|A low key performance ended in a City double strike and three points. Steve Weatherill describes how we rekindled those play-off hopes for one more week.|
|Winning’s everything – perhaps. Winning was the full extent of what we took from this thoroughly drab game, in which entertainment was meagre as an unmistakable end-of-season feel came early to the Circle. Shrewsbury, for whom the end of the season might yet deliver a grisly downfall, deserved to get beaten, for they played with a poverty of ambition during the second half that made no sense and earned them righteous defeat. We were worth a win secured by two strikes in the game’s concluding ten minutes. But whereas the last time we won 2-0 at home against a side that had held on grimly to a point until capitulating late on was one of the most satisfying games of recent seasons – I refer to the demolition of the Scunts back in November – this victory was pale and forgettable. Just doing enough on a gloriously sunny Spring afternoon were a 4-4-2:
Fettis Otsemobor Joseph Anderson Delaney Reeves Keates Melton Elliott Walters Forrester
If it had been a Formula One race the green light would have flicked on and the drivers would have calmly inspected their fingernails and checked the smoothness of their shave in the mirror before switching on their ignition. Had it been a horse race, the stalls would have been flung dramatically wide open, and the nags would have peered out and delivered a gallic equine shrug, as if they really did have better things to do than pound up hill and down dale with some skinny runt on their back, arse in the air and whip in hand. The early stages of this match were not formless. They were static. But it really was a beautiful afternoon. After a few minutes had drifted gently by, some football type things started to happen. Walters chipped the ball over the bar – a deft touch, but there was no serious danger for the visitors. Then Steve Melton was presented with possession just outside the box. A left-foot shot was inviting, but instead the twinkle-toed magician skipped to his left, away from the danger area, and executed a sublime pass straight on to the toe-end of a defender, who Kicked It Very Hard Into The Stand. Teams need players who can do this. The mighty Shrews built their defence around the giant Matt Redmile, who cannot be less than 25 stone nowadays and is able to win possession simply by allowing his immense gravitational force to draw the football towards him. This skill helpfully compensates for his own inability to move his bulking hulk anywhere other than at a snail’s pace. A big snail, mind. A really big snail. Jason van Blerk plays for them too. He looked much as he did when he wore amber and black. Sort of OK. Not too bad. Alright really. I’d forgotten about his existence totally, to be honest. Anyway, Shrewsbury had us tamed, and they nearly took the lead when a powerful low shot tested the Fett to his left. Our number one netman dived full-length and made an excellent save. We had a bit of fun claiming that their keeper had handled the ball outside his box, but he hadn’t done actually, and we were only teasing! The linesman and referee enjoyed the jape and waved play on. Soon it will be summer and we can enjoy watching some cricket. Our main tactic was to lump it long, from right to left, in the hope that the sprightly Elliott might leap and win some headers. Shrewsbury’s main tactic was to put a tall defender near Elliott and win the header whenever we crossed in Elliott’s general direction. Ooo, cut and thrust! it was like a chess match out there. One in which the players didn’t really know many moves. A cute free-kick by Keates seemed to have released Forrester inside the box. But he fell over. Then he was substituted for Jevons. And Reeves came off for Burton. And by now it was really, really quiet inside the ground. Half-time couldn’t come too soon, as I was eager to take in a televised concourse view of the whey-faced Englishmen, terrified and gaunt in their preparation for a wicked tawsing courtesy of Roy Laidlaw, John Rutherford and Roger Baird, but before you could say “Finlay Calder’s offside!” those tricky Shrews had created a shooting chance. And Fettis was alert to tip the effort over the bar. The dying moments of the half offered the best tiger moments so far, as a Delaney free-kick was met by Anderson and a looping header escaped only inches beyond the far post. Then Otsemobor charged forward eagerly before lamely punting a shot wide. And it was time to pause. We switched to 4-3-3 for the second half. Burton dropped back to left-back, while Delaney-Keates-Melton