Hull City 0 - West Bromwich Albion 2
A wry smile on my face when I saw the team. I’d say there is 90% consensus in the fan base that TGH should be starting in midfield, and then personally from the moment Dike was injured but before we even signed him I’ve always thought Robinson behind Grant up front was our best option. I’d only really have changed the back 3 to a 2 in order to get Diagana in the team on the left but otherwise I thought this was our best team. Something like the team I’d hoped Bruce would’ve landed on 4 or 5 games ago.
Our reward was our most dominant opening 30 minutes in months. Totally on top and eventually going ahead through Grant. It could’ve been more - I thought TGH with his energy, capability to pass forward quickly or move it on quickly as just his general decision making showed what we’ve been missing. Livermore too was on top of everything. He is guilty of stupidity but he’s still head and shoulders above the other options in there.
Worryingly we eased right off for the last 15 of the half and looked leggy - Mowatt especially - and Bruce could be heard berating a few players for silly decisions. We just about got through to the break.
2nd half TGH won a penalty early on through positive play and Grant despatched it calmly.
From then on it was very much about killing the game, ruining the spectacle and seeing it out. We had a few ropey moments and Bruce kept it as we were for a long time - understandable given recent results.
Diagana came on for Robinson and although he wasn’t great it is worth noting that in the 2 times he drifted left he created a great chance for Grant and also played and overlapping Player in to cross for what would’ve been a sitter if we had anyone in the box.
It was hardly vintage stuff but in a crap league against a crap team it was enough… as it would’ve been many times before this season.
Relief that we have a win mixed with a fair amount of anger and frustration that we wasted so many games to get to this point. It’s too late for us and we’ve criminally blown our season but finishing strongly with players who will be around next season playing is vital.
Kebabs on Steve tonight!
It's the hope that kills you: Albion start winning streak
The local press had been carrying stories of Bruce responding, to calls for Gardner-Hickman to start, by saying that he saw the promising youngster as a right back, however, given the manager's refusal to play Diangana on the left wing, despite saying that he'd thought his showings in that position made him the best player in the division, it might not have come as much surprise to many, to see TGH starting, but not starting at right-back.
Slightly more surprising would have been to see Diangana not starting at all, although perhaps not as surprising as the removal of ex-England targetman Carroll, as Bruce went for a 352, presumably in an attempt to pack the midfield against a Hull side who had lost the last three, without scoring, at home. One thing you can say, once you'd worked it all out, was that it's certainly not something we could ever have imagined Ishmael thinking, let alone trying.
Despite not having a target man to aim for, the commentary team would make note of "Bartley bashing it long" in the eighth minute, although the five-man midfield not only seemed to be giving Albion a better high-press than Ishmael's four, but our first real chance didn't even involve one of the front two, Furlong doing well to advance down the right, before linking with TGH who laid it back for Ajayi to deliver a cross that Townsend's acrobatic connection required a save from the home side's keeper to keep out.
Five minutes later, and our front two did get into the game, after Robinson fed Grant in down the left: again, the shot requiring a save.
With the harrying of Albion's five-man midfield suffocating the life out of Hull's attempts to get beyond our half of the centre-circle, Mowatt popped up on the right and delivered a left-footed cross towards the middle of the box. With the ball dropping over his right shoulder, Grant looked to lash it goalwards, back the way it had come, with his left, but only got his shin onto it, but it was enough of a "shinner" (or should that be not enough of a shinner"?) to see the ball nestle in the side netting, as the curve of Mowatt's cross, towards the goal, plus that of the deflection, took it well beyond the keeper's dive.
Anyone thinking a goal, any goal, would settle the Albion would have been mistaken though, with Bartley and Clarke forced into giving away consecutive "grappling" fouls around the twenty-five minute mark, and although neither free-kick came to much, Hull finally getting into a position up the field did see the ball drop to a player in our box with a clear sight of SJ's goal from the inside-left channel, only to see the shot blazed over.
The game somehow seemed to become an end-to-end one for the next ten minutes, a period bracketed by Robinson and Townsend combining well down the left, albeit with no end product, then with SJ bringing off two fine saves, the first from a goal-bound shot that came through a crowd of bodies, the second, an even better acrobatic tip away, from what would have been ruled out for offside, not that he would have known that, and ending with the commentary team having to apologise for the sound of Bruce barking out f-word expletives to the TV audience, as left-CB Clarke got across to snuff out some danger at our right post.
If you'd formed the opinion that Hull went off at half-time with all the momentum, then within a minute of the restart you'd have been completely re-assessing your view of the game, after TGH, pressing, along with Furlong, up on a Hull player looking to dribble so as to find enough space to hack it clear from the left-hand side of their box, got between the dribbler and the ball and was pulled back inside the area, earning a penalty from which Grant sent the keeper the wrong way.
The luxury of a two-nil lead did finally seem to settle the Albion, and although Hull's double substitution around the hour mark saw yet another good save from Johnstone and a twenty minute period of the home side pressing, by the time we'd passed eighty, Bruce was starting to make his "eat-up-some time" swaps, although the first, Diangana coming on for Robinson, the right-sided of the front two of course, ate up so much time that Robinson was booked for time wasting!
Mulumby for TGH didn't really do much, other than allow the Irishman to head for the corner flag at every opportunity, although there'd still be time for Grant to pull one final save out of the home keeper in front of his adoring fans, after being fed in by Grady, before he got the "pull him off so he can get some applause" switch: Carroll coming on, whilst Grant, not wishing to emulate his starting strike partner, left the field quickly via the closest line to him
As to whether this 352 with no Grady, and no Carroll, points to the start of a Seal-esque ten-game winning streak, is open to question, not least when considering the opposition today, but at least, for now, it looks like the start of a winning run.
Despite the win though, other results see us remain in thirteenth, but the way those results went, with Middlesbrough becoming yet another side between us and the top six with at least a six-point margin - and that's not counting the game in hand nearly every club above us has - means even a ten-game winning streak mightn't be enough.
Then again, if the "hope that kills you" spares us and he pulls it off, then Brucie will deserve another season in the top flight, but for me, he's had his chance and, as if seems likely, he wasn't able to take it, then it's time start all over again in the summer with a new manager who gets to bring in players to fill the holes of the all the players we have in on loan - and that's quite a few - with new players, or perhaps even some "like-new" players (can we rule out a return for Sawyers now that Ishmael's "just need do-a-job players" style is no longer in vogue?) from those out on loan, or those coming through the ranks.
A new owner wouldn't go amiss either but that, I fear, is the hope that would really kill you.
Here's to the next nine victories.
All text, pictures and graphics are copyright of BOING unless otherwise stated