Hull City 1 West Ham United 0

I’ve seen better performances before. I’ve seen us sneak a few wins with a smidgen of luck before. I’ve seen plenty of scrappy games which have left us calling for the final whistle before.   But in 3 decades of regular City watching, I’ve never before known such a match take us 7th in the top division, level with Liverpool and Man City, 3 points and 5 places above the other Manchester club. So far so very good in our Premier League return season – it might lack those feelings of starry-eyed glamour and incredulous novelty that we experienced in season 2008-09’s first few months, but it all feels a lot more solid and well constructed this time round.   Grabbing 3 precious Premier League points, stuffing them in the bag, and zipping it up quickly before anyone could take them back, were:                            McGregor         Rosenior Davies  Faye   Figueroa   Elmohamady  Huddlestone  Livermore   Brady                      Graham      Aluko    The big call in that line-up was Abdoulaye Faye replacing the injured Chester. Faye was the right choice, and he was given a warm welcome by City fans and the impressive turn-out of West Ham fans alike, having been a key player in the Hammers’ promotion season in 2011-12.   It’s not really possible to dislike Abdoulaye Faye. The same can’t be said of chicken-dancing, referee-baiting, fading force at this level, Kevin Nolan, who introduces himself to a sun-drenched East Stand early doors by launching a dreadful tackle on Liam Rosenior.   Rosenior writhes. The ref brandishes a yellow card. Nolan has shot his tetchy bolt too soon and is a subdued bit-part player for much of the rest of the afternoon.   If there is any strutting around to be done in the early exchanges, then it’s City doing it. Sone Aluko in particular seems to be walking tall, boosted by last week’s tremendous 3-point-grabbing, side-foot-volleyed winner at St James Park. Aluko demands the ball tirelessly, and today he is the central element of most City attacks, keeping the ball under close control, at speed, turning this way and that. Aluko is class – and this week’s news that he’s confident of signing a new contract soon is reassuring.   For all Aluko’s star is shining at the moment, it’s our other speedy and skilful young forward – Robbie Brady – who ensures that City take an early, and ultimately decisive, lead. On 11 minutes, Elmohamady, released from his usual defensive duties today by Rosenior being picked at right-back, swings one of his trademark crosses from deep into the box. Brady jumps for it with O’Brien, appears to be pushed from behind during the challenge, and referee Kevin Friend points to the spot. It’s a soft one. Thank you very much, Friend.   Knowing of old how Hammers’ keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen can keep the Tigers at bay, I am not counting any chickens yet. But the bearded Brady is walking as tall as Aluko. A short run-up by Brady, facing the West Ham fans in the north stand, Jaaskelainen dives to his right and watches helplessly as the ball goes hard and low to his left.   1-0 to City.   At this stage of the game, City seem dominant, West Ham lethargic and unable to cope with some of our play. Ex-City loanee and life-long Hammer, Mark Noble, can only try to stop Aluko by fouling him, and is given a lecture by the ref after he’d let play go on to City’s advantage.   For all his qualities – and he seems to be pretty much the fulcrum of West Ham’s team today – Noble’s play looks churlish set against that of the best Londoner on the pitch, Jake Livermore. Livermore plays some really sweet football. Overshadowed a little, literally and figuratively, by the immense Tom Huddlestone, nonetheless Livermore is fast becoming a key figure for City this season.   West Ham’s contribution to the game has so far consisted of obvious fouls, balls hoofed forward for big men, and central defenders trooping upfield for long throws wound up and unleashed by Razvan Rat. Yes, now that things at the Britannia Stadium have been transformed by urbane Mark Hughes replacing old-school Tony Pulis, West Ham United are the Stoke City de nos jours. I don’t know the mood amongst West Ham fans well enough, but it wouldn’t surprise me one iota if distaste for Sam Allardyce’s preferred style of football has only been held back by the relative success of promotion last year. The days of Ron Greenwood and John Lyall are decades behind us, but fans brought up on players like Peters, Brooking, and Devonshire must surely mutter discontent at the less cultured stuff served up now.   Incidentally West Ham’s long-throw specialist has ‘R. Rat’ on the back of his shirt. Players usually use their initial to distinguish them from teammates with the same surname. But, help me here, there aren’t any other Rats playing for West Ham are there?   Right, back to the action. Don’t let me get too cocky, and don’t let me give the impression that silky City ran rings around lumbering Hammers all afternoon. There are shades of that for the first 20 minutes or so, but after that West Ham get far more of a grip on the game. The Allardyce method might not be attractive, but it can be effective.   On 21 minutes West Ham get a free-kick, central, 30 yards out. City clear it for a corner, from which one of theirs heads it goalwards, only for Elmohamady to chest it off the line. They get another corner a few minutes later, and then on 30 minutes West Ham build a good move down the left, feeding the ball in to Diame on the edge of our box, who contrives an air-shot.   It’s a let-off for City. A couple of minutes later a more messy West Ham attack sees the ball fall to Noble who shoots low and hard and just wide. We could do with another goal.   City respond to this West Ham pressure by reviving the attacking threat. An Aluko free-kick goes over the wall, dips impressively, but is pouched by Jaaskelainen. Then another Elmohamady cross finds Brady, who heads it back across the box where Davies tries a brave diving header, only to the see the ball bundled over the West Ham bar.   Half-time. City 1-0 up in the Premier League, and if it doesn’t quite feel comfortable in terms of getting the result yet, it seems entirely normal. We’ve got a decent squad with the odd weak link. So far, and it’s emphasised today, the weakest is Danny Graham. He doesn’t look good enough for our team at the moment. Just on half-time Graham has been booked. Rightly so. A chipped pass to him in the right inside forward position saw him look startled as he failed to control the ball, and then hurl the ball at the linesman when he didn’t get the decision he wanted. Petulance, brought on perhaps by frustration at not playing to the level required.    In the second half the West Ham way shapes the game more and more. Scrappy, not pretty. Effective in terms of getting the Hammers more possession and creating the odd chance, but not threatening in the way a quality passing side can be. Until, that is, the introduction of Stuart Downing mid-way through the second half. I’m very glad that Allardyce decided – inexplicably on today’s evidence – not to start with the intelligent and skilful sometime England man.   Even before Downing came on, at the 70 minute mark, West Ham are increasingly forcing City into defensive errors and tactical fouls. Rosenior looks to be suffering a bit from second-game syndrome, having impressed on his return at Newcastle last week, he is less secure today. His potentially strong combination with Elmohamady down City’s right doesn’t really catch fire, though there is the odd spark.   There’s a burst of hectic end-to-end stuff. An Aluko attack down the right is repelled. United stream up our end and get a shot away, well saved by McGregor. They continue to press, and City give away a number of free-kicks around 30-40 yards out. Each one is delivered into the box by Noble, each one is dealt with without too much danger by our defence. Faced with this sort of assault, I’m preferring Faye to Chester.   City get chances too. On 61 Graham meets a cross by volleying it over the bar. On 67 Graham is involved again, entering the area, he checks back instead of pressing on, and lays the ball into the path of Livermore, whose low shot from outside the box beats Jaaskelainen and bounces back off the post.   On 70 United bring on Downing and Vaz Te (another ex-City loanee). Steve Bruce sends Sagbo on in place of Graham. So for the last quarter West Ham are boosted by the pace and skill of their two substitutes – Downing in particular. He’s starting off deep, almost reprising the full-back role he tried out at Liverpool, but repeatedly raids down our left. City are defending deep too, and leaving only Aluko up top so that when we do get the ball there are few options and West Ham regain possession.   On 74 comes the second contentious penalty decision – this one not given, as West Ham players appeal loud and long for a handball. Not one that could be spotted from my East Stand vantage, though the strength of appeals suggest at the time that we are lucky to concede only a corner rather than a spot-kick. Definitely one that could be spotted from the North Stand where the Hammers fans show their anger by getting behind their team still more.   Later on, TV pictures show a clear handball and an unsighted ref. Bad luck West Ham.   Although that’s the last real scare, United continue to have the upper hand for the rest of the match. City are holding on, and – with 4 minutes added time extended still further for treatment to Rosenior after a clash of heads – eventually that’s that.   So, we’re doing well. Back-to-back Premier League wins are not easy to come by. We’ve won 2 out of 3 home games, but both of those wins are by disputed Brady penalties.   Last week’s goal fest aside, it’s fair to say that Bruce has still not solved the forward problem which he tried to address on deadline day. Long sits on the bench at West Brom. There’s a time limit on how long we can say of Danny Graham, ‘he just needs a goal’. Sagbo’s sending-off against Norwich stopped his progress before he had time to get into his not inconsiderable stride. Proschwitz’s reward for scoring mid-week against Huddersfield was to lose his place on the bench today. And I assume that Gedo when fit will be higher in the pecking order than our enigmatic German.   It’ll be interesting to see how we line up next week, when the vagaries of the fixture list mean we do it all again at the KC against a team in claret and blue. In the meantime, if you find yourself having a bad week for whatever reason, take a glance at the league table. It’ll raise a smile.