ranged across midfield. Elliott took up an advanced role as a left-sided attacker, supporting Jevons and Walters. The visitors won two corners early on, but gradually retreated, while we began to play the game more often in their half than our own. It was poor fare. It was dull. But we did now have more of the possession. Walters sliced a hasty shot wide of the near post, and then Delaney blasted a left-foot shot well over the top. It was Walters again as we pushed down the right, but his final shot slipped weakly past the keeper’s left hand and wide of the near post. We now look the better side, and there was gratifying determination from the midfield trio. Keates played as the deepest-lying of the three, and got through plenty of scampering about designed to hold our ambitious formation together. Delaney, of course, was brimming with enthusiasm and effort, though his passing is, to be charitable, no more than modestly proficient in its accuracy. As for Melton, well he drifts out of the game more than he drifts in, but he was just about worth his place yesterday. However, the game was going nowhere in the sunshine, and if, like me, you had invested a score in a scoreless draw at 8/1, you were by now feeling perfectly serene. So City spoiled it, as they always do. A ball whisks in from the right, and Jevons clambers among defenders to shove a shot goalwards – it cannons into the crossbar and rebounds to a defender, who nods it back into the clutches of a relieved keeper. The impression that we are now seriously intent on breaking the dull deadlock is temporarily put on hold, first as a bashful streaker is allowed far too much room to play by standoffish stewards and then as Melton bursts into the box only to be firmly tackled by a stray plastic bag which does enough to propel the shot wide. “Well in son!” remarks Redmile, encouraging his youthful but promising partner. Melton picks himself up sorrowfully, and vows to work in training on improving his one-on-ones when confronted with this upcoming new breed of defensive fruit-and-veg carriers. Now we score. Keates pops a corner from the left on to Otsemobor’s forehead and the young full-back, criminally unmarked, gleefully thumps the ball into the net. So, so easy – all of a sudden. Shrewsbury look deflated, but have only themselves to blame for a craven second half display. They have a superb attacker in Rogers and a canny one in Jemson, and neither has received a shred of decent service since the opening seconds of the second period. Ha! Right on 90, we got another one. Walters had infuriated the Shrews with a splendid display of stubborn ball retention and, off the back of his strength, we constructed a neat move which culminated in Jevons taking a tumble inside the box. It didn’t look like a penalty to me. But it was awarded. And, after a tetchy dispute about who should take it, Keates stepped up to send a low left-foot shot under the keeper and into the back of the net. There was still time enough for us to squander the best opportunity of the game. Elliott surged forwards, lost the ball, won it back, passed wide to Jevons and when his cross flew unerringly on to the forehead of Keates, completely unmarked in front of goal, the absurdity of winning a poor game by all of 3-0 loomed large. But Keates doesn’t do a lot of heading and he directed his effort wastefully wide. Still, he had a decent game. So did Walters, and Elliott was handy from time to time too. Jevons was first-rate after he came on. He’s playing for a contract though. I suggest we don’t give him one. Too many limp displays earlier on this season. Oh, and a word for the manager. I’d say he got the half-time rearrangement just about right. Regan for Walters, two goals for us and none for them, game over, and we look nailed on for that all-important 13th place. Shrewsbury? I’d be sorry to lose them, for Gay Meadow is high on my list of “places I’d like to take those lovely sugarbabe girls to for a hot threesome (but not the brassy scouser)”, but on this evidence they are heading for relegation.
|HULL CITY: Fettis, Otsemobor, Joseph, Anderson, Delaney, Reeves, Melton, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Forrester. Subs: Jevons (for Forrester, 29), Burton (for Reeves, 41), Regan (for Walters, 89), Donaldson, Musselwhite. Goals: Otsemobor 81, Keates 90 (pen) Booked: None Sent Off: None SHREWSBURY TOWN: Cartwright, Redmile, Artell, Atkins, Moss, Murray, Jagielka, Woan, van Blerk, Rodgers, Jemson. Subs: Aiston (for Woan, 86), Drysdale (for van Blerk, 87), Lowe, Dunbavin, Packer. Goals: None Booked: Murray Sent Off: None ATTENDANCE: 13,253|