It’s a little over seven years since that cathartic day when we won at Carrow Road to record a first away victory after thirty or more futile journeys. We haven’t won there since but that is largely down to both teams yo-yoing between the top two leagues. On a sunny Norfolk Saturday we travelled more in hope than expectation of a repeat to end the current winless streak. Campbell had picked up a knock and was not available so we fielded, hoping to cut the mustard: McGregor, Aina, Hector, Dawson, Clark, Meyler, Bowen, Henricksen, Larsson, Grozicki and Dicko. With the home team in fluorescent yellow and green we sported our anemic white kit.
Norwich kicked off and had the best of the early exchanges. We were muscled out of several challenges and with the notable exception of Meyler appeared more lightweight in most areas. It took us a few minutes to mount any kind of threat. Grozicki and Dicko combined but the latter dragged a tame effort wide. Not for the first time I had to shield my eyes against the low October sun: it’s hard to take notes, watch a game and try to shield one’s eyes simultaneously.
Our front line had little physical presence against a strong Norwich defense and most of the aerial challenges were lost. Norwich were giving both Aina and Clark a hard time down the flanks and it was no surprise when Aina committed a foul. For a moment it was heart in mouth expecting the fussy Keith Stroud to point to the spot. It was just outside the area however, McGregor punched clear the resulting cross-shot. We didn’t clear the ball, it was recycled, Maddison advanced unchallenged and his shot clipped the outside of the post on it’s way out of play.
The game was quite evenly balanced at this point. We had a couple of shots blocked and Bowen put one straight into the keeper’s arms: the son of a Gunn. A quarter of an hour in Norwich broke the offside trap and Wildshut found himself clear through, one on one with McGregor. The latter kept his composure better and saved with his feet. A couple of minutes later our keeper saved well low to his right. The resultant corner cleared everyone and drifted out of play harmlessly on the opposite flank.
The game was quite open at this stage with both sides creating chances. Meyler picked up a yellow for an innocuous challenge. Stroud was probably influenced by the theatrics from the Norwich player: not the first time this happened, and it wouldn’t be the last. The card reduced Meyler’s effectiveness and was to prove decisive in the 2nd half.
Just before the half hour mark we opened the scoring. Hector won the ball in midfield with a strong challenge and played it to Henricksen. The latter released Dicko with a defense splitting through ball that left him one on one with the keeper. The flag stayed down, correctly. Dicko calmly drew the keeper, kept his composure and swept the ball into the net for his maiden Hull City goal. The lead was just about deserved on the balance of play.
The rest of the half saw Norwich start to dominate. Wildshut was giving us plenty of trouble on our left flank: Clark didn’t get much support from Grozicki on that side. Deep into added time – mostly for a clash of heads that left Jerome groggy – Henricksen was wiped out by Wildshut. With Grozicki clear and heading for the penalty area Stroud decided not to play an obvious advantage so he could book the Norwich man. The was the latest in several strange decisions from a referee who obviously wants to be the center of attention rather than enabling a decent game of football.
We finished the half with ten men whilst Henricksen was off getting attention. He was fit to resume at the start of the second period, neither team making any changes at this point. Norwich seemed to have had the proverbial rocket during the break and started with more intent. We were pushed back for several minutes and there were inelegant scrambles around our box that didn’t yield any decisive chances. The pressure was finally broken by Bowen who ran forty or fifty yards unchallenged before the resultant shot was saved. We then enjoyed the ascendency for a few minutes before the turning point of the game.
Norwich broke at pace. Meyler tangled with an advancing canary and both went down. From my viewpoint it was a fifty-fifty at the worst and possibly a foul by the Norwich player trying to run through our Irish vice-captain rather than around him. Stroud saw it differently, handed Meyler a second yellow and dismissed the player that was holding our sometimes fragile midfield together. Larsson was booked as well for protesting to vehemently. There was still well over half an hour left, the majority of which I spent staring into the sun as Norwich were camped in our half. The rest of the game fell into a repeating pattern. Norwich pressed, we repelled with Hector and – in particular Dawson – throwing their bodies in the way of chances. There was the occasional break and we could have snatched a second goal on more than one occasion. Slutsky tried to shore things up. Dicko went down in the center circle and went off injured to be replaced by Stewart. Later Grozicki and then Larsson were withdrawn in favour of Diamonde and Tomori. Larsson had put in a good shift, Grozicki less so. This was best summarized by the sage next to me who commented that Turbo had “given up a bit early, as in, right from the start”.
Norwich continued to press, ably assisted by Keith Stroud who seemed determined to give Norwich every opportunity to score with more decisions that could charitably be described as iffy. A series of Norwich chances went begging and the game entered five (5) minutes of added time following a final foray forward by Bowen and Henricksen.
Just when it looked like our heroic defense would yield an unlikely win we conceded an equalizer. That this happened in the seventh (7th) minute of added time was galling. Stroud had presumably invoked the well known “we’ll play until they score” law. A long throw resulted was flicked on at the near post and Oliveira (a late Norwich sub) steered it home.
There was just enough time to kick before full time when the ten of Hull sank to the ground in disbelief.
We didn’t end that winless streak. But there was enough quality, and enough determination on show, to suggest it won’t be long before it does, perhaps next week at Oakwell.