Derby County 1 Hull City 1

An entertaining canter at Pride Park spoilt by a late penalty that equalised a splendid Stuart Green drive.

Well, it’s fair to say that in the end it was a bit better than Saturday. After a turgid Saturday afternoon the general feel of which was encapsulated fairly accurately in Mike Scott’s report, the Tiger fans (possibly 1500-plus in number) who headed to Pride Park yesterday must for the most part have done so out of a sense of duty as opposed to any expectation that the performance would reflect the efforts of men anxious to secure for themselves a starring role in Phase 2 of the Tigers’ March on the Championship (due for general release August 2006; check press for details), as the manager would have us believe is the case in much the same way as he told us we were going for the Div 3 title last season once promotion had been secured. And that collective frame of mind will not have been at all unsettled by a first half, matched only in the greyness stakes by the brooding cloud cover save for one moment of drool-worthy pulchritude, which bore all the hallmarks of an encounter between two outfits whose players had clearly decided that the end of term was nigh and that it was quite in order, metaphorically speaking, to get out the Subbuteo and Ker-Plunk (and I did write this before reading the Burnley report posted on here) to while away the time until the plane leaves for Lanzarote.

Maybe the eye had just become accustomed to what it had witnessed in the first half and adjusted expectations accordingly, but the second period did, surprisingly, seem to be something of an improvement, as Dorrbeh (as the locals pronounce it), fired by the enthusiasm of a number of young recruits, at least managed to ping the ball around with the sort of accuracy that one might be entitled to expect of professional footballers and certainly a fair bit more than the appalling Burnley managed on Saturday, even if it wasn’t sufficient to dent a City rearguard showing a generally pleasing resolve and left the whole thing looking like some sweatless exercise in geometry of a kind that might have befitted the State-sponsored games in North Korea or 1980s Albania, while our own favourites played their part by a series of incisive counter attacks and some dangerous set-piece play which left us slightly unlucky not to have added to our tally. In the end, it was left to the man who had looked all afternoon to pose the biggest threat to the Tigers, namely referee D’Urso, one of that new breed of so-called celebrity refs who in their vanity think that the crowd are there to watch them as much as the players, to stamp his mark on the proceedings by deciding in the closing minutes to pull up Wiseman for a challenge which. although the manager and player both admitted that it was a foul (but was Taylor just being diplomatic after the hot water he got himself into at Sheffield?), was nothing worse than probably a dozen ones that had gone unpunished during the afternoon.

Dorrbeh will claim they were worth a point, but whilst they had plenty of the ball they had shown precious little by way of penetration and City, who might well have had a justifiable penalty claim themselves, can rightly feel that the end result was a wee bit hard on them.

Inevitably, there were changes from Saturday’s team, and we lined up as follows:-

Wiseman Cort Delaney Rogers
Paynter Welsh Andrews Green
Parkin Fagan

So, our second visit to Pride Park and our first since 9/12. How the fortunes of the two clubs have differed since then. Pride Park, although not a patch on the Baseball Ground for atmosphere (that said, at PP you don’t get some home soap dodger tipping wee onto your head out of a paper cup from the balcony above you), is for my money one of the better of the modern stadia (although not a patch on our own, of course), and it was pleasing to see such a large attendance – a shade under 25 000 – for this one given the lack of any importance attaching to the fixture for either club, and all the more surprising given the Rams’ headlong fall from grace and the state of near-meltdown that exists behind the scenes there, the latter provoking the occasional chorus of “Derby’s Going Bust” from those among the City faithful with either short memories or no inkling of how desperate life used to be for our own club until Pearson rode into town. It was nonetheless interesting to note that the Derby manager’s car park space was vacant before the game; perhaps Mr Westley’s caretaker status does not qualify him to use it, or maybe he was out selling his hot dogs at one of the innumerable vans that lined the route from town to the ground and littered the environs of the stadium.

After we had been treated to some excruciating triumphant-sounding Derby song the irony of which in Derby’s current plight was clearly lost on the PA man, the game kicked off with Boaz defending the goal in front of the City support. Derby spent the early stages spraying the leather around with flashy ineptitude, and our first attempt on goal came on 12 when Green, who was generally the pick of the midfield, got Fagan away in space on the left only for the Beast uncharacteristically to spoon the resulting cross high over the bar. The ex-Colchester man went a bit nearer a minute later when making space for himself and firing a low effort a couple of feet wide.

But it was pretty uninspiring stuff on the whole, played in conditions of near-absolute silence at times, and the whole general lack of effort just seemed like a bit of a fraud on the paying punters, who after all are not charged any less for the dubious privilege of attending these fixtures. So devoid of effort and incident were the proceedings that I actually got away with taking the ultimate risk and visiting the Gents just before the half-hour mark, and relieved I am that I chose my time so well, for on 33 we took the lead with an effort that deserved a much better setting to be honest. Fagan swept a Rogers throw into the box, a Derby defender did no more than block with his head as opposed to making the effort to clear it properly, and the ball bounced to Greeny who from the left of goal a good 25 yards out lashed the leather first time into the near top corner with such ferocity that it must have come close to tearing the net from the posts. A genuine wonder-strike.

