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Watford 1 Hull City 2 (08/12/2012) 09/12/2012

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.

1. Dearest Reader,

I write to you from the lofty smugness of a job well done, for I have today finished insulating the loft with that fibreglass stuff which looks all lovely and pillowy and turns out to be made of needles and poison. Our experience of living in this lovely old house with its original windows and original doors and original roof and original draughts (we prefer to call them “indoor wind”, for that is a more accurate description) has been that a sea view does much for the soul but little for the freezing toesies. I do most heartily hope that my efforts today will be beneficial, for it was an unpleasant task not even the most rugged and grubby tradesman would relish and I trust that it will not have been in vain.

It was with great delight, however, that I discovered in my labour a suitable metaphor for our football team’s disappointing show in yesterday’s match. I confess that I may have been unduly excited by the prospect of seeing our continental starlets take on more of the soot-caked industrial folk of Yorkshire and teach them another lesson from finishing school. But I had forgotten my humility, for as in sport so in life, there is joy to be found in earning reward through hard work and honest endeavour. Before you can relax in front of a metaphorical log fire with toasted marshmallows, there are metaphorical lofts to insulate with stuff made of needles and poison…!

2. Sorry, had a funny turn for a moment there. Um…

3. Yes, anyway, I know that Steve Bruce looks an awful lot like the play-dough model of the Queen I made when I was seven, but this afternoon was a serious lesson in proper grown-up football. For if we’re being as demanding of ourselves as we ought to be, then we should conclude that we were sloppy and complacent for much of the game against Barnsley…and that we got away with it because our opponents weren’t good enough to take advantage. None of that here: Hull set themselves out to stick a spanner into every single one of our stock passing moves, while remaining patient and watchful and quietly potent when possession came their way. They were far too much for us, and that made for a fascinating tussle between what we are and what we might yet be, a revealing insight into how close we are to being the finished article.

4. For the first half in particular, we were so thoroughly second best that the pre-match confidence in our upwardly-mobile trajectory seemed like embarrassing teenage bullshit. Only our defence emerged with any credit, having just about resisted a rising tide of Hull pressure until the breakthrough was eventually made. The midfield spent its time attempting to thread intricate passes through an impenetrable wall of perfectly-organised blue shirts; the forwards made no headway with anything that we tried to send via more direct means. We are a stylish, exciting team, but there’s a danger we could also be one that never gets beyond half-baked: we were exposed here, made to look lazy and shabby and a bit shambolic. We ended it all a goal down without having had a meaningful shot…but, more than that, with a keen sense that these are the challenges of which promotion seasons are really made, that a crucial part of the season started here.

5. The response to that challenge was telling, fascinating…and ultimately rather confused and confusing. By the end, we’d thrown all caution to the wind, lobbed most of our common sense after it and were rooting around for some sanity to chuck away too. There is, of course, something laudable about a commitment to attacking football which extends to using a fidgety winger (Iketchi Anya) as your sole defensive presence at attacking corners and playing two at the back for the final half hour in an attempt to claw back a deficit…but it has a certain desperation to it as well, a sense that we’re employing tactics more suited to the cauldron of a cup tie than to the weekly grind of the league. It all feels a bit, well, silly.

6. Take a moment, though, to consider the fact that even though it was basically Tommie Hoban against the rest for a third of the game, we didn’t concede again. That boy, more reminiscent of Richard Dunne by the week, is quite a bloody prospect.

7. By the end, we’d hit the post and had one cleared off the line and all of that, and we’d looked a lot more threatening for the craft and touch of Almen Abdi. But we were still firing on too few cylinders: Matej Vydra was lost without spaces to stretch his legs, Anya frustrated again, Troy Deeney gave us too little until finally getting us a goal by, as far as I could tell, forcing the ball so far down Stockdale’s throat that it came out of his bum. Fernando Forestieri’s close-range trickery was what we really needed, I guess, but we have a vast enough squad that you’d hope for more method and less madness in solving these problems.

