A dreadful game with an end-of-season feel, only an enraged Frank Sinclair threatened to lift the boredom.
The precise method that I will need to use to move muck around in my front garden. The last time City played against a team playing their first ever league fixture. The current career path of former Big Brother contestant and subsequent anal specialist porn star Nichola Holt. These are some of the things that crossed my mind briefly between 3:00pm and 4:50pm this afternoon.
While City today secured a point that sealed Championship survival in mathematical terms, and while City today kept a useful clean-sheet against an expensively assembled strike force, these “good things to remember about today” are overshadowed by the sheer paucity of the fare on offer today. The game was an absolute shocker played out by two teams unable to string passes together and mount coherent attacks with any kind of frequency. Uppermost was Burnley Number 7 O’Connor, in the past a decent looking short-arsed midfielder of the Garreth Roberts ilk. But today he turned in the worst performance I’ve seen this season – by approximately three country miles – as he fouled unnecessarily and hit countless passes into touch, straight at a City player or aimlessly into no-mans’ land. He epitomised today’s game, a small modicum of huff and puff but barely any end product or entertainment whatsoever, other than the ability for the 19,926 in attendance to breath a collective sigh of relief and say “it can’t be that bad next time”.
City opened brightly with Stuart Green very much to the fore in a central playmaking role that his new-found acquaintance with the tackle allows him to play at this elevated level of football. We made two changes – nippy Duffy in for scurrying Fagan up front, half-decent France in for lost-looking Paynter on the right – and lined up:
Thelwell Cort Delaney Dawson
France Andrews Green Ellison
And the Tigers started brightly as Parkin was fouled, the ball fell to Green, the ref waved play on and the Cumbrian drove a shot straight at the broad Burnley keeper Jensen – a poor quality pretender to Parkin’s “Beast” moniker. From mini-beast’s clearance the painfully thin Lafferty up front for Burnley fed £750k man Andy Gray who sponged a shot well wide. Gray went on to be largely ineffectual and fouled a lot. Lafferty looked a decent prospect although I worried for his health every time he carried his voluminous shorts behind him like a dragster’s parachute brake as he ran after the ball.
Moments later Big Beast flicked the ball onto Duffy and as the Scotsman shot centre back Duff lunged horribly in only the general vicinity of the ball, the shot dribbled away and the referee quite amazingly waved play-on. This encouraged Burnley greatly and for the next 10-15 minutes they got very physical, a tactic which quelled the Tigers a bit but left the game bereft of any kind of entertainment. A few shots came in – Mahon shot wide for the Clarets, Ellison trod on the ball when eight yards out with a clear sight of goal, Green mistimed a run onto France’s flick and tried to chest the ball past Jensen, France had two chances in a minute deflected wide and saved respectively. But the game was a scrappy affair that needed a moment of inspiration, an utterly ludicrous refereeing decision or a rash leg-breaking challenge to liven it up. The ref had a go but to no avail, the other two failed to materialise. And so the first half dribbled towards a close with only a low cross by Branch cleared by Cort, a powerful shot by Parkin straight at Jensen and an Ellison shot just over the crossbar to raise the spirits. Rarely has the half time whistle been greeted so readily by the frankly bored supporters in attendance.
It got no better, not on the footballing front at least. The second half began with a spell of desperately poor football, the only glimmer of a goal chance came when Cort and Jensen challenged for a cross and Cort was surprised to find he had won the header and could only steer it over the bar. On the hour the crowd was finally roused by the antics of Frank Sinclair. The Ex-Chelsea defender seemed agitated from early in the first half and was wittering at the referee on a regular basis for seemingly nothing. An injury to Manchester United loanee right back Bardsley had seen Sinclair switch from centre back to right back so for the second half he patrolled the flank alongside the East Stand. A gesture or two from the defender saw a volley of abuse rain down on Sinclair and – remarkably for someone that has played at the highest club level – he seemed to really lose his rag. Seconds later he lunged at Ellison quite deliberately and nastily and earned a very obvious yellow card. Indeed he could probably not have complained if he had been invited to make first use of the KC after-match shower suite, such was the pre-meditated nastiness of the challenge. Super Kev rose to his feet gingerly and shook Sinclair’s hand, the ex-Leicester colleagues thereby demonstrating a rare moment of limb-eye co-ordination.
A minute or so later a deep City corner was cleared by Duff with a swivel of the shoulders and hips that appeared to cause him to handle the ball, but not much fuss was made by the players closest to the incident. On 64 minutes a regulation Burnley through ball wrong-footed the City defence as they pushed out and Lafferty advanced one-on-one with Myhill. The young lad never looked very comfortable with this situation, and rather than go to the trouble of attempting a proper shot, he just belted the ball at Boaz’s standing leg and the ball ricocheted well clear.
That was about it. Burnley’s fans got all excited when Mahon lined up a free kick from 30 yards, the recent acquisition from Wigan rewarded them by, err, thumping the set piece wide of the goal. Oops. Some Duffy persistence saw City win an unlikely corner, and after Green had an initial shot blocked the rebound fell to Super Kev whose shot was well struck but in comfortable saving range even for a lummox like Jensen. O’Connor then crowned his display of utter craptitude by receiving a poorly aimed headed clearance and swishing a 25 yard shot into Myhill’s grateful arms in the manner that one would normally lob a TV clicker to one’s partner across your front room. Ellison had one more shot saved and Andrews, otherwise excellent today, gave the ball away dangerously 30 yards out before McCann had his shot blocked.
With nine minutes left Taylor decided to change things around in an effort to create a goal, Fagan, Elliott and Paynter replaced Duffy, Ellison and France.
The game ended soon after.
This game reeked of end-of-season half-heartedness. As such no-one played specifically badly, they just collectively didn’t really play at all. Big centre back Duff coped with Parkin as well as most and the Beast doesn’t seem to be able to combine with Duffy as effectively as he does with Fagan. Andrews was the pick of the midfield, pick-pocketing tackles and simple-things-done-well passes being the order of the day. Thelwell defended splendidly but passed wastefully, a curiously mixed performance. Cort was a giant in defence and Delaney also played well.
Off to Derby now. Don’t be surprised if we see more of the same, with all nine division-changing positions just about confirmed mathematically we are in for some half-paced joggery against mid-table-and-useless Derby and play-off-bound-so-let’s-avoid-injury Preston and Watford.
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Thelwell, Cort, Delaney, Dawson; France, Andrews, Green, Ellison; Parkin, Duffy. Subs: Elliott (for Ellison, 81), Fagan (for Duffy, 81), Paynter (for France, 81), Wiseman, Duke.
Sent Off: None
BURNLEY: Jensen, Bardsley, Sinclair, Duff, Harley, Mahon, J O’Connor, McCann, Branch, Lafferty, Gray. Subs: McGreal (for Bardsley, 39), Spicer (for Lafferty, 83), Hyde, Elliott, G O’Connor.
Booked: Branch, J O’Connor, McCann, Sinclair
Sent Off: None
REFEREE: D Drysdale