Hull City 2 Derby County 1

Another see-saw game sees City take the early initiative before Seth Johnson inspires Derby to give the Tigers a proper hiding. In the end though a penalty against the run of play and a late sending-off after a disallowed goal see City claim all three points.

‘Useless referee, just about the worst we’ve ever had.’

So grumbled the Derby fans, as they mooched glumly away from the Circle yesterday afternoon, cursing their side’s maltreatment at the hands and cards of referee Hall.

‘Useless referee, just about the worst we’ve ever had.’

So chortled the City fans, as they skipped gleefully away from the Circle yesterday afternoon, prizing their side’s precious three points gathered amid the bizarre incompetence of referee Hall.

Winning is not the main thing, it’s everything. And in a comically unpredictable game, winning is what we did.

After a rainy lunchtime the start of the game was delayed until a quarter past three because of ‘traffic problems’, though we were in fact underway at 3.13. On amber and black duty were:

Lynch Cort Delaney Edge
France Welsh Captain Curtis Elliott
Brown Burgess

No Barmby! Skipper’s armband to Curtis! Two big men up front!

The reason for the last of these choices was rapidly apparent, as Derby fielded an undersize defence and, in particular, a keeper who was simply diminutive by modern standards. No surprise there. Kevin Poole is many things but modern isn’t one of them. He made his League debut while the dinosaurs roamed the earth and his appearance between the Derby sticks suggests things are seriously awry down at Pride Park.

Which is good. There are quite a lot of clubs in this League that I really don’t like, and Derby are definitely one of them. (But I hate Sheffield United most).

On 3, Derby’s problems were cruelly and ruthlessly exposed. A corner, Poole flaps dismally, Burgess heads, a defender clears off the line, a cross is whipped back in, Brown flicks a header goalwards, Poole clings on gratefully. My o my, we’re gonna roast this lot! Up the other end, a brief alarm sounds as Peschisolido finds space on the left side of our box but he slides his shot wide of Boaz’s far post, and the play is almost entirely directed towards the fubling Poole, attempting to defend the South Stand goal. Derby’s defence is gloriously tentative and we’re winning the fight for first touch almost without exception. A skiddy pitch makes defending awkward but so does having rubbish defenders, and Derby are well-stocked in that department.

Still, when we do score, it’s attributable to our excellence not their miserable failings. France sweeps down the right, squares the ball to Brown, who promptly turns the ball across the face of the penalty area to Elliott, who, betraying not a hint of the lack of confidence you might expect after his modest run of form, powers a beautifully timed sidefooted shot past Poole and into the Derby net.

We’re shredding them. It’s superb stuff. It continues deliciously. Two backheels in the same move, deep inside the visiting penalty area! I’m loving this, at last it looks like last season – never mind ‘every game’s a battle in this Division’, we’re battering them.

Or so it seems.

Derby slowly begin to play. And we begin to lose our sharpness.

The middle of the half sees a gradual change in the pattern of play, as Derby pass the ball around with increasing authority. Peschisolido links attack and midfield with skill and vision, Seth ‘Goldfish’ Johnson starts to look a player you might value at more than the 7 penceworth of service he gave Leeds, if not quite at the 7 million pounds they paid for him, and poncy Spaniard Idiakez (a Basque, I suppose, with a name like that) starts to receive the ball and distribute it sensibly, in preference to his opening gambit which involved standing forlorn just in front of the back four allowing himself to be utterly bypassed by the pattern of play.

The visitors have improved, but they aren’t troubling Boaz. That changes on 39, as Stern John controls a high through ball with great virtuosity and lashes a ferocious volley hard against the crossbar, with Boaz beaten and thankful for the protection of his shuddering woodwork. On 40 Elliott fools around inside his own box, John sets up Bisgaard and he shoots across the face of the goal and narrowly wide. Then, on 43, a generous award of a free-kick allows Idiakez the chance to show his dead ball prowess from just outside the box. His prowess resembles a steaming pile of poo, with flies buzzing around it hungrily, and the ball soars gracelessly away from the target.

Half-time comes and goes, but it doesn’t get any better. Worse, if anything. Flabby victims, Derby had looked early on. They’re taking control now. On 48 some rotten defending by us sets up Johnson for a half-volley which Boaz eccentrically tips up into the air before catching. On 54 a surging move down the left results in a deep cross to the back post where the impressive John outmuscles our defence and thumps a header into the net, only to have it ruled out for an alleged push. I think we got very lucky on that occasion, but only a couple of minutes later woefully incompetent referee Hall nudges the scales against us and, as Johnson drives into our box looking for the nearest leg to fall over, awards a mysterious penalty. Idiakez smites it lustily into our net. The scores are level, and Derby are well worth their equaliser.

It’s grotesque. Tommy Smith is running riot down the left – in one appalling moment he simply skips in between the bemused France and Lynch and unleashes a wicked rising shot that just clears Boaz’s goal – Seth Johnson is dominant in the centre and Peschisolido continues to drop off the front line to pick up short passes and bring the rest of the midfield into play. We seem unable to cope. Passing, movement – it’s all coming from Derby and we’re second best all over the pitch.

The travelling support is relishing it, and, happily, they are doing it in numbers – two thousand Rams, maybe more. One of the principal attractions of returning to this Division, our natural home, was the expectation of regular vibrant away support, but so far the turn-outs have been largely disappointing, with spotty Stoke the worst culprits. But Derby, who comply with the rule that grim towns tend to generate intimidating support(ers) (think Leeds, Schalke, Wolves and Fleetwood as well), have travelled with purpose and vocal aggression, and I thank them for that.

Away from the concrete and back on the turf, substitutions are urgently needed. Fagan for Burgess, Green for the toiling Lynch – France drops in at right-back, Fagan goes wide on the right and Green is invited to play in an advanced central role. But the crucial changes are not ours. Smith goes off, limping, and is replaced by Jackson, whose first touch is on the end of a sublime through ball that completely takes poor France out of the play, but the shot is parried bravely by Boaz. Had Smith still been apitch, he’d’ve buried that glorious opportunity. He would likely have done the same a bit later when again Jackson, set up by Tudgay, has a clear sight of goal but allows France doughtily to block the shot at the expense of a corner. By now Peschisolido has trotted off too and Derby, though still the better side, are showing decreasing ambition. As well they might, as Mr Taylor taunts them with our strength in depth. Edge comes off, and just look at the gold that we can deploy in his stead. It’s Marc Joseph!

And we score the winner. I’m not entirely sure that the arrival of Joseph was the direct cause of this happy outcome, but by all mean feel free to contradict me if you reckon me unduly churlish.

Anyway, on 83 Derby sloppily give the ball away deep inside their own half. It’s the first time we’ve had a touch close to their goal for quite some time, and Brown is entitled to be surprised as he is allowed to advance into the box. Even more so when he is clumsily hauled to the floor. It’s a clear penalty, and Mr Hall makes a rare correct choice and duly awards it.

Not an easy one. Late on in the game. Three points at stake. And Derby baboons and buffoons leaping around manically behind the goal. Stuart Green is ice-cool and rams a firm low shot into the corner of the net. 2-1 for us, and remarkably enough it’s not the first goal we’ve scored at North Stand end this season.

Done and dusted? O no, not so fast. On 85 lanky centre-back Davies leaps high and sends a header spinning past Boaz to equalise. Except this too is chalked off. The referee indicates climbing by the ‘scorer’, and there was certainly more suspicion about this effort than attached to the Stern John‘goal’ earlier, which looked clean as a whistle to me. But even Davies could count himself unlucky, because if it really was a foul it was marginal at best. This was evidently Davies’s own view and one he decided to convey to the referee with some force, and he got himself sent off for his pains.

By this stage I think the folk from Derby were quite cross.

I was pleased but mystified. Counting the brace harvested by Davies, I totted up a total of 11 (eleven) yellow cards in this match. I wouldn’t go so far as to say there no bad tackles – there were several silly and clumsy ones, but one or two too high as well – but ELEVEN bookings? With the trainers scarcely in evidence? In fact, did they show at all? Shocking refereeing, a profound disservice to a sport that requires a decent element of confrontational physicality to be worth playing and watching.

There were three added minutes signalled, and five played, but we held on without serious alarm. 2-1, thank you, and off we chortled into the grey late afternoon.

If this chaotically refereed encounter was not quite a match for the extraordinary 3-2 victory over Derby twenty years ago, then it’s fair to remember that there’ve been few, if any, games in Hull in the intervening period that have been as tumultuous as that Billy Whitehurst-led fightback. Yesterday’s game will be remembered for a good while too – by winners and by losers. Of course we didn’t deserve to win. And yet what we are showing with increasing regularity this season is resilience. We are really difficult to beat. We find equalisers, we fight doggedly for winners even when we’re second best. Even in the two games this season where we’ve been unarguably second best – at Wolves and Norwich – we’ve stuck to the task and ensured defeat was confined to a single goal.

And we are now in the top half of the Division.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Lynch, Cort, Delaney, Edge; France, Welsh, Woodhouse, Elliott; Brown, Burgess. Subs: Green (for Lynch, 70), Fagan (for Burgess, 70), Joseph (for Edge, 78), Ellison, Duke.

Goals: Elliott 11; Green 84 (pen)

Booked: Elliott, Green, Woodhouse

Sent Off: None

DERBY COUNTY: Poole, Kenna, Davies, Edworthy, Whittingham, Bisgaard, Idiakez, S Johnson, Smith, John, Peschisolido. Subs: J Jackson (for Smith, 69), Tudgay (for Peschisolido, 73), Camp, Nyatanga, Thirwell.

Goals: Idiakez 56 (pen)

Booked: Davies, Edworthy, Idiakez, Tudgay, Whittingham

Sent Off: Davies