Newcastle United 2 Hull City 3

1662 days. That seems a long time. 1662 days is how long we Hull City fans have had to wait since Manucho poked home a Garcia cross in our last away win in top flight. Maybe that’s a little unfair, we have spent three seasons in the second tier, so maybe 26 away league games without a win is a better comparison. Steve Bruce brought his Tigers side back to his native North East. With Figueroa missing on compassionate leave and Koren out of the side due to a broken foot, the team was shuffled to face a Newcastle side who had won 2 and drawn 1 of their last three games. McGregor Elmohamady Chester Davies Rosenior Quinn Huddlestone Livermore Brady Aluko Graham The early exchanges of the game set the pattern for much of the first half. The impressive Cabaye frequently combined with Santon and Remy on their left wing, as they appeared to target the defensive weakness of Elmohamady. On the whole, the City back line proved a formidable foe to these Newcastle attacks, giving the home team plenty of possession, but adopting a ‘thou shall not pass’ attitude once they reached the edge of the Tigers area. At the other end, chances were few and far between. In our last games against Newcastle, I was struck by how Coloccini struggled with the physical battles with Cousin. Whilst he’s a composed defender, he still struggles with the physical side of the game, this time it was the much less physically imposing Aluko who brushed aside the Argentinian, but was unable to direct his shot goal wards. However within a minute, City were trailing. Sissoko works some space in the right hand channel before crossing over to the left. Elmohamady misjudged the flight of the ball, allowing it to loop over his head and onto the foot of Santon. His central cross is met by the meaty head of Remy, putting his header beyond the reach of McGregor. In the previous match against Cardiff, Graham was singled out for his missing of easy chances. This week he seemed to be playing a different role. He may now have broken his goal-scoring duck, but was proving a strong and effective target man against the Newcastle back-line, bringing other players into the game. That said, when a chance did fall his way, he managed to scuff his shot giving Krul an easy ball to pick up. Despite Graham not scoring, it’s not proving too much of an issue as City are finding other players to carry that job out. Again Newcastle had been given plenty of possession, whilst rarely being given the opportunity to threaten McGregor’s goal. City were starting to get better chances up to the equaliser. A Krul ball out finds it was to Quinn on the right side. The Irish midfielder passes to Aluko at the top of the Newcastle D, before the ball is played over to Brady finding space down the left channel. Whilst the shot seemed to head straight at Krul, it sneaked under the netman’s body and into the back of the net. The Newcastle trio of Santon, Cabaye and Remy continue to be a thorn in the side of the City defence. At that point, I thought a reshuffle of the City wide players may have helped the situation. Elmohamady to right wing, Rosenior to right back, Brady to left back and Quinn to the left wing. But City kept their shape and held on for the most part. However, just as we were preparing for the half-time break, Newcastle put themselves back in front. Santon again attacks the left wing, before passing back to Cabaye. His shot is blocked by Chester, but falls nicely to Remy, who’s got plenty of space to pick his spot and put the Geordies 2-1 up. Much is said about the 7 levels the away fans have to ascent of the Leazes stand. To my immediate left, a large screen is constructed to keep out the weather – providing an effective greenhouse to those in the stand. This does however provide some great views over the Tyne valley past the youth clubs of Byker, the football pitches of Glipton and over the water to Gateshead. The Leazes and Milburn stands provides half of a massive stadium, although the Gallowgate and East stand, being somewhat lower gives the ground a feeling of being somewhat unfinished. That may well be down to being unable to expand on those sides, due to the nearby residential areas. Soon after the half-time break, City are once again back on level terms. After Aluko is knocked down, having received the ball from a throw-in, a free kick is awarded about 30 yards out to the left of the field. Brady’s kick is met by the head of Elmohamady, who’d glided beyond his marker, to loop a header off the far post and into the goal. Slight confusion did reign after the announcer suggested it was Chester who had scored, but no matter, the score line was 2-2. That early goal spurred City to be more adventurous than the first half. Quinn in particular seemed to be finding more space to attack his wing. However whilst Graham was still proving to be an effective target up front, his goal scoring eye was still proving less than effective. This was by no means one way traffic. Newcastle still seemed to be attacking through the trio of Santon, Cabaye and Remy, but they were getting less luck out of the stubborn centre-back pairing of Chester with his well timed interceptions and Davies with a more physical approach to getting the ball clear. On the other side of the pitch Ben Arfa had largely been kept quiet by the busy efficiency of Rosenior, so the French winger found himself having to drop deeper and deeper to get any time on the ball. A rare opportunity did seem to be hit out of play by Ben Arfa, before the referee Atkinson awarded a corner. Fortunately Yanga-Mbiwa put his shot over. The sight of Atkinson in the referee’s shirt had filled me with dread before the game. I was convinced he was one of those referees that we never got any decisions from. However I was proven wrong. From my high vantage point, we appeared to be getting the majority of the decisions. Many of which I thought should have gone the other way. So perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much about Ben Arfa being awarded that corner. The next Newcastle attacks end Cabaye’s day. He once again attacks down the City right, but is met by a strong but fair challenge from Davies. Initially it seemed that he went down far too easy, as Newcastle put the ball out of play when they had a very promising attack on the cards. He did however limp off to be replaced by Gouffran. After Quinn fells Sissoko, Ben Arfa is given a chance on the free-kick, whilst Rosenior is restricted to remain 10 yards away, but perhaps his continues presence put the Frenchman off, meaning he could only put it wide. After Boyd replaces Quinn, City appear to be trying to take all three points from the game. A few set pieces fall City’s way, yet we are less than efficient with these, firstly with a Huddlestone free-kick finding Elmohamady before Krul punches clear, then a Brady corner which Sissoko heads away. With the game becoming more open, Newcastle’s chances are blocked by City’s men at the back. Chester is having a great game, forever getting his toe to the ball and constantly stopping the Black and White attacks. When they do find a way past Chester, then there’s Davies. Is it too much to suggest these could be one of the best City centre-back pairings? I’m not sure Turner & Zayette would compare and as for Sonko… A substitution for both sides sees Cisse replaced by Marveaux for Newcastle and Meyler on for Brady. Within a few minutes, Aluko gives City the lead. Huddlestone plays the ball wide to Rosenior, who passes up the line to Boyd. Boyd easily goes past his full-back, before crossing to the edge of the area, where Aluko’s lurking to hit a volley past Krul and into the net. After the match, many comments were comparing this to Windass’s volley at Wembley. Whilst I don’t believe it’s as good, it was a fantastic finish from an equally good move. With the lead gained, City again drop back to hold on to the three points, inviting more Newcastle possession. Ben Arfa drops deeper to try and gain possession, before being felled by Meyler. His free-kick is however passed short to Santon, who can only blast the ball at the City wall. Whilst Grahams goal scoring touch had deserted him, the Tiger support gave him a standing ovation when he was replaced by Sagbo, due to his strong target man play. Sagbo offered a bit more energy running up front, but with Newcastle penning City back he was an occasional outlet. Newcastle keep probing for an opening but every time, there’s Chester nicking the ball away. In the final minute of normal time, Davies breaks forward before passing to Huddlestone in an off-side position. Huddlestone decides to shoot after the whistle goes, thus seeing Atkinson book him for kicking the ball away. As the clock reaches 90, Newcastle find themselves a very good chance to get level. A cross from the right finds Sissoko free at the back post. Surely there can only be one outcome. But no, there’s another as he directs his shot wide of the post and off the advertising hoardings. Before McGregor can take his goal kick, Chester goes down, holding the top of his leg. After treatment, Huddlestone fills in at centre-back with Chester returning to run about up front. This however proves useless with Chester then having to hobble off with a hamstring injury. By now, McGregor is obviously taking his time over every kick, to the frustration of the remaining home support. A great break by Meyler relieves the pressure on the defence, before winning a free kick by the corner flag. Sissoko’s frustration gets the better of him as he pushes out at Sagbo, to also find his name taken. A final chance comes after a long Newcastle ball into the box, which is held by McGregor, and congratulated by Davies, much like Brown on Myhill at the end of the Playoff game. The final whistle is then greeted in the away end by Total Tiger Mayhem, whilst on the pitch we once again get to see Elmohamady’s ‘Uncle at a wedding’ dance. The match was therefore a great win for City, whilst walking away from the ground, the home fans didn’t seem too despondent, having heard of Sunderland’s latest defeat. So from a run of 26 away games in top flight without a win, to a run of a 1 game winning run. Things keep looking up on the pitch

