Solid rather than spectacular, a Stuart Green strike is sufficient to dispatch a lame Crewe Alex side and ease considerably any lingering relegation fears.
Well folks, I can tell you one thing straight-off. This is going to be the shortest match report that I have ever written for Tiger-Chat. Not, I hasten to add, because of any lack of mental or other preparation yesterday for my duties (even though there wasn’t any; it finally dawned on me at about one minute to three that I was in charge of the match reporters’ pen, much to the amusement of my chums), nor because of any high-handed desire to deprive Tigchatters (especially the absent ones) of the withering drivel, errr…lovingly-crafted prose, that you all look forward to with such rabid eagerness, but because I can scarce recall a game where (a) so little actually happened and (b) the fare that was served up was so meagre that there must almost have been an arguable legal case for a refund.
But is anyone complaining? Didn’t seem to be many gloomy countenances among the droves heading in various directions from the Circle at five o’clock yesterday, and why should there have been? The two home games against Plymouth and Crewe were billed as the make or break ones for City in the quest to retain Championship status, and on both occasions the team delivered the points. Oh yes, missus, these were big, big points, and, whilst we shall need to pick up a few more of them before we can finally blow the dust off the route map to Blunderland in total confidence that we are not wasting our puff, we can at least surely all agree that the League table has assumed a much happier appearance than the one it possessed after the Leicester debacle, not only because of the eleven-point cushion we now have in front of our good friends from south-east London, but also because we only have about four points to make up on those above us to have us sitting in a genuinely mid-table position. Course, whether we shall make up that ground is questionable given the run-in we have (and the fact that, if mathematical certainty of avoiding the drop is achieved with games to spare, we shouldn’t rule out the prospect of players going on strike for the remaining games once their job is done as they did last season), and to be honest it doesn’t matter if we do or we don’t, but the real objective for this season, namely staying up, is now so close that we can just about reach out and touch it. And that is what matters.
It is true, though, and some may say slightly frustrating, that we have clawed ourselves back to a position of relative safety by dint of two performances that were far less inspiring than those served up in all bar one of the run of defeats which preceded them, but there we are; I can offer no explanation, having come to the conclusion that my understanding of the beautiful game is about as sketchy as my understanding of the beautiful sex.
But we shouldn’t feel at all guilty about that, for the other palpable conclusion to be drawn from yesterday’s game is that, for all our travails at the wrong end of the table this season, we are clearly a markedly better side than Kru. They came to the Circle after what was for them by the standards of this season a half-decent run of form, it was a game which they had clearly targeted to pick up full points (and their manager had said so publicly), and it was very much the shit-or-bust game for them (which their manager also admitted in the papers I have read today). But for all that, they had nothing to show except honest endeavour, and for all the neat passing certainly no sign of any real flair or cutting edge, and had no idea how to break us down after we scored an early goal; he doesn’t deserve my saying this after the way he laughed at my expense yesterday, but the analogy drawn by Mark Gretton on this list a couple of hours ago between Crewe yesterday and us in the early part of the season is an astute one.
Anyway, I’ve padded this out for long enough. We carded:-
Wiseman Cort Delaney Rogers
Green Andrews Noble Elliott
Kru won the toss and opted to have the Tigers play towards the South Stand in the first half (which was about as inventive as they got all afternoon in their attempts to unsettle us), with a pathetically small Crewe following, frankly, given the importance of the game, at our backs. The visitors, assisted by a number of favourable decisions from referee Mr T Kettle (Honestly! Only Mr T Pott would have been funnier) tried hard to assert themselves in the early stages as we responded with all the vigour of a somnolent, Chum-sunken labrador, and in the first quarter of an hour manage a couple of attempts at goal, one of which did actually cause a minor scare as their unmarked number 18 managed to toe-end a cross high over the bar from about five yards out
But then, on 17 minutes, we lead. An Elliott cross from the left was messily cleared out to the right only as far as the unmarked Green, who had time to pick his spot, to say nothing of his nose had he so desired, so generous were the Crewe defence in the time they allotted him, before rifling the leather high into the far corner of the net.
