Hull City 1 Crystal Palace 2

The introduction of Jon Parkin up front lifted spirits at the KC and the big man reciprocated with a debut goal. But defensive errors saw Palace leave Hull with three points.

In yesterday’s programme Emmerson Boyce of the visitors said ” In the end though, it’s all about getting back into the Premiership and we’ll do that any way we can.” I think they might get back too, they’ve got quality performers throughout their side, an excellent strikeforce and a strong collective will. They are also not afraid to be appallingly cynical, either; having over run us for 20 minutes and sitting two goals to the good they conceded one almost immediately and from that point on they acted like they were playing Barcelona, drawing people behind the ball whenever possible, looking to hit us on the break and slowing the game down with remarkable chutzpah. They got away with it in the first half but the referee woke up to it in the second and added on 5 minutes injury time, as well as booking the aforementioned Boyce who was helping getting his side back into the Premiership any way he could by not so much dwelling over take a throw in as going through the process of taking out a mortgage on it. Boyce looked unhappy to be carded, but looked a bit more miserable still a moment later as he lay in a groaning heap having been put there by Jon Parkin. Yes. my friends, we have a new hero. The big man was, tautologously, immense yesterday. Battering the equally combative Darren Ward, holding up the ball with his back to goal long enough for others to take up position for the layoffs, all this he did, all this you might have guessed. But a supremely efficient finish for a boast worthy 8 goals in 8 games? Flicks for Nicky to run on to? I confess I wasn’t expecting that. If he can keep all that up frankly I’ll be surprised; it’s hard not to think that if he did this every week he’d have left The Moss Rose long ago and have cost a lot more than 150k. But he was great yesterday and I feel confident in saying that this was the best debut for a City player named after a bonfire night-related comestible that I can immediately call to mind.

It was great yesterday. Really. Yes we lost, yes we deserved a point so that’s a pity, but it was thrilling, visceral stuff with the crowd baying constantly at officials and opposing players. We lost really politely at Selhurst Park in September, passed it around nicely, never got near them. It wasn’t like that yesterday and we were all the better for it. It’s been a tough spell recently, but we really are improving and I see more reasons than ever for expecting that we’ll stay up this season and kick on the next. Warming the heart’s cockles were:

France Cort Collins Lynch
Price Andrews Delaney Barmby
Fagan Parkin

We also carded the most attack-minded set of subs I can remember, apart from Leite the keeper we had Green, Elliott, Paynter and spiky-haired skinny Scot Darryl Duffy. It didn’t appear that the manager was assuming that we would keep it tight, get a goal up and then close it down by bringing on 3 defenders late on. And the manager was a good judge, as were immediately under the hammer. In the first minute the Glaziers moved purposefully towards the South stand, Johnson ran at the centre of our defence before cleverly passing wide to McAnuff who hit a first time shot that Myhill alertly tipped over. That pretty much set the scene for the opening 20 minutes. Johnson was quick and clever up front and Jobi McAnuff and Wayne Andrews proceeded to demonstrate why neither Ryan France nor Mark Lynch are up to it as full backs at this level. On 7 minutes Lynch brought down Andrews wideish on their right flank, the ball was flicked over and headed down and goalwards. Myhill saved well low to his right, but could only lie there, and his defenders could seemingly only stand there, as Ward strolled up to knock in the rebound. It’s one thing for central defenders to cause mayhem in the air from set plays, it’s another for them to pick up the scraps afterwards and it’s not really good enough. 1-0

The visitors seemed to scent tigerblood at this stage and Johnson roared down the middle scattering defenders in his wake and Myhill was wonderfully brave and skilled to take the ball off his toes. Custodian of the leather! But we were undone a minute later as Johnson opened us again up by running centrally and slipping a beautifully judged ball inside Lynch for Andrews who left the fullback floundering. Andrews put in a low cross and Cort, aware no doubt of Macken breathing down his neck, extended a leg and diverted the ball past Myhill. 2-0, and little consolation that this was the first time Leon had got an effort on target since the opener against Norwich in September.

We’d not been totally idle during this period, Barmby had been close to a Price cross and Parkin had entertained us by an up and under shot from the centre circle. But we hadn’t had the ball enough to really discomfit the Crystal set. Until immediately after their goal. Price got the ball wide right, found the route blocked and turned it back for France to lump over a nothing ball into the middle. The defenders moved up, looked for a flag and didn’t see one. Then they looked at Big Jon, miles free in a ‘Hmm that looks a tad offside’ way and faced only by ridiculously pantalooned keeper Kiraly. Undistracted by his opponents billowing breeks Parkin took one touch to control and another to stick it away. 2-1 and we were back in business on 25 minutes.

