|A drab affair as early promise melts away to be replaced by hoofery and a crisis of lady luck – all played out in front of a remarkable 18,400 spectators. Mike Scott sees Terry Dolan drag us down to his level.|
|Even for a “cup half full” sort of person like me, it’s difficult to take much positive from the latest attempt by Hull City to set a world record for “biggest gap between performance deserved by huge attendance, and actual performance served up”. When a baby is sick down my shoulder I take solace in the fact that the malaise must be on the mend, or the painful wind relieved. When a plane crashes in the Peruvian desert I assume that to offset the death toll aircraft engineers will pore over the evidence, perhaps reconstructing the entire aircraft fragment by fragment in a large hanger, and the lessons learnt will be enacted for the next time I nervously set foot on a shuttle to Heathrow. But in front of 18,400 odd supporters the Tigers did little to cheer me or anyone else up – least of all Peter Taylor if his post-match comments are taken at face value. Too much hoofing, not enough passing, bereft of passion and hard work – how ironic that Terry Dolan was in the KC yesterday to witness a performance “worthy” of his darkest days at the Tigers helm. The advent of a countdown clock on the reprogrammed scoreboard would have pleased countless thousands no doubt, but as the board rattled through the teamsheet there was clear evidence of more Taylor tinkering. Regan returned to right back, Delaney moved up to centre midfield, Williams came in on the left. Melton and Webb were benched, while Forrester debuted in place of the totally excluded, and perhaps never to be seen in black and amber again, Alexander. We lined up:
Musselwhite Regan Joseph Anderson Holt Green Ashbee Delaney Williams Forrester Elliott
Doubtful tactics. We were in for an inevitable battle against the potless York, their belly fire enhanced further by the poaching of Fettis in the week (who wisely stayed benched in order to avoid yet further impetus for York’s strikers to ripple the ropework). Yet we lacked a strong presence up front, we had insufficient tough tackling in midfield and we had wide players prone to too much roaming – all these points were made before the kick-off and were only confirmed with the benefit of hindsight. Despite these failings City came out of the traps well once Reddy had alarmed the dozing City back four in the first minute and tested Mussy’s edge-of-box reactions with a slightly overhit first touch. Green was set free through the inside left channel and York’s loan keeper Ingham – making his third appearance against City in 6 weeks after playing for Darlo and Sunderland in December – smothered Green’s shot and sustained an injury. York were giving the ball away too cheaply, none more so than Ingham whose habit was to punt the ball wide left for a Tigers throw-in – I counted five instances of this, there may have been more. From one of these Forrester received the ball on the right in front of the East Stand, tricked York’s unpolished centre back Brass and set away Green whose cross was cleared amid some panic. From the resultant throw Williams was set up with a 20 yard shot that was well struck but deflected wide. On 10 minutes a foul throw ceded possession to the Tigers deep in York territory, Ashbee and Holt combining well on the left for the latter to cross to Delaney, whose hooked shot was blocked. Another City throw near York’s goalline saw the sorely missed Holtizer launched into the six yard box where Delaney flicked on and Anderson had the ball whipped off his toe end by Brass as the goal gaped. Finally, Elliott fed Green with a throw and the Cumbrian’s advance culminated in a lashed low shot from 18 yards that had Ingham scrambling low to save by his near post. All of these events happened in the first quarter of the game and the creaking York defence, while performing manfully, were looking ready for a breach. And then it all stopped. After 25 Ashbee gave away possession cheaply in centre midfield and Nogan and Potter combined well to set up Duffield with a regulation finish that he skied horribly with no defenders in attendance and Mussy scrambling across him to make some sort of improvised barrier. This alarm seemed to stop the Tigers in their tracks – and where confidence and swagger were evident, fear and meekness emerged. York’s hardwork across the pitch started to pay off, Nogan’s presence behind the front two causing Ashbee and Delaney particular problems, and City retreated into the two banks of four hoofery that has too often infected Taylor’s term in charge. This period of York pressure reached a crescendo three minutes before half time when a corner was defended dreadfully by a collection of flailing Tigers, and Duffield fired home from 4 yards, only to see his effort expunged by the referee who saw Ebor skull-duggery in the preceding melee. A lifeline. Not accepted. At half time the odd boo accompanied the trudge off the KC sward, which was a little harsh as we had been the dominant force for half of the half