|Hey stop it. Stop that right now. Never mind looking down the table at those teams in 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th places deciding how many of them you think we might catch. And you can put your calculators away too because, no matter how optimistically you predict the results of the remaining games, we aren’t going to make the play-offs. We aren’t. We’ve left it too late. Still that doesn’t stop us enjoying evening’s like last night when we put in a thoroughly competent performance, kept a clean sheet for the first time in eons, and pouched another three points from our travels. We lined up with just one change from Sat’day: Fettis Joseph Whittle Anderson Smith Appleby Ashbee Keates Elliott Walters Forrester. So no Melton and no Delaney then. That was a pleasant surprise. Rather more predictably though, the game kicked off in wet and blowy conditions as is customary for our trips to the open terrace of the Moss Rose. The Silkmen, in their fetching dark blue, er, polyester, began with the wind at their backs but struggled to make any significant headway against the solid and dependable partnership of Whittle and Anderson. Energetic and harrassing play from our front six gave the Silks little time on the ball and time and time again a homester was forced into a hopeful hoof upfield. Most were overhit and carried harmlessly through to Fetts whilst the rest were rendered useless by an immobile and uninterested display from Kyle Lightbourne. True, we weren’t exactly ripping them to shreds at the other end either but we saw by far the greater share of possession and spent most of the half in control. Our passing was more accurate and the intelligent running of Forrester and Walters created enough of a threat to to keep the Silks from committing too many men forward. Elliott again looked happy pushing up from a wide midfield role. One surging run infield provided Appleby with a shooting chance that he hit only a foot or so over. We went close again after a drive from Smith, from the right hand edge of the box, was blocked inside the goal area and was eventually cleared with Walters and Elliott ready to pounce. Just a couple of anxious moments at the back. Firstly Whittle and Joseph got a bit hesitant when another high aimless ball was hit over their heads and they let it bounce, not once, but twice. Joseph was in the better position to clear but, instead, he chose to wait for Fettis to come to claim it. An alert Silkster nipped in and ran in on our keeper but Fettis’s dive got enough of a touch on the ball, and nothing on the player, to force the striker sufficiently wide and to the byeline to make his cross completely harmless. And secondly, during a brief period of Silk pressure, a corner from the left was won far too easily at the far post. The header landed only a few yards from the goal line and was only partially cleared to the edge of the box and right to the feet of one of theirs. The well-hit shot looked on target and destined for the net until Appleby threw himself into it’s path and was able to send it swirling high over the bar. Aside from these few incidents it was a 45 that lacked any noteworthy goalmouth action. But it was never dull fayre. We were battling away tenaciously against reasonable opposition and awful conditions so going into the break at nil all was going to be a pleasing reward for all those efforts. I’ll tell you what was dull though. The bloke in front of me (a tall, greying old sod) who spent most of the evening wittering on about some new job he’d got in a Library somewhere. Yawn. I have to give credit to him though, he can read a game. Deep into added-on time, a routine attack down our right flank was broken up by a Silk’s hoof into the crowd. The throw in was taken quickly. “Ey up, we might just nick one here” said the shelf stacker. His sentence started at exactly the same moment as when Richie Appleby drew back his right foot to thump over one helluva cross, and ended as Elliott’s header (from around the penalty spot, glanced perfectly to Willo’s right leaving him stranded on his line) bounced just inside the far post. Excellent stuff Tigers ! It was quick thinking and great awareness from all involved and Elliott showed again how dangerous he can be in the air. Two touches from the restart and the ref blew. Marvellous. Thankfully the conditions eased for the second half so the Tigers’ play was able to continue in a similar vein. Nothing too extravagant, nothing too risky, just steady and controlled. We were sitting back a bit without looking in any great danger and, as you might expect from a team scrapping for their existence in the Football League, the homesters did buck up their ideas a tad in the early stages. A lot of their better moments stemmed from the boy, Adams, on the left flank. We gave him a lot of space and he started whipping in some decent crosses. The heads of our central defensive duo got onto the end of most and Fettis was left to deal with only speculative shots from outside the area. The nearest they came to an equaliser was when Adams chose to hit in a lower ball that got behind the defence. Anderson turned to clear it as Fettis dived out at his feet and the loose ball almost fell to a Silk foot but was thankfully hacked behind for a corner. Up front, young Walters was having another storming game. Perhaps even equally as impressive as he’d been against Carlisle if less prominent. He takes up excellent positions wide out on both flanks, holds up the ball very well and invariably retains possession with a simple, sensible pass or forces the defenders around him to give away a corner or throw in. He has some good close control and looks bloody hard to knock of the ball. Importantly too, he looks to be forming a good understanding with Forrester. And he’s prepared to take on the oppo as he showed midway through the half. He chased down a ball out to the right touchline, held off the fullback and flicked it inside to Appleby. A neat return pass got the young ‘un clear on the edge of the box and he hit a clean shot towards the top corner that Willo had to be sharp to cover. And it was he who almost doubled our advantage soon after. Forrester won a tackle midway in their half in the inside right position. Ashbee took over and hit a wonderous pass between two Silks to the left edge of the box. Walters, with instant control, cut inside and was again thwarted only by Willo’s quick advancement from his line. With about twenty to go the tiring Appleby was replaced by Regan. We didn’t really create anything from then on but never looked in any danger of throwing away the spoils. In fact the star man of the last fifteen mins was the irrepressible Justin Whittle. Up for a corner that was met by a Silk head and that ballooned the clearance vertically upwards, Justin found himself in the D with the ball dropping invitingly to him. Much to the amazement of many, he showed us that he’s not just the rugged unflappable stopper that we all so love. He make a good strike on the volley and it looked on target but he was unlucky to see it fly off a defender’s shoulder before it could test Willo’s agility again. Then in the dying minutes, right by his own corner flag, he executed the most authoritative shoulder charge you will ever wish to see. The poor Macc ended up way over the advertising hoardings and into row L. To a great cheer, he then lumped the ball a good eighty yards or so deep, deep into the oppo’s territory to pin then back by their own byeline and use up a few more seconds of what time remained. Awesome stuff. And so the evening’s entertainment came to an end. It may seem strange, but I found it all just as enjoyable as the goal-fest at the weekend. It was great to see so much effort and commitment from a side and for it to be justly rewarded. It was a case of, in many ways, witnessing the simple things and seeing them pay off. I’m thinking of how the midfielders and strikers never stopped hassling their counterparts whenever they were in possession; of how the defence stood firm and unruffled, and of how we had so much movement that we hardly ever hit long hopeful punts to no-one in particular just to clear our lines. And, all of a sudden, when a loose ball drops on the fringes from a half-cleared corner or cross, we have people there looking to capitalise. It’s not rocket science, I know, but it is starting to look like the team knows what it’s doing for the first time since we saw off the Poolsters on Boxing Day. The play-offs ? Well, you never………………… NO. Stop it, stop that now.
|HULL CITY: Fettis, Joseph, Whittle, Anderson, Smith, Appleby, Ashbee, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Forrester. Subs: Regan (for Appleby, 70), Melton, Webb, Dudfield, Musselwhite. Goals: Elliott 45 Booked: None Sent Off: None MACCLESFIELD TOWN: Wilson, Welch, Tinson, Macauley, Hitchen, Smith, Dunning, Whittaker, Adams, Eaton, Lightbourne. Subs: tipton (for Smith, 60), Martin, Ross, Abbey, Nash. Goals: None Booked: Lightbourne Sent Off: None ATTENDANCE: 2,229