My Dad lives in Hull, so it’s fair to say I’ve visited Humberside a fair few times over the last couple of years. Thing is, it never gets any nicer (the city that is).
Hull are one of those sides who don’t have much else better to do (than fishing) than to have a bitter hatred for all things Leeds United, and Grimsby town I would imagine. Like Huddersfield, Barnsley etc etc, it is not mutual. I don’t dislike Hull (the team) that much but their ‘You’re being mauled by the Tigers’ chants and ‘Substitution for Hull City, coming off XXX sponsored by….’ really does wear a bit thin. And then Phil Brown made them an easy target.
Never the less, we arrived at the match just before kick off and unsurprisingly, the level of policing reflected how much Hull City thought of us. This resulted in a good couple hundred Leeds fans being diverted through a five-a-side playing area due to a idiotic decision to keep access to the away turnstiles at a minimum by keeping a gate locked. Yes we should’ve got there earlier but it was hardly a face off between fans 5mins before kick off.
On an up-note, their dislike of us made for a decent atmosphere in the lego-like stadium. ‘Tigers,Tigers, RA RA RA!’
Anyway. We need not have rushed. Leeds left Neil Kilkenny out of the starting XI, presumably down to the amount of hours he put into Australia’s unsuccessful attempt to win the Asia Cup. Jet lagged or not, we were crying out for him.
Davide Somma effectively took his place and lined up alongside Luciano Becchio as Leeds stepped out in a very uncomfortable 4-4-2 and almost immediately, Aaron McLean should’ve put Hull ahead as Matt Fryatt and James Harper set about Leeds’ defence.
Having had a long break due to the FA Cup, the team should’ve been energised but it was Hull who looked confident in possession as they attacked. Time and time again they recycled possession with ease, picking off a weak Leeds midfield and an even rustier defence.
Leeds looked out of sorts with Somma up front, who failed to hold up the ball on numerous occasions but the worries were at the back. With Leeds certain to dip into the loan market having failed to bring in a centre half during the transfer window, it was made all the more evident why we’ll need to as Alex Bruce and Andy O’Brien struggled to contain Hull, especially on set pieces as they poured forward.
Only two world-class saves from Kasper Schmeichel kept Leeds in the game, keeping out Robert Koren with his finger nails before denying an Anthony Gerrard header which he somehow tipped over the bar.
Unsurprisingly, Hull did take the lead as the instrumental Fryatt parted the Leeds defence like a hot knife through butter; McLean – the grateful recipient of his pass, obliged by slotting home across Schmeichel.
The Hull tide kept crashing down on Leeds and soon after, another corner resulted in another free header which James Chester planted past Schmeichel to send the KC into hysterics. It’s hard to stomach when there wasn’t anyone close to marking him in the first place but it was like a car crash in slow motion.
We were barely in the game, Brad Guzan had barely been troubled and Leeds’ midfield was struggling to contain and create. As half time fast approached, Leeds were awarded a free kick, a good 20 yards out; after his last effort, I struggled to look as Bradley Johnson strode over to take it. Thankfully, Rob Snodgrass stepped up and curled a peach into the top corner. A moment of pure quality in an otherwise disappointing match and we were back in it.
Half time came and went, although not before the half time pie took a massive dint to the pockets of hundreds, £3.20 and only chicken and mushroom available. Poor.
With the Leeds team no doubt having had the whole proverbial range of electrical appliances thrown their way, they came out with renewed purpose. Noticeably no Kilkenny, but Simon Grayson very rarely, if ever(?) makes half time subs.
Before long, Somma gave up with the fancy flicks and leathered a shot goalwards; it cannoned in off the underside of the bar and as both sides stopped to wave their arms around in the usual inexplicable fashion, Snodgrass went for the rebound to really make sure. No matter though as the ref had ruled the shot was over the line and Leeds were somehow level.
The KC fell silent. They had dominated the game and let countless chances pass them by and now found themselves under the cosh.
Funnily enough, I was delighted we had scored – obviously but said emotion was overcome by the fact that Kilkenny had, moments before, been readied to come on but the equaliser put paid to any chance of an appearance. Yes we were level but that extra man in midfield would’ve allowed Jonny Howson in particular to get forward to support the front two but he and Johnson were constantly being caught cold with a number of problems to solve and very little ability to do so, we were stretched.
Speaking of Somma though, I might be alone in this but today really reminded me of Jermaine Beckford. Somma is, like Mike Grella, bursting with talent, the proverbial rough diamond and while Somma continues to smooth the rough edges, there are similarities with the former Elland Road striker. He has the soft touch, the fancy flicks and an eye for goal but is always reluctant to get his feet off the ground. Rarely does he challenge in the air and struggled to hold the ball up but with a goal return of nine in nine games, does it matter? Time will tell.
Having Kilkenny on may well have allowed Snodgrass and the tireless Max Gradel more license to be wingers; putting the ball a good 20yards in front of either of them to allow them to run at the Hull full backs. Time and time again they both had to foray in field in search of possession. Ifs and buts maybe but the look on his face when Lloyd Sam came on for Somma said it all and no one could blame him for being ever-s0-slightly miffed.
The game from then on was blighted by poor refereeing decisions which had boiled over into the purely exasperating. Snodgrass in particular, having being booked early was clearly the most irate at the linos and the ref. The linos made less than half a dozen decisions independently between them all night, constantly looking to the ref for throw ins, and even fouls which happened in front of their noses.
After a lengthy stoppage to attend to a Liam Rosenior injury, the match came to an end but the fury at the ineptitude of the referee and the disappointment at the reluctance of the gaffer to bring Kila on made the result feel much less than what it was. I know, I should be grateful and I am. I just believe we’re more capable of what we’re showing.
All in all, a draw from being 2-0 down is undoubtedly a point gained. The pessimist says we’ve won just once in seven league games with the glass half full person counters that we’ve only lost once in 16 league matches.
The obvious problem is the amount of goals we continue to concede. Without Schmeichel, one can only imagine how many more it may well have been. 47 goals conceded in the league leaves us with the poorest goal difference in the top nine; it’s just as well we’ve no problem putting them in the right end.
Looking ahead then and all eyes are on Larry and the loan window; having shipped out the dead wood and sheared the squad to the bare bones, we have gone from having one of the largest squads in the division to having very little good quality strength in depth.
Having waved Neill Collins off down the M1, we now have only Leigh Bromby as an able and fit centre half. Despite Larry sticking with Richard Naylor through thick and thin, one can’t help but think his playing days at Leeds are numbered, especially if sign a defender on loan. One also prays Paddy Kisnorbo isn’t a million miles away from full fitness else a couple injuries in midfield and at the back leaves us very thin on the ground.
ON ON ON!