|Taylor’s Tigers grind out another away point, but it’s six games since a goal that wasn’t a deflection or fluke. Ian Thomson reports on the latest clean sheet.|
|Picture this. The team currently twelfth in the League table travels almost 300 miles on the Saturday before Christmas (known as “Black Saturday” according to Radio 5 last night, presumably in much the same way as Sunderland have always been known as the Black Cats or Charlton the Addicks) to take on the team occupying third spot, itself enjoying a run of ten consecutive home wins, one short of a Club record. A hard fought game is played out in foul climatic conditions, and ends with the home side, despite playing with confidence and claiming the lion’s share of the football throughout, scarcely able to force the visiting keeper into a single proper save, let alone breach the defences of the visitors, who despite the clean sheet, the away draw in a challenging fixture, the denial to the home side of its coveted record, and having considerably more copious goal scoring opportunity and the better chances to win the game, is booed off the field at the end by a sizeable proportion of its travelling support, while the applause offered by the remainder gave every appearance as being tendered more out of habit than appreciation at their side’s efforts. Not, TigChatters, a scenario occurring in one of your reporter’s dreams during another half-night of fitful sleep following another night of heavy consumption of the grape and the grain as the festive season reaches its zenith, but a scenario played out for real in the Subbuteo surroundings of the First Fitness Stadium yesterday afternoon. Those of you who were not there might well wonder at whether, even for a support high on expectations and not slow to criticise when they are not fulfilled, this was not more than a little beyond the pale, or whether perhaps, fuelled by similar festive consumption, were unable to recognise their own side, which after all was playing in its second strip. So let me try to explain, if not condone, this apparent dissatisfaction, and summarise the game in another equally applicable and in some ways more pertinent way. The aforementioned home side takes to the field with a rookie juvenile goalkeeper, due to the first-choice guy being injured. The former is himself stretchered off after less than a quarter of an hour of play, and, there being no other keeper on the bench, one of the outfield players dons the goalie’s jersey. The aforementioned visiting side fail to take advantage of this over the next seventy-six or so minutes of play, attacking the home goal only sporadically and not getting forward in the sort of numbers which would put the home defence under real pressure anything like frequently enough, not assisted by the fact that, despite having the more skilful players on show and several players running their socks off, far too many individual performances fell way short of the required mark. As a result, the away side fail to score for the third League game in succession and only scoop one of the three points which were there for the taking, making it a haul of two wins in the last eight League games and causing more ground to be lost on the Divisional front runners, and the crucial seventh spot in particular. The preceding paragraph is, of the two alternative scenarios, pretty much how yesterday’s encounter in the mouth of the Bourne (if you want to know what a Bourne is, don’t ask Mike Scott) will come to be remembered. Although the respective League positions of the teams involved were similar and the result the same, this was as unsatisfactory a goalless away draw as the Wrecsam one of three weeks ago was creditable. More worryingly, a trend seems to have started of performances being on the wane compared with a few weeks ago, with the players brought in by Taylor not appearing to add anything to, and in some respects detracting from, what we previously had. Don’t assume that these two were the only culprits, but I can’t remember a single thing of positive note that Melton did yesterday (for the second League game running), while Delaney had a nightmare, frequently slipping on the wet turf, being repeatedly skinned by the guy he was supposed to be marking, more often than not displaying poor ball control, and squandering possession time and again. Also, we yet again had to endure a first-half performance lacking in motivation followed by a more spirited offering in the second half courtesy, no doubt of some angry half-time invective from Taylor. Why can these players not be motivated from the start instead of wasting half the game? Overall, any Tiger fan watching the last three games would, it pains me to say, know deep down that it would be unwise to expect too much from the rest of the season. City, backed by a commendable following of probably close to 500 fans, lined up as follows:-
Musselwhite Regan Joseph Anderson Delaney Green Ashbee Melton Keates Jevons Elliott
Sub: Alexander (for Jevons, 64 minutes) This was of course, City’s first visit to the First Fitness Stadium. For those of you wondering, , Bournemouth haven’t moved as such; the ground is on the site of the old Dean Court ground, albeit that the pitch has been rotated through ninety degrees and now runs east-west as opposed to north-south. It’s a typical Airfix-type structure, three-sided as at Oxford but smaller (think Northampton), as anonymous and humdrum as the Circle is original and magnificent, and bedevilled by a completely vexatious and (for an away following of 500) unnecessary ticketing system whereby the away fan has to walk to the away turnstiles, situated as ever at the furthest point from the town centre and the parking facilities, is told by the stewards on the gate that you need to buy a ticket to enter the ground, and that these can only be bought from the ticket office situated yes, you’ve guessed, on the far side of the ground round the back of the main stand, in the direction you’ve just trudged from, so then has to walk all the way to the ticketatorium, purchase a ticket and walk back before he or she can finally get into the ground. This is a system that achieves nothing except inconvenience, impatience and frayed tempers; Bournemouth should in my view be told that unless and until it is scrapped, and either tickets are issued at the turnstiles or the need to have them is dispensed with altogether, they must surrender home advantage, and the attendant revenue, for every home fixture. After that irritation, we finally saw some football. City survived an early corner, and then a fine sweeping move on 4 saw Green cross low