The first genuine capitulation of the season as the Tigers are steamrollered by a decent, albeit initially anxious, Preston side.
Depressing scoreline. Depressing performance.
Grotesquely toothless up front, second best in midfield and eventually torn asunder at the back, at Deepdale last night City offered up as miserably off-the-pace display as has been seen under the – largely rampantly successful – management of Mr Taylor. No fun to watch, even less to write about, less still to read about. I shall not detain you long this morning. I’ve got better things to do, like pick my nose or clean the grouting on the shower, and I expect you do too.
Looking disturbingly unlike a side that is solid-midtable-in-waiting was:
Lynch Cort Joseph Delaney
France Welsh Cap’n Curtis Elliott
And before the howls reach me, let me say that I know the statistics – we always lose, on average by at least eight goals, whenever Joseph is in the team – but it really wasn’t his fault last night. Well, not only his fault – he drifted out of the game tamely in the second half but wasn’t alone in that crime, and in the first half he was one of our tidier players.
Yes, it was that bad.
We had reached half-time at 0-0. And what a drab, colourless, unadventurous first half it was too. Not just by us – the home side, winless at Deepdale all season, provided ample evidence of just why they (too) are plunged into lower midtable mediocrity and none at all of how they sneaked their way through to the Final of the PlayOffs last season. Still, there were glimpses of the carnage to come, for Preston had the better of the very few efforts on goal during this first period. Most notably, on 28, a header flicked goalwards by sprightly advanced midfielder Jones, unmarked in our box, was superbly tipped away by the flying Myhill. And then a couple of minutes later Jemal Johnson, on loan from Blackburn, tortured Cort down our right before shooting low across and under Boaz, and against the far post … the ball bounced on to Sedgwick who fired in a searing drive along the turf, only to be foiled by a brilliantly alert and committed block from Delaney, right on the whitewash of the goal-line.
But, dear oh dear, it was an insipid first 45 minutes football. For the home side, Agyemang up front and Davis at the back were simply huge, Johnson was tricky and pacy, corners taken from their right were threatening, the midfield was well-organised, and overall they still weren’t very good. Just better than us. It was a blustery night, as our glorious Indian summer eventually seems to have subsided, but this was no excuse for the poverty of imagination on show. It certainly didn’t help to explain why we hoofed the ball in the air so much, so aimlessly. If you want an excuse of sorts for our poor display it may lie in a heavy knock taken early on by Curtis, and condoned by a ref who was more lenient than any we’ve had so far this season. I’m not sure Curtis was ever quite running freely after this bash, and that clearly undermined our chances. Maybe that lack of service from midfield would be the excuse tendered by Fagan and Brown for being useless. Try it, lads. But useless you were. Fagan was useless for the second match running (though I still like him and expect him to improve), and Brown was useless as in most of his games, and I really don’t like him at all – infuriatingly effete, whiny, predictable, a disgrace to the centre-forward’s art. This man is wearing the shirt owned by Billy Whitehurst, by Chris Chilton, by Norman Moore? Pah. The highlight of the half was the constant stream of requests to people to go and move their cars. They seem to be quite poor at parking down in Preston. They like a quick getaway afterwards, mind you, with cars and vans careering through the pedestrian fans at absurdly reckless speeds in the dark, an even more scandalous example of the arrogance of the car driver than is on show every game at the Circle.
Second half. More happened than in the first half. Almost all of it really bad for the Tiger cause.
A brief bright start by our team flattered to deceive and the game settled into the humdrum pattern of the first half. On 55 Jones sent a free-kick awarded just outside our box sailing a foot or so over the bar, and the smart money seemed to be on a dull and wholly forgettable 0-0. But moments of attacking inspiration are more common in this Division than in the ones we’ve lately left, and this season they’ve mostly cost us rather than benefited us. So it was on 58. A fine through ball down their right allowed Johnson to speed into space, turn deftly inside our retreating defence and strike a left-foot shot deliberately high to elude Myhill’s attempted block and into the roof of the net.
A fine goal, and out of place in this game.
‘Can’t see us getting anything here’ I muttered gloomily. ‘Nope’ came the prompt reply from the Italianate gentleman on my left and even though I know of old that his natural tendency is predict an inevitable relegation as soon as we concede our first throw-in of the season in early August, nonetheless innate pessimism seemed justified. This is a resilient City side, but it finds goalscoring difficult – increasingly so, worryingly so – and last night was empty of attacking ideas.
Substitutions came and went, and didn’t help. Green and Barmby on, Curtis and Lynch off, France to right-back. For Preston the huge Jamaican Claude Davis departed on 64, the first time I’ve ever seen anyone substituted after pleading with the bench that he is a bit cold.
Nugent, last season’s ace goalscorer lately injured, arrived to the delight of the home fans, whose rapture was almost audible, but the game was put beyond our reach by two thumping long-range shots out of midfield. Jones, owner of an appealing left foot, struck a firm low shot from 22 yards or so that was perfectly placed to beat the diving Myhill, and cannoned into our net off the inside of the post. 2-0. Then the diminutive but powerful McKenna burst inside and crashed a huge looping 25 yarder that sailed over Boaz and fizzed into our net just beneath the crossbar. 3-0.
Two excellent strikes. Two shoddy pieces of defending. Where was the covering midfield? Where was the defence?
Burgess came on for Elliott, who had played only fitfully. Brown hit the outside of a post when he should have at least got his effort on target, and then a few minutes later showed cowardice and total ineptitude when failing to make any serious effort to get his head over an inviting chance and blast the ball goalwards. He instead leaned back, eyed the nearest defender nervously and poked the ball dismally high over the crossbar. Absolutely disgraceful.
Did anyone play even close to par? Not really, though Green was perky during his brief appearance. Preston could have scored a fourth with a firm header planted into our net at the back post but we were saved by an offside flag. That aside, they had a drum and played music after they scored and they are therefore enemies of football. We’d need to be playing even now to have any hope of hearing any goalscoring music of our own.
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Lynch, Cort, Joseph, Delaney; France, Welsh, Woodhouse, Elliott; Brown, Fagan. Subs: Barmby (for Lynch, 64), Green (for Woodhouse, 64), Burgess (for Elliott, 77), Ellison, Duke.
Sent Off: None
PRESTON NORTH END: Nash, Alexander, Lucketti, Davis, Hill, Sedgwick, McKenna, Jones, Davidson, Agyemang, Johnson. Subs: Mawene (for Davis, 65), Nugent (for Agyemang, 70), Hibbert (for Johnson, 78), Etuhu, Mears.
Goals: Johnson 59; Jones 73; McKenna 76
Sent Off: None
REFEREE: N Miller