Hull City 1 Cardiff City 1

Hull Pharaoh Tigers 1 Cardiff Redbird Dragons 1 Yesterday’s result clearly generated a fair bit of negativity among sections of the paying customers, typified by the guy with the abnormally large head trudging just in front of me up the steps to the railway footbridge after the game. I find it harder to place people in their correct social and behavioural pigeonhole these days, but this same guy a generation ago would have worn Crimplene slacks (cream, probably with finger marks on them), driven a Ford Escort 1100 and drunk keg Tetleys, which he would sip with a smug, knowing look on his face. Resplendent in his new City away shirt, and, one suspects, with a couple of less colourful replica shirts, advertising the wares of Messrs White & Mackay and Top Man, folded away in the bottom of the chest of drawers in his spare room, for about half the walk to Argyle Street, until I finally managed to get out of his earshot, he delivered to nobody in particular at intervals of about twenty seconds a series of soundbites (“Can’t score”……..”Won’t do owt till we get some strikers”…….”Need to get rid of that Graham”……”Be going down at this rate”…….) looking round after each one in search of a word or gesture of assent or approval from those around him, in exactly the same irritating way that Ian Hislop does in Have I Got News for You? Then there was the imbecile journalist or sub-editor whose headline today declared that City were in for a “Long, hard season”. A cursory glance at the report below revealed this headline to be no more than a somewhat gauche attempt at a play on words around the collapse of the Shane Long deal, but nevertheless creating an unnecessarily-negative impression for someone without the time or the inclination to read the report more thoroughly OK, it’s fair to say that, on the balance of play and chances created, yesterday might arguably have been a case of two points dropped, and yes, to that extent one might conclude that if anything the result was a tad on the disappointing side, and yes, nobody is under any illusions that the strike rate will not need to improve if we are to avoid a struggle but really, does any of that justify the levels of gloom and despondency that seemed to have descended over the Tiger Nation yesterday? Would we not have taken where we are now before the start of the season, especially with the difficult fixtures we have had away from home? Thankfully, the way in which the manager, sensing the mood, one suspects, placed our season to date into perspective, both on Humberside and later on MOTD, and brought a healthy and frankly much-needed dose of sanity to the proceedings. Could a Club of our stature and means possibly be blessed with a more sure-footed and capable manager at this level? Very doubtful indeed. It was also pretty clear from yesterday’s game which of the two teams looks – at this admittedly early stage – the more comfortable and better-equipped overall at this level, and no, it isn’t the one that has spent all the money. The injury scare surrounding McGregor having evaporated, and with Sagbo serving out his last week of self-inflicted exile, City lined up pretty much as expected:- McGregor Elmohamady Chester Davies Figueroa Koren (C) Livermore Huddlestone Brady Graham Aluko …..or something like that. Sub: Quinn (for Brady, 66 minutes) For the first time this season the autumnal nip which has crept into the air of late made it feel like proper football weather as the game kicked off with City playing towards the 1,268 Welshmen clad, pleasingly, for the most part in blue and occupying the deeper recesses of the North Stand: not a terribly impressive following for such an early away game for a Club returning to the top flight after more than half a century, but after years of it being rare for more than a couple of half-full busloads of Cardiff fans to show their faces in Hull undoubtedly the most they have ever brought to Hull apart from the rather special circumstances of last season. Their team, rather more surprisingly but even more pleasingly, was clad in blue too. What’s up, Mr Tang? Colour clash? The first threat to either goal comes from the visitors, when Campbell gets into a position on the right side of the City box which momentarily looks a touch threatening, but Figueroa skilfully glides in between man and ball and ushers the leather to safety. Which brings us nicely on the one-time monopolist of the City man of the match award, even when he wasn’t playing. Why do City fans insist on booing him? OK, so he declined to re-join us in 09 or whenever it was, but what the boo-boys have to remember is that footballers for the most part lack the intelligence to make their own decisions about career moves and that the decision of Campbell to go to Sunderland was almost certainly made by his father, who acts as his agent. If you want to boo somebody, boo Campbell senior, but even then do bear in mind that Campbell junior was under absolutely no legal or moral obligation to come back to the Circle (shortly to be renamed the Pyramid, my sources tell me), neither was his father to make him. But back to the football. Two minutes on and we really should have got off the mark. Aluko skilfully makes space on the edge of the D and fires in low. Stand-in Cardiff keeper Lewis (sporting the only Welsh surname in the visitors’ squad) dives low to his right but can only push the leather out to the feet of Graham, who, with the goal gaping before him, spoons the leather into the gleeful away support. Admittedly, the ball came back at him off the goalie quite quickly but one ought to expect a bit of anticipation at this level. Truly a shocking miss: highly reminiscent of one for which my younger brother was responsible when playing for his Cub pack many years ago, but at least he had the excuse of being inherently slow-witted and clumsy. For much of the rest of the half the game adopts a somewhat formless guise. Initially Cardiff have most of the ball and when City do get they give it back quite quickly, with little of the fluency that was so evident at Eastlands on show. The visitors though do very little with their possession, the only real scare coming when one of theirs takes a tumble in the box but referee Madley is having none of it. Shortly afterwards Campbell’s name finds its way into the book after a late lunge on Elmo and the Cardiff number 10 then spends much of the game in a mood of petulance until his eventual substitution just before three-quarter time. Finally City rally, and shortly after Lewis is forced to bat out a Koren cross after a nice crossfield move, Aluko makes space for himself on the inside left channel and fires powerfully into the side netting one of those efforts that look from the far side as if they have gone in, and yes, a few East Standers fell for it. This is a good City spell, with Graham just failing to convert a cross from Aluko, and then the City number 24 himself steers one just wide of the near post. We are looking very likely to score now and on this occasion follow the script. Six minutes before half time, Livermore and Huddlestone combine, and the latter hits a low drive which Lewis is glad to be able to push round the post. The resulting corner is cleared, but only as far Huddlestone, out wide on the right, who curls an absolutely delightful cross in behind the Cardiff defenders, completely wrongfooting them in the process and allowing the alert Davies (what an impressive start to the season from him, by the way) to ghost in and glance a header into the pokey from three or four yards out. Nothing else of note happens in the remaining few minutes of the half, and a neutral would conclude that we were just about good value for the lead. So half-time, and perhaps an observation or two about the ongoing name change fiasco, and in particular the Grauniad interview with the Chairman on the subject during the week. Whether you are consumed with a desire to burn the stadium down in the event of a name change, or whether you think it’s high time that City embraced modern commercialism and move into the 21st Century, one thing is now clear, namely that, whatever his actual motives, the Chairman’s plans cannot possibly not rooted in any kind of commercial thinking, the key to this conclusion lying in his frankly incredible declaration to David Conn that Man City should be called Manchester Hunter. Those in favour of, or ambivalent about, any name change might be well advised to reconsider their position in the light of this. The protest that was planned at short notice before the game did not seem to have any appreciable effect on the numbers in the ground, but that should not be taken as any indication that there is no real groundswell of opinion against this nonsense, or that only those protesting are opposed to any change: I personally know numerous fans who, for various reasons, choose not to take part in the protest marches but have said that they will not renew their passes if the name changes. Not only that, but the majority of those who will stay away are fans of longer standing, whose support – both vocal and financial – will be sorely missed if and when times get hard. The observation made during the week by one regular contributor to this list that this could all get very personal if the Chairman presses ahead with his plans is, to my mind, absolutely correct. That would be an enormous shame, because the good he has done for our Club is near-immeasurable, and yet he would only have himself to blame. He really ought to consider whether this is all worth it, especially as it’s by no means certain that he would be allowed to make the name change, even if it is his club. Back on the pitch, a promising situation is pissed up the wall when Brady (who turned in a largely lazy, self-indulgent performance, for which he was deservedly substituted) tried to be too clever when he had easy options, After a free kick to Cardiff causes some problems until a goalbound-looking shot is blocked, Aluko delightfully skins Turner on the right and is hauled down, earning the defender a yellow card. The resulting free-kick, near the by-line, is, instead of being crossed, cleverly pulled back to the unmarked Koren, whose shot is similarly blocked. We’re looking decidedly sprightly now and the more likely of the two sides to score, and so experienced City watchers know what’s coming next. Campbell feeds Cowie out on the right, and the cross is volleyed home in fine style by Whittingham. Undoubtedly questions need to be asked why Elmo allowed Whittingham to cut inside him, but it was a fine finish nevertheless, poignantly reminiscent of the Graham goal that was ruled narrowly offside against Man Citteh. Sometimes the line between hero-worship and opprobrium is that thin. It could be much worse a couple of minutes later, when Gunnarsson, unmarked seven or eight yards out, really ought at least to have hit the target with his free header, but directs the leather over the angle of post and bar. That, though, is pretty much the last time that Cardiff threaten, as City generally dominate the last quarter of the game. Graham almost manages to walk the ball through the entire Cardiff defence on 76 but just fails, and a couple of minutes later we suffer some genuinely cruel luck as a corner is cleared, the ball is played out to the lively Quinn, whose energy and probing are a welcome contrast to the posturing and indolence of Brady, and the City sub’s teasing ball is poked home at the far post by Aluko, only for the City striker (correctly) to be ruled offside. The Nigerian forces Lewis into a save from 20 yards on and then on 86 is felled just outside the box but Huddlestone’s free kick thunders into the wall. The clock is running down now and four minutes’ injury time are signalled, but still City press on and, having negotiated one potential scare when Davies dallies on the ball, loses possession and is forced to bring his man down, for which he is booked, have one final chance to secure the full three points. Elmo picks up a clearance, works a nice one-two (not sure with whom) and delivers a pinpoint cross onto the head of Graham. A couple of feet either side of the netminder and it’s in, but in fact the header is planted straight into the arms of Lewis. A chance spurned, and it’s our final one of the afternoon. Still, we’ve had worse days, and we’ll have better ones this season, for sure. In conclusion, one question and one request. Anyone know why Steve Bruce wears a suit for some games and a tracksuit for others? If I were Malky Mackay I’d be quite hurt at our manager’s scruffy garb yesterday, a far cry from the sartorial elegance he displayed when standing shoulder to shoulder with Mourinho at Ver Bridge. And the request. Can someone please tell David Osgerby that his poetry doesn’t scan?