and went in to the break with a narrow points lead. But more tinkering at half time saw some very strange decisions. Delaney, who had performed gamely but poorly in central midfield for the first half (it simply isn’t a position that he is yet capable of playing), was spared the rod and Holt, who had done OK at left back, was switched for Melton, Delaney dropping to left back. Damien had a decent second half, but did Holt deserve to be the sacrificial lamb? Managers shouldn’t have obvious favourites. In addition Anderson, who had struggled with Reddy’s pace once or twice, was swapped for Whittle. New faces, but same old shite. Melton played as he has always played since he came to Hull. He linked up play well with little ten yard passes in our own half and he made pleasing looking five yard runs on halfway before laying the ball off to a defender, but his tackles were few, his successful tackles were fewer and his forward probings were almost non-existent. Taylor insisted post-match that there is a Steve Melton we have yet to see, a driving goalscoring attacking midfielder who can dominate the opposition. Fine, if that’s what he can do then he’s an asset – but when he isn’t doing it (and to date he hasn’t, other than the Sunderland kickabout) he is not worthy of selection. The second half? Poor. We got a few chances from free kicks to float the ball into York’s box, Whittle won one but no-one reacted, the rest floated over the frustrated Justin for goal kicks. The defending went off the boil and York were gifted chances. Cooper skied after a poor header from Joseph was followed by the ex-Poshman watching interestedly when a tackle might have been nice. Bullock glanced an unchallenged header wide after Whittle was harshly adjudged to have fouled 25 yards out on the left. York came forward cautiously but with good organsiation, and often our gutless tackling gave them more possession than they deserved. City carved out chances sporadically. The best fell to Forrester on 50 who accepted an early Elliott cross after a fine Delaney pass, then fired sweetly goalwards only to see the flapping Ingham get a limb of some description on the ball and execute a fine Schmeichelesque block. City were denied a clear penalty when a Forrester cross was batted off for a corner by a basketballing York defender. Elliott tried an overhead kick that went over the crossbar. Green headed wide after a deep Delaney cross. In the last 5 minutes Ashbee had a shot blocked, then screwed the rebound wide. But overall this was a poor second half performance that City deserved no reward from. Even players who have performed admirably to date this season showed signs of disinterest. Ashbee was poor in the second half, none more so than when he missed and easy header in midfield that let Reddy through on goal, only for the Irishman to slide his finish just wide. Green had an absolute stinker, all his passes were either short or overhit and his effort was minimal. Forrester faded badly after a lively start and didn’t look fit. Webb came on for the last quarter of an hour but by then even City’s hoofing wasn’t working, as clearance after clearance landed in the stands while a willing but bemused Webb looked on. The game ended with a moment of bizarre refereeing. Joseph came across to the left to tackle Nogan, and his challenge was untidy but not particularly felonious. The referee waved play-on and all was well. Then the linesman waved his flag vigorously, and not only did the stupid ref give a free-kick, he booked Joseph for a tackle that he himself had adjudged fair (and he was many yards closer to the incident than the lino). His adjudication on that booking should make interesting reading – “I booked number 39 Joseph for a fair tackle on the touchline”. Another match passes and another poor performance. Taylor has indentified Alexander and Dudfield as part of the problem, and circulated their names for transfer. But the problem runs deeper. The team is willing and able to play good football, but one setback can rock them on their heels and they stop playing, stop passing and – in some cases – appear to stop trying. It’s a major job needed to rectify this, a job that is unlikely to see us challenge for play-offs this season. And yet … only a three point gap between City and 7th (albeit with teams around us having many games in hand). And a fluke goal, a first 20 minutes that yields three goals rather than three close things, the emergence of a player from the wings who galvanises the squad … all is not lost, it’s just that I’m buggered if I can find it just now.
|HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Regan, Joseph, Anderson, Holt, Green, Ashbee, Delaney, Williams, Elliott, Forrester. Subs: Melton (for Holt, 45), Whittle (for Anderson, 45), Webb (for Williams, 76), Jevons, Fettis. Goals: None Booked: Joseph Sent Off: None YORK CITY: Ingham, Cooper, Parkin, Brass, Jones, Cowan, Bullock, Potter, Nogan, Duffield, Reddy. Subs: Yalcin (for Duffield, 63), Wood, Fox, Collinson, Wise. Goals: None Booked: Cooper, Cowan, Reddy Sent Off: None ATTENDANCE: 18,437|