Alex Neil and his boys came back down to earth with a bang on Wednesday night with an apathetic performance against Hull City. A 4-0 defeat was, in honesty, what we deserved and it could have been more. Wins for West Brom and Leeds United this week have allowed them to further move ahead of us and we need to snap out of this run quickly to stay in contention.
The West Brom game on Monday was always going to be huge, but even more so now as 3 points are really needed. Here are 5 things we learned from the Hull City game:
Ledson Can’t Play Right Back
It seems harsh writing this, and it’s something that definitely raised a few eyebrows when the team was announced but it didn’t go to plan. On Wednesday night we were up against two of the best wingers in the division in Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki and we had one fit full-back in Joe Rafferty to try and keep them at bay. In at right back was Ryan Ledson, a player who has always played in central midfield.
Ledson had a tough first half and then to make matters worse he was moved to left-back in the second half where he was, to put it bluntly, torn a new one. He gave away a clumsy penalty before being taken off before the hour mark.
I feel sorry for the lad as he has to wait patiently for his chance but it was unfair for Neil to throw him into that game today. Maybe, I don’t know, play a defender at right back? Jordan Storey there and Paul Huntington at centre back could have been a better option perhaps?
We Need Another Full-Back in January
This is something we knew in the summer to be honest but it’s been emphasised tonight. With Darnell Fisher, Andrew Hughes, Ben Davies and even make shift right back Alan Browne out of the squad tonight our defence was depleted and it showed.
As Neil said in the post-match, Hull’s strengths are out wide and they took advantage of our square pegs in round holes. As I alluded to before I still think he got the team selection wrong, Ledson wasn’t the answer but it shows that we are lacking in options. We need more options in defence, because with a few injuries we can’t cope with some attacks in this league.
Hughes’ constant injury problems have been a worry this season and with Fisher already on 9 yellow cards this season it’s likely he’ll be missing a few more game through suspension. The fact our top scorer Daniel Johnson ended up filling in at left back for the last part of the match says it all.
We Can’t Let the Good Start Fizzle Out
It’s been a great first third of the season. 5th place is still brilliant and we all would have taken it. However, not long ago we were top and that seems so far away right now.
Two consecutive defeats and the alarmingly poor away form so far has led to us thinking the same old things. This never lasts and we always seem to mess things up somehow.
We’re still in a great position but a loss against West Brom next week and suddenly the unbeaten home run is over, we’ll probably be out of the play off places and Neil will have a serious job on his hand to turn things around with tough games to come. We need to get back on track.
We Still Created Chances
Despite the poor result we had a fair share of the chances today. Both Seani Maguire and Josh Harrop hit the post with good efforts and we did open up their defence a few times. If either of those had of gone in it could have been a different story.
For a lot of the match it felt like we had 9 men. When we broke forward, we had plenty of players in support but Hull were quick on the counter and seemed to find so much space. It was too easy for them and they carved through us like a warm knife through butter.
However, despite not playing with an out and out striker we did create chances and that is a small positive to take. We’ve still only scored 6 goals away from home though and 5 away defeats already at this stage isn’t good enough.
Media Attention Hasn’t Done Us Any Good
We’ve always liked to glide along under the radar without much attention from the press. But, in the last month or so, the media have begun to take note of a team flying high in the Championship without spending millions.
A few articles on the BBC, the Guardian and even an interview on talkSPORT of all places from Alex Neil have highlighted the recent interest in us. Has it affected the team? Perhaps.
The last two games it hasn’t seemed like the players have been themselves. Maybe the added attention has led to added pressure when previously there wasn’t any which allowed the team to perform without being under the spotlight and to continue to cause surprises.
The game against West Brom is on television and again there will be a focus on us. Not as much as when both teams were in the top two but we will still be seen as promotion challengers. We can’t let it affect us.
Being the underdogs suits us, but having said that we need to take the game to The Baggies next Monday.