Hull City 0 Burnley 0

A dreadful game with an end-of-season feel, only an enraged Frank Sinclair threatened to lift the boredom.

The precise method that I will need to use to move muck around in my front garden. The last time City played against a team playing their first ever league fixture. The current career path of former Big Brother contestant and subsequent anal specialist porn star Nichola Holt. These are some of the things that crossed my mind briefly between 3:00pm and 4:50pm this afternoon.

While City today secured a point that sealed Championship survival in mathematical terms, and while City today kept a useful clean-sheet against an expensively assembled strike force, these “good things to remember about today” are overshadowed by the sheer paucity of the fare on offer today. The game was an absolute shocker played out by two teams unable to string passes together and mount coherent attacks with any kind of frequency. Uppermost was Burnley Number 7 O’Connor, in the past a decent looking short-arsed midfielder of the Garreth Roberts ilk. But today he turned in the worst performance I’ve seen this season – by approximately three country miles – as he fouled unnecessarily and hit countless passes into touch, straight at a City player or aimlessly into no-mans’ land. He epitomised today’s game, a small modicum of huff and puff but barely any end product or entertainment whatsoever, other than the ability for the 19,926 in attendance to breath a collective sigh of relief and say “it can’t be that bad next time”.

City opened brightly with Stuart Green very much to the fore in a central playmaking role that his new-found acquaintance with the tackle allows him to play at this elevated level of football. We made two changes – nippy Duffy in for scurrying Fagan up front, half-decent France in for lost-looking Paynter on the right – and lined up:

Myhill
Thelwell Cort Delaney Dawson
France Andrews Green Ellison
Parkin Duffy

And the Tigers started brightly as Parkin was fouled, the ball fell to Green, the ref waved play on and the Cumbrian drove a shot straight at the broad Burnley keeper Jensen – a poor quality pretender to Parkin’s “Beast” moniker. From mini-beast’s clearance the painfully thin Lafferty up front for Burnley fed £750k man Andy Gray who sponged a shot well wide. Gray went on to be largely ineffectual and fouled a lot. Lafferty looked a decent prospect although I worried for his health every time he carried his voluminous shorts behind him like a dragster’s parachute brake as he ran after the ball.

Moments later Big Beast flicked the ball onto Duffy and as the Scotsman shot centre back Duff lunged horribly in only the general vicinity of the ball, the shot dribbled away and the referee quite amazingly waved play-on. This encouraged Burnley greatly and for the next 10-15 minutes they got very physical, a tactic which quelled the Tigers a bit but left the game bereft of any kind of entertainment. A few shots came in – Mahon shot wide for the Clarets, Ellison trod on the ball when eight yards out with a clear sight of goal, Green mistimed a run onto France’s flick and tried to chest the ball past Jensen, France had two chances in a minute deflected wide and saved respectively. But the game was a scrappy affair that needed a moment of inspiration, an utterly ludicrous refereeing decision or a rash leg-breaking challenge to liven it up. The ref had a go but to no avail, the other two failed to materialise. And so the first half dribbled towards a close with only a low cross by Branch cleared by Cort, a powerful shot by Parkin straight at Jensen and an Ellison shot just over the crossbar to raise the spirits. Rarely has the half time whistle been greeted so readily by the frankly bored supporters in attendance.

It got no better, not on the footballing front at least. The second half began with a spell of desperately poor football, the only glimmer of a goal chance came when Cort and Jensen challenged for a cross and Cort was surprised to find he had won the header and could only steer it over the bar. On the hour the crowd was finally roused by the antics of Frank Sinclair. The Ex-Chelsea defender seemed agitated from early in the first half and was wittering at the referee on a regular basis for seemingly nothing. An injury to Manchester United loanee right back Bardsley had seen Sinclair switch from centre back to right back so for the second half he patrolled the flank alongside the East Stand. A gesture or two from the defender saw a volley of abuse rain down on Sinclair and – remarkably for someone that has played at the highest club level – he seemed to really lose his rag. Seconds later he lunged at Ellison quite deliberately and nastily and earned a very obvious yellow card. Indeed he could probably not have complained if he had been invited to make first use of the KC after-match shower suite, such was the pre-meditated nastiness of the challenge. Super Kev rose to his feet gingerly and shook Sinclair’s hand, the ex-Leicester colleagues thereby demonstrating a rare moment of limb-eye co-ordination.

