|City finish their home season in style with a comprehensive victory led by hattrick hero Ben Burgess. Ian Thomson enjoys sun, goals and dodgy defending.|
|For the second time in two consecutive visits to the Circle, the pleasure of seeing an, on the whole, convincing Tiger performance and victory was followed by a slightly disconcerting encounter with Radio Humberside, in the guise of the Taylor post-match interview followed by the fans’ phone in. On each occasion, we heard from both the City manager and a succession of City fans who had reached home so quickly that they clearly hadn’t parked in the Walton Street car park that the Tiger win we had all just witnessed was a promising sign of a more successful campaign next season. I’m sorry, but, certainly in the case of the fans, these are lazy, complacent and groundless observations. Both were end-of-season games in which the City players had been freed, for what remained of the season, from the pressures of trying to fulfil the huge expectations of the City support, against opposition which – certainly in the case of Kiddy, but even Bournemouth also to an extent, their play-off spot looking reasonably safe while Wrecsam’s fine run was busy building a bridge too far for the Cherries in terms of an automatic spot – might probably not have been pursuing victory with the same fervour as if the fixture had taken place when there was more to play for. I can understand, and condone, Taylor’s stance on this, as it’s part of his job to put the right spin on things, especially now we are into the season-ticket sale season which, like the season proper, seems to start earlier every year, but please tell me that we’re not, after another season of on-the field disappointment, in for another happy-clappy close season, with half the Tiger nation predicting promotion next year on the strength of the last couple of home games of this season, some grand words from the Chairman and a draw against Grimsby in Manny’s testimonial. Why should yesterday’s result be any more telling a sign of things to come than the one at Darlington? OK, rant over. I felt it needed saying, but, taking yesterday’s Circle offering at face value, let not a word of my diatribe detract from what was, from the Tiger perspective, an overall highly entertaining and enjoyable afternoon. Although a bit patchy in the endeavour stakes, especially when the score got back to 2 ?1, and the sometimes questionable resolve of the opposition notwithstanding, City dominated probably three-quarters of the game, played some absolutely stirring football at times and, in the end, were good value for the magnitude of a victory which provided a couple of firsts, namely the first four-goal haul for the Tigers, and the first Tiger hat-trick, at the Circle. To those of you who would gladly eschew such delights in favour of going on holiday, I say Ha! Performing for our delectation were the following:-
Fettis Otsemobor Whittle Joseph Delaney Regan Melton Keates Elliott Walters Burgess
Big talking point on the selection front was the absence from the team and the bench of John Anderson. Humberside-fuelled rumours of an impending move back north of the Border were purportedly dispelled by Taylor post-match, when he cited nothing more alarming than that, as part of his planning for next season, he wanted to see how Joseph and Justin worked together as the middle two. Be that as it may, the Tigers, attacking the North Stand end after their ritual and pointless pre-match huddle, started brightly and it was a mere four minutes before the Circle scoreboard operator was called upon to earn his corn. An astute Keates ball put Regan in space in the inside-right channel. For what would not be the first time that afternoon, the City no 29’s second touch was terrible, allowing a Kiddy defender in to make what looked to be a good tackle. However, as Regan went sprawling over the defender’s trailing boot, and the East Stand voiced indignation more out of mischief than conviction, referee Crossley pointed to the spot. Definitely a dodgy one. Surprisingly, Keates, after his miss three weeks earlier, seemed to have been relieved of his spot-kicking duties, and it was Ben Burgess who stepped up to place the ball in the corner, low to the keeper’s right. A text-book penalty. As the Circle relaxed in the sunshine, City continued to play some adventurous and attractive, if not particularly incisive football, with lots of crisp, accurate passing, some sensible running and, it appeared, a greater level of understanding among the players, with the Kiddsters only getting forward sporadically. Just as the control being exercised by the Tigers seemed to be waning a bit around the 20-minute mark, it was emphatically re-imposed as City began to put the visiting keeper Brock under some real pressure. On 20 minutes a curling Keates free kick from out wide was headed just wide by Burgess when he might perhaps have done better, ignorant as we were that he would fully atone before the afternoon was over. A couple of minutes later Elliott hit the side netting after some tenacious work by Walters out on the left had set the Ulsterman up, and then a couple of minutes after that it was the turn of Delaney (who, I’m pleased to say, had a more or less error free afternoon but gave his all as usual) to terrorise the right side of the Kiddy defence as he outstripped his man and turned in a low cross which unfortunately was deflected just behind the three (yes, three!) inrushing Tigers. After a few minutes sitting back, relatively speaking, from the Tigers, Kiddy finally mustered a threat on 31 minutes, when a shot from the edge of the box clipped a stray Tiger boot and looped goalwards, but thankfully the Fett was alert to the danger and did well to tip the ball over. The fragility of the City lead was emphasised yet further two minutes on when a right wing cross was headed in by Kiddy centre-forward Broughton, but luckily the referee had spotted an infringement. The Tigers were stung by this and the response was swingeing. Seven minutes before the break an innocuous-looking ball was knocked in from the right, but the Kiddy defender who should have dealt with it faffed and fannied about, in a manner reminiscent of Mr Grainger in Are You Being Served agonising over whether to bite into a crusty cheese roll without his dentures, which allowed Burgess to hook a long leg round the prevaricator and steer the ball into precisely the same spot within the onion bag as his earlier penalty. Rampant wasn’t the word for it now. Kiddy didn’t get a kick of the ball for the next five minutes. First Walters, then Keates forced fine saves from the visiting custodian, and scarcely had we gathered our breath before Elliott headed just over after Otsemebor and Walters had set up the position. Before the half-time whistle shrilled, though, we had to endure another scare as, in the very last play of the half, everyone missed a bouncing ball in the City box which was eventually pouched by the grateful Fettis. The second half got under way, and guess what? Situation normal, as the ball was sent soaring into touch on the right from the kick-off. But it was soon clear that, for the time being at least, the ascendancy remained with City, and a third notch should have been carved on the Kiddy goalpost five minutes in, when, after some fine defensive work from Delaney, Elliott weighted a marvellous through ball into the path of Walters who, with only the keeper to beat, completely lost any sense of ball control, perhaps out of over-excitement, and allowed Brock to collect. As if to remind us, though, of the continuing fragility of our advantage, Kiddy had a second effort ruled out within seconds, Fettis having been blatantly and uncompromisingly flattened as he went to claim the cross. But City continued to play some good football, and were not deterred by things continuing not quite to come off. On 52 Elliott unfortunately miscued his lob after beating the keeper to the ball on the edge of the box, and then a minute later Walters stormed down the right with Melton (the translucency of whose ears in the sun provided another talking point to add to the once-again justified complaints about his general indolence and ineffectuality) and Burgess in support. The cross found the former Brighton attacking midfield powerhouse who blazed the ball first time over the angle of post and bar. But then we were punished for our profligacy. From a Kiddy break down the right, a cross came in, was punched out by the Fett, under pressure, but was then rifled into the net, first time, by the number 8 Parrish. There were claims that Joseph had been fouled in the build up, and indeed the City no 39 hobbled from the field with a back injury five minutes later, but in truth City had by then spurned enough chances to put the game beyond reach a couple of times over. And now our guests were looking interested. And we, in our worst spell by far of the match, were sitting back. And the crowd were getting restless. Were we to throw away yet another win, to add to the growing list? Not this time. After surviving a couple of edge of the box free kicks and a rasping volley into the side netting, City rediscovered their first for Worcestershire blood and came out fighting. Elliott was desperately unlucky on 75 when his far-post header from a Regan cross was headed off the line with the goalie spectating, and so was Walters when he fired the rebound just wide, but the City number 9 got his own personal reward for a tireless display with just over ten minutes to go. Elliott hooked a loose ball down the left side and Walters, the only City player up, managed to hassle the defender to the point where the latter slipped leaving the keeper, who had ventured from his line expecting the back-pass hopelessly exposed, and the Bolton-based loanee finished coolly, directing his shot just inside the near post from the corner of the box. As the East Stand tried repeatedly and thankfully unsuccessfully to break into a chorus of the Great Escape (can someone please tell me what City are supposed to have escaped from, apart from the queues for the Kempton loos?) and City fielded debutant Simon Russell, things were rendered finite two minutes from the end of normal time. Otsemobor put in a raking cross from the right and Burgess, getting in front of the Kiddy defender despite looking a clear second favourite, directed a looping header over Brock, who had inexplicably strayed from his line, and just under the bar. A goal which Kiddy, on more than one front, should have taken steps to prevent, but no detracting from a marvellous performance from our hat trick hero. The three minutes’ injury time passed without incident, and the ovation at the end from another amazing Circle attendance of 14 544 was deservedly fullsome, as indeed it was, allegedly, when the players returned to the field for an end-of-season lap of honour, but I’d buggered off by then to listen to Humberside in the scramble to evacuate the car park. And do you know what some silly sods were saying in the phone-in????.. ?
|HULL CITY: Fettis, Otsemobor, Joseph, Whittle, Delaney, Regan, Melton, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Burgess. Subs: Burton (for Joseph, 64), Russell (for Walters, 83), Weeb (for Elliott, 87), Reeves, Musselwhite. Goals: Burgess 6 (pen), 38, 88; Walters 80 Booked: Regan Sent Off: None KIDDERMINSTER HARRIERS: Brock, Scott, Hinton, Stamps, Bennett, Flynn, Parrish, Williams, Shilton, Broughton, Henriksen. Subs: McAuley (for Scott, 45), Bishop (for Parrish 78), Foster (for Shilton, 78), Danby, Ayres. Goals: Parrish 60 Booked: Hinton Sent Off: None ATTENDANCE: 14,544|