Would that ignite the game? Not a bit of it. Crewe continued to plug away, but we didn’t have to do very much to neutralise them. Greeny has been (quite rightly) pilloried for much of the season, but, credit where it’s due, he actually got stuck in for a good hour yesterday, which is more than could be said of his midfield colleagues. Elliott was at his botttling-out-can’t-be-arsed-powder-puff-infuriating worst, while Andrews and Noble showed little endeavour in either attack or defence. Passing was generally inaccurate and at times silly free-kicks were conceded. Result of all this was that the Beast and Fagan had to do their best on decidedly meagre rations, though there were a couple of bright spots, firstly on 27 when a Green foray led to the Beast firing one straight at the keeper, and then ten minutes later when Cort (who didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon, although he’d be the first to admit he’s had more torrid days to contend with) had a header cleared off the line after the jittery Crewe defence had failed to clear a corner. Fagan and then the Beast put efforts just over as the half drew to a close, but it was mostly pretty dreich stuff; we were winning almost in spite of ourselves.
Luckily, there was something to lift the gloom on the East Stand concourse as I enjoyed my half-time smoke, namely the spectacle of a child blubbering inconsolably because someone had burst his balloon. I mean, this is a football match for crissake.
General half-time consensus was that an early goal for us would settle is all down and we would play with gay abandon as a result. Some sodding hope. It was as scrappy and error-strewn as ever (almost comically-so at times), and, worryingly, we started to drop deep (which Mr Taylor tells them not to do, you know). The Beast turned and fired over a couple of minutes in, and a promising move involving the Beast and Wiseman (who looked a bit hesitant at times, as I might I suppose if my boss publicly called me a tart) came to nought on 58 when Elliott and Fagan got in each other’s way. The subbing of Fagan with the white-booted Duffy did nothing to help matters, as the erstwhile Bairn decided that he preferred the company of the midfielders (whose line-up had changed after Elliott’s substitution, with Paynter going out right and Greeny coming inside) to that of the Beast, who now cut a decidedly lone figure.
We’re now into the last ten minutes. Kru, by now pressing forward at will, manage to put a couple of timid efforts straight at Boaz (and get a free header even though we had nine in the box at the time), and City show absolutely no interest in adding to their lead, although we nearly do add to it on 86 when a Rogers through ball bobbles its way through to the Beast, who turns and smacks the ball hard against the crossbar.
Three minutes’ injury time, and a scare after two of them have elapsed when a flick on of a long ball looks to have put one of theirs through, only for Damien, who also had a decent game, to ghost in and hook the ball to safety.
And that was it, especially for our visitors who will have to do something really spectacular in order to survive the drop now. As for us, well, let’s just be happy with the fact that we secured the points and rose three places up the table, overtaking in the process Burnley, who might yet be Millwall’s best hope of avoiding the drop.
At least we can now go and enjoy in a relatively-relaxed frame of mind the Annunciation Day tussle at Ipswich as an hors d’oeuvre to the violation of the sacred Circle by the presence of the WS in a fortnight’s time.
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Wiseman, Cort, Delaney, Rogers; Green, Andrews, Noble, Elliott; Parkin, Fagan. Subs: Ellison (for Elliott, 64), Paynter (for Noble, 66), Duffy (for Fagan, 74), Thelwell, Duke.
Goals: Green 16
Sent Off: None
CREWE ALEXANDRA: Turnbull, Otsemobor, Foster, Bougherra, B Jones, Bell, Lunt, Grant, S Jones, Rodgers, Taylor. Subs: Vaughan (for Rodgers, 59), Higdon (for Taylor, 66), McCready (for Grant, 82), Tomlinson, Johnson.
Sent Off: None
REFEREE: T Kettle