Manchester City 2 Hull City 0

On our way up to Manchester we passed a minibus full of Manchester City supporters on the A1.  Her ladyship doesn’t know much about football but a dozen or so men in replica kits is something of a giveaway.   She asked who they supported and I told her it was that day’s opposition.  She cogitated for a while and then opined: “power blue isn’t a good colour for men unless they are hairdressers”.  Later she came up with the theory that it might be a good shade for a Manchester team, “to remind the supporters what the sky looks like in the rest of the country”.   Not surprisingly she spent the afternoon shopping, while we watched the football.   It’s not often you come away feeling optimistic after a 0-2 setback but this was one of those times.  If we play like this regularly there will be more happy Mondays in our future than blue ones.   Lining up against The Champions’ noisy neighbours at The Etihad there was just the one enforced change from the team that started against Norwich.  Sagbo was serving the 2nd game of a 3 match ban (see, there is value in League Cup ties) and Danny Graham took his place in front of a now familiar looking formation. We kicked off playing away from the visiting supporters in the South Stand under blue skies with scudding clouds.  The first twenty minutes must have been exactly what BT were hoping for when they coughed up the money to televise live games.  Fluid movement, sharp passing, and penetrative attacks: just what you would expect in match featuring Manchester City only it was the team in Black and Amber that was looking like the ones expected to be challenging for the title.  First a through ball to Koren that is dragged back and taken off the toe of a marauding Graham for corner.  Then Aluko breaks free of a sluggish Lescott, advances on the exposed Hart and drags a shot agonisingly wide of the upright.   It’s not all one way though.   Figeuroa dallied on the ball giving Manchester a corner.  The resulting near post flick is smartly turned around the post by McGregor. In a flash we are heading up to the other end.  A flowing move involving Koren, Elmohamady, Graham and Aluko ends up with Brady whose cross is neatly turned in by Graham.  He looked suspiciously offside and sure enough there was the linesman with flag raised.   Subsequent views on television showed the decision to be the right one although Graham’s slick movement meant that it was closer than it had seemed live.   It was breathless stuff and the next action look place in front of us.  I had wondered at why the grass around the area had been cut the way it was.  Perhaps it was to show less than honest players where to go ground, I mused?  The ball was hoisted into the City area, and played out via a very obvious powder blue clad arm to Aguero on the edge of the box who took a very theatrical – and unwarranted – tumble: two bad decisions in two seconds.  From the resulting free kick the ball was eventually headed towards the net only to be tipped over by the alert McGregor.   We still weren’t twenty minutes in when Brady was taken out clumsily.  Thudd’s free kick was cleared but only to Koren whose shot was lashed just wide.   The game settled down a bit now.  We continued playing some excellent passing football and for large swathes of the game it would have been impossible for an impartial observer to differentiate between the team assembled for billions and the one put together – in Premier League terms – on a shoestring.  I can’t recall ever seeing a City team so comfortable with the ball from front to back.  Much of this good play came through Huddlestone: an Oasis of calm.  Livermore who was seemingly everywhere, no more so than when Davies rampaged forward.   Chances were coming less frequently now, and on about 35 minutes there was a huge exodus of blue to the concourses.  Through amber coloured spectacles (seriously, they are the ones I wear for cycling) it seemed that the referee had decided that Manchester needed a hand.  He overruled the linesman more than once, gave free kicks for shoulder to shoulder challenges and for what looked like yet another Aguero dive.  At the same time the manhandling of Aluko was ignored.  After his early break he was being given no opportunity to turn, either by fair means or foul.   Half time was reached with no goals.  Would we regret the early chances squandered?  Popular opinion was that we probably would.   The 2nd half saw the introduction of one time City target, Alvaro Negredo for the ineffectual Dzeko.  The latter had been consummately shackled by Davies and Chester, the former showing why he was (and will be again) so highly regarded, the latter growing into life with the big boys.  Manchester start the period on the front foot and City’s bright spells of possession are becoming less frequent although still in evidence.  Aluko continues to be the subject of physical assaults each tome he gets the ball and eventually Nastasic is booked for a tackle that would be more appropriate against Hull FC.   A great spell of City play involving Graham and Koren comes to naught before our skipper accompanies Figueora into the book for a foul on Kolarov.  The resulting free kick is cleared but the pendulum is swinging towards the home team now.   Negredo had already got one errant header before he pulled away from Elmohamady in the box to get on the end of a fine cross from Zabaleta.  The header was close to McGregor but powerful and angled down so our keeper was well beaten.  1-0 to the Powder Blues and our first half profligacy was coming back to haunt us as the wizened sages around me had predictions.   Shortly thereafter, Aluko was fouled once too often and withdrawn to give Steven Quinn his first taste of Premier League action.  And all action he was, winning a header and getting clattered for his pains before buzzing around the left flank and causing many worrying moments to the home defence.  Koren had given way for George Boyd and the latter got off a wayward shot before Quinn threatened again.  Quinn’s initial shot hit a Manc arm in the area (“bet they don’t show that again on the big screen” opined my neighbour, and sure enough, they didn’t) and his follow up was safely pouched by Joe Hart.   A flowing City move sees the ball switched from left to right, through several passes.  Brady’s cross is agonisingly ahead of Graham’s slide: if only he had been wearing the longer studs.  It’s worth a few words about Graham at this point.  He has put in a shift as they say, nothing like the feckless showing at Chelsea.  Leading the line, getting shots in (it was a great finish in the first half, despite the offside) and generally looking a threat.  He gets in one final header that is comfortable for Hart.   We have been in the ascendancy for the last few minutes and looking the more likely to grab a goal so it is no surprise when we don’t and they do.   Nasri had been introduced after the first goal.  He has previous against City in a red shirts when the main attributes he showed were niggling little fouls and petulance.  Nothing changes and on this occasion he did his very best Olga Korbut impression when Chester failed to make contact in injury time.  Two rolls, a pike and a flip later the referee succumbed and gave the free kick.  Ya Ya Toure, who had played like a poor man’s Carlton Palmer throughout, slammed in the dead ball off the underside of the crossbar.   And that was that.  In many ways it was similar to Chelsea.  Two goals conceded, one classy, one thunderbolt from a dubious (and I being generous there) free kick.  The difference in how we approached the game showed how much we had come on in those two weeks.  For most of the game we matched one of the pre-season favourites.  At times we outplayed them.  In the end out shortcomings in front of goal meant that we were always likely to come away unrewarded.   We won’t be playing the top teams every week and we now have a run of fixtures against teams that we will competing with in the lower reaches (i.e., everywhere below 7th or 8th) in the league.  Play against them like we did on Saturday and we will get results. The New Order at Hull City will bring Joy in this Division.

Hull City 1 Norwich City 0

Curtis Davies reminds me of Carlton Palmer. And this is meant as nought but a compliment. There was a moment in the second half of a compelling and nerve-shattering game against Norwich City when the new centre back, on his home debut, made an interception, played a pass and then just kept on running. He received the final ball and got to edge of the box, ready to have a pop at goal before contenting himself with a corner and a deafening round of applause from the City faithful. That run, that spindly-legged, unconventional, utterly determined, manic run. That was the kind of thing Palmer did at his peak in the early 90s as a marauding, awkward sod of a midfielder and sometime centre back in one of Sheffield Wednesday’s best sides. It got him the 18 England caps that to this day tiresome people say he didn’t deserve, despite being in the form of his life. Davies probably doesn’t walk like Rihanna, though he may do press-ups like Sinitta, eat cakes like Tracey Ullman and vacuum clean like Susan Cadogan. But he runs like Carlton Palmer. And it was gripping to see. His performance at the back and as a general behemoth encapsulated a totally absorbing return to the Circle of Premier League football. That City won the game was slightly fortuitous thanks to Norwich, sporadically threatening but generally a disappointment, not creating anywhere enough chances for a team that had a man advantage for two thirds and more of the match. The determination, the endeavour, the enterprise, the self-made luck; all were clustered together by a resolute Tigers ten after a temerarious sending off for Yannick Sagbo left a bewitched 23,682 crowd biting approximately 216,820 nails. And nails is homonymically appropriate, as that’s what the Tigers were. Determined to put all references to Iain Dowie to bed once and for all were:

McGregor
Elmohamady
Chester
Davies
Figueroa
Livermore
Sagbo
Koren
Huddlestone
Brady
Aluko