A minute or so later a deep City corner was cleared by Duff with a swivel of the shoulders and hips that appeared to cause him to handle the ball, but not much fuss was made by the players closest to the incident. On 64 minutes a regulation Burnley through ball wrong-footed the City defence as they pushed out and Lafferty advanced one-on-one with Myhill. The young lad never looked very comfortable with this situation, and rather than go to the trouble of attempting a proper shot, he just belted the ball at Boaz’s standing leg and the ball ricocheted well clear.

That was about it. Burnley’s fans got all excited when Mahon lined up a free kick from 30 yards, the recent acquisition from Wigan rewarded them by, err, thumping the set piece wide of the goal. Oops. Some Duffy persistence saw City win an unlikely corner, and after Green had an initial shot blocked the rebound fell to Super Kev whose shot was well struck but in comfortable saving range even for a lummox like Jensen. O’Connor then crowned his display of utter craptitude by receiving a poorly aimed headed clearance and swishing a 25 yard shot into Myhill’s grateful arms in the manner that one would normally lob a TV clicker to one’s partner across your front room. Ellison had one more shot saved and Andrews, otherwise excellent today, gave the ball away dangerously 30 yards out before McCann had his shot blocked.

With nine minutes left Taylor decided to change things around in an effort to create a goal, Fagan, Elliott and Paynter replaced Duffy, Ellison and France.

The game ended soon after.

This game reeked of end-of-season half-heartedness. As such no-one played specifically badly, they just collectively didn’t really play at all. Big centre back Duff coped with Parkin as well as most and the Beast doesn’t seem to be able to combine with Duffy as effectively as he does with Fagan. Andrews was the pick of the midfield, pick-pocketing tackles and simple-things-done-well passes being the order of the day. Thelwell defended splendidly but passed wastefully, a curiously mixed performance. Cort was a giant in defence and Delaney also played well.

Off to Derby now. Don’t be surprised if we see more of the same, with all nine division-changing positions just about confirmed mathematically we are in for some half-paced joggery against mid-table-and-useless Derby and play-off-bound-so-let’s-avoid-injury Preston and Watford.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Thelwell, Cort, Delaney, Dawson; France, Andrews, Green, Ellison; Parkin, Duffy. Subs: Elliott (for Ellison, 81), Fagan (for Duffy, 81), Paynter (for France, 81), Wiseman, Duke.

Goals: None

Booked: None

Sent Off: None

 

BURNLEY: Jensen, Bardsley, Sinclair, Duff, Harley, Mahon, J O’Connor, McCann, Branch, Lafferty, Gray. Subs: McGreal (for Bardsley, 39), Spicer (for Lafferty, 83), Hyde, Elliott, G O’Connor.

Goals: None

Booked: Branch, J O’Connor, McCann, Sinclair

Sent Off: None

 

REFEREE: D Drysdale

ATTENDANCE: 19,926

Burnley 1 Hull City 0

The Sky TV cameras made a defeat inevitable, but the Tigers put in another useful performance at Turf Moor and suffered ill-fortune in front of goal.

While it was far from the televisual spectacle that the Sky TV producers were hoping for, and while the Tigers were inevitably defeated once more in front of the live cameras, this was nevertheless a match that further demonstrated City’s continued acclimatisation to the needs of Championship, while at the same time exposing one or two of our players’ weaknesses. It was a match that effectively paid us back for our good fortune last week when Derby contrived to batter the Tigers into a … err, 1-2 victory. Because on a mild but blustery night at Turf Moor the Tigers had most of the best chances to score and controlled the game for long spells, with John Welsh continuing to grow in stature in midfield with another Man of the Match display. The fact that the Clarets’ sponsors for the night selected their Danish goalkeeper Jensen as their top man, said plenty for the way the Tigers dominated proceedings.