But then it all reverted to type – a bit like that old Kit Kat ad where the participants in the Anglo-Russian summit, their silence broken only by the arrival of the tea trolley, sit once again, unspeaking, with arms folded as the tea lady disappears – although that clearly suited City now, who it had to be said now actually looked quite comfortable in the face of Derby’s inability to put us under any sort of pressure. It got a bit livelier towards the end of the half as Fagan was felled in the box on 40, and then a minute later the puffed-up, prissy Premiership (or is he ex now?) prick D’Urso wrongly pulled Derby up when Boaz made a poor job of punching a cross, but the goal apart it was generally pretty desperate stuff. The forcing by City of a corner in injury time after the Beast had fed Fagan did nothing to assuage the gloom.

Full marks to Derby though for opening the exit gates at the back of the stand at half time to allow legs to be stretched, tobacco to be smoked and certain of the afore-mentioned burger vans to be visited by those who might otherwise have been discouraged by the lengthy queues at the official outlets. Nothing more elaborate than a line of stewards prevented egress to or ingress from other parts of the ground, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason why City couldn’t do something similar to keep the smokers happy and out of the concourses at half-time, thereby keeping everyone content.

Into the second half as the rain starts to come down, and the firing of a free kick straight at Boaz on 51 generates the first rumblings of discontent from the home support. But a pattern is emerging now with Derby knocking the ball around quite sweetly and City content to defend and attack on the break. After the welcome entry into the fray of Adam Bolder (and would one of the City oafs who booed Bolder like to come on here and explain precisely what possible justification there might have been for that?) on 63, Fagan starts to assert himself. Firstly on 67 he robs their 27 and is fouled for the privilege, Andrews (who was generally ineffectual but no more then others) firing the resulting free just wide, and then four minutes later he gets in behind the cover and crosses for the Beast to get in a shot which is deflected for a corner which Leon heads over.

This is a good spell for us as we start to look increasingly good value for the points, but the mini spell of Tiger domination is ended when Boaz can only block a left-wing cross and Welsh has to hook the ball to safety. For all Derby’s possession, though, we still look the most likely to score and on 80 another City attack sees the Beast set up Greeny, who is denied his brace by the fingertips of Camp in the Derby goal. The resulting corner is met perfectly by Leon and the Tiger Nation rises to its feet…only to see the Derby defender Bisgaard clear off the line, albeit not without a suggestion that he used his hand and was behind the line to boot.

Two minutes on, and an Ellison drive is pushed behind by Camp for another corner which the unlucky Cort heads just wide. The points are surely ours now, as Derby show no more sign of getting the hang of breaching our defences than they had at three o’clock, and we sit back to play out the final minutes.

But then with 87 on the clock a cross comes over from the right, admittedly towards the ineffectual Peschisolido (which interestingly comes up on the spell-check as “semi-solid”; computer having a Freudian slip, maybe?) who looks to be well marshalled by a combination of Wiseman and Cort. The former goes up with the Derby player and with nobody expecting it Mr D’Urso’s whistle comes into play, the latter having apparently spotted a sneaky push by Wiseman. Certainly City skipper Andrews was none too happy with his right-back which suggests that maybe young Lee was a bit over-exuberant, especially in the presence a ref of the kind likely to want to make himself the talking point of the day. Anyway, up stepped the reliable Smith to despatch the ball to Boaz’s left as the City custodian went right. Just as well that we weren’t in need of the full points, for that would have mattered not one jot to an upstart such as D’Urso.

Finally, noise from the Derby fans other than in criticism of their team. And yes, you’ve guessed it, the inevitable “Tom Hark” as yet another once-respected, traditional football club sells its soul. On a serious note, though, was anyone else concerned by the apparent attempt in the Burnley programme to resurrect the debate on whether we should have music after goals at City? There are clearly forces at work who will not let this drop until they get a “yes” vote (and speak to any member of the FLC, and they’ll tell you that the subject is raised at nearly every meeting). Be on your guard, folks.

Nothing else happens of note, and at the end we have that same silly triumphalist Derby record.

Best for City were probably Cort, Fagan and Greeny, with most of the others below par to a greater or lesser extent. Not a memorable showing , though, albeit much better than the awful stuff served up at the end of last season, which still rankles – and rightly so – with a lot of people.

But let’s end on a positive note. This was always going to be a challenging season, and in the final analysis the players and management team have delivered. On any objective assessment, and despite a bit of a flaky record in actual games against the teams concerned, we are better than the three relegated teams and are staying up on merit. Hopefully the message will now get home, and we can kick on from this vitally-important season of consolidation.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Wiseman, Cort, Delaney, Rogers; Paynter, Andrews, Welsh, Green; Parkin, Fagan. Subs: Ellison (for Paynter, 70), Duffy (for Fagan, 90), Thelwell, Fry, Duke.

Goals: Green 33

Booked: None

Sent Off: None

DERBY COUNTY: Camp, Edworthy, Nyatanga, Johnson, Addison, Smith, Bisgaard, Thirlwell, Idiakez, Holmes, Peschisolido. Subs: Jackson (for Johnson, 57), Barnes (for Thirlwell, 64), Bolder (for Holmes, 64), Poole, Ashton.

Goals: Smith 89

Booked: None

Sent Off: None