Hull City 0-1 Aston Villa: Coming Of Age

Dermot RathboneContributor IJanuary 6, 2009

“We are six minutes into the game here at a freezing Circle… Here comes Bernard Mendy on a typical bullocking run down the right flank… He crosses…. Zat Knight crashes into Freidel who drops the ball… GOAL!

"Nick Barmby is on hand to poke it into the empty net… Freidel beats the ground in frustration…. But wait a minute… The Assistant has a message from the FA for Steve Bennett…. Remember Memo 24 dated June 2008 and re-circulated on September 22nd?

“On no account are promoted Clubs allowed to score in circumstances that may constitute an established team going on to lose the game”…. The goal is rightly chalked off… Phew? For a minute Steve Claridge, I thought the Official was going to give that one, but no, Justice has been done”.

This is not how Radio Five Live reported from the Circle last night (I assume), but once again, we have been done over by a referee who can’t spot the bleedin’ obvious, even when it’s right in front of his nose.

If we had gone on to get a deserved point, or even sneak all three, then I would have rated this performance above beating Arsenal at the Grove, due to the fact that the honeymoon is over.

This is real Premier League life, and on the back of conceding nine goals in 28 minutes, if you combine the back end of the Sunderland game and the initial period at Eastlands, we were looking for a performance that demonstrated that Brown and the players get what is required at this level.

We can go to the Top Four and play with gay abandon because these are matches where we can be Plucky Little Hull, tweaking the noses of the Big Boys, be refreshing and Good For the Premier League.

However, we need to win ugly sometimes and not fall for the sucker punch such, as when we were beaten by a patently inferior Bolton side, and threw away a two-goal advantage at home to Man City.

Last night however, Phil Brown and his Hull City team were spot on for the circumstances.

Villa arrived in East Yorkshire looking to reclaim fourth spot from Arsenal, having pegged the Gunners back from a two-goal advantage on Boxing Day. They have pace to burn up front, a solid mid field and back four, plus the best keeper in this Division.

Given recent events for the Tigers, an early goal for the former European Champions could have produced a rout and continued an alarming slide.

Fourty points ain’t going to be enough this season, and I reckon we need five wins and four draws to achieve absolute safety, given that 18th placed Stoke have already accrued 20 points to our 27, which puts us eighth.

Phil Brown made five changes and set us up to nullify the visitors pace up front by flooding the centre of the park and starving Ashley Young of ball over the top to run on to.

Garcia’s selection as a holding midfielder raised a few eyebrows, but the Australian was outstanding at breaking up play and feeding Mendy on the right hand side. As the game went on, these two became more adventurous, and with Halmosi offering width on the left, we looked the more likely to score in the second half.

Ashbee confounded us yet again, and the first half saw Villa reduced to endless passing around the back four as despite endless probing, there was no way through our artisan but effective set up.

We have to show fight, determination, and a willingness to frustrate the opposition (and probably the Sky Sports audience), as a means to set up opportunities to win later in the game.

Hull City were magnificent last night, and really came of age as a Premier League team. Villa’s goal was their only real foray into our box and Zayette was so unlucky to put through his own goal after a piece of magic from the hugely impressive Ashley Young.

To rub salt into the wound, Bennett gave us a penalty in injury time only to (correctly) change his mind, having been briefed by his Assistant. The language that emanated from our section was quite something to behold, but we weren’t the only ones.

Phil Brown has proved he can mix it tactically at this level, and the players responded in kind.

Based on this performance, we will be OK when May comes around and the winners and losers learn their fate.