… ish. All of our sides and formations express fluidity these days. With Danny “Jimmy” Graham, faultlessly isolated but culpably unenamoured at Chelsea last week, demoted to the bench and the exposed David Meyler also in a bib, the team looked somewhat more ravenous for the ball, with Robert Koren aiming to support Sone Aluko as much as possible. Norwich, elegant in a basic white with black change kit, had City’s great defender of the modern era, Michael Turner, among their ranks. The Canaries made the first chance when the gangly Leroy Fer, whose surname looks like the registrar’s pen ran out while completing the birth certificate, headed a Steven Whittaker cross just wide of Allan “Rioch” McGregor’s right hand post. Handy chance, gratifyingly not taken. For all the joy and excitement and summery eagerness that goes with a first home game of a top tier season, there was still the nagging fear that City might not yet be up to the job. And surrendering an early goal wouldn’t have helped. The visitors had another try through Nathan Redmond’s shot from distance that McGregor tipped away well, and James Chester needed to make a timely interception after Fer and Redmond combined fluently down the right before the latter issued a low tempter to the six yard box. City settled down, with the resourceful Jake “David” Livermore banging one shot over the bar after divine interplay with Aluko that included a backheel for the Spurs loanee to chase down on the edge of the area. It otherwise became a smart and open but largely closed game for ten minutes until Ahmed Elmohamady swung in a cross and Turner got forearms all over Sagbo, forcing the Ivorian to the ground. Turner wasn’t happy but the penalty decision was instant and pretty obvious, and despite a bit of needless gamesmanship involving Fer and the position of the ball, Robbie Brady was as cool as required in sidefooting it in, with John Ruddy diving the other way. Steve Bruce chose to walk down the track towards the south west corner while all this was going on. Strange superstition of his; firstly because he was for a while a useful penalty taker himself for Manchester United; secondly because the last time he refused to watch when City had a spot kick, it was missed. Be that as it may, this was a first goal in the Premier League this season. The first, in fact, since … hang on … ah yes, Mark Cullen’s close range header at Wigan in May 2010. And a first at the Circle since … back in a jiffy … blimey, Kevin Kilbane’s opener against Burnley early on in what was ultimately as wretched as countless other games that season, irrespective of the many there are to choose from. The maths aren’t pleasant; City’s first Premier League goal on home turf in 357 minutes of normal time. Brady’s penalty looked simple, but the churl in me hates the low, sidefooted, stroked spot kick because unless there’s proper power in it there’s a real chance a keeper shall get it, sometimes even with comfort, if he guesses the right way. Ruddy didn’t and so Brady looked like a phlegmatic genius in dispatching it. But it may not always be thus, as a certain German reserve team target man – and his ritualistic manager – may attest. Buoyed by the gift, City took control and with the wonderful Tom Huddlestone to the fore, exhibited some delightful touches and put on a bit of a show with pass-and-move football that suggested the rest of the team had learned quickly how to rise to the level of their division and the standards of their newest playmaker. Huddlestone really is a treat to observe; that adage of having the first yard in his head rings truer than most with him, as does this notion that some players instinctively know where to put the ball in the very split-second they know they are going to receive it. Assuming he stays motivated, he will be gigantic in a black and amber shirt this season and players like Brady can only benefit from his presence. But then, a setback. A big one too. It seemed that it had been averted when Davies, winning everything in the air thus far, seemed to take hold of Turner in as similar a way as the former City defender had done at ‘yon end but was bizarrely not penalised. In the box too, meaning some vigorous protests from the Norwich players and some evident wiping of brows in the home ends. A corner was given, and as it swung in and out again, Sagbo aimed a headbutt at Russell Martin and while only referee Mike Jones appeared to see it as live, he nonetheless was entirely justified in showing an instant red card. Foolish boy. He will now essentially have a month off, and it was notable that none of the coaching staff spoke to him as he trundled down the tunnel, having initially been persuaded not to confront the referee or the opponent any further by Koren and Elmohamady’s intervention. One nil up is good; one nil up to a decent Premier League team in hot conditions with more than an hour to play and shorn of a body is less good. At least as it was an attacker who had gone, there was little need to make any emergency changes. The defence remained stoic, Livermore dropped back a tad further, Aluko went wider and Koren did less of the support striker malarkey that had been such an integral part of Bruce’s game plan. This was no more evident than when Huddlestone found the Slovene square from 40 yards out and, striding purposefully, he realised there was nobody ahead of him and so tried a shot with the outside of the boot from 30 yards which Ruddy saw go wide. Livermore then worked very hard to get down the flank and find Aluko who did an exquisite turn to get to his favoured left side and curled a shot a yard or so wide and City, aided by Norwich’s bewildering lack of positivity despite the man advantage, continued with the same tone until first half injury time, including one bit of one-touch showmanship across the field involving six players that finally ended in a right-foot shot from Brady flying over. Norwich won a free kick in the last seconds which Redmond aimed for McGregor’s right hand post but the Scottish stopper flung himself across well to divert it out. The referee gave the corner but then blew for the interval instantly, and City left the pitch and the supporters left their seats with a strange feeling of satisfaction mixed with edginess. After all, ten man teams like ours don’t hold on to leads forever. Do they? A pause here to mention Michael Turner. At one point, this author heard a boo as Turner took possession in defence. It was a single boo, not long, not reciprocated but also not shouted down. Who on earth boos Michael Turner? Who is that dense, that pig-headed, that one-eyed? I know we have extremities among our support, but even so I did allow the sector of fans whose brains resemble their own feet some semblance of intelligence when it came to appreciating our former players. However, there is a school of thought among supporters of all teams that any player who leaves their club, whatever the circumstances, should not be anything but scorned upon their return with another team. And Turner is just that. That he didn’t engineer the move to Sunderland, that he didn’t set the fee, that he didn’t run up the debt that made his move urgent to begin with, that he didn’t take the rise out of the City fans right in front of him when he promptly scored on his debut for his new club against his old one, and that the first three months aside, he gave unflinching, massively consistent and occasionally life-affirming service to the club, putting his gonads on the line (literally) right up to the last seconds of his City career, seems to have passed these unswayable individuals by. They should take a look every day at that moment when his thigh stopped Lee Trundle banging in an obvious equaliser at Wembley. And then shut up. Turner still looks effortlessly good, an interesting and skilled disposition to adopt given that effort is something he possesses and shows all the time. Norwich, aware that their formation was now unduly negative with their hosts down to ten, sent on portly ex-Leeds gabber and creator Robert Snodgrass at the break. Good player, Snodgrass. Also very cynical and very belligerent. Maybe this was why he got all the anti-Leeds invective from Es 1 to 5 in the second half when Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson, just as stained by previous WS connections, were on the pitch and got off lightly. Or maybe it’s because he has a familiar and amusing surname. He was quite influential on the second half and City had to graft. Alexander Tettey had a shot deflected wide by Livermore, then a scramble in the box resulted in Davies heroically dealing with it prior to having elongated treatment for a cut head, eventually regaining his feet with a headband wrapped round the abrasion. What was interesting, and gladdening, about City’s performance was that they seemed agile and fit enough to counter attack in numbers when the inevitable pressure caused by Norwich’s extra body and desire to gain parity had cooled. Koren and Aluko combined sweetly in one such instance to cover 50 yards between them before Turner slid in to take the ball away from Aluko, as cleanly as normal. Howson had a swerving effort tipped away with some difficulty by McGregor, then the same two duelled again with a drive that seemed to rise at the last moment, allowing the City custodian to let it be. Norwich maintained the pressure; Javier Garrido chipped in from the wing and Ricky van Wolfswinkel chested down for Fer to slice high and wide. The Tigers rearguard fell short of proper concentration after this, conceding possession cheaply and van Wolfswinkel, quiet thus far, headed a pearler for goal from Garrido’s cross but McGregor was able to stretch up, tip over and land on his backside to roars of appreciation for what was his finest save to date. Apropos of this, Ricky van Wolfswinkel is a superb name. We should have re-signed Jan Vennegoor of Hesslink just for this game and hoped they went up in Dutch combat for a header together when one came back to defend a corner. The commentators on duty would have swallowed their tongues. Tackles flew in as Norwich kept a tight hold of the game, but still their breakthrough wouldn’t come. Assuming you were realistic enough to believe a ten-man City couldn’t hold on for an hour, it’s at around the 70th minute mark you start cursing yourself for hoping they might, thereby setting you up for a bigger fall and a bigger bruise when the predictable equaliser finally comes. Then when Davies, bandaged, drunk on the atmosphere, showing his desire, went on a pitch-length run, some of it with the ball, some without, his legs all telescopic, his athleticism incontrovertible, his directive wonderfully spontaneous, the mood changed. He didn’t get a shot in when Aluko played the final return, despite it being essentially two on two, as Turner was doing his usual shtick of unflustered defensive excellence, taking the ball off his fellow defender’s toes and dousing the flames. But in being so proactive he seemed to trigger a second wind among the other nine players, not to mention the crowd. Nails remained at risk, but suddenly it felt like City would hang on. With good reason. Bruce aided the situation by bringing on Graham as an effetive sponge up front, withdrawing Aluko, then later introducing George Boyd (was I alone in thinking he looked rather good in his brief cameo at Stamford Bridge?) for the immense Brady. Graham and Koren, whose continuing presence on the pitch was brilliant and puzzling at the same time, combined arrestingly on the right side of the box, with the Slovene’s final ball just too far ahead of the slithering Boyd. Maynor Figueroa, whose experience at the back (especially when making opponents angry) was invaluable throughout all this, took on Davies at his own game and traversed at pace down the left flank before delivering a final ball that again just evaded the willing Boyd. Bruce finally took Koren off to massive applause – when he’s like this, he’s still a master of his game – and moved Elmohamady forward while slinging on Liam Rosenior. Boyd turned numerous circles on the edge of the box to make room for a clipped cross slightly too high for Graham just as the board for six – six – injury time minutes went up. Ulp. Six minutes is a long time when you haven’t got the football. And yet Norwich seemed bereft of ideas. In the final seconds Snodgrass wanged in a desperate cross to the six yard area that Howson just failed to flick; any deviation in the ball would have left McGregor in trouble but instead he pouched it safely. The ball went to the other end, and as Ruddy belted it upfield there was a false start – or false end, if you prefer – when the whistle assumed to be the one ending the game actually turned out to be for a retake of the goal kick as the ball was moving. Back it went, down it went, up it went – and off it went. Three magnificent points. The opposition weren’t as good as they should have been. City were better than could actually have been expected of them, however. That really does bode well. Sagbo was a fool and no excuses were offered for his behaviour, but Bruce can now give the majority the rest they need and have earned. Davies was magnificent, Livermore out on his feet, Koren industrious as well as immaculate, Huddlestone dominant, Brady relieved of every ounce of energy in him, the rest all worthy of the praise aimed their way. Meanwhile, esteemed Messrs McShane, Fryatt, Proschwitz and so on can engineer our depressingly inescapable struggle through the League Cup at Leyton Orient in midweek. Then it’s Manchester City. Someone ought to persuade Bruce to try to win there. It can be done.  

