Hull City 1 Cambridge United 1

Another failure to beat a team of ten men, but beneath the headlines was further slow improvement.  Mark Gretton explains how relegation may yet be avoided.
At the end of the game 15 600 fans rose to applaud the team off the pitch for as committed and skilful a display as we had shown for some time. 15,600! There is so much goodwill towards the club in the city that you could cry. When they boo, as they sometimes have through disappointment with the team, then they deserve more than to be dismissed as ‘morons’ by idiot observers. The fans have shown they care and yesterday the players did too and the fans responded. And that was for a 1-1 draw at home to one of the few sides who approach our incompetence on their travels, who had been reduced to 10 men for most of the second half. If ever we are any good, the players will never need to buy a pint again, which given the alleged appetites of some of our lads is saying an awful lot. At least partially warming the cockles on a cold Hull afternoon were:

Fettis Joseph Whittle Anderson Delaney Melton Appleby Keates Elliott Dudfield Forrester

So having talked of how well three central defenders worked last week as we were hammered by the Scunts and how the best player had been Williams, the manager reverted to 4-4-2 and dropped Williams. Life as it is lived on Planet Peter. Yet the changes, though defying the manager’s own logic, were almost certainly right. For Williams, as anyone who had not formerly managed England could tell you, had been rubbish last week. And even our most limited players are least limited with what they are most familiar. Cheeringly, Anderson was back after suspension and Appleby was having his first league start of the season. Dudfield became Forrester’s 16th striking partner since his arrival, that figure of course being made up, but no less true for that. Appleby quickly impressed, linking well with Melton to shoot over, before winning the ball with a pleasingly crunchy challenge and playing in a ball that bounced around before dropping enticingly to Elliott who shot well enough but was foiled by the keeper. A minute later a typical lumped and none the worse for that clearance from Anderson allowed Dudfield to outpace the defence but having done this his cross was screwed disappointingly across the goal. It was a pleasingly open, er, opening, contributed to by Cambridge who were giving us some space mainly because they were equally eager to get forward themselves. There was a diverting moment on 16 minutes as Chillingworth was taken off to be replaced by the wonderfully named Nacca. Chillingworth trotted off without obvious injury, prompting the thought that they clearly ran a brisk ship in Cambridge, if you don’t make your make in a quarter of an hour, that’s it, son. Nevertheless, they seemed little disrupted by the change and continued to break dangerously, although the waves of their attacks generally broke on the rock that is Justin Whittle. When we had the ball Elliott, playing as a genuine left winger, was a lively outlet on the left and got in some dangerous crosses. When we didn’t use Elliott, the factotum ball was the favoured standby of the back four lumping it at head height towards small strikers, the old Blackadder tactic of doing exactly what has failed so often before as this will be the last thing the enemy expects. Still, we were having our moments, most obviously when Melton cased gasps amongst the fans by involving himself twice in the same move, finding Elliott who crossed over long from the left for Melton to skilfully chip back in, Dudfield steadied himself with the help of one of the defenders and then fell over in one of those mutual sleeve tugging tussles. We roared hopefully, but the referee deemed no pen. In truth the game had lost a bit of shape, although we continued to look as though goals were not completely off the agenda, as Dudfield flicked cleverly but just ahead of the path of Forrester, then Elliott crossed again from the left, for Lawrie to lift wastefully over. Predictably, as we gained a little momentum we went behind. Elliott set off down the flank and then did a rather showy fall under the defender’s challenge. He then lay there to make sure he got the decision and, by the time he realised that the ref had been unimpressed, we were back-pedalling. Our left flank was stretched, Delaney was unable to prevent a ball to his flank from finding his man and then unable to prevent the cross and then, more surprisingly, Justin Whittle allowed Youngs to get across the front of him and skilfully flick a header past Fettis. 