|Murder on the dance floor. Steve Weatherill reports on how the twinkle toed Tigers clobbered the lead-booted Cumbrians.|
|Sometimes, though not always, a scoreline faithfully reflects the pattern of the match, and, on this Ark afternoon, it thumped truly into the bullseye. City deserved four, Carlisle deserved none, and we streamed away beaming with glee as we scanned upcoming fixtures with anticipation rather than apprehension. Two League wins in a row, a hat-trick for refreshed centre-forward Gary Alexander, a combined team performance that brooked no argument from flayed Cumbrians; we’re up, and we’re running. 2002/03, watch out, the Tigers are coming, and no, Colin Welland, it is not your ghost that I summon. Green replaced Appleby but otherwise Mr Molby stuck with the side that had begun against Leicester in mid-week, so wielding the scimitar were:
Glennon Regan Whittle Anderson Smith Green Keates Ashbee Williams Jevons Alexander
Since the pre-match minute’s silence has now become the rule rather than the exception, I pledge myself to alert you to it only when it does NOT occur, and yesterday was such an occasion. This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the slaughter of over 2,000 refugees, innocent men, women and children, in the camps of Sabra and Chatilla in Lebanon, a war crime perpetrated by local militia with the active support of the invading Israeli army. There was no minute’s silence for the dead at Boothferry Park yesterday. Still, not to worry, eh? No exciting telly footage of that atrocity to jog our memory, and they were only unarmed dead brown people after all, and there’ll be plenty more of them in the Middle East in the next few months. To the football, as you may prefer, and we began kicking towards a knot of 250 or so Carlisle fans on the North Stand. Three Irish tricolours fluttered in their midst as they celebrated the significant Celtic input into their club that has followed the demise of the Knighton regime. The game was very slow to take any sort of shape. Carlisle had come to spoil. They did it quite effectively. They were well-organised. Midfield was snarled up. Foran, up-front for the visitors, was immensely lively, sprinting from side to side and flashing a cheeky grin at the Kempton whenever he came close to the touchline. Stuart Green nipped inside on to his left foot to deliver our first attempt on target, but the shot swung easily straight into the keeper’s safe hands. Twenty minutes in, and this was poor fare. Whereupon we were allocated a cherry-topped slice of outrageous good fortune. A Williams cross from the left looped into the air and was clutched under his crossbar by the Carlisle goalkeeper. Alexander jumped hopefully, but he was too late to get his head on the ball, and his momentum took him forward where his shoulder collided with the ball, dislodging it from the keeper’s grasp. It rolled apologetically into the net, and the referee, surely about to smile wryly and award a free-kick against a sheepish Gary Alexander, instead sent gales of laughter sweeping around the three black-and-amber sides of the ground as he allowed the goal. If Carlisle were Italy, they’d be giving it the “It’s a worldwide conspiracy against us! The ref’s bent!” nonsense. They aren’t, but I expect they’re still pretty annoyed. The goal seemed to have allowed us to slip into a pleasing rhythm as Green and Williams, in particular, began to float the ball around the pitch with growing confidence, but this was only a fleeting glimpse of improved quality, and the game retreated to a sterile pattern, punctuated only by occasional one-off attacks at either end. Carlisle advanced down the left and crossed the ball in low – a Glennon fuble, a Whittle hoof. Then McGill, one of several nippy Cumbrian Irishmen, darted forward in space and shot over the top from outside the penalty box. For us, a Green/ Alexander combination whipped the ball into the Carlisle net, but a justified offside flag pegged us back. Half-time arrived, and it hadn’t been very good, but we held a lead that would, we hoped, allow us to settle into a more positive frame of mind for the second period. And that is just how it turned out. 1-0 after 45 became 4-0 after 90; we could have had more as we ransacked the Carlisle defence. The second half was a gratifying demonstration of how to exploit a small advantage and convert it into a large one. We mauled them. Smith took a throw-in deep in Carlisle territory, close by the corner flag at the junction of Kempton and Bunkers. Williams received possession and floated a delightful cross on to Gary Alexander’s forehead and he, having scampered clear of his bemused marker, flicked a delicate header beyond the flailing keeper’s fingers. 