Matthew Rudd

Hull City 2 Scunthorpe United 0

A dominant City performance sweeps aside a stunned South Bank eleven.  Mark Gretton reports on late goals, jubilation and a naked man.
For the busy amongst you we won 2-0, deserved pressure finally bringing two late goals, making us unbeaten in 5 since Molby departed and, just to keep it all in perspective, keeping us 11 points off the leaders, 7 points off a promotion spot and 4 points out of the playoff zone, as we occupy an 11th place that was considered catastrophic when we ended up there at the end of the last campaign.Right, now bollocks to perspective. We were excellent on Saturday, settling into an easy rhythm from the outset, dictated throughout by the marvellous Stuart Green. The boy really can play. When I tell you that older supporters were likening him to the wondrous Theodore Whitmore then you can imagine what we witnessed. He shimmered, he shone, he floated and he completely dismantled a Scunt side that had as severe a chasing on our greensward as I can remember. Ah, poor Scunny! Now I enjoy a good local derby as much as the next, so it saddens me that we don’t get to play any.  For a start such matches have to be, well, local, not between places 30 miles apart. Remember that for North Lincolnshire folk, who regard somewhere like Newark the way that the rest of us might regard Atlantis, 30 miles is equivalent to interstellar travel. They are not local, they are not our neighbours. And they are rubbish. But now is not the time to be patronising. I’ll do that a bit later. We lined up thus:

Musselwhite Regan Whittle Anderson Delaney Green Ashbee Keates Williams Jevons Alexander

And we played towards the North Stand and pretty full it was too as though the visiting fans thought they might not be completely outclassed. And for the first 10 minutes, strange to relate, that proved to be the case. They had a couple of free kicks, one scuffed wide, one well held by Musselwhite and then Calvo-Garcia advanced and shot past the post. The visitors were holding their own whilst we seemed to be coming to terms with the fact that, though Williams was playing wide on the left, Green was not a mirror image on the right and we initially looked a little lop-sided as Green wandered and Regan hung back. But then after what had looked like random brush strokes leaving only a few splodges on the canvas, as the Kempton wondered aloud is this art?, the brush was seized by Stuart Green and our afternoon went from Turner Prize tosh to Fine Art majesty. He drifted from right to left, occupied the centre, tackled, passed and prompted and what had looked a slightly clunky mechanism suddenly meshed sweetly. A typical interchange with Keates made room on the right and Regan, doing what he does best, was suddenly keen to overlap and a good cross went behind for a corner. Next up he wandered over to the left flank and set Williams away, the Scunts again clearing at the expense of a corner. After 20 minutes Alexander shot wide after a sumptuous move from the right as the Keates/ Regan axis was again launched by the ubiquitous Green. Then Green won a free kick that Keates put wide, then a Green run to the left resulted in a corner from which Delaney shot narrowly wide. My notes at this stage said ‘it’s all us’ – but you’ve probably gathered that and also, as Joy Division would have put it, that everything had gone Green. The Scunts, well, what can we say? I know they seethe at the thought of us being a big club, so I won’t use that term in order to avoid giving offence, but they really looked out of their depth. For the baseball fans amongst you it was as though the Duluth-Superior Dukes, plucky minor league outfit, had unaccountably wandered into the major league and were getting a seeing to from the mighty Minnesota Twins. In all honesty I hadn’t expected them to be this poor. After all, in Torpey and Carruthers they have a nineteen goal strikeforce so far this term and thick-as-mince manager Brian Laws had remembered this time that Calvo-Garcia was a midfield player and played him accordingly instead of at the heart of the defence as he did here last season. Their other star ( I know, I know) is ex-Bradford, SheffU and Everton serial failure Peter Beagrie who enjoyed a comically useless afternoon. We are told that Beagrie is injured, but that is to do less than justice to a complete waster of a footballer who can produce displays of such mediocrity when fit as a flea. Anyway he lasted well into the second half, so presumably the manager felt, useless though he undoubtedly was, he was better than what he had sat next to him on the bench. As this included Lee Ridley and Steve Ridley but not, sadly for us Dad’s Army fans, Arnold Ridley, perhaps this was understandable. You did feel at times as though Private Godfrey, or even his sister Dolly, might have brought more to the Scunts table. But perhaps they felt they needed Beagrie’s presence when they are playing such an, er, sizeable club as us. The Stuart Green show continued as he put Jevons through for a shot that was blocked for another corner and then set up Jevons again, the striker this time cleverly juggling the ball before getting in his cross that again was cleared for a corner. Green wasn’t the only impressive midfielder on view. Keates was busy and skilful and Ashbee continues to surprise, combining his major role of buttressing the defence with supporting the attack as the extra man whenever possible. The ‘opposition’ were now visibly flustered, perhaps due to playing against such a large club, and the cracks were appearing. Beagrie got a good shouting at from a hard working defender and was now virtually a second left back. It didn’t help. The keeper and proper full back got in a right tizzy, each left the ball for the other, then both hoped it would run out of play. It didn’t, but Jevons didn’t react as quickly as he might have done and the chance passed although the laughter from the Tigerfolk went on through the half-time interval. A fine half, good football, but the final pass hadn’t quite been there and the Scunt central defence had stood up to it well. Second half and we carried on, a high speed move between Green, natch, Alexander and Ashbee filleted them again but again there was no finish and we just started to fret that it might be one of those afternoons, that can sometimes bedevil huge clubs playing against minnows. And the Scunts got going! No, really, they did. A bright move ended in a free kick and Musselwhite custoded the leather in typically assured fashion. He might have had to work harder when the torpid Torpey roused himself briefly to screw, and I use the term advisedly, a shot wide. A bad miss from a man having a very bad game. At the other end Alexander headed a difficult chance wide from Green’s cross and then Jevons badly wasted a free header. But we didn’t let up, Keates and Williams linked on the left and little Ryan ran directly at ’em before shooting past the post. Next up Jevons tried the run and shot thingy and got his on target as the keeper fubled and seemed to have let it past him but then got up with great nonchalance to clear his lines with an ‘I meant that, y’know’ air about him. I suspect the lining of his shorts told a different story. Elliott came on for Jevons and this produced no let up for the Scunt defence as the sub turned refulgently but spoiled it by tumbling over too easily as he burst into the area. The referee waved away our howls of anguish and he was probably right to. Branch came on for Williams and Tigerinsecurity grew as Elliott gave away a daft free kick on the edge of our box, in rather the same way that Hodges duped us last time. But the Scunts have lost their gifted fatboy, lured away by moneybags Rochdale, an humongous club I reckon, and no-one in the visitors line up made us pay as the wall blocked the shot. Like a wall, it was. So we were in the last five minutes and we still hadn’t broken through. But with rain pelting down, the Scunts dam was finally breached. The defence unaccountably watched a ball run towards their line, but Damien Delaney didn’t, he charged after it and, better yet, he reached it and dragged it back. Michael Branch was there and he drilled it between the keepers knees and joy was unconfined. There was no way back for the visitors and they clearly knew it, not even making a token effort to go forward. But the best for us was still to come, the loping Delaney got a ball forward that looked again as though it should have been the defender’s but Gary Alexander, having spent the afternoon buffeting and barging, got on the end of it, got inside his man and then wellied it past the keeper in a fashion to put Manc disaster Diego Forlan to shame. A glorious finish to the game. Unlike Forlan, Gary has scored many goals and so celebrated modestly and kept his shirt on, but one fan didn’t, leaping o-er the greensward with tackle out. He’d either done this incredibly quickly or he’d been stood au naturelle since the first goal, but he looked pretty well made, the blokes round me thought it looked a good 8 inches, the women thought 2. But we’d won, and it was wonderfully pleasing, not just because it was another three points and further signs that Peter Taylor really is doing things right, but because we’d never wavered in our desire to play proper football and beat the opposition senseless with it. The goals were late but they were no less deserved for that. ‘Brain’ Laws bleated that the goals came from defensive errors and they did, but that was a result of them being asked to work without a let up from the outset. In truth, their defenders were the only ones who can look back on their afternoon’s ‘effort’ with any satisfaction at all. Torpey and Carruthers were appalling and the midfield seemed to have given up long before the end. As we filed out, watching disconsolate Scunts standing in the good old Hull downpour whilst we walked past them and shouted words of encouragement and consolation, they were probably thinking, like Groucho Marx, that they’d had a great time, but this wasn’t it. In truth they’ve had a number of good days at the Ark over the years, more than we might like to admit. But they were spanked this time, as the Americans and we fetishists like to say. I suppose that’s what happens sometimes when you’re up against a real behemoth of a club.

HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Delaney, Green, Ashbee, Keates, Williams, Alexander, Jevons.  Subs: Elliott (for Jevons, 63), Branch (for Williams, 78), Burton, Peat, Deeney.Goals: Branch 85, Alexander 90 Booked: Delaney, Elliott Sent Off: None   SCUNTHORPE UNITED: Evans, Stanton, McCombe, Balmer, Dawson, Barwick, Graves, Calvo-Garcia, Beagrie, Carruthers, Torpey.  Subs: Featherstone (for Barwick, 45), Brough (for Beagrie, 73), L Ridley, S Ridley, Collins. Goals: None Booked: Balmer, Beagrie, Dawson. Sent Off: None   ATTENDANCE: 11,885

Hull City 1 Swansea 1

Bottom of the table Swansea come to Boothferry and benefit from another gutless Tigers performance.  According to the manager, it’s all the fans’ fault.  Steve Weatherill sets out the case for the defence.
O crikey, chums, another horror show. As bad as the Macclesfield debacle, except that yesterday we did at least tug a point clear of the mire – but at home to The Bottom Of The League, we won’t be hanging out the bunting for that modest triumph just yet. Our Chairmen filled his programme notes with a biliously daft rant against Radio Blunderside, alleging a negative attitude (fie! Whatever might that stem from?), while our Manager took to the airwaves after the game to blame the fans for getting on the players’ backs, to lament the trials of having to play home games at the Ark (yesterday once again bulging with a crowd in excess of 8,000) and to offer not a hint that he has a strategy for improving this curdling season, aside only from waiting for Stuart Elliott’s return. On the pitch, we were defensively unfocused on the rare occasions when Swansea threatened, the midfield was drab throughout and the attack mooched around grumpily. So here we are, a quarter of the way through the season, and if you have identified any signs of progress, sustained or even sporadic, under the Molby regime, then you have sharper eyes than me. And with legendary t/chat penman Mike “Mike” Scott lately offering up a schoolboy howler pertaining to Stuart Elliott’s nationality, it is hard to evade the conclusion that our whole club is blundering around like a rudderless ship lost without navigation somewhere out beyond the Dogger Bank. It looks THAT grim right now. I can only agree with the wise man on Bunkers whose succinct summary was “Fishcake!”.A bad game, this. Plugging away on a grey but clement afternoon:

Musselwhite Regan Whittle Anderson Smith Green Keates Ashbee Williams Alexander Jevons