8. But it’s no fun if it’s easy, right? Seriously, no fun. We can do this, but we have to earn it. The best teams – the ones you remember in an instant – are the ones who came through fire to triumph. We have some growing up to do yet.


1. Hunsbury Hornet - 09/12/2012

Absolutely spot on, my old son. I haven’t been up in my loft for years, not since I sent the wife up there to get something, and took the ladder away. Which in some way explains why I can get to all the away matches. I did actually enjoy this game, and as GZ says, we can’t win all of them. I thought Hull were by far the best team to visit the Vic this season. And Dave Jones nearly ran me over at Hillsborough the other week.

2. Roger Smith - 09/12/2012

“Hull set themselves out to stick a spanner into every single one of our stock passing moves.”

An accurate description of the first half, and we made it too easy for them. Either we took so long to get into the danger area that a breakdown was inevitable, or we booted the ball upfield to a lone attacker marked out of existance.

When you win the ball back, you do need to secure possession. But then the aim should be to wrong foot the defence before it has had time to organise. Anya was far from perfect, but at least he was getting crosses in from behind the full back. Then it’s a case of whether the ball breaks for you in the penalty area, which yesterday it didn’t.

3. Vaughn Smith - 09/12/2012

Yes, agree with almost all, except for the start of Thunk 3. The wag who sits behind the goal in the Rookery who’s always got a few words of wisdom for individual opposition players/managers came out with an absolute classic. “Bruce, you look like Mrs Brown!” he bellowed. Lit up a pretty dire game really.

4. Mark - 09/12/2012

Beaten by a better side who got their tactics spot on.

Zola didn’t have any complaints and nor can we.

Cannot win them all and we maybe missed FF whilst Abdi could have helped the midfield by starting?

5. Paul Caruso - 10/12/2012

Alas for the second week running one is compelled to give our Southern cousins a lesson in Northern geography, it doesn’t all taper into a point beyond St Albans up here you know! York in East Yorkshire last week, Hull in Yorkshire this week, it may be a marriage about as popular as Morrissey and a bacon sandwich, but Hull is Humberside. Partridge moment over – carry on.

Ian Grant - 10/12/2012

Perhaps you could explain that to the Hull fans chanting “Yorkshire, Yorkshire…” on their way out of the Vic…? Presumably they got lost on their way home…

6. IainJ - 10/12/2012

Hull has been moved many times, Humberside, East Ridings, Yorkshire, East Yorkshire. Who knows where it exists now? Actually, wikipedia claims to know and regards it as East Yorkshire.

I’m not sure now is the time to mention that loft insulation has until recently been installed foc courtesy of non means tested grants? I only learned this after my neighbour had his done and i realised that rather than hanging up on the ‘sales’ calls, next time i should listen to what was said.

Ed (York 'Orn) - 10/12/2012

Humberside, joining principally East Yorkshire with North Lincolnshire (think Scunthorpe), was an abomination imposed in 1974, and ditched 22 years later following lengthy (but mild) protests. Most locals prefer to pretend it never happened.

Middlesbrough, on the south Tees so in North Yorkshire, joined Teeside in 1968, which became Cleveland in 1974. The later was abolished in 1996, though Boro fans I’ve spoken to seem keener to associate themselves with the North East, rather than the distant lot away over the Moors, and don’t consider themselves part of North Yorkshire, but they are.

Whilst BHappy is a fine source of football opinion, it does suffer a little when considering Yorkshire geography.

The Ridings is a Norse term for third, and traditionally there were 3 (North, East and West), surrounding York (which was in none of them). These days the area has been divided into four counties, with South Yorkshire invented and land being swapped around.

So current Football League clubs:
North Yorkshire: Middlesbrough and York (Scarborough is a former FL club)
East Yorkshire: Hull
South Yorkshire: Barnsley, Sheff Utd, Sheff Weds, Doncaster, Rotherham
West Yorkshire: Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield

7. jelboy - 10/12/2012

Mrs Brown – quality! Was trying to think who he reminded me of…

8. Watford110 - 11/12/2012

A very disappointing performace and loss but Hull were quite simply the better team. While Chalobah undoubtedly has quality I don’t think he adds enough in games like these and would much prefer to see the return of Eustace. Forestieri was missed hugely – Without his skill and trickery Watford didn’t look as if they would ver break down Hull.

