Far from a classic, City nevertheless grind out a second consecutive win for the first time since returning to the Championship as a late Jason Price strikes see off Sheffield Wednesday.
So now it’s 4 games undefeated and back to back wins and a healthy 7 points above the relegation places and all the Chicken Lickens are clucking a bit more quietly. And rightly so, too. But as I write this I’m still a bit surprised at some of the carping comments afterwards. Typical of these were the views of Andy Beill, Tiger-chat’s man in ‘The Observer.’ Thundered young Andrew: “Both Yorkshire teams are in the bottom half of the table and it’s where they’ll stay unless performances improve.” I think if the managers were offered their current league positions at the end of the season they’d take them like a shot, and they’d be daft not to. Both clubs have the potential to prosper at this level, but both have teams for whom survival will be a struggle this season. Most of the teams in this division have better players than we do. Just the way it is.
We deserved to win yesterday. We created the best of the pitifully few chances, we had a good goal disallowed and we faced opponents who had nothing to hurt us. Most of the teams in this division have 1 or 2 players who terrify you when they get the ball. The better teams have 3 or 4. Sheffield had none. I counted them. Twice. The returning Peacock was completely ineffectual. Afterwards, their assistant manager said that Peacock “ran out of steam.” He really didn’t. He mainly stood out of steam, occasionally he ambled out of steam. He never ran anywhere. Wednesday were lucky that they had a like-for-like replacement in fellow birdman Chris Eagles, on loan from ManU. He came on, twatted about daintily for 20 minutes and was every bit the premiership dilettante. Sadly, we never saw the Owls third avian, Richie Partridge, or I could have given him the bird too. But birds of prey they certainly weren’t, Collins and Cort gave Myhill a very comfy return to the custodian of the leather’s colours and ultimately we were worth the win. Labouring, ultimately to some purpose, were:
Lynch Cort Collins Dawson
France Welsh Delaney Barmby
We started brightly enough towards the visitor’s stand which was, depending on your views, the most impressively full we have seen so far this season or, given that many of the people I watch with travel 2 or 3 times as far for every home game, not a particularly startling effort. But as Barmby, Paynter and Fagan linked pleasantly and the visitors showed the same inclination to get the ball down the first 10 minutes were bright and interesting. Then the remaining 35 minutes were dull and stultifying. It really was awful stuff. On 18 minutes Barmby put over a good free kick and Collins got a header but put it wide. Later Barmby flicked on for Fagan who made space on the left before picking out Paynter who fed France who, er, lost it. And that was the sum of our threat which, paltry though it is was, was massively better than the Wendys. We were enjoying Daryl Murphy, though. Resplendent in shiny white boots he patrolled their left flank in front of the East stand faithful and went through the full gamut of his tricks. On 5 minutes he spannered one off his left foot under no pressure at all. On 15 minutes, under less pressure, he passed it straight out of play. On half an hour he showed a neat trick where he pivoted and stepped over the ball before kicking it with his left foot against his right and out for a throw in. To prove this was no fluke, he repeated it a few minutes later. Excellent stuff.
Surprisingly, just before half time, the visitors nearly scored. A long diagonal cross evaded everyone and fell for Peacock 3 yards out and with only Myhill opposing him. Fortunately the ball was a good 9 inches in front of Peacock and so, presumably fearing a hamstring strain from the stretch, he let it scurry away from him. Lazy get. Half time came, we were all thankful it did, but it presaged another disappointment for the traditionalists: the last home game before Christmas should feature club chaplain the Rev. Allan Bagshaw singing Christmas carols, accompanied by neither a band nor the crowd. Sadly, it was not to be. I think Captain Phil should get on to it.
Second half began and again nothing happened and continued to happen, pretty much constantly, until the manager freshened it up on the hour. Price came on for Lynch, so France went to full back, shortly afterwards the bustling Paynter was replaced by Elliott, 10 minutes after this, Green came on for Barmby. On 69 minutes Price miscontrolled a pass, chased after it, miss-hit a cross and their keeper palmed it over for a corner. Our first attempt on target. From the subsequent corner Cort got free but headed over. I made a note at this point, it read ‘tedious, tedious game.’
Much to my surprise in the last quarter of an hour the game belatedly yawned, stretched, looked blearily around and decided to get up and give us something to watch. Good work by Fagan preceded a fine Delaney pass, which reminded some grizzled oldsters present of The Pass performed by Stuart Elliott back in the mists of a week ago, picked out the same Stuart but he was bundled out of it when in a good position. A minute later the Wendys went close as Myhill lost a cross and Cort stretched impressively to clear with a Sheffster lurking ready to strike.
Then with 5 minutes to go, we seemed to have won it. Price put over a proper cross, with pace and dip and Elliott got in front of his marker and bulleted a header past former Man City loser and fat lad Nicky Weaver. Great were the celebrations, greater still the puzzlement at the linesman’s flag for offside. Possibly Elliott had been stood offside and then had run onside, but it had looked a good goal as he was certainly well onside as the ball was crossed. Commendably we didn’t argue and got on with it, and were duly rewarded. Price chased down a hopeful punt forward and pressured Weaver into giving away the corner. Green curled it over from our left, it got a flick on and the same Price was there with the skill, balance and anticipation to get in a left foot volley crisply past Weaver. A quick check of the linesman revealed we were OK at this point to go mental and we did, as the Wendy fans peering owlishly from the North stand realised that the jig was up and decided to make their way home. 1-0, game over.
Not pretty, but we did a job and gradually got on top of them. Myhill was assured, Collins and Cort looked an impressive partnership, Delaney again did well in midfield, Paynter and Fagan worked hard and all three subs had good outings. Price, almost a dictionary definition of mercurial, was the difference. Watch for him to get a deserved start at Brighton only to be subbed at half time with tigerfolk muttering that he should never be allowed to pull the shirt on again. On the down side, Dawson had an uncharacteristically scruffy day, Lynch now looks like another in our never ending conveyor belt supply of useless right backs, Welsh was nowhere near influential enough and France was hopeless until he went to full back.
But we never looked like losing and in the end we got the win and deserved it. I’ll take that now and for the rest of the season too.
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Lynch, Cort, Collins, Dawson; France, Welsh, Delaney, Barmby; Paynter, Fagan. Subs: Price (for Lynch, 59), Elliott (for Paynter, 63), Green (for Barmby, 78), Duke, Andrews.
Goals: Price 87
Sent Off: None
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Weaver, Simek, Coughlan, Wood, Gilbert, O’Brien, Whelan, Adams, Murphy, Peacock, Graham. Subs: Brunt (for Whelan, 45), Eagles (for Peacock, 69), Agbonlahor (for Graham, 74), Lee, Hills.
Sent Off: Purse
REFEREE: M Atkinson