2-0 and, very obviously, more to come. We dominate. Williams races through; the keeper smothers the ball at his feet. Dudfield replaces Jevons who has taken a knock and has had his least effective match so far. Keates makes a rare unforced error to lose possession in midfield but Carlisle are so surprised to have a glimpse of the ball outside of their own half that they are quickly persuaded to give it back to us. Glennon is a bored spectator – I cannot, off-hand, remember him touching the ball at all in the second half. Edwards comes on for Regan and it is all City. There is something deeply satisfying about seeing opponents skulking around, dishevelled and depressed, desperate only to get off the pitch and re-focus themselves on the next game when, they wearily hope, the other team will be more accommodating. Carlisle knew we were too good for them and they were pining for their grimy Border hometown. From the Tiger perspective, the most encouraging feature of this game and of the two-and-a-half that preceded it is our evident and rapid improvement, both individually and collectively. All four defenders look convincing. Whittle’s frill-free excellence we know about; Anderson’s rugged and committed contribution is also on a fast track to becoming taken for granted. Regan and Smith are sound and steady, the latter, rightly maligned for his utter bewilderment when asked to perform the very basics of defending throughout August, having blossomed with remarkable elegance and good sense now that September has cooled the land. Ashbee and Keates, in central midfield, came out of confrontation with very capable opponents in the Leicester game well into credit, and continued their profit-making yesterday. Keates, in particular, seems to improve game in, game out, and now looks a man we could usefully acquire long-term. It gives me no particular pleasure to make the comparison, but the current Keates zest outshines anything the departed Mark Greaves had offered from midfield for many long, subdued and now forgotten months. And then there’s Ryan Williams, whose inspirational current form is – finally – proof that Chesterfield didn’t sell us a pup after all, there’s the imaginative Green and the returning Appleby, a lean and hungry Gary Alexander, spiced with the droolworthy prospect of Stuart Elliott emerging from his injury lay-off. Admittedly, we still face a potential goalkeeping problem, and the identity of Alexander’s preferred striking partner has yet to be conclusively revealed, but overall Mr Molby is entitled to feel he is steering us in the right direction, and quite quickly. But Carlisle have yet to be tortured some more. Williams crosses beyond Alexander to Dudfield, who slips the ball to the advancing Keates whose dangerous cross just eludes Green, hurtling forward on a powerful surge from midfield. Green has wisely decided to quit the right touchline for the centre of the pitch where he can do, and is doing, real damage. Ashbee too is enjoying the unaccustomed opportunity to wade into the opposition half. A third goal is imminent and, pleasingly, it completes the Alexander hat-trick. Edwards wins the ball and slides it forward to Green who releases a striker’s dream ball, into space behind a tired defence. Alexander has started his charge from his own half, so can’t be offside despite the feeble appeals of the visiting defenders, and with plenty of time to take aim he strokes an utterly confident low shot past the keeper’s left hand and into the net. Jubilation all round, and the only outstanding issue now is exactly how many goals we’re going to rip past Carlisle. Johnson is on (for Alexander) and looking typically vigorous, and Williams is flowing down the left. Ashbee and Green combine to provide a opportunity for Dudfield down the inside left channel, but the Dude is judged offside – unconvincingly. There is, however, one more treat in store and it will be scoffed by our wayward striking enigma. A corner from Williams is watched with mournful disinterest by the Carlisle defence, and Dudfield leaps eagerly to smash a header into the back of the net. 4-0. About right. Macc next. They’ll suffer.
|HULL CITY: Glennon, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Smith, Green, Ashbee, Keates, Williams, Alexander, Jevons. Subs: Dudfield (for Jevons, 61), Edwards (for Regan, 67), Johnson (for Alexander, 67), Musselwhite, Bradshaw Goals: Alexander 20 49 73, Dudfield 78 Booked: None Sent Off: None CARLISLE UNITED: Keen, Birch, Kelly, Whitehead, Shelley, Molloy, Summerbell, Galloway, McGill, Foran, Nixon. Subs: Jack (for Galloway, 27), Slaven (for Nixon, 55), Wake (for Foran, 75), Andrews, Naisbitt Goals: None Booked: Foran, Kelly, Summerbell Sent Off: none ATTENDANCE: 8,461|