from the right towards the inrushing Jevons, who reached the ball just as the hesitant rookie keeper, looking uncertain and badly positioned and a Bournemouth defender did likewise. The keeper came off worst as the ball was deflected to safety, laying motionless in a crumpled heap on the edge of the goal area and requiring lengthy treatment before being able to continue. The game duly restarted, but after a further ten minutes during which little happened but Bournemouth looked as though they might be a handful with their big, bustling front pair and their nippy, energetic midfield, the keeper, still apparently suffering from the earlier injury, collapsed after punting the ball upfield. He was duly carried off on a stretcher with sufficient haste and lack of attempt to patch him up to suggest that the injury was serious, a view compounded by the sight of an ambulance leaving the ground with blue lights flashing some ten minutes later. The game continued with the Bourmenouth number 4 between the posts, thereby demonstrating the folly of not having some sort of recognised keeper on your bench, not of course that it did Bourmenouth much harm yesterday as the half settled into a pattern of Bournemouth pressing forward largely by virtue of being allowed to do so by City’s weak tackling, aimless passing and desire to play to deep to put Bournemouth under any form of pressure, but with few if any proper attempts on goal by the home side. Around the half-hour mark, though, we started to show a bit, and Elliot headed wide on 29 after Keates had crossed in following an inch-perfect crossfield ball from Regan. Two minutes after that Browning in the Bourmenouth goal raced out to stop Jevons getting his cross in after an intelligent advantage from referee Wolstenholme, who had a good game, following a foul on Delaney had caught the home rearguard out. We then finally decided to test the stand-in keeper, with Jevons intelligently attempting a lob from 35 yards out to test Browning’s positional sense, which turned out to be non-existent although the ball skidded off the roof of the net with the keeper stranded. Five minutes after that Green curled one just wide from twenty yards which the goalie wouldn’t have reached had it been on target. It was starting to look promising now, but City predictably reverted to arrant stupidity on 42 when we were awarded a free on the edge of the box. Every other side in the land simply attempts a shot on goal either over, round or through the wall, and makes no attempt to conceal its intentions, but not City, oh no, we know better; we still mess around with silly bloody decoy runs over the ball and short passes to a man who finally attempts to hit the ball goalwards when the wall has by this time advanced five yards, the sort of stupid nonsense that you see in school playground kickabouts. And so it was here as Green eventually blazed over the bar, when if one of them had had the sense to realise that any ball which avoided the wall and found the target would be almost certain similarly to avoid an inexperienced keeper as well. So half time arrived after a curiously-short three-minutes’ injury time. The second period started promisingly, with an attack down the right in the very first minute which ended with Elliott laying off for Keates to strike the ball hard but straight at the goalie – better! Four minutes later Green steered wide when the lay-off to two men outside him might have been a better option, but it all looked promising now and we started, naif fools that we are, to anticipate victory. Almost immediately, we started to fade as the home side rallied as they perhaps realised that they didn’t have to drop so deep to protect Browning, helped by City giving possession away too readily and backed by a constant chant of “Barmy Army” from behind the Muss’s goal – a little incongruous for a town in which failure to wear rubber gloves for foreplay is, one suspects, most peoples’ idea of decadence. City next showed on 63 when we forced a couple of corners, Bournemouth defending superbly to block an Elliott drive which looked inexorably goalbound, leading to the second corner which Joseph glanced just wide. Jevons was then replaced by Alexander, the reasons for which were not immediately apparent unless it was simply to try something new. Well it didn’t work; Alexander clearly had no desire whatsoever to participate in this match. What the hell is wrong with him I have no idea, but he’s an expensive liability at the moment, especially at one point when, even though he looked to have the beating of his marker which would have left him clear on goal, he decided to dive and the chance was lost. Melton, making a rare foray into the action, headed just wide on 67 from a Regan cross, and then nine minutes later Green slipped just as an Elliott shot was parried into his path by Browning. Although performing indifferently for spells, it’s fair to say we weren’t exactly having our fair share of the luck either, although fortune intervened to deny Bourmenouth a victory which they too would not in fairness have deserved on 84 when a slick move down the right ended with sub Feeney backheeling the ball across the face of the goal from in front of the near post, but some stout defending ensured that the resultant attempt to force the ball in was blocked. In truth, that was the first real scare the City goal had had, and we continued to make what running there was in the final stages, as Elliott, a tireless worker and our star man yesterday, headed a looping Regan cross just wide. and Keates wastefully putting his cross too near the keeper when he ought to have picked out one of the two supporting Tigermen a couple of minutes before the ref blew his whistle for the last time and the exuberance of the Bournemouth PA announcer at the end told us what we knew as well as they – that the Cherries had got out of gaol. Until before the Darlo game, Taylor had an average of two points per game. To get back up to that now, we need three straight wins from three teams above us in the table. Come on City, prove us cynics wrong for once.
|HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Regan, Joseph, Anderson, Delaney, Green, Melton, Ashbee, Keates, Elliott, Jevons. Subs: Alexander (for Jevons, 65), Whittle, Webb, Smith, Deeney. Goals: None Booked: Ashbee, Melton Sent Off: None BOURNEMOUTH: Tardiff, Young, Purches, C Fletcher, Broadhurst, Elliott, Browning, O’Connor, Thomas, S Fletcher, Hayter. Subs: Tindall (for Tardiff, 16), Feeney (for Elliott, 73), Narada (for Young, 87), Holmes, Stock. Goals: None Booked: Tindall Sent Off: None ATTENDANCE: 6,098|