In fairness though, this was a match up of two mediocre sides. Burnley’s squad is paper thin and their necessity to select limited players was laid bare last night. I doubt that right back Duff would get a game for many of Championship sides, he lived up to his name, and their bench was populated by 17 year old wannabies. The long winter months may be difficult times for Burnley’s admirable manager Steve Cotterill. Meanwhile, the Tigers are still adjusting to their lofty surroundings, this sure isn’t the Fourth or Third Divisions. It is a league where flashes of excellence turn games and lapses of concentration are punished severely. This was to be the difference between the sides ultimately – along with some fine keeping by Jensen – and the reason for the only goal of the game.

The Tigers eschewed the double aerial threat that so worried Derby in the opening exchanges last week and swapped Big Ben Burgess for the more nimble Craig Fagan up front, but were otherwise unchanged as Nick Barmby returned to the bench. We lined up:

Myhill
Lynch Cort Delaney Edge
France Woodhouse Welsh Elliott
Brown Fagan

And it was the Tigers that started the liveliest as Burnley were rocked back from the off. This beginning mirrored the performance of supporters in the stands, as a raucous City following of around a thousand or so generated a decent racket behind Myhill’s goal while the Burnley fans remained mute even during the more exciting periods of play for the home side. For a ground that has a reputation for its fearsome football atmosphere it was a feeble show of non-support that not even the Sky cameras could explain. A poor showing.

Anyway, with 4 minutes gone a super City move was crafted as Fagan and Woodhouse combined on the left, the ball was played in field to Welsh in space 30 yards out and the Scouse engine room operative lobbed a sumptuous ball to the back post that was met by a meaty France header destined for the bottom corner before Jensen hurled himself right to tip the ball away for a corner, all of which occurred while fey ex-Chelsea “star” (in his own mind alone these days) Jon Harley looked on lazily. It was a pattern that was regularly repeated by France who performed excellently, while Harley – comfortable going forward with the ball – defended poorly, a Burnley weak link that could well be exposed several times between now and May.

As City continued to press Fagan looked lively and Brown had the better of his exchanges with the muscular Lowe in the Burnley defence. Most City attacks were however shipwrecked at the feet and forehead of Frank Sinclair, who is not a classic central defender (no more than five foot ten and slim of build) but who showed the reason why he enjoyed several years in the top flight with an imperious display. On 12 some tidy passing in midfield ended up with O’Connor shooting well wide from 25 yards. After more City attacks a Burnley move found Duff on the right touchline and totally unattended, his fizzing cross was nearly converted by an onrushing Claret midfielder. The half clearance fell to Hyde but his shot was wasteful and ended up high in the stands amongst the City fans.

The match turned on 90 seconds of play. Ryan France embarked on a mazy run that was only halted by a rather cynical chop by Hyde, and it was remarkable that a yellow card was not brandished (not for the last time in this match, which was refereed rather curiously by the preening man in yellow). When the free kick was rolled sideways to Delaney and the referee impeded Damien’s deflected shot, further salt was rubbed into the wound. The resulting corner was cleared and the ball switched up field by Burnley. A chance to cross from the inside left channel was deflected and the ball span and looped towards the edge of the City area where Akinbiyi lurked. Previously anonymous, Peter Taylor’s most infamous signing ever latched onto the ball, controlled it splendidly and swivelled to fire a low shot into Myhill’s side netting, all of which took place as Delaney loitered behind and neither attempted a tackle nor got tight as the defender’s manual suggests. It was a fine piece of forwardmanship by Akinbiyi, but it was also a piece of rank defending by Damien. It clearly unsettled Delaney and he failed to deal with Akinbiyi for 15 or 20 minutes after that, it was perhaps only Akinbiyi’s tiring limbs in the second half that meant that the ruddy cheeked Irishman wasn’t withdrawn for Marc Joseph. Crikey.

Empowered by their goal against the run of play Burnley grew in confidence as City struggled to break down the home side’s unadventurous five man midfield. O’Connor squirmed past a couple of tackles and planted a shot straight at Myhill, Akinbiyi just failed to connect with a back post header then Myhill half-punched away a cross that Cort could have – and should have – dealt with, the ball falling again to O’Connor who placed a low strike inches wide of the far post. It was only in stoppage time that City reasserted themselves as an attacking force as Fagan’s good work on the left opened up the chance for a deep cross to find France unmarked at the far post, but his first touch was not perfect and his powerful 12 yard drive was smothered by Jensen. The ball was swiftly transferred to the other end on the break and Welsh effected a remarkable hitch-kick tackle in the six yard box as he slid on his arse past a Claret that was poised to thump a shot goalwards.

