City Till We Die

Boston United 0 Hull City 1

Hull City’s first – and on this performance, last – visit to the quaint old York Street ground saw the promotion pressure lifted, the great away support return and a rousing victory for the Tigers after a torrid opening spell.  Ian Thomson is far from stumped for something to say on the matter.
The one predictable thing about City is the unpredictable. Whatever all the signs tell you to expect never seems to come to pass. But we don’t ever learn from that, do we? And so, as Central Trains conveyed me yesterday morning at a leisurely pace across the northern edge of the Fens, magnificently brooding as ever despite the glorious sunshine, my mind wandered to the subject of what I should write for you about the forthcoming fixture. Soon it was all worked out; I would start off with a short paragraph masquerading as a disinterested, half-hearted, incomplete report of the game, as a reaction to what would surely be a disinterested, half-hearted, incomplete City offering if last week’s second-half stroll at the Circle was to be anything to go by, on the basis that if the team couldn’t be bothered to put the effort in because the end of the season had yet again been reached fruitlessly and prematurely, then neither could I. Course, what then happened at York Street wasn’t like that at all. Whilst it was far from being a classic Tiger performance, in terms of either skill or endeavour, in a game lacking in real incident, it at least provided a welcome surprise. For we actually mustered sufficient self-respect and enthusiasm for the task not only to stifle most effectively (and, literally a couple of instances apart, comfortably) a home side who, although limited in quality, had a great deal at stake and scrapped hard to try to preserve it, but to press forward in search of the full share of the spoils for ourselves in a manner which ultimately brought its just reward. We’ll park the question of why we didn’t get the same at Bootham Crescent, Roots Hall or Glanford Park to name but three since Christmas. Sporting our current change strip on what will probably be its final outing were the following:-

Fettis Joseph Whittle Anderson Smith Regan Keates Delaney Elliott Walters Burgess

This may well, of course, prove to be City’s only ever visit to York Street in the League (although Exeter and Shrewsbury in particular look to have other ideas at the moment), and I have to say that would be a pity. Lincolnshire east of the A 46 really is the land that time forgot, and the town of Boston itself is a particular delight. Strolling from station to pub and pub to ground through streets lined with traditional-looking pubs, small, independently-owned shops and only a very few familiar names on store fronts, you felt as though you had somehow wandered on to the set of some early 1960s British film, and would surely bump into Albert Finney or Ian Carmichael (or better still, Julie Christie, armed with a wicker shopping basket), round the next corner. However, modern-day reality soon manifested itself, on the approaches to the ground, in the guise of an absurdly heavy and intrusive police presence, given the presence of no more than a dozen or two fake Burberry-becapped scrotes. Having negotiated the lines of police in front of the turnstiles, and even more inside, the ground itself wasn’t half bad, with proper floodlight pylons and some sort of reasonably substantial structure on each side, certainly better than either Cheltenham’s or Macclesfield when they first came into the League and with definitely more of a League than non-League feel to it. The pitch, however, was not quite so impressive, a bare, uneven tract of land giving every appearance of being used between games for the grazing of an especially voracious species of sheep, curling up in the corners like the top slice of the loaf once you’ve opened it, and playing in a manner entirely consistent with its appearance. The game kicked off in the same radiant sunshine with Boston, ex-Tigers Mark Greaves and Matt Hocking in their ranks, playing towards the 1 300 or so City fans who had made the trip – an amazing turnout for a game with nothing at stake for the Tigers, given that many must have shared the same forebodings about it all as I did and they can’t all, like me, have been ground-tick anoraks. Neither side stamped its authority on the early stages, although City, the unconvincing-looking line-up notwithstanding, were the first to show on 7 mins when Burgess at full stretch narrowly failed to connect with a Walters cross from the right. A succession of Tiger corners followed, all coming to nought. The hosts themselves gave no indication of having much to offer, although this was due in some measure to an organised display by the Tigers rearguard, with the impeccable Justin Whittle prominent as ever. Even in these early stages it looked as though one strike would be enough to settle the issue, the more so because after about 20 minutes the game entered its most unsatisfactory spell, with City easily containing a Boston attack which didn’t get near the City goal until quarter time when the Fett had to dive low to smother a cross from the right, but at the same time, whether frustrated by the uneven pitch or overcome by end-of season inertia, seemingly unwilling to take the game to Boston in any meaningful way. Thankfully, some kind of watershed was reached after about 35 minutes, after Fettis had dived to palm away for a corner a fierce low effort from the ex-Yorkie Duffield and I had written down “Burgess shite- no effort” on my piece of paper. The maligned Burgess then almost immediately won a corner after his determined run was stopped by a Boston defender, and the menacing-looking (facially, that is to say) Boston netminder Bastock fubled the resultant corner, the loose ball being turned back to Delaney who eagerly skied it fully twenty feet over. Ah, Delaney. Dear Delaney. So reminiscent of the member of each British team that ever competed in Jeux Sans Frontieres, usually balding and approaching middle age (some will be thinking “pot, kettle, black” at this point) who had boundless energy and enthusiasm but always spilt his bucket of water or fell over just at the vital moment of the game. But, to prove me wrong again, a minute later he viciously volleyed a bouncing ball just over the bar from the corner of the box. We now actually look much more like scoring than Boston, a Fettis save from Angel on 43 notwithstanding, as the half draws to a close, and two Keates screamers in as many minutes which go just over, the second scraping the top of the bar and a surefire entrant for Netbusters if it had gone in, take the Tigers close to opening their account. Into first-half stoppage time and we scorn probably our best chance of the half, as a Boston defender takes a fresh air shot at a cross from the left and the unmarked Walters, perhaps taken by surprise, doesn’t lash the leather as cleanly as he might, allowing Bastock to make a diving save from his looping effort. So half-time, and the players troop off towards the tunnel situated in the stand at the far end, allowing the City support to appraise for the last time the Fett’s bald patch and his increasingly unavailing efforts to conceal it, and a select few Tiger Chatters to enjoy not only coffee but lollipops, no less, fresh from the holdall borne by that most staunch of City fans, T Holmes, Esq. Nice one, Trev and Jan, and much appreciated. So, expectancy mounts as the second-half begins, only to be quashed as virtually nothing happens for ten minutes apart from a succession of injuries to Boston players, until finally a dangerous-looking Regan cross is pouched by the scary Bastock. A minute later Burgess again just fails to connect with a cross, this time from Elliott, who has been drifting in and out of the game but in fairness not getting a lot in the way of service, and shortly afterwards Walters gets pulled up, unfairly it seems, for handball after having seemed to have beaten Bastock fair and square to a through ball, but it was all pretty uninspiring stuff, to the extent that I noted down “goalless draw inevitable” at this point. But this is City, and just as the away support settled down to take the locals to task on the subject of interbreeding (a bit rich, this, I always think), we started to assert ourselves again. Penalty appeals are turned down on 64 as Burgess is (fairly, it seemed) floored, and a minute later a Delaney effort is saved at the near post. Another minute on and the Fett is called into rare action to make a fine save from the Boston number 7, but this is an isolated break from the pattern of play as Greaves is booked after Elliott is felled and, predictably, makes the most of it, but, when, as happened later in the game, he attempts to keep his feet after being tripped and gets nothing as a result (admittedly, a rare aberration from the referee who had a generally sound game) who can blame him?) Bastock saved the resultant Keates free kick. But the force was now undeniably with City and, after Walters had made way for young Donaldson, a deserved win was secured on 73 minutes. Keates curled in a free kick from the right and Elliott rose like a salmon to glance a superb header just inside the far post with Bastock rooted to the spot, to the delight of the City hordes. A fine strike, and a carbon copy of his winner at Macclesfield last month. The home side, seemingly conscious of their grip on League status being prised away, tried hard to raise the tempo after that, but City were in no mood to be denied, and indeed remained the more threatening of the two sides for the remaining seventeen minutes and the five minutes’ stoppage time brought about by a succession of players requiring treatment. That said, the only real incident of note after the goal came on 94 minutes when Bastock, who sportingly acknowledged the Tiger fans at the end, came charging out of his goal to execute a text-book sliding tackle on Donaldson down by the right-hand corner flag. So, a merited win, all told, but all the more poignant for having been achieved when it’s all too late to have any sort of import, and too surrounded by inconsistency to serve as any form of indication as to how we shall fare next season. If Boston do retain their League status and City replicate yesterday on a blustery and wet November afternoon back at York Street, now that would have considerably more significance.

HULL CITY: Fettis, Joseph, Anderson, Whittle, Smith, Regan, Delaney, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Burgess.  Subs: Donaldson (for Walters, 69), Williams, Jevons, Burton, Musselwhite. Goals: Elliott 73 Booked: Delaney, Joseph, Keates Sent Off: None   BOSTON UNITED: Bastock, Greaves, Balmer, Hocking, Chapman, Redfearn, Bennett, Ellender, Angel, Duffield, Logan.  Subs: Gould (for Angel, 53), Weatherstone (for Logan, 69), Rusk (for Hocking, 77), Rpice, Town. Goals: None Booked: Greaves Sent Off: None   ATTENDANCE: 3,782
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