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.