of Ozan Tufan (65 caps for Turkey) and Jean Michael Seri (42 caps for the Ivory Coast). And it was the high-profile Turkish midfielder who broke the deadlock with an excellent strike from the edge of the box which Harry Lewis did brilliantly to turn onto the bar before seeing it unluckily rebound off his back into the net.
City hadn’t done much of anything wrong to find themselves behind, but they were clearly second best and that stroke of bad luck had them fearing the worst.
Indeed, City were fighting some conflicting forces from history in this encounter: whilst the 2012/13 run continues to live long in the memory, outside of that season City have managed only five (5) wins in the past twenty (20) years, falling at the first hurdle on 15 out of their past 20 attempts. This looked set to be another early opportunity to concentrate on the league.
As the half went on though, Hull’s intensity dipped, and City began to come into the game. A couple of dangerous corners from the left foot of Banks, and a couple of snapshots from Young’s right began to change the momentum, and it was the head of Andy Cook which levelled things after a period of good play and an excellent ball in from Brad Halliday. It was a towering header from Cook, and certainly wasn’t against the run of play.
Then, after a period of intense pressure before half time with City’s 8th and 9th corner of the half, Chapman and Banks tried a short routine, playing the ball into Young who left the ball for Cook to sweep into the far corner. Cook had been a peripheral figure to this point in the half (2 goals from 12 touches!) but was clearly staking his claim for a starting role over new signing Vadaine Oliver.
By the end of the half City were clearly the stronger and Hull had completely faded away, their bright start a distant memory. Hughes will have been delighted by half time, even managing to celebrate with some keepy-ups just before the whistle.
His opposite number, unsurprisingly, was in far from celebratory mood, spending half-time making an emergency triple sub to try wake his team back up. And they were a more urgent to begin the half with Mallik Wilks quickly bursting through the centre of City’s defence, having a soft(ish) penalty shout turned down after a challenge from Romoney Crichlow.
Hull were certainly more urgent to begin the second half, but again without really creating much and fading again. Indeed, the first big chance of the half fell City’s way after an excellent run from Banks set up Chapman who fired wide from inside. Chapman is still to get firing in a City shirt, and it was a big opportunity missed.
Of all the positives from tonight – and there were many (not least Huddersfield 1 Preston 4) – Scott Banks’s debut performance was right up there. After perhaps only one training session with his new teammates, he was City’s most impressive player. The young Scotsman was a willing runner all day, and whilst very one footed (think Arjen Robben), he certainly knows how to use it. If this is a sign of things to come, City could have a game changer on their right flank, offering a dimension they’ve been missing since the injury to Emmanuel Osadebe.
Hull tried to turn the screw as the game wore on, chucking on new Colombian forward Oscar Estupinan in search of a goal, but it didn’t really amount to much at all, save a few blocks from the excellent Crichlow, and a clearance off the line from Halliday. Lewis recovered well from his bad luck early in the game and was impressive in the air but was never really called into action.
Indeed, for a side who managed to concede a 96th minute winner after scoring a 95th minute equaliser at the weekend, you could even say their second half was professional from City.
The overwhelming takeaway from the game was that City looked a very good match for their Championship opposition. They expertly limited the chances of Hull and were very well organised in defence, whilst being tidy in possession and threatening on the counter. They looked completely at home against Hull’s possession-based style.
You could say City got sucked into a game which they are clearly quite good at indeed. It may only be one game, but on this evidence perhaps Hughes and Stephen Gent have managed to build a decent lower end Championship team.
Whilst that’s probably hyperbole, it’s clear that Hughes was right when he surmised at the weekend that if City are to succeed, they need to be able to play more games like the one tonight, and fewer like the one on Saturday. They will need to do a better job dictating the terms of play than they did at Barrow, but on this evidence, if they can, there won’t be many teams at this level who can hang with them.
Categories: Match Reviews