|Another performance of promise but in the end the promotion chasing visitors just wanted it a bit more, and had a quality striker in Morrell who helped them prove it. Steve Weatherill casts an eye over another Anglo-Welsh clash.|
|Wrexham scrapped, City were scrappy. That’s a shade harsh, because overall we didn’t really deserve to lose this game. But the visitors are playing for promotion, the home side are playing for nothing, and those essential ingredients of bite and spirit were just a bit more in evidence among the Wrexham team than among our own. The Welsh passed the ball around nicely at times too, and I don’t entertain any particular sense of injustice about the result this morning. It was, however, a largely formless game, and although in years to come the (again, astonishing) crowd of 15,002 may look back with fondness at having witnessed the promising debut of Big Ben Burgess, right now “Wrexham, home, lost” simply brings us 90 minutes closer to calling time on this wretched season of faded hopes and sloppy football. On duty:
Fettis Otsemobor Joseph Anderson Delaney Reeves Keates Melton Elliott Burgess Walters
With Ashbee absent injured and Whittle suspended, we were likely to look lightweight. And we did. But this cannot apply to Big Ben Burgess. He is Big. And also called Ben. Can I make it any more obvious? Anyway, our hoped-for new cult hero soon skated into the action, mis-controlling an astute pass from Elliott not once, but twice, before the ball squirted free to Walters, who shot wide. It was a dopey entrance by Burgess and soon after the whole team was shaken up by the early (but not premature) departure of Steve “Big Hits” Melton, who wandered off the pitch as if no one would notice, whereupon eagle-eyed Peter Taylor (a former England manager, remember) pounced and immediately decided to employ a substitute. Not much gets past our guv’nor, and no mistake. Steve Burton came on, and took over at left-back, while the ever-enthusiastic Damien Delaney stepped forward into central midfield. It strikes me that it is peculiar just how many footballing chums of Mr Taylor select his impressions of Norman Wisdom as his primary achievement in life. It was the doughty Geoff Barker, profiled in yesterday’s programme, who, in glancing back over highlights of his stalwart career, set aside recollection of an ex-Tigers vs Southern Supporters match from the mid-1980s when he was tormented by a tricky wingman with a turn of pace and an eye for goal name of Steve Weatherill, and instead waxed lyrical (how else can you wax?) about the teenager Taylor’s regular chorus of “Mr Grimsdale” Should Mr Taylor ever become widely popular among us Tigers fans, there is one day potential for some communal awry-flat-capped-related humour on a distant away terrace. But let us await that surge up the League before we dust off the (waxed) lyrics of “Don’t Laugh at Me Cause I’m a Fool”. Umm. Unfortunate title, I suppose. Maybe Mr Taylor could try and do Sid James instead, and we’ll just join in on the laugh. Back to the football! Ah yes! Not a moment too soon, for Walters may score. But he scuffs his shot badly and the keeper saves. Then Burgess, improving, wins the ball and shoots: straight into the keeper’s gut. Back in November Wrexham looked better than most teams we’ve faced this season, and they were once again proving tough opposition. Big and uncompromising in defence – Lawrence must be all of 6 foot 5, though his location at left-back rather than centre-back suggests he’s not much use in the air. And if you want an experienced netman, look no further than Andy Dibble. “No!” you cry, from Hong Kong to Cape Town via Jakarta and Perth, “the Officer? Surely he is retired, and has been for years?”. Nope. He’s in goals for Wrexham. And perfectly competent. In midfield Wrexham are occasionally slick and generally steady, with the mobile Jim Whitley, a lookalike for Sanath Jayasuriya (a man sadly without a catchphrase), the pick of the bunch, while in attack they sport the very good Lee Trundle and the excellent Andy Morrell. This pair are quick, thoughtful and too good for this Division. So the visitors had a good spell. We survived it and, as is ever the way in this Division, then proceeded to enjoy our own little glimpse of superiority. And it won us a penalty. Big Ben controlled the ball with great skill, turned confidently – a less burly chap might have been thought to have pirouetted, but let me tell you, Big Ben doesn’t do pirouetting, in fact I doubt he does French stuff at all – and swept a delightful ball out wide to Elliott. He sprinted into the box where he was crudely tumbled to the turf, and a penalty was correctly awarded. Which we missed. Groan. Keates had buried one against Shrewsbury last time out, but this time a similarly low shot was too close to Dibble and he blocked it all too easily. Groan. We adjusted the shape of the team now, with Burgess operating as battering-ram, supported right-side by Walters and left-side by Elliott, with Reeves asked to do a lot of extra running in midfield. It sort-of worked, sort-of didn’t – the game deteriorated into the sort of stuffy midfield stalemate that is the worst feature of lower Division football. Neither team was able to provide any quality of service to players located near the opposition danger area. But in the footballing basement you take your pleasures where you can, and yesterday offered rich comedy in the guise of a fight among the stewards policing the pocket of Wrexham fans. At first it seemed as if they were intent on hauling out a visiting Welshman or two, but after a brief and inconsequential struggle, the mood of the stewards appeared to become more introspective. An orange-coated one biffed a yellow-coated one, who fell down the steps. Great stuff! What was going on? Such stewarding energy would have been welcome at Sunderland last Wednesday, but, hey, burberry-capped-freaks, if you want a closed-doors international, that’s just the dandiest way to go about getting one. In the added time at the end of the first half Fettis made an excellent diving save from a header, as our defence was carved open, but half time was reached and it was a bit shapeless and a lot scoreless. The second-half offered more goal-bound purpose- thankfully so. Walters slipped the ball to Burgess, but he mis-hit his shot and it trickled harmlessly through to the Officer. We were beginning to trouble the Wrexham defence through a combination of an energetic midfield and increasing success in using Burgess as a target-man. And we scored. A corner was flicked on by Burgess, headed against the bar by Walters and then rammed in from close range by the marauding Otsemobor, whose ability to slip forward unnoticed from right-back and score is currently on a par with the very early City days of Richard Jobson. The game had been just about lively enough for the fans to believe it unlikely to remain goalless, though it had been far from clear which of the two teams would break the deadlock, but now, a goal to the good, could we protect, even extend, our lead? Err, no. Shortly before our strike, a ghastly error by Burton, who simply fell over on receipt of a throw from Fettis, had almost handed the visitors the lead, only for Edwards to screw a shot badly wide, and then, at 1-0, Joseph fell over and allowed Trundle a free shot, which he belted too high. Messy, error-ridden stuff, but it was not a amber-and-black mistake that finally brought the equaliser. Anderson’s challenge in the box was admittedly less than perfectly judged, but the Wrexham tumble was deeply unconvincing. It was the softest of penalties, but it was given, and it was scored, and the game was level. Now the play was open and lively, the points up for grabs. We were sticking with our 4-3-3-ish, even though pushing Walters wide on the right doesn’t strike me as making the best use of his talents, and much depended on the reliable industry of Keates. Of his midfield chums, Reeves was tiring, while Delaney was, as ever, joyously puppy-like, never pausing for breath but equally never pausing to think. Elliott wasted possession twice, passing straight to an opponent, as we began to look a bit ragged. Time for a change. Elliott and Reeves off, and two men we might have thought we’d seen the back of, Williams and Jevons, came on. The formation was altered too, with Williams taking over left side and Walters right side, sandwiching Keates and Delaney in a four-man midfield, while the 2 bit of the 4-4-2 was populated by Jevons and Big Ben. But by now we were looking a bit sloppy, a bit half-hearted, and a lot hoofy (mainly directed – vaguely – at the willing Burgess). I suspect the several changes of formation introduced periodically through the afternoon by the manager didn’t help cohesion much, though I don’t complain – he’s experimenting, the season’s dead, we judge in the Autumn, I know, I know. Wrexham now took the points. A deft ball straight through the middle of our defence, one touch from Morrell to assert immediate and perfect control, and a second touch to slip the ball beyond the Fett’s reach and into the corner of the net. 2-1, they win. Our defending was flabby, but both the move and the finish were first-class, and the only flash of real footballing quality in the whole match. And so – given the fact that our season is already irretrievably entombed in sub-mid-table mediocrity – I don’t begrudge Wrexham their win. Still, they might not have held it tight had we enjoyed a shade more fortune in the few minutes that remained. Dibble saved well from Jevons, and then a silly but clear hand ball inside the box by a Wrexham defender went unaccountably unpunished. Had it mattered more, we’d’ve been cross. As it is… six games to go, all of them meaningless. Excepting only that tastiest of morsels – relegating Swansea (but not Boston).
|HULL CITY: Fettis, Otsemobor, Joseph, Anderson, Delaney, Reeves, Melton, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Burgess. Subs: Burton (for Melton, 9), Williams (for Reeves, 79), Jevons (for Elliott, 79), Donaldson, Musselwhite. Goals: Otsemobor 55 Booked: Delaney, Joseph Sent Off: None WREXHAM: Dibble, C Edwards, Roberts, Carey, Lawrence, P Edwards, Whitley, Ferguson, Green, Trundle, Morrell. Subs: Morgan (for Carey, 45), Holmes (for P Edwards, 49), Jones (for Trundle, 89), Rogers, Barrett. Goals: Morrell 67 (pen), 80 Booked: Whitley Sent Off: None ATTENDANCE: 15,002|