Commentary: Hull take the Taylor way to peg back pacesetters

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The Independent Online

Just down the road from Boothferry Park, the derelict former home of Hull City, is a public house called the Silver Cod. So far so clichéd. But walk a mile or so towards the centre of town and the lower-league stereotypes abruptly end.

The Kingston Communications Stadium, or the KC as it is known by the locals, is a venue fit to host Premiership football. The playing surface is perfect, the pitch generous in size and on Saturday over 18,000 were there to watch their team inflict a third defeat on the league leaders Luton Town in the space of a week.

The size of the crowd comes as little surprise as the audience is nothing if not captive. The nearest Premiership football is in the North-east, following Leeds United's relegation last season. Since Hull - let alone the surrounding area - has a population of over a quarter of a million, there is little doubt it can support a top-flight team.

They play with a level of sophistication beyond their League One station, as might be expected under a manager who harbours international ambitions: swift, short passing is the Peter Taylor way. The coach of England's Under-21s has a difficult decision to make at the end of the season between committing himself to Hull and pursuing his career within the national set-up. The word is, he will choose to leave the East Coast, but while it may be a few years before Hull reach the pinnacle of English football, this one-club city may yet match the ambition of its manager.

Following promotion in May, Hull are well placed to climb another division. With several players who look capable of playing at least one level higher, it is little surprise they have adjusted so well.

Nick Barmby is emblematic of the upwardly-mobile nature of the club. The former Tottenham Hotspur, Middlesbrough, Everton, Liverpool and Leeds striker is back in the city where he was born and clearly enjoying himself. Part of England's starting XI in the 5-1 defeat of Germany three years ago, Barmby is unlikely to receive a call from Sven Goran Eriksson any time soon, but Hull can only benefit from his intelligent link-up play.

On Saturday he played as a second striker just behind Delroy Facey. With the freedom to roam, especially once his team were ahead, the 30-year-old sometimes dropped deep, frequently drifted wide and invariably retained possession.

"We all know Nicky is a very, very good player," Taylor said. "Some of his one-touch play is better than people realise. He always does the simple thing and because he only takes one touch where other players need two or three, he makes time for himself and his team-mates. He's always kept himself fit throughout his career and we're very lucky to have him at the club."

Not that it took Barmby's subtlety to settle this game. Luton found themselves three goals down in just over half an hour, having enjoyed much the better of the early play. Perhaps they used up all their good fortune in winning 10 and drawing two of their first 12 games.

They certainly seemed cursed on Saturday. The opener was an out-and-out fluke. Stuart Elliott misdirected his cross and watched it loop over Dino Seremet and drop into the far corner. Then the Slovenian goalkeeper lost communication with Paul Underwood and Facey benefited from the confusion. Finally, Seremet could only fumble another cross into the path of Elliott, who accepted the gift of his ninth league goal of the season.

But for an erroneous decision from one of the referee's assistants a minute before this third goal, Luton would have been back in the game. Both the linesman and Boaz Myhill in the Hull goal believed Kevin Foley was shaping to cross. As he struck the ball, the official immediately raised his flag to indicate a Luton forward offside. But Foley had spotted Myhill anticipating a cross and instead shot, beating him at the near post. Since the offside player could hardly have been said to be interfering with play, the referee Trevor Parkes should not have upheld the decision, leaving the Luton manager Mike Newell to bemoan his "arrogant" demeanour. It hardly helped that Parkes later sent off Luton's captain, Kevin Nicholls, for the use of his elbow.

"I don't mind the mistakes so much but he wouldn't even talk to me afterwards," Newell said. "As a manager you're not allowed to criticise referees and when they won't even talk to you either there must be something wrong. In the end it was comfortable for Hull, but we were in control in the first half until we conceded the goals.

"But we didn't get carried away when we were winning earlier in the season and we won't overreact to these defeats. We're still top of the league and if we'd been offered that at the start of the season we'd have been absolutely delighted."

Goals: Elliott (11) 1-0; Facey (22) 2-0; Elliott (33) 3-0.

Hull City (4-4-2): Myhill; Joseph, Cort, Delaney, Edge; Price (Keane, 73), Green, Lewis, Elliott; Barmby (Allsopp, 73), Facey (Walters, 81). Substitutes not used: Brock (gk), Hinds.

Luton Town (4-4-2): Seremet; Foley, Coyne, Davies, Davis (Showumni, 57); O'Leary (Holmes, 73), Nicholls, Underwood, Robinson; Vine, Howard (Blinkhorn, 81). Substitutes not used: Beckwith (gk), Perrett.

Referee: T Parkes (West Midlands).

Booked: Hull: Elliott, Barmby. Luton: Foley, Davis, Howard.

Sent off: Luton: Nicholls (61).

Man of the match: Elliott.

Attendance: 18,575.

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