Huckerby: Hunter has helped team

CHRIS LAKEY Darren Huckerby produced a mercurial display to destroy Barnsley - and then paid tribute to his team-mates.


Darren Huckerby produced a mercurial display to destroy Barnsley - and then paid tribute to his team-mates.

The City winger scored one goal and played a major part in two others as he exploited the extra space afforded him by the early dismissal of visiting defender Antony Kay with lethal effect.

On any other day Robert Earnshaw's two goals, Lee Croft's trickery down the right, Carl Robinson's cracking first goal for City or Dickson Etuhu's midfield renaissance would have won man of the match honours. But none of them would begrudge Huckerby the honour as he ran Barnsley ragged.

But one man doesn't make a team - certainly not one a team that has shown such a remarkable transformation over the summer since last season's moribundity.

It was during the summer that manager Nigel Worthington showed the door to coach Steve Foley and brought in Martin Hunter, who had been in charge of England Under-19s. It was a change which was designed to “freshen up the place” - which may well account for the change in some of last year's big under-achievers

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“Martin's organisational skills have been excellent and the whole of the backroom staff have made us difficult to beat,” said Huckerby. “His style is that we do things so everyone knows what we are doing. Every player in the team knows where we are at corners, knows where we are at free kicks, knows where we are in open play.

“We know what we are doing and that is very important.

“I think confidence is a massive thing. We're all on the same page now, we're very organised, we have got a formation and we have got very good players, playing in very good positions.

“We are different this season, there's no doubt about it, we are a lot harder to beat. Team struggle to break us down and we just have to keep it going.”

The most notable beneficiary has been Dickson Etuhu who, by his own admission, failed to flicker last season but has shone alongside Carl Robinson and Youssef Safri.

“I think the midfield three have been excellent,” added Huckerby. “Saf has always been a very good player and Dickson and Robbo are playing as well as they probably have done.

“Dickson has everything to be a top class player, in any division, not just the Championship. He could go on to play Premiership, he has everything he needs to be a top class player. Sometimes, mentally, he doesn't apply himself, but this season he has come back and he's been our best player.

“Crofty's given us a bit more balance. Teams tended to put two or three men on the left, but now they can't. Croft can beat people, he's good on the ball and he can finish. If we have that kind of attacking flair on both sides it's difficult for teams to stop us.

“Earnie is a good finisher he is always going to get goals, and it was nice for Crofty to get one. As long as we can keep scoring it is a big bonus for us and I think Robbo's goal was excellent as well. To score five in any game is really good.”

Huckerby himself had turned on the style in the second half, after Worthington had told him during the interval to switch on his ruthless button.

“He just said you need to be a bit more direct, don't give them a chance,” said Huckerby. “I was just trying to say it was difficult sometimes to play against a team of 10 men because they sit back and cover all the holes up. The manager knows what I can do, we have got a good understanding and we both give each other some stick when we need to.”