We attacked Bunkers, while Swansea aimed at their meagre travelling band dribbled over the North Stand terrace. There were only about 50 of them, the worst following I can ever remember my least-favourite opponents fetching across the border. They are plainly a club intent on descent, and I applaud that with glee, but as the game lurched into a formless muddle they seemed able to stifle us all too easily. We had most of the possession, but showed little wit when confronted by sturdy Swans determined to huddle behind the ball and allow us minimal space. Swansea broke down their right and slid a low cross into the six-yard box where a chance winked briefly, before a safety-first hoof preserved parity. Then, at the other end, a gorgeous flicked pass by Williams opened up the stolid visiting defence, offering a shooting opportunity to Green, who had made an intelligent dart from right to left. But the delicately struck shot slipped just wide of Roger Freestone’s far post. It was a bright moment, but embedded deep in shapeless dross. A moment of ungainly confusion between Musselwhite and Whittle on the edge of the penalty box saw the ball spin free to a Swan 25 yards out from goal, and, with the Muss stranded, we looked undone. The ball was struck firmly but Anderson had cantered back to guard the goal-line and he thumped a header clear. Alert defending … following ill-disciplined, indecisive defending. And then, for the third home game in succession, we conjured up a lead that our banal play didn’t merit, and for which no expectation had been generated. It began from a Swansea corner, but the ball was quickly cleared to Williams, who made rapid progress and released Green, inside the attacking half of the field. He demonstrated beautiful skill and vision to slide a glorious pass into the path of Jevons, who strode away from the defence and finished cleanly, low past Freestone’s left hand. A sparkling goal in a half speckled by drudgery. A trio of attacks brought us up the to the break. Keates darted gamely down the right, but crossed just behind Gary Alexander, whose attempt at an audacious backheel was pure comedy. Then a Swansea corner was sent soaring goalwards, but the Muss punched the header clear with confidence. And finally Jevons found some space down the left but saw his shot blocked easily by Freestone. No shape, no fluency – a poor 45. It’s half-time, it’s 1-0: would we do a Carlisle and now assume glittering superiority, or would we collapse grotesquely in the genial style served up to bemused Macclesfield? Neither. We let Swansea equalise, and the game petered out into a tame draw. It was a rotten second half. The Swansea goal, first of all. Throw-in wide on their right, deep inside our half. The ball sails high through the air, one of theirs heads it on, another of theirs loops another header up over the Muss who backpedals frantically, but he’s too late, and the ball tumbles gently into our net. Indecisive work from the Muss, who should have stayed put on his line or else come charging out to collect the ball with all the zeal of a rhinoceros fixed on the task of putting David Attenborough and his poncey voice and intrusive film crew into the middle of Madagascar. But though I put “being stuck in no-man’s land” on our keeper’s charge sheet, I wasn’t much taken with the lack of defensive intervention either. Swansea celebrated two free headers well inside our penalty box before the ball trundled into our ropework. Shoddy covering. Perhaps Mr Molby blamed Smith, because he hauled him off in favour of the divine Mike Edwards shortly afterwards. It was a triple substitution: Johnson came on for Williams and Dudfield replaced Alexander. As a tactical move, it smacked of desperation and it was not a success. Swansea fancied it now, and the Ark was unsettled. Fortunately the visitors carried little punch, with the spiky Watkin more intent on sly feuding than playing proper football. But this current Tiger pack is in no position to sneer at feeble opponents. We do feeble all too convincingly ourselves. Ashbee is at his least effective when playing at home against teams that are content to stifle midfield, because he simply adds to the ugly roadblock of turgid scrapping. Keates generally has a shade more imagination on the ball, but carried little threat yesterday, and so our plodding central midfield duo contributed almost nothing to our attacking vigour. Williams was patchy, while Johnson, when he arrived, mostly looked bored. Green, as ever, flashed brightly but briefly. Up front, Alexander rarely looked likely to trouble an obdurate defence, while the newly-shorn Jevons, though perkier than his partner and worth his goal, is still not fully convincing, and is certainly no target man. A brief aside pertaining to the referee. He was awful – a true exponent of the “rabbit caught in the headlights” school of whistle management. He hadn’t a clue. A rough midfield melee early in the second half fazed him completely and Swansea soon realised they simply had to crumple to the turf to induce him to halt play. He dithered, he wobbled, he was dreadful. But he made no difference to the result of the match. Dudfield, on as sub, looked our liveliest player as the half ticked onwards. The Dude, striding elegantly down the left, is stopped illegally, and, from Green’s lofted free-kick, Ashbee finds space at the back post but heads directly into Freestone’s ample gut. Then Swansea break down the left and a ball crossed low towards the six-yard box seems to offer a chance to Watkin, but it is whisked away from him at the crucial moment. Now it’s us, and Johnson sprints down the left before sliding a neat cross on to the Jevons forehead, but the flick bounces down into the ground and away beyond the far post. Dudfield crosses soon afterwards, but it is just two inches too high for Jevons, and the ball bounces away harmlessly. It almost sounds exciting when you write up these incidents all-in-a-row. But it wasn’t exciting. These were eccentric moments of interest spattered on a grey canvas. And the mood in the condemned old ground was part sullen, part resigned. Three added minutes brought nothing of note and a wretched game was gone and forgotten. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen plenty worse. But, as this season evolves, the combination of, on the one hand, an increasingly large pot of poor displays and, on the other, the sense that we as a club are frittering away the momentum on offer from acquisition of a shiny new ground is really getting me down.

HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Smith, Green, Ashbee, Keates, Williams, Alexander, Jevons.  Subs: Dudfield (for Alexander, 57), Johnson (for Williams, 57), Edwards (for Smith, 57), Glennon, BradshawGoals: Jevons 27 Booked: Johnson, Keates Sent Off: None   SWANSEA CITY: Freestone, Evans, O’Leary, Theobald, Howard, Lacey, Phillips, Jenkins, Williams, Thomas, Watkin.  Subs: Reid (for Williams, 86), Moss (for Lacey, 88), Marsh, Keaveny, Wood Goals: Thomas 52 Booked: Freestone, O’Leary Sent Off: none   ATTENDANCE: 8,070

Hull City 1 Leyton Orient 1

At last!  A wonder strike from Dean Keates inspires the Tigers to show some much needed passion and guile.  Meanwhile, the opposition field a werepig.  Mike Scott reports on matters.
Those of us who have supported Hull City for a few decades know the score. The Tigers are generally crap, a total let-down, but about every 5 or so years they have a purple patch of perhaps only 4-6 weeks that somehow makes suffering all the dross worthwhile. The last of these purple spells was April 2001 when Big Kev was steering a course towards the Division Three play-offs. Prior to that we must go back to early in 1993-4 when Dolan’s Tigers topped Division Two, March 1989 (the run-up to the Liverpool cup tie) and the back end of the 1983-4 promotion season.Well the Tigers need another excellent spell now if their promotion aspirations are to come to anything. And while this game against a steady and well organised Leyton Orient side was not exactly top drawer stuff, it signified a move in the right direction after Monday’s Durham Coast debacle. “Well organised Leyton Orient”. “Well organised Hartlepool”. “Disorganised Hull City”. It is the way in which the Tigers started to throw off the latter tag, and therefore look more capable of living with more organised opposition, that was the key difference in this game. The disarray at Victoria Park was replaced by a more solid feel yesterday, Molby’s back-to-basics training ground theme has had some effect. It’s a fragile new beginning – the Tigers wobbled horribly after Orient opened the scoring against the run of play – but it’s there, and the collective effort of Ashbee, Anderson and Keates in talking up team confidence bore fruit on this warm and pleasant Saturday afternoon. Returning again to a 4-4-2 line-up that fits the personnel on show were:

Glennon Regan Anderson Whittle Smith Johnson Ashbee Keates Williams Alexander Bradshaw