Burnley got all adventurous at half time and brought on Gifton Noel-Williams to accompany Akinbiyi up front. Attacking the end that housed the City fans the Tigers once again assumed a general ascendancy with Burnley posing a danger on the break. Ten minutes in Chris Brown nicked the ball off Lowe and was presented with undefended space 20 yards out. The ball begged to be lashed goalwards but instead Brown tried to twist and turn to fashion a better scoring opportunity. This merely precipitated the retreat of the entire Burnley defence and by the time Brown did get around to shooting his effort was so weak that it was trapped by Jensen with his foot. Burgess came on for Brown two minutes later, it was hardly a surprise.

Stuart Elliott had made little impression in the first half and with Barmby and Ellison warming up vigorously it was perhaps time for his night’s work to come to and end as well. Yet within 30 seconds of his introduction Burgess had won two good headers, the second of which fell to Elliott 30 yards out wide left. The Ulsterman rarely needs multiple invitations to shoot on goal, and his powerful clop whizzed past Jensen’s upstretched hand and struck the top of the crossbar. It was a moment of magic that seemed to rock Burnley on their heels a little, and the Tigers proceeded to enjoy a decent spell of form, with Welsh at the heart of things in a playmaker midfielder role. That said, the next passage of play saw Noel-Williams head wide when unmarked deep in the City box. But the Burnley panic was given further impetus when Fagan tricked Sinclair and set up a chance to run at the keeper that was only denied by a cynical rugby tackle by the ex-Leicester favourite. It was as clear a yellow card offence as you are ever likely to see, yet the referee shamefully allowed Sinclair to get away with a mild ticking off.

Action time. Barmby on, the hobbling Edge off, Lynch to left back, France to right back, Fagan to the right of a three man attack with Barmby floating. It didn’t really work. We won a few free kicks and corners but these were well dealt with by the Burnley defence, and while a few alarm bells rang the prospect of a genuine goalscoring opportunity for the Tigers failed to materialise. Only in the last ten minutes did any real chances come. Green (on for Woodhouse) received a throw-in centrally as the Burnley players expected the ball down the line and the Cumbrian had acres of space to run into. He shot confidently from distance but the strike was weak and easily saved. Then Burgess, who was utterly dominant in the air, nodded down to Barmby whose delicate flick found Elliott eight yards out, but his lunging prod steered the ball inches wide of Jensen’s post. With two minutes left Noel-Williams again headed wide when a second looked a fair bet – he’s a muscular chap and gets into dangerous positions, but if he can’t put the ball in the net then he’s of limited use to a limited side like Burnley. The Clarets seemed to be cruising through the three minutes of added time until a Hail Mary through ball was nodded on by the advanced Cort and the ball fell to Elliott, inside left 15 yards out. Stuey’s shot was powerful and aimed to the keeper’s right, but the deserved equaliser from what turned out to be the last kick of the game was denied magnificently by Jensen’s sprawling save.

This defeat ended a nice little unbeaten run of four games, but the signs remain encouraging as we get ready for Tuesday’s encounter with Preston, a side that have yet to claim the full three points at Deepdale in eight attempts. If the Tigers claim a point, or points, in that game then the general upward swing of our form as we adjust to what is clearly a greatly elevated level will continue.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Lynch, Cort, Delaney, Edge; France, Welsh, Woodhouse, Elliott; Brown, Fagan. Subs: Burgess (for Brown, 56), Barmby (for Edge, 63), Green (for Woodhouse, 74), Ellison, Duke.

Goals: None

Booked: Brown, Welsh

Sent Off: None

BURNLEY: Jensen, Duff, Lowe, Sinclair, Harley, Spicer, J O’Connor, Hyde, G O’Connor, Elliott, Akinbiyi. Subs: Noel-Williams (for Spicer, 45), Courtney (for Elliott, 88), McCann (for G O’Connor, 89), Karbassiyoon, Dyer.

Goals: Akinbiyi 29

Booked: Harley

Sent Off: None

REFEREE: P Dowd

ATTENDANCE: 11,701