1-0, and harsh. Happily, we didn’t buckle and there was time for Dudfield to again put over as Elliott again crossed in, but we’d lost the half. Then we had a moment that summed up the way the cookie was crumbling, as the referee played a good advantage (as he attempted to do much of the afternoon) allowing a cross to come in for Keates who turned well and shot, the keeper watched hopelessly as the ball beat him but then hit the inside of the post and bounced back snugly into his undeserving grasp. Bugger. Second half and we had barely focussed before the game altered alarmingly. Elliott and central defender Tann went up for a routine header that left them both on the ground. That’s all it looked like to most of us, although the eagle-eyed claimed to have seen the Cam man use both elbow and head on Elliott. Whatever the truth of it, referee Cowburn sent off Tann and we had the dubious privilege of taking on ten. But not the unfortunate Nacca, whose afternoon was foreshortened further by a substitution in the ensuing Cambridge reshuffle. Naccered. Perhaps fortunately we had little time to fret at our previous failings when numerically advantaged. Dudfield was put through and went down under the challenge, we howled, the ref made the ‘he got the ball’ sign as it ran to Appleby who was clattered in a ‘I got the bloody man that time’ style by the last defender. Silly tackle, clear penalty and Forrester binned it joyously, 1-1. Cambridge, to their great credit, kept looking for the win and Delaney and Alexander, having initially combined well then contrived to give it away, the visitors got clear and it all went a bit quiet as they bore down on our goal before shooting wastefully wide when they should have buried it. But we were going well now. Williams came on for Appleby, Melton moved to the middle, and we got some control. Elliot crossed too long, Williams turned it back, Dudfield again missed. Then Williams crossed from the right and the advancing Anderson’s shot brought a smart save from their keeper. Whittle, in a starling example of life imitating Herman-inspired art, turned up in the inside left position and skipped daintily through their defence. Justin seemed so taken by this that he rather distractedly nearly let the Cams in just after, perhaps whilst explaining to Anderson how his shimmy had wrong-footed their entire back four. Joseph, getting forwards better from right back than in previous games got injured and went off for Regan without disrupting us. We forced back to back corners and from the second Williams’ shot was cleared off the line. Then Melton, in an unprecedented fourth touch of the game, embarked on a long and winding run that culminated in what Alan Hansen would have called a ‘decent het’ only for said ‘het’ to be blocked. And so we finished, on top although never completely in charge. Cambridge, obviously complete amateurs at this sort of thing even left men up during our corners when they were down to ten and you’ll never get anything out of a game doing that, just ask the manager. Only a draw at home. but an enjoyable afternoon, good football from both sides and we came from behind and finished on top and perhaps we will have to settle for that at the moment. Impressions, Appleby was initially impressive and then understandably faded. Dudfield got into good positions without often looking like scoring and his pace drops notably during a game, presumably due to the chronic knee damage that will see him off loaded at the end of this campaign. Elliott got forward well and then crossed often inaccurately. This doesn’t mean that he can’t play left wing although he will clearly have to work at it, not least in staying out of Delaney’s way if the left back decides to trundle forwards as he did in the second half. On a couple of occasions they fell over each other. Forrester was typically bright, but, the penalty apart, nothing fell for him. And I don’t think we’ll go down. 10 points will almost certainly guarantee survival, 6 might do it and with our defence, keepers and central midfielders we will always get more than our share of draws in the last 13 games. We don’t need to do much to survive, get to summer, buy some more players, ship out Whittle and Elliott prior to offloading Planet Peter in November. Too cynical by half? Maybe. After all, wins at Carly and Macc would get us all excited again and eyeing up 7th place, you know it’s true, we never learn and then the manager is a hero. Mind you, if we lose both to a newly Green Carlisle and Maccsters who need the points fairly urgently, I might even revise my glib ‘no relegation’ forecast. It’s a funny old game after all, you just ask Nacca.

HULL CITY: Fettis, Joseph, Whittle, Anderson, Delaney, Melton , Appleby, Keates, Elliott, Dudfield, Forrester.  Subs: Williams (for Appleby, 67), Regan (for Joseph, 75), Jevons (for Dudfield, 87), Burton, Musselwhite. Goals: Forrester 51 (pen) Booked: Williams Sent Off: None   CAMBRIDGE UNITED: Marshall, Fleming, Murray, Tann, Newey, Tudor, Wanless, Guttridge, Youngs, Chillingworth, Riza.  Subs: Nacca (for Chillingworth, 17), Theobald (for Nacca, 48), Brennan, Revell, Turner. Goals: Youngs 38 Booked: None Sent Off: Tann   ATTENDANCE: 15,607