The main surprise was Dudfield’s banishment to the bench alongside Price, Muss, Edwards (hoorah!) and Morrison. Keates kept his place and, despite going absent for a while after Orient’s goal, played much better than at Pools, capping his performance with a thunderous equaliser. Williams gave flashes of his true worth on the left, inspired in the second half by an upbeat Bunkers. Alexander looked a new man and led the line superbly without getting any luck in front of goal. Molby’s tactics, oft explained by the Dane, rely on a high tempo game that takes play to the opposition and forces mistakes and fatigue. Take away the high tempo, as happened at Hartlepool, and there’s not much left. But today City did, for a good 80 of the ninety minutes, maintain a fast pace through quickly taken free-kicks, pressing play all across the pitch and getting the ball forward quickly, either directly or through midfield, when in possession. The opening stages of the game saw this harum-scarum philosophy work to good effect and a useful Leyton XI, with highly rated Lockwood looking ever more like a were-pig at left-back, were rocked onto their collective heels. Three times in the opening 15 minutes City carved through the O’s backline and made good chances in the six yard box (one for Johnson, two for Alexander) that were blocked by committed but last-second defending. The one scare was when a straight punt clearance by Orient saw Whittle chase back with the useful Watts in attendance, Justin looking to usher the ball back to Glennon. Glennon was slow to react however, and in the end Whittle headed clear for a corner just as he made full-on and painful contact with Glennon’s considerable midriff. After some panic amongst the City support Justin returned gingerly to his feet and resumed his masterclass in Division Three defending. With three or four good chances made but no goals as reward, one wondered as to the mood of the footballing gods. They haven’t smiled on the Tigers for some time now, but were they feeling that the East Coast team were worthy of some TLC, or were they grimacing and plotting another body blow? It was the latter. Whittle hit a bobbling backpass to Glennon, who did well to spoon the ball up and out 35 yards in the face of the onrushing ex-Imp Thorpe. Orient’s Brazier was then allowed to comfortably control the high ball on his D-cup chest as “Jack” Regan looked on – I like Regan a lot, but his failing is an unwillingness to challenge the high ball. As Regan put his trousers back on, Brazier fed the advancing dreadlock-bedecked Hutchings in the box and his low cross was met by an unattended Toner in the inside right position who thumped home from 20 yards. The whereabouts of left back Smith were not recorded in my notes – suffice it to say he wasn’t challenging the goalscorer as he should have been. City then “did a Hartlepool” for ten minutes. The team spirit faded away, passes went astray, little effort was expended in the important areas of the pitch. Orient won 2-3 corners, all of which saw alarm bells ringing, beacons flashing and small children running about screaming, such was the panic in the City 6-yard box. But all were somehow repelled, the home side began to recover. Excellent work by Alexander set up a Regan cross that was dealt with in some haste by the O’s defence, and the clearance dropped invitingly to Ashbee whose volley skidded pleasingly towards goal only for the keeper Evans to save adeptly low down near his left post. Evans is on-loan at Orient this season, his first name is Rhys. Thankfully for the East Londoners, he is not as poor as the last netminding Rhys they had on loan, the much-reviled Rhys Wilmot who, when borrowed from Arsenal, was widely attributed with full blame for their 1985 relegation season. Ashbee’s shot was well saved but with 37 minutes gone a repeat Regan cross saw a repeat clearance fall to Keates 25 yards out. The diminutive Midlander steadied himself and drove a rasping shot into the net past a flapping Evans, and then proceeded to celebrate wildly in front of a bubbling Kempton. It was a fine strike and was executed just as I was confiding in a colleague that “that fookin Keates has gone missing again”. Good on yer, little man! Within seconds Watts burst through the City defence and a back post cross found another Orient player unencumbered by the attentions of Smith, but this time Glennon saved. City restored the high tempo and an even half finished even, at 1-1. Half time gave the opportunity to peruse the “End of An Era” merchandise catalogue handed to City fans on their entry to the soon-to-close Boothferry Park. And some fine items are on show there. I would recommend buying the calendar and twelve cheap picture frames from Ikea – then you’ll have a wall-full of BP memories for your favourite room, all for a fraction of the cost of the dreadful £60 daub on offer than makes all the players on the pitch looks 14 feet eleven inches tall. And so to the second half. O’s right back Joseph was clattered by Williams within the first minute and was withdrawn for a young chap called Donny Barnard, who looked rather intimidated by the vociferous Kempton support that he patrolled in front of. More good work on the right from the overlapping Regan saw a cross find Alexander, whose skilful shot was well pouched by the keeper. Then a superb move that began on the left with Williams, switched to the right with Johnson and ended up on the penalty spot with Bradshaw saw the aggressive young striker fluff his shot as the Bunkers goal beckoned invitingly. Young Bradshaw played well today and showed a pleasing willingness to mix it with the opposition in a manner that his fresh face wouldn’t necessarily suggest. Orient made a few half chances, the best of which fell to Thorpe, whose scuffed shot trickled across the face of Glennon’s goal, and Watts whose free header was straight at the grateful netman. But the great majority of the openings were the home side’s – Bradshaw slipped when 1-on-1 with the keeper after a thrilling surging run from Johnson, Alexander was twice more released in the box with shooting opportunities, Johnson shot straight at the O’s keeper after a penalty box melee – and only the final touch was missing from a tidy Tigers performance. As both teams tired in the final quarter several subs were introduced – Dudfield for Bradshaw, Morrison for Johnson – and a few late challenges were penalised by the very efficient Premiership referee Cathy Barry. In the end a 1-1 draw was perhaps just reward for both sides, but I suspect Orient manager Paul “Bog” Brush will feel that his side could not have complained if a City winner hadn’t have flown in, such was the sheer number of chances created by the home side over the ninety minutes. Overall then, this was a heartening performance after the abject shite of Hartlepool. If we can sustain this for a goodly run of 8-10 games then real momentum can be attained and the points will surely follow. That elusive first victory for Molby has still to arrive, but I feel it’s a lot closer after this performance. Time for the Tigers to maul some poncy university types? Oh yes!

HULL CITY: Glennon, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Smith, Johnson, Ashbee, Keates, Williams, Alexander, Bradshaw.  Subs: Dudfield (for Bradshaw, 65), Morrison (for Johnson, 89), Musselwhite, Edwards, PriceGoals: Keates 38 Booked: Smith Sent Off: None   LEYTON ORIENT: Evans, Joseph, Smith, McGhee, Lockwood, Toner, Harris, Hutchings, Brazier, Thorpe, Watts.  Subs: Barnard (for Joseph, 52), Campbell-Ryce (for Watts, 76), Barrett, Martin, Nugent Goals: Toner 19 Booked: Harris, Hutchings, Toner Sent Off: none   ATTENDANCE: 7,684

Hartlepool United 2 Hull City 0

Crikey, this is getting serious.  Mike Scott reports on another capitulation on the Durham Coast.
Ugly. An apt word for the town of Hartlepool. And an apt word for performances of the current Hull City squad. Once more eleven ill-equipped sportsmen entered the field of play against more organised and willing opposition. The Hull City eleven, although seemingly superior on paper, lost badly. It was two-nil. It could’ve been ten-nil. I’ll give my account of the game, then I’ll give my opinion on what’s gone wrong. Both will be ugly.The current fashion to shuffle the City pack continued at full strength as City lined up thus:

Glennon Petty Anderson Whittle Regan Green Ashbee Keates Johnson Alexander Dudfield

Smith dropped, that was the good news. Regan was switched to the left (has Edwards perhaps lost a limb in a freak Hessle harvesting accident?) and Petty took his best role at right back. Ashbee came back from suspension, the diminutive (in so many ways) Keates made his debut and three up front were restored with Dudfield’s recovery from a gippy tummy. Morrison and Greaves were benched (along with Bradshaw, Williams and Musselwhite) while Price and Smith were not asked to make the trip north. A bold managerial masterstroke? Err, no. Hartlepool carded a team very similar to the one that thumped City 4-0 last season. They have had barely any incomings nor outgoings over the summer, and have a settled squad that know their roles. City do not. The difference was apparent as early as the third minute when the admirable Gordon Watson raced down the right channel, held the ball up on the City goalline and drew three (count ’em, three!) City defenders towards him. Not one of the three attempted a tackle, instead trying to corral the ex-Owl in the manner of a wild west buffalo. Amazed at this generosity, Watson waited a full five seconds while the right midfielder Clarke scuttled up behind him. He then gently rolled the ball to the unattended Clarke who whipped in a cross to the distinguished looking Tinkler who, alarmed by his lack of marker at such an early stage, fluffed his shot wide. And so a pattern began to emerge. In the first minute Gary Alexander had neatly freed Johnson down the right, but the Leeds man’s cross found only the keeper Williams’ (Anthony) midriff. This early Alexander promise was a false dawn, as he went on to turn in a poor performance, not helped by the senseless booing of the City support that began after 15 or so minutes and reached a grizzly crescendo in the second half. The same crescendo that reduced the nervy looking Petty into a pile of footballing rubble in the first half. It was clear that this was a rather strange day for supporting City away when a small child was berated after seven minutes as being a “fookin nobhead” for returning the ball to the pitch after a wayward Pools shot. The baying for blood that ensued for the rest of game was totally destructive, but perhaps not entirely impossible to understand – although the bloke in front of me who exhorted Pearson to “fook off and tek yer money wiv yer” really did beggar belief. An ugly mood for the crowd, an ugly clash between hope, expectancy and despair. Within ten minutes Hartlepool had amassed four corners, all of which were wasted. The fifth saw Tinkler convert a header at the back post but the referee – probably rightly – disallowed the goal, adjudging that the greying Poolster had used an opponent’s shoulders to gain upthrust. The home side was entirely dominant and pummelled City incessantly. Whittle and Anderson defended manfully and both full backs looked reasonable for the first 20 minutes or so, but the midfield, as against Bury, afforded them no protection whatsoever and the waves of attacks continued. On 21 a low right wing Pools cross saw Petty airshot horribly at the back post, and the startled Williams sliced a hurried shot well wide. This was the first mistake of the day by Petty, but the hordes descended upon him with a flurry of wrath and fury that was not entirely deserved. He played like a complete arse for the rest of the half. But now what is this? Amid the ugliness emerges beauty. The Tigers realise that Dudfield on our left has the measure of the sloth-like Barron at right back, and start to switch the ball to him as often as possible. From this the Tigers gleaned confidence and started to play some pleasing possession football. In this spell Dudfield raided the Pools penalty box with no end product once or twice, and Ashbee thumped a swerving 25 yarder just wide after being teed up by Green. Crikey thought the City fans, are we about to play OK and win the League after all? No way. Just as City took the upper hand so Hartlepool released Watson down their left wing, and after a inconsequential half challenge by Petty was evaded the once-crocked forward slid a nice ball across the face of the six yard box where the gleeful Williams (Eifion) slid a shot goalwards. Alas it was also Glennon-wards and the big keeper blocked, only to see the rebound fall to the feet of the now seated Williams, who prodded into an unguarded net. A modicum of Tigery promise, and 1-0 down. The slight breeze that billowed the City sails died, and eleven heads dropped collectively. Pools were now rampant, City quite appalling, and the home should have gone nap before half time. The game was played in the City box with only Whittle standing out as someone who could keep his composure while all others flapped and fannied about. For three successive corners Watson stood totally unmarked at the back post while Green guarded unoccupied territory at the front post. While the City fans screamed for someone to mark up, the City team looked blankly at Watson and let him be. Thank God Pools can’t take a decent back post corner, or