9. Leonard Ectric - 11/12/2012

To be honest, as Godawful as we were (and we really were), if Hull really are the best we’ll see at The Vic this year then we’ll have no excuses for not making the top six. They had no business scoring, and 2-1 flattered both sides. They had turned up looking for a draw and we turned up assuming we’d already won. Yes, they choked us out of the game but with the confidence of our free-flowing attacking football we should have been able to find a way through. For all the depth in our squad, we looked anaemic without Abdi & Forestieri. One positive: I had my first chicken balti pie in ages and it was quite excellent.

Poor, poor game, and a damning statement on this division if that’s two of the best six teams in it.

Ian Grant - 11/12/2012

Don’t agree with your view of Hull at all: they might’ve been set up to deny us midfield space and they did that effectively, but the conclusion that they’d therefore come for a point is simplistic in the extreme. They spent far more of the first half in the final third than we did, building from that midfield base patiently and sensibly. Certainly, they were just counter-attacking after the break, but they had a lead to defend by that stage and some rather, um, excitable tactics from GFZ to defend it against.

10. Dave Jackson - 11/12/2012

It’s games like this and the one at Blackburn that make me despair at seeing young Sean warming the bench. Creative, sparky and great at free kicks, surely the boy deserves a decent run in the side?

11. James - 11/12/2012

I don’t really agree that Hull were much the better side, they just made slightly less mistakes than we did. In the first half they certainly had the better of it, but that wasn’t all of their making. Almost the entire Watford side seemed to be suffering from a bad case of heavy-first-touch and we continually gave the ball away through bad control and slopping passing.

After they took the lead Hull made the wrong decision to sit back and defend, which gave us the time and space to retain the ball and get our act together. They were rather fortunate to get the second – a bad error from Hall followed by a free-kick that came back off the bar and went in off Almunia.

After that the game opened up as we went all-out-attack and Hull were a little fortunate not to concede earlier than they did.

I don’t agree that Abdi & Forestieri would have changed anything either. In the first half every Watford player was making uncharacteristic individual errors. It wasn’t a problem with the balance of the side. Unless those two have some immunity to whatever malady befell the rest of them then I don’t think they would have made a huge difference.

12. Z Jackson - 12/12/2012

I think the lack of creativity was astonishing and despite the efforts of hogg chalobah no many chances were made. although in past games yeats has had better games (for his normal standard vs hull certainly wasnt one of them. i think forestieri was missed and vydra didnt have one of his best games but deeny seemed good and deserved the goal and surely if abdi was fit enough for the bench he could have started the game.

Ian Grant - 12/12/2012

The lack of creativity wasn’t astonishing: you just needed to look at what Hull were doing to prevent us from playing in the areas where we’re usually so creative. We were trying to thread the eye of a needle, which is why so many passes went astray; they took away all of our easy, stock passes and left us with only the most ambitious.

For me, Deeney needed to do a lot more: it was a game in which we didn’t have controlled possession and you need your centre forward to make the ball stick up front in those circumstances. That only happened very occasionally, despite his best efforts.

oldhorn - 12/12/2012

I agree with IG. What happened against Hull reminded me of the FA Cup game against Chelski when our Chinese loan signing, that Young Tom Clever Lee, was our hero. Going into that game with great expectations, every space he wanted to go into was already occupied by Frank Lampard. A lesson for Tom and an example of what happens at a higher level of football. Now then. Like him or not, Mr/Mrs.Bruce/Brown has had experience both playing and managing at that level and obviously instructed his players accordingly. Disappointing result? Yes,but not the end of the world by any means. Lessons learnt? I hope so.

p.s. I shall be applauding Mr Dyche this Saturday at Burn Lee even though my ticket there is more expensive than the one I’ve got for the game against Merchandising City.

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