Three weeks' difference at Hull
While yesterday’s opponents Reading have been out shopping in Eastleigh, Hereford and Swindon, the East Riding club have been considerably more ambitious. Adam Pearson hinted at the imminent arrival of Aaron McLean and Matty Fryatt in his programme notes on December 28, but the forward pairing have been joined by additional incomers – James Chester and Corry Evans have arrived from the Republic of Mancunia, Brad Guzan has replaced another Premier League loanee Vito Mannone in goal and ex-Inter Milan man Tijani Belaid signed up from Slavia Prague.
The result on yesterday’s evidence was an increased solidity. Anthony Gerrard, absent from proceedings in December, was dominant at centre half and provided the in form Shane Long with an almighty buffeting, but it was his partner James Chester who impressed the most.
Despite an apparent lack of centimetres, our recent Monday profilee was composure personified, reading the game effortlessly and unruffled at every turn. That he has joined permanently from the Red Devils is surprising as his was as good a defensive display I have seen all this season – and this on a day when all four guards were in top form – Reading duo Matt Mills and Alex Pearce both impressed.
Such defensve excellence made for a less than edifying spectacle although Ian Harte’s inexplicable tarrying on the ball allowed Evans – younger brother of his United team mate Jonny – to plunder a debut goal. He had replaced another colleague, Cameron Stewart – far less impressive on this occasion than he was at the KC Stadium; but City stalwarts James Harper and Ian Ashbee were both competitive, and Liam Rosenior and Andy Dawson let nobody down at full back.
So, the admirable Nigel Pearson is shaping a unit that could still challenge. If question marks remain, they will surround Brad Guzan’s hasty lunge on Long (leading to a penalty and the loss of two points, plus a willing but un-dazzling performance from McLean – we’ll remember his presence in a horrifically relegated side at this level last season – so he’ll have to work to win over the fans. Fryatt, by contrast, showed a few glimpses of his thoroughbred status even if he wasted a good chance early on. Avoiding the treatment table will be key for him.