|A dominant City performance sweeps aside a stunned South Bank eleven. Mark Gretton reports on late goals, jubilation and a naked man.|
|For the busy amongst you we won 2-0, deserved pressure finally bringing two late goals, making us unbeaten in 5 since Molby departed and, just to keep it all in perspective, keeping us 11 points off the leaders, 7 points off a promotion spot and 4 points out of the playoff zone, as we occupy an 11th place that was considered catastrophic when we ended up there at the end of the last campaign.Right, now bollocks to perspective. We were excellent on Saturday, settling into an easy rhythm from the outset, dictated throughout by the marvellous Stuart Green. The boy really can play. When I tell you that older supporters were likening him to the wondrous Theodore Whitmore then you can imagine what we witnessed. He shimmered, he shone, he floated and he completely dismantled a Scunt side that had as severe a chasing on our greensward as I can remember. Ah, poor Scunny! Now I enjoy a good local derby as much as the next, so it saddens me that we don’t get to play any. For a start such matches have to be, well, local, not between places 30 miles apart. Remember that for North Lincolnshire folk, who regard somewhere like Newark the way that the rest of us might regard Atlantis, 30 miles is equivalent to interstellar travel. They are not local, they are not our neighbours. And they are rubbish. But now is not the time to be patronising. I’ll do that a bit later. We lined up thus:
Musselwhite Regan Whittle Anderson Delaney Green Ashbee Keates Williams Jevons Alexander
And we played towards the North Stand and pretty full it was too as though the visiting fans thought they might not be completely outclassed. And for the first 10 minutes, strange to relate, that proved to be the case. They had a couple of free kicks, one scuffed wide, one well held by Musselwhite and then Calvo-Garcia advanced and shot past the post. The visitors were holding their own whilst we seemed to be coming to terms with the fact that, though Williams was playing wide on the left, Green was not a mirror image on the right and we initially looked a little lop-sided as Green wandered and Regan hung back. But then after what had looked like random brush strokes leaving only a few splodges on the canvas, as the Kempton wondered aloud is this art?, the brush was seized by Stuart Green and our afternoon went from Turner Prize tosh to Fine Art majesty. He drifted from right to left, occupied the centre, tackled, passed and prompted and what had looked a slightly clunky mechanism suddenly meshed sweetly. A typical interchange with Keates made room on the right and Regan, doing what he does best, was suddenly keen to overlap and a good cross went behind for a corner. Next up he wandered over to the left flank and set Williams away, the Scunts again clearing at the expense of a corner. After 20 minutes Alexander shot wide after a sumptuous move from the right as the Keates/ Regan axis was again launched by the ubiquitous Green. Then Green won a free kick that Keates put wide, then a Green run to the left resulted in a corner from which Delaney shot narrowly wide. My notes at this stage said ‘it’s all us’ – but you’ve probably gathered that and also, as Joy Division would have put it, that everything had gone Green. The Scunts, well, what can we say? I know they seethe at the thought of us being a big club, so I won’t use that term in order to avoid giving offence, but they really looked out of their depth. For the baseball fans amongst you it was as though the Duluth-Superior Dukes, plucky minor league outfit, had unaccountably wandered into the major league and were getting a seeing to from the mighty Minnesota Twins. In all honesty I hadn’t expected them to be this poor. After all, in Torpey and Carruthers they have a nineteen goal strikeforce so far this term and thick-as-mince manager Brian Laws had remembered this time that Calvo-Garcia was a midfield player and played him accordingly instead of at the heart of the defence as he did here last season. Their other star ( I know, I know) is ex-Bradford, SheffU and Everton serial failure Peter Beagrie who enjoyed a comically useless afternoon. We are told that Beagrie is injured, but that is to do less than justice to a complete waster of a footballer who can produce displays of such mediocrity when fit as a flea. Anyway he lasted well into the second half, so presumably the manager felt, useless though he undoubtedly was, he was better than what he had sat next to him on the bench. As this included Lee Ridley and Steve Ridley but not, sadly for us Dad’s Army fans, Arnold Ridley, perhaps this was understandable. You did feel at times as though Private Godfrey, or even his sister Dolly, might have brought more to the Scunts table. But perhaps they felt they needed Beagrie’s presence when they are playing such an, er, sizeable club as us. The Stuart Green show continued as he put Jevons through for a shot that was blocked for another corner and then set up Jevons again, the striker this time cleverly juggling the ball before getting in his cross that again was cleared for a corner. Green wasn’t the only impressive midfielder on view. Keates was busy and skilful and Ashbee continues to surprise, combining his major role of buttressing the defence with supporting the attack as the extra man whenever possible. The ‘opposition’ were now visibly flustered, perhaps due to playing against such a large club, and the cracks were appearing. Beagrie got a good shouting at from a hard working defender and was now virtually a second left back. It didn’t help. The keeper and proper full back got in a right tizzy, each left the ball for the other, then both hoped it would run out of play. It didn’t, but Jevons didn’t react as quickly as he might have done and the chance passed although the laughter from the Tigerfolk went on through the half-time interval. A fine half, good football, but the final pass hadn’t quite been there and the Scunt central defence had stood up to it well. Second half and we carried on, a high speed move between Green, natch, Alexander and Ashbee filleted them again but again there was no finish and we just started to fret that it might be one of those afternoons, that can sometimes bedevil huge clubs playing against minnows. And the Scunts got going! No, really, they did. A bright move ended in a free kick and Musselwhite custoded the leather in typically assured fashion. He might have had to work harder when the torpid Torpey roused himself briefly to screw, and I use the term advisedly, a shot wide. A bad miss from a man having a very bad game. At the other end Alexander headed a difficult chance wide from Green’s cross and then Jevons badly wasted a free header. But we didn’t let up, Keates and Williams linked on the left and little Ryan ran directly at ’em before shooting past the post. Next up Jevons tried the run and shot thingy and got his on target as the keeper fubled and seemed to have let it past him but then got up with great nonchalance to clear his lines with an ‘I meant that, y’know’ air about him. I suspect the lining of his shorts told a different story. Elliott came on for Jevons and this produced no let up for the Scunt defence as the sub turned refulgently but spoiled it by tumbling over too easily as he burst into the area. The referee waved away our howls of anguish and he was probably right to. Branch came on for Williams and Tigerinsecurity grew as Elliott gave away a daft free kick on the edge of our box, in rather the same way that Hodges duped us last time. But the Scunts have lost their gifted fatboy, lured away by moneybags Rochdale, an humongous club I reckon, and no-one in the visitors line up made us pay as the wall blocked the shot. Like a wall, it was. So we were in the last five minutes and we still hadn’t broken through. But with rain pelting down, the Scunts dam was finally breached. The defence unaccountably watched a ball run towards their line, but Damien Delaney didn’t, he charged after it and, better yet, he reached it and dragged it back. Michael Branch was there and he drilled it between the keepers knees and joy was unconfined. There was no way back for the visitors and they clearly knew it, not even making a token effort to go forward. But the best for us was still to come, the loping Delaney got a ball forward that looked again as though it should have been the defender’s but Gary Alexander, having spent the afternoon buffeting and barging, got on the end of it, got inside his man and then wellied it past the keeper in a fashion to put Manc disaster Diego Forlan to shame. A glorious finish to the game. Unlike Forlan, Gary has scored many goals and so celebrated modestly and kept his shirt on, but one fan didn’t, leaping o-er the greensward with tackle out. He’d either done this incredibly quickly or he’d been stood au naturelle since the first goal, but he looked pretty well made, the blokes round me thought it looked a good 8 inches, the women thought 2. But we’d won, and it was wonderfully pleasing, not just because it was another three points and further signs that Peter Taylor really is doing things right, but because we’d never wavered in our desire to play proper football and beat the opposition senseless with it. The goals were late but they were no less deserved for that. ‘Brain’ Laws bleated that the goals came from defensive errors and they did, but that was a result of them being asked to work without a let up from the outset. In truth, their defenders were the only ones who can look back on their afternoon’s ‘effort’ with any satisfaction at all. Torpey and Carruthers were appalling and the midfield seemed to have given up long before the end. As we filed out, watching disconsolate Scunts standing in the good old Hull downpour whilst we walked past them and shouted words of encouragement and consolation, they were probably thinking, like Groucho Marx, that they’d had a great time, but this wasn’t it. In truth they’ve had a number of good days at the Ark over the years, more than we might like to admit. But they were spanked this time, as the Americans and we fetishists like to say. I suppose that’s what happens sometimes when you’re up against a real behemoth of a club.
|HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Delaney, Green, Ashbee, Keates, Williams, Alexander, Jevons. Subs: Elliott (for Jevons, 63), Branch (for Williams, 78), Burton, Peat, Deeney.Goals: Branch 85, Alexander 90 Booked: Delaney, Elliott Sent Off: None SCUNTHORPE UNITED: Evans, Stanton, McCombe, Balmer, Dawson, Barwick, Graves, Calvo-Garcia, Beagrie, Carruthers, Torpey. Subs: Featherstone (for Barwick, 45), Brough (for Beagrie, 73), L Ridley, S Ridley, Collins. Goals: None Booked: Balmer, Beagrie, Dawson. Sent Off: None ATTENDANCE: 11,885|