Posts Tagged jan vennegoor of hesselink

Blackburn Rovers 1 Hull City 0

The storming performances against Manchester City and Chelsea over the previous seven days showed us how gloriously exciting being in the Premier League can be. Two clashes pitting the Tigers against teams stuffed with multi-millionaire players with world-class reputations – it was a double reminder as to why we spent 104 years coveting a place in the top tier.

However, many more games in this league are just a slog between teams too frightened to play expansive, attacking football in case they make a mistake. After all, concede a goal in a critical game and you can lose points, followed by your Premier League status and with it tens of millions of pounds in revenue.

This night in Lancashire was a particularly brutal war of attrition and the biggest, strongest and most organised side prevailed, without being forced to show much quality or adventure.

We set out with unchanged personnel and 4-4-2 formation for the fourth game in a row, yet the manner of play was starkly different to the trio of home games which had produced five points.

Where at The Circle we try to seize the initiative and play a fast-paced, pressing game, away from home we can’t replicate it, even when the line-up is the same.

We struggled to offer any sort of attacking threat beyond an early shot from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink that was well-struck and low but barely troubled Paul Robinson in the Rovers goal.

Of course, if George Boateng had not been ridiculously sent off for a clash of heads in the first half, the game might have panned out differently. However, that’s probably wishful thinking as we’d been second best up to then and there was no sign of breaking the stranglehold that Sam Allardyce’s team had on the game.

A final word for Phil Brown. His team didn’t perform but at least he made a positive change in the second half, subbing both full-backs and switching to 3-4-2 to try and sneak a point. If we’d showed more attacking intent in some other away games – dor instance Bolton and Manchester United – we could have snaffled a win.

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Hull City 2 Manchester City 1

It’s now indisputable: the present Hull City are a totally different proposition to the team that couldn’t beg, borrow or steal a win for such a long stretch at the back end of last season. More steely at the back, even without Michael Turner; a midfield that has some ball-playing craft as well as graft; and two strikers up front that even top teams struggle to keep a lid on.

It’s important not to overstate our mini-revival, or jinx it, as this was our first win for months, we’re winless away from The Circle and we’re just a few points above the drop zone. But there is a real feeling we’ve turned a corner, particularly as a very tricky set of games are behind us and Phil Brown is wisely sticking with a formation and a line-up that seems to be working well, rather than just working hard.

And just as we fully deserved to take a point off moneybags Chelsea on Tuesday, no one connected to even more megabucks Manchester City could argue they were unlucky to go home pointless today.

From the off, the Tigers were more aggressive and dictated the pace of the game. At times Citeh’s centre-back pairing just could not handle Jozy Altidore, who is becoming ever sharper now he’s a settled part of the team rather than a bit-part player, and both of them picked up bookings for hauling our American boy down on the edge of the box.

He looked emotional as he celebrated his first Premier League goal in the first half – slotting home from the edge of the penalty area after being teed up by Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink – and the relief of finally getting off the mark should lead to a few more goals before the season ends.

Teenage sensation Tom Cairney impressed once more with his awareness and composure on the ball. Suddenly we don’t seem quite so desperate for Jimmy Bullard’s return to the midfield, as hugely important as that will be, though it may be ambitious to expect too much of Cairney yet.

At the other end of the age scale, two old warhorses proved they still have the legs for three games in seven days, with Vennegoor of Hesselink dominating the aerial battle and George Boateng the best player on the park even if you ignore his winning goal, lashed home from outside the box. ‘Feed the Boat and he will score’.

What of the other City on display? Well, they finally took the upper hand for a 15-minute spell after their goal, Emmanuel Adebayor bundling in during a goalmouth scramble, and spurned a couple of good openings as the ball was lumped towards our goal in the dying stages. But for the most part their players put in the type of moody, lethargic shrug of a performance you’d more readily associate with Dmitar Berbatov at their cross-city rivals.

Just as the officials didn’t spot Rio Ferdinand’s elbow to Craig Fagan’s face off the ball against Manchester United, today they missed Stephen Ireland slapping the same player in the face which could have warranted a straight red. There may be some retrospective disciplinary action, as in the Ferdinand case, but having Ireland banned when Man City play our relegation rivals won’t help us in any way. Though judging on his performance today, his replacement couldn’t possibly be any worse.

You can buy the most expensive players in the world, you can fire managers, but you can’t shake the feeling that Manchester City are still years away from being a team to challenge for trophies.

As for Hull City, things seem to be clicking nicely thank you very much.

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Hull City 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2

January 31, 2009: Hull City face West Bromwich Albion at The Circle in a relegation six-pointer, taking the lead deservedly twice only to be pegged back twice due to terrible defending.

January 30, 2010: Hull City face Wolverhampton Wanderers at The Circle in a relegation six-pointer, taking the lead deservedly twice only to be pegged back twice due to terrible defending.

So nothng’s changed over these 364 years? Not exactly. The personnel was different: only two City players started both games, Dawson and Mendy. Wolves were undoubtedly more of an attacking threat than West Brom. And we were beset by problems which meant a draw in this instance wasn’t actually that bad.

With Kamel Zayatte ruled out with ankle problems, Amr Zaki not fully fit and Craig Fagan being injured in the warm-up, Phil Brown had to change both his defence and attack from the ones he’d have intended to field. Furthermore, Tom Cairney was making his debut, Stephen Hunt was trying too hard to show his loyalties lie firmly with his employers and not his suitors Wolves and Seyi Olofinjana was sat on a bench in Nigeria, watching the Africa Cup of Nations.

Despite the problems, I thought we put in a performance that just about deserved three points. It was refreshing to see not one but two strikers on the pitch, Jozy Altidore and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, the former creating both goals and creating a one-on-one for himself which hit the keeper’s legs, while the latter superbly opened the scoring from the edge of the box and looked dangerous in the air all game.

The problem with having 2 up front, and 2 wingers as well, is it places a huge burden on the 2 central midfielders to deal with the packed opposition midfield. George Boateng battled admirably but as an attacking midfielder making his Premier League bow Cairney understandably looked a little lost when balls needed to be cleared or tackles made.

And as the game wore on Wolves increasingly won the midfield battle and managed to push several of them forward to join their lone striker in attacks. Both goals conceded came from positions where we could easily have cleared two or three occasions, but from the midfielders just as much as the defence.

An option for Brown when we’d taken the lead again could have been to shore up the midfield and go 4-5-1, perhaps with someone like the hard-working Richard Garcia joining Cairney and Boateng in the middle, but I’m pleased he didn’t. He chose to stick with an attacking set-up, presumably reasoning a third goal would kill them off, and I’m not going to criticise him for that having seen so many ultra-defensive tactics from him.

This game wasn’t a must-win. It was a must-not-lose, and we keep just one point behind Wolves, the team we’re most likely to be able to overtake. Keep in touching distance with them for the next two games, against Chelsea and Manchester City, and with the return of Jimmy Bullard and the full fitness of Zaki we’ll be in with a strong chance.

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Which out-of-contract player Hull City should sign

After the signing of strapping free transfer Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, Phil Brown was quoted as saying he’s considering one or two other unattached players. But who should we go for?

We don’t need another forward now. We have enough ‘big man’ strikers (Altidore, Vennegoor of Hesselink, Fagan, Folan) and the little fellas to play off him (Ghilas, Geovanni, Barmby). There’s enough flexibility to pair up two of the hulks with one of the ball players dropping into midfield.

If swine flu ruled those seven out, we could card Featherstone and Garcia up top with Cousin stepping up to bench-warming duties.

Midfield is a weak point, though. Dietmar Hamman may be worth a look to check if he can plug the gap left by Ashbee’s injury. Boateng tries and succeeds sometimes; Marney and Olofinjana are not that type of player.

The right side of midfield also looks sketchy. Ghilas and Fagan can play there but neither are wingers. Former Everton player Andy van der Meijde is available and will presumably have dinked a few balls in for Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink in matches for The Netherlands over the years.

If we need full-back cover then Lauren and Lucas Neill are still without clubs. However, my own top tip, for what it’s worth, would be Michael Ball, released by Manchester City this summer.

He’s still only 29 and plays primarily at left-back but also in the middle. Most importantly he’s a nasty bastard and was vice-captain at Middle Eastlands last season, so he could give us the leadership that’s lacking without Ash in there.

He also has international experience – he possesses one more England cap than Michael Turner ever will and he represented Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1992, finishing second.

Finally, he ticks the most important box in the checklist for Hull City signings – he’s had some long-term knee injuries during his career.

What’s not to love about all that?

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