An intimidating teamsheet was carded by Norwich, but many of their stars didn’t turn up until the closing minutes of a low-key game. Alas they had the fortune to score a late goal to equalise Leon Cort’s first half bullet header.
1-1, then. Not an awful lot more to say that that, really. We got a lead, we seemed like we’d try to add to it before half time, after half time, probably though a combination of tiredness and anxiety we gradually gave them more and more of the pitch to play in and so, not surprisingly, they eventually equalised. And it’s always disappointing to have led for so long without winning, particularly as increasing Canarial pressure seemed to make the outcome of hanging on and then conceding late grimly predictable. Whether you think it’s a good result or not probably depends on whether you think the fact Norwich were beating a few premiership teams in April is as relevant as the fact that a lot of ordinary division 2 sides have rolled them over since August, most recently an Ipswich outfit who looked relegation candidates when we saw them at the Circle at the end of December.
Norwich were fairly rubbish yesterday. Very rubbish compared to the performance against us as Carrow Road where Darren Huckerby took Scott Wiseman and Ryan France for a ride that must have left them dizzy. Huckerby reminded us then why he could be such an effective footballer at a very high level. Yesterday he reminded us why he’s spent a significant amount of time out of the top flight, as his appetite for the fray failed to match his talent which is of the genuine white boots variety.
He wasn’t alone either. Safri was niggly and largely ineffective and Michael Spillane was appropriately gangsterish and thug like and might have had a red card for throwing an elbow into Elliott’s face. Robert Earnshaw was comically sad, he did work hard but the jet-heeled homunculus seldom seemed to be in the same quarter as the ball, roam as he may. He was credited with their goal, but then so were Damien Delaney and Stuart Elliott with one newspaper report giving the initial shot to Gary Docherty. If Earnshaw were to be credited with it he would owe thanks to so many others worthy of an Academy Award acceptance speech. They deserved their point on second half possession, they didn’t do much to earn it on commitment or skill.
We lined up attacking the North Stand thus:
France Cort Collins Delaney
Ellison Welsh Andrews Elliott
and attack it we did, as a third minute corner just eluded Elliott’s touch, and a few minutes later Duffy hit a long range shot wide. We controlled the early exchanges, Norwich despite the 2000 or so who had made the journey up from Norfolk looking decidedly not up for it. Huckerby had one run from the left where he lost both Ellison and France and got in a good shot-cum-centre which custodian of the leather Myhill tipped over, reminding us of sitting gloomily watching Huckerby do much the same to us on a night in September while we tried to remember where we had left our cars and wondered what time we’d get home.
On 26 minutes we got a reward for our control as an Ellison freekick was scrambled out for a corner. Andrews put in a very good delivery and it was another Carrow Road flashback as Cort rose high, headed low, and scored, it being both his second goal and his second header on target of the season. He stayed down a while afterwards and there were some fairly anxious tiger-waves towards the bench, but the gangly one was soon restored to health and fitness and we were ahead and happy at 1-0.
We drew a bit of confidence from it as well and produced a thrilling interplay of passes after Welsh won the ball and ran with it before involving Andrews and Ellison and finally Andrews again who shot just wide. Andrews had a very good first half, he looked calculating and clever and as if he knew exactly what he was doing, not things of which you could ever accuse, say, Jason Price.
Earnshaw ran around enthusiastically not getting the ball, rather a waste of £3.5 million on a pacy striker when you could spend £200, 000 on one doing exactly the same, step forward Darryl Duffy. That’s a bit hard on the boy Darryl, as he put in what is sometimes called a good shift ( although personally I think shifts are done in proper jobs like mining or nursing, not in playing a game of football, but I digress) chasing down the Norwich midfield and producing a spiky and spiteful response from Safri in particular. It was starting to go off on our right as well as Huckerby was tiring of the enthusiastic attentions of the eager Ellison and started to moan and sulk to the referee. Half time saw us nursing a welcome and deserved lead.
The second half started initially with more of the same, an anticipated Norfolkian blast not materialising, suggesting Canary manager Nigel Worthington’s appearance of bland Ulster bonhomie is not so much a mask as something he is cursed with. If he can’t motivate a group of talented players in front of 20,000 when a goal down, it must be a bit hard for Norwich fans to see that there’s much point to him. Delia’s Ladle of Damocles is surely hanging over his head.
After about an hour we might have put things beyond their grasp completely. Elliott put through Parkin who ran on and shot, decently enough, but allowing Green to make a save he ought to have made, This he duly did, but pushed it out to Duffy who was following up and who had time to spoon it so effectively high that it must have had the visiting chairwoman noddling in approval. It was a fairly horrible miss and it wasn’t long before young Darryl was replaced by Fagan.
But the visitors were into it before we made the change. A break saw Huckerby free and he found Earnshaw who volleyed straight at Myhill. Another attack ended when Drury very obviously dived when in the area, rightly not gaining the penalty, mystifyingly not getting a card for cheating. They were controlling things by now without really threatening and much hooting was heard from the faithful as Earnshaw lined up a free kick in an ‘I’m a premiership and international striker, y’know’ fashion before ballooning it excitingly over.
We were now restricted to hitting them on he break and the excellent Parkin again stood out, holding up the ball and waiting to flick it on. Sadly there was seldom anyone near enough to him to benefit, although once he showed his surprisingly-quick-feet-for-a-beast-man approach in flicking in Fagan who found a good shot that had Green stretching to save it.
But the current was now running with the visitors as we dropped deeper and deeper and they advanced higher and higher, aided by our customary witless defending of corners as we pulled everyone back allowing them to retain pressure, build attacking momentum and pump the ball back in for more corners under no pressure at all themselves. I know there are all shades of opinion on here about Peter Taylor, from Mike Scott’s virtual deification of him to John Fenwick’s actual vilification and I stand much closer to the former than the latter, but can we not all agree about the bloody corners? Infuriating hardly starts to describe it. ‘Lot of Norwich pressure’ I scribbled in the 82nd minute, hardly poetic but pretty apt, and it finally paid off 5 minutes later in perhaps the scruffiest goal we have conceded all season. Huckerby put a cross in, we let it bounce around before scrambling it away, they got in another really bobbly effort which again we didn’t clear before Elliott scurrying back stabbed it in with his left big toe attempting God knows what.
And that was 1-1 and that was just about that. A drab day, a drab game and a suitably drab point at home. But if we keep on drawing then we’ll stay up and that’ll be mission accomplished for this campaign, and that’ll suit me.
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; France, Cort, Collins, Delaney; Ellison, Andrews, Welsh, Elliott; Parkin, Duffy. Subs: Fagan (for Duffy, 66), Lynch, Paynter, Green, Duke.
Goals: Cort 26
Booked: Collins, France
Sent Off: None
NORWICH CITY: Green, Fleming, Rehman, Doherty, Drury, Johansson, Safri, Hughes, Huckerby, Earnshaw, Thorne. Subs: McKenzie (for Thorne, 73), McVeigh (for Johansson, 73), Robinson (for Safri, 88), Etuhu, Gallacher.
Goals: og 87 (Elliott)
Booked: Doherty, Safri
Sent Off: None
REFEREE: J Moss