|More promise as an unforeboding start leads to a total Tiger domination of one of this season’s automatic promotion hopefuls. Mike Scott enjoys Stuart Elliott’s cartwheels in the sun.|
|“Fitba, eh? Bloody hell…” As Bournemouth nearly opened the scoring this afternoon after 8 seconds and did ripple the ropework within three minutes, the feeling of despair was palpable. City, with nothing to play for, would lie down and let the promotion hunting south coasters claim their three point haul as they chase down Wrexham, the last vanquishers at the Circle. But no, this massively promising performance showed that the emerging City squad has what it takes to live with elevated opposition and win comfortably. On the back of last Saturday’s grafting performance in our one and only match at York Street – ever – this was a showing to warm the heart and give flow to optimistic juices regarding next season. After Tiger-Chat’s Stateside gloom merchant helpfully revealed that City, a team in mid-table, has generally lost games to teams above us and won games against teams below us (you don’t say!) it was pleasing to see us perform so well against high rolling Bournemouth, who will now probably look to a victory in Cardiff as a route to the Second Division. On this showing they don’t deserve it, as after a dominant 15 minutes they collapsed under the pressure exerted by our forwards, especially Big Ben Burgess, and came a distant second in terms of goals and effort. City lined up as they did last Saturday, the eleven that will go down in history as the only City side ever to play a League game at York Street, thus:
Fettis Joseph Anderson Whittle Smith Regan Keates Delaney Elliott Burgess Walters
In our 42nd match of the season we finally broke our 14 match “won after conceding first goal” duck, the initial part of that equation delivered when the nippy Hayter robbed Anderson deep in City territory and fed the lumbering Fletcher on the edge of our box, who dutifully smacked home a routine right footed chance low to Fettis’s right as Whittle looked on interestedly. It was a goal that had been preceded by a hurly-burly series of opening exchanges, all in the away side’s favour. Within seconds of the off Smith and Elliott were beaten to a header by a Cherry and the resulting shot was lashed inches wide. Then Delaney was booked within 90 seconds for a felony that saw the ball moved forward ten yards, so presumably the problem was speaking out of turn or something. The away side curled the chance wastefully over the bar from 18 yards. With the away side a goal up City then showed admirable spirit in clawing their way back into the game – they earned the right to play through sheer hard work. Delaney and Keates tackled tigerishly and for once the Irishman’s passing was as crisp and accurate as the Midlander’s. As the half progressed Burgess assumed total aerial domination of the Cherries’ defence as they flitted between challenging for high balls (failed every time), dropping off and fielding the flick (about 50:50 success rate) or just flapping around like headless chickens (the preferred course of action for the last 20 minutes of the first half). The tentative signs of Tiger ascendancy were seen soon after Bournemouth scored as the keeper flapped at a corner and Anderson’s return header was cleared off the line. Then Burgess took down a tasty through ball from Smith and while Big Ben’s second touch dinged him rather wide he still donged a shot off that was blocked in hurried fashion. Elliott crashed the rebound into the side netting. A pause – Delaney passing well? A good pass by Smith? Can this be right? Actually Smith’s passing in the opening quarter was generally Swalesque in the way he found touch so regularly. But like his teammates Shaun dug in and went on the give a sound display of the left back’s art. On 18 minutes Elliott scampered away down the left after a crunching Keates tackle on halfway, and the blonde bombshell fed Walters whose left wing cross was headed meatily goalwards by Burgess but straight at Moss in the Cherry goal. Ah yes, Elliott’s hair. Bright blonde. Almost white blonde. Apparently the result of a midweek hairdying prank with his Belfast mates that went wrong. Think of the Romania squad at the last World Cup – rack up the blondeness a notch or two – that Elliott’s hair. It’s no way for a Christian to be carrying on in my book, worship and enjoyment of life are surely not compatible – as I’m sure Tiger-Chat’s resident clergyman will confirm. Back to the game and Burgess is by now winning every header and finding Walters and Elliott with pleasing regularity. Big Ben is also adept with the ball at his feet and has plenty of tricks in his locker. And he has a willing attitude. And a strong work ethic. But he is slow. Which is why he plays for us and not Blackburn. On 26 Walters twisted and turned on the edge of the box before firing a right foot. It was deflected wide for a corner that yielded another goalline clearance as Delaney scooped a shot goalwards after Smith returned the cleared corner into “the mixer”. On 29 Burgess flicked on a throw that landed in the six yard box, and as Elliott advanced to head home he was felled either by an unseen foul or by a ludicrous desire to win a dodgy penalty when the goal was yawningly open. The half clearance fell to Delaney who not for the first time in his City career swung a careless boot at a decent chance and lifted it into the rearmost legions of Bournemouth supporters. Then on 31 Burgess and Walters produced a carbon copy of what had gone five minutes before, except this time Walters’ shot evaded the lunging block and thudded into the net before Moss had had time to react. A straightforward but technically excellent goal that capped off a period of total Tiger dominance. And then what’s this? Four minutes later Walters skips past a challenge wide left and swings a deep cross over the Cherry defence to the advancing Regan. The Scouser’s return header flashes across goal to Elliott who stoops to nod a powerful header past the wrong-footed Moss and it is 2-1. The City supporters – muted in East Stand by the number of regulars either in the Upper West freebie seats, holidaying elsewhere, staying at home or suffering from laryngitis – burst into joyful cheering as a spell of power play saw the home side take a deserved lead. There was nearly more – Fettis’s quick throw got Elliott surging down the left again and Delaney, whose lung busting run matched Elliott’s stride for stride, saw his cross blocked as the Bournemouth defence parted alarmingly. Then Whittle headed a cross wide when under pressure after a corner. Bournemouth offered little in an attacking sense and Fettis remained largely unworked as half time came and went. And crikey, what’s this? After 63 attempts at the City kick-off routine – whereby all the big blokes line up on the left wing, Keates swings the ball to Regan on the right wing and a goal scoring opportunity ensues – the preceding 62 opposition throw-ins were replaced by Regan bringing the ball down, playing a one-two, hoisting up a tasty cross that the unchallenged Elliott rammed home with his bonce from around the penalty spot. 17 seconds on the clock, and it’s 3-1. Game over. We hoped. But we suspected it wouldn’t be. But it was. Bournemouth’s lack of attacking threat even when playing for their footballing lives was surprising. They chose to feed the ball regularly to the pacey Wade Elliott and the guitar wielding Neil Young on their right wing, but Smith – aided occasionally by the retreating Elliott and the covering Delaney – kept the threat quelled by ensuring Elliott couldn’t get any dangerous crosses in, then watch Young spanner a series of attempted crosses into the stand. When Elliott broke free on a couple of occasions the threat was ended firstly by a shot that flew just over, and then by a fine low save by Fettis. The Tigers also had chances, the best of which came when Elliott raced through the centre of midfield and advanced directly to goal before thumping a fizzing 20 yard shot into Moss’s midriff. The spilled save dropped to Burgess who curled a delightful effort inches wide of the far post as Moss gasped for breath after the winding dealt out by our Elliott. The fourth quarter of the game was the least eventful as a series of substitutions by both sides disrupted any flow. Otsemobor came on for Smith – the left back’s legs are presumably being saved for Monday’s frolic in the Feethams quagmire – while Melton relieved Walters and Reeves swapped with Keates. With 17 left on the clock Cherry Elliott produced his most dangerous moment as his delicious cross was headed powerfully goalwards by Stock, bringing a spectacular sprawling reaction save from Fettis who clawed the ball Seaman-style off the goalline then smothered the loose ball as Fletcher lurked dangerously. This super save took the final puffs of wind out of Bournemouth’s sails and they carried little threat there on in. Burgess nearly opened his City account with ten left after another dangerous Regan cross, but the connection was not sweet and the header looped into the goalie’s arms. But apart from that and a muffed Keates chip from a cleared corner, the game petered out and City took all three points in handsome fashion. Man of the match – Burgess. Close contenders – Delaney, Keates, Walters, Regan. Often quiet but ultimately deadly – Elliott. Surprisingly useful once more and perhaps not the lemon we thought he was last Autumn – Smith. Tidy – Joseph, Whittle and Anderson. Largely unused but delivered a top drawer save when required – Fettis. A manager who is giving real signs of finding his way at City, with tangible progress on the pitch to show for it – Taylor. Prediction – with three decent hardworking signings, this is a top three side come next April. Am I serious? – yes, I am.
|HULL CITY: Fettis, Joseph, Anderson, Whittle, Smith, Regan, Delaney, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Burgess. Subs: Otsemobor (for Smith, 64), Melton (for Walters, 77), Reeves (for Keates, 87), Jevons, Musselwhite. Goals: Walters 31; Elliott 35, 46 Booked: Delaney Sent Off: None BOURNEMOUTH: Moss, Young, C Fletcher, Gulliver, Cummings, Elliott, Purches, Browning, Thomas, Hayter, S Fletcher. Subs: Stock (for Cummings, 54), O’Connor (for Thomas, 71), McDonald (for Hayter, 71), Stewart, Holmes. Goals: S Fletcher 5 Booked: C Fletcher, Stock Sent Off: None ATTENDANCE: 15,816|