The manager celebrated in unorthodox but welcome fashion by immediately withdrawing Lynch for Green and sticking Delaney at left back. This improved us hugely and credit the manager for the guts and wisdom to do it. And debit him for not doing this from the start. Just as it is usually folly to risk starting a player who is already injured for fear of exacerbating this, so it is pointless selecting one who is already shit, and Lynch undoubtedly is, certainly against pacy wide men. At Norwich, even with France to help him, Darren Huckerby gave him an evening that will haunt him, against Watford Anthony McNamee skinned him so often it was embarrassing. He cut a forlorn figure as he trudged off yesterday and, were we not so desperately short of right backs, given that there seems to be a rule that we can’t start with Wiseman, I would be predicting that that might be the last we see of him.

The other factor was that the Glaziers were suddenly glassy eyed and afraid of us, drawing in their horns and letting us come at them. Parkin was having a grand time of it, one minute slamming over a cross from the right, the next winning everything high, the next flicking the ball on to Barmby who found Price who shot over. Everyone was getting it into the fun of it now as Nicky turned despite Ward’s boot up his arse and flicked wide to Fagan who volleyed in a cross to Price who again volleyed and again it was just over. Lovely, lovely football.

Palace hadn’t gone completely silent and trusted themselves to hit us on the break as McAnuff continued to torment France and Johnson switched on the afterburners for another scorching run but this time ballooned the shot. Half time saw us breathless but happy despite the deficit.

The second half suggested we had lost none of our appetite for it. Green and Barmby prompted us intelligently from midfield, Price was having a typically helter-skelter game, a sample move being where he started a run, lost the ball, scrambled it back before crossing for Parkin who belted it over. Jason didn’t see out the game, being withdrawn to give us our first view of Duffy with Fagan going wide on the right and making a typically brave fist of this with a series of crosses, one of which the keeper of Crystal tips over the bar.

We were making the bulk of the running, but the visitors, when they weren’t slowing down the game when they didn’t have the ball, lost none of their ability to pick it up when they did. Andrews lashed in a low shot which Myhill saved well, then Keith Andrews gave it away lazily to Johnson who typically got in a sharp shot that Bo knocked over. Johnson was excellent yesterday, he really was, the constant abuse he received from the East Stand making that point more tellingly than I ever could.

As the game wore on we chucked on Elliott for Barmby and we huffed and puffed as they ambled and slowed, but as the mighty Parkin understandably ran out of steam and young Duffy was clearly finding his feet and his team mates clearly weren’t, we didn’t quite create the chances that we needed and they went off with the points. A pity.

A pity, but a top game, and far more positives than negatives. Duffy is clearly quick and will get better, one clever turn away from his marker before scuffing the shot showed what we can expect. Damien Delaney slotted nervelessly back into defence and had a splendid game. Myhill was typically effective, Barmby was busy and neat, Greeny went some way towards reminding us what we first loved about him, Fagan like Delaney was tireless uncomplaining and effective wherever he played. On the downside Lynch was a train wreck and France wasn’t a lot better and his distribution started poorly and then became cringe-making. I didn’t think Andrews was great either, the standing around and measured passing display looked fine when we had the ball, but there wasn’t enough chasing and closing when we didn’t.

But it was an exhilarating game against a good side whom we worried in both the sheep and the anxiously looking over the shoulder sense. And most of all we had a splendid debut from Big John, long-legged, broad-shouldered, square-jawed. He’s The Parkinator, and he’ll be back.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; France, Cort, Collins, Lynch; Price, Andrews, Delaney, Barmby; Parkin, Fagan. Subs: Green (for Lynch, 26), Duffy (for Price, 59), Elliott (for Barmby, 74), Paynter, Leite.

Goals: Parkin 25

Booked: Barmby, Price

Sent Off: None


CRYSTAL PALACE: Kiraly, Boyce, Ward, Hudson, Borrowdale, Andrews, Watson, Hughes, McAnuff, Johnson, Macken. Subs: Freedman (for Andrews, 77), Morrison (for Macken, 84), Riihilahti (for Hughes, 86), Black, Speroni.

Goals: Ward 9; Cort (og) 24

Booked: Boyce

Sent Off: None


REFEREE: C Webster