Three defeats in a row as City dominate high-flying Watford for long periods but are undone by defensive errors and woeful finishing.
Another day, another defeat, the third in just over a week. That’s the bottom line, despite what seems to have been an improvement on the capitulation at Preston. I can’t think that a November fixture list promising trips to QPR and Reading and with Southampton visiting was singled out preseason as a time to garner a good few points. But we’re going to need some now, after 3 fixtures that should have yielded points have produced none. It’s not the time to panic yet. But if we don’t get, say, 3 points from the next 3 games, then it might be time to get a bit jittery.
‘You’ve got to take your chances in this division,’ Steve Weatherill told me after the game, fixing me with a steely look behind his steely specs, and I nodded anxiously, mainly because he is fairly alarming when in that mood and it pays to seem to agree, but also because it is quite true. We don’t create too many chances, so we can’t afford to squander those that we do. Chief culprit was Stuart ‘The Squanderer’ Green who had a match that will haunt him.
We set off:
Lynch Cort Collins Delaney
Green Welsh Woodhouse Ellison
So good to see the boy Nicky back, fascinating to see that Elliott had so earned the ire of the manager that he didn’t even make the 16 after his supine display in East Lancashire, and interesting to get our first look at centre back Sam Collins. Not what I was expecting, really. Tall, thin, thinner legs, pale skin. Hmm. I like my central defenders to look like Steve Baines, or Larry Lloyd, or Matt Redmile. In short, I want to shudder when I look at them, and think how dreadful it would have to be to get close enough to them to be kicked. The opposing forwards should be reduced to the sort of snivelling, mewling pitifulness to which Justin Whittle recently introduced Alan Shearer, so that at the end of the game they are too miffed to shake hands and too scared to go outside for the fight which Shearer later told the media he had been too professional to take up. Whatever his virtues, Collins won’t do that.
But we started well, very well in fact, as we were ahead inside 7 minutes. Brown won a flick on to Ellison out wide left who beat one man, cut in to the edge of the area and crossed to Green in plenty of space to his right. Green’s first touch was ordinary, but he recovered well and quickly found Barmby completely free steaming in from the angle, taking one touch and hitting a fine shot home despite keeper Foster getting a touch. Worth reading the above to yourself again, as for each of our players their involvement was pretty much the high point of their respective afternoons. But a good goal it was, and we cavorted merrily, 1-0.
Worth mentioning, briefly, the particularly ecstatic cavortings of one tiger chatter, happily larging it and leading the ‘who are you?’ chants aimed at the crestfallen Watford fans in the North Stand as 2 of those those fans were his lovely young wife who is also the mother of his strapping infant son and his father-in-law. His gleeful expression spoke of a man suddenly feeling a whole lot better about the restaurant meal a deux booked with his wife later. Whether any sexual forfeits had been built in to their pre-game planning, I am unable to say. But he wore a beaming smile for all of a hundred seconds.
For that’s how long we controlled the game. The Watties won a corner, it was a bog-standard affair, swung over into the middle with not much on it, but we obligingly stood and allowed Mahon to head it past Myhill. A really dreadful goal to concede, one that must have had the manager putting his head in his hands and then, as he looked up and saw that the player who had not challenged for the header and was looking at the ground and avoiding the pointed glances of his colleagues, was a certain Sam Collins, he perhaps returned head to hands pronto. 1-1.
We weren’t awful from this point on, but we didn’t carry a lot of threat. Barmby ran and harried, Ellison was typically industrious and willing, Brown was constantly offside, Green did fuck all. Welsh and Woodhouse were effectively functioning as defenders numbers 5 and 6, as they have done so often once our opponents discover how limited is the threat we pose and start to come at us and out-pass us. Woodhouse did have a deflected shot that Foster did well to tip over, Welsh had one very good forward run which came to nothing, and this heightened the frustration; both of these players can get forward, but due to the pressure we are under, they seldom do.
And we were now under pressure. Paul Devlin did well on the right, but Anthony McNamee was alarmingly good on the left, lightning paced, twinkle-toed, he began to spoil Mark Lynch’s afternoon. Lynch hung in there, but soon needed the help of Welsh, which resulted in their being too men out of the game when McNamee sashayed away from them both. Young in the centre was starting to link well with Marlon King, and suddenly we were struggling, although only once, when Ellison needed to race back to do enough to cause a shot to be scuffed just wide, did they come alarmingly close.
There was no lack of effort, but we were under the hammer at the back from their verve and pace, and apart from Brown doing his Danny Webb flying elbows impression, we were not frightening them up front. But their next goal, when it came, was another choker. Just prior to the interval they won a throw in down our right side. The ball was chucked in, they were first to the flick on, first to the loose ball bobbling about the area and first, in the form of Matt Spring, to bury a good shot past Myhill. That wasn’t clever football, it was basic stuff allowed to succeed by very bad defending. 1-2, and a subdued half time amongst the faithful.
Would the manager change it around? Are Ross Kemp and Steve McFadden even softer than Alan Shearer? You bet. Burgess and Fagan came on to play up front with Barmby just behind them. Ellison departed, a shade unluckily, Brown went off, uselessly. Actually, he went off OK, but everything else hadn’t been. He increasingly looks, like a grand piano in a modern semi, a luxury that we haven’t got the room for and can’t really afford. Hard to believe of a striker too useless to make it at Sunderland, but there we are. Two words: Michael Reddy. Two more: ship out.
The changes bucked us up though. Fagan was hard working and mobile, Burgess unsettled them and won a lot of headers. Later on his touch seemed to desert him completely, but I still feel there’s enough to think that he can do us a job at this level. But Fagan it was who ran and crossed and appealed for a penalty that wasn’t given. Then he was put through by Barmby, steadied himself, shot wide, and then was taken out immediately after. Barn door, they call those penalty shouts. Again, not given. Mystifying.
The visitors paid us the compliment of withdrawing the lissome McNamee and deciding to shore things up and try and hit us on the break, nearly doing so as Welsh’s concentration wavered in giving the ball away resulting in King’s shot bringing out a sharp but routine save from Bo. Fagan again ran from wide left, found Barmby, who sublimely put through Green, free, one-on-one with Foster. Cumbria’s finest seemed to shrink as Foster got bigger and made a good save from a shot placed rather than struck and at what we like to call a nice height. It was hard to think he’d have a better chance, but minutes later he did. On the far side of their area one of ours, I don’t know who, was felled with a raised arm. It looked a nasty foul, it looked like a straight red, it even looked as though it might have been outside the area. No card was brandished, but a penalty was given, and the Squanderer wandered up to take it, shrinking further in size as he did so. Despite his lack of height he retained the strength to hit the ball high up and faraway, over the bar, over trees and villages, never to be seen again. Greeny ambled back sadly, and I’m sad to be writing this. It’s desperate to see such a skilful player having such a bad time in the tiger cause.
Watford thought they had sealed it when they had the ball in our net, which shows what they know, as flag and whistle had ruled it offside ages earlier. Duffers. And we had one last gilt-edged chance, again set up by Fagan, putting through Nicky, lots of time, good angle, but this time the right player. But sadly, the same result, Barmby got more venom into his effort than had Green, but again Foster did very well and again the height was ‘nice.’ A word here for Foster: excellent. Apparently he belongs to Manchester United and he looks a real talent in his one year loan spell, fine shot stopper, good decision maker and a distributory throw that must have the Mancs salivating and thinking of Peter Schmeichel. Custodian of the leather.
Anyway, that was pretty much that. We met up with the 2 earlier mentioned Watford fans in a hostelry after the game and they wore the restrainedly smug, kindly smiles, of people not wishing to intrude on private grief, oh no, not us. They thought they had easily deserved the win. We politely agreed with them that this was complete bollocks, and cited our second half chances as evidence. They restrained more smiles and we glowered. But as the sky darkened and fireworks exploded heavenwards to mingle with the ball orbiting there from Greeny’s spot kick, their views were interesting. They thought we were well organised, but simply don’t carry as much threat up front as most in this division. They thought we passed the ball about too slowly and lacked both the vision to open a side up and the pace to finish them off. I think they’re right, too. I’ve thought this most of the time since the season started, but hoped it was just us coming to terms with this division. Well, we’re in November, we know what’s required now. I’m sure the manager does, too. He can’t do much about the injury crisis, but he does need to ensure that the lack of belief that is palpable doesn’t become crippling. Positives: Barmby and Fagan’s best outings of the season. Negatives: the implosion of Green, but also the desperate defending that produced the goals. Collins looks like he can play and particularly in the second half showed some good touches, but when he’s been a part of a defence that has conceded two rotten goals, you can’t say he’s had a good game, so I won’t. Also, if he really was been leading and communicating, he was clearly doing it in such a subtle, one lifted eyebrow, almost imperceptible nod of the head, Roger Moore sort of way that it was completely lost on the spectator, as I think we can refer to Damien Delaney. No, though it wasn’t awful, it wasn’t great. And as I said, bottom line, we lost. We’re going to have to stop doing that.
In most fields of human endeavour I think management is a vastly over-rated idea, the term you apply to what the person is doing who gets paid more than you for not really doing any of the work needed to get the job done. If you’ve got good people you achieve good things, whether you’ve got some numpty with a clip board and spread sheet making inane suggestions and calling meetings that distract you from the job in hand, or not. But If we’re going to turn around our recent down turn in fortune, Peter Taylor might just have to prove me wrong about that.
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Lynch, Cort, Collins, Delaney; Green, Welsh, Woodhouse, Ellison; Brown, Barmby. Subs: Fagan (for Ellison, 45), Burgess (for Brown, 45), France (for Lynch, 71), Joseph, Duke.
Goals: Barmby 6
Sent Off: None
WATFORD: Foster, Chambers, Carlisle, DeMerit, Doyley, Devlin, Mahon, Spring, McNamee, King, Young. Subs: Bangura (for McNamee, 53), Mackay (for DeMerit, 76), Henderson (for Devlin, 76), Chamberlain, Stewart.
Goals: Mahon 8; Spring 44
Sent Off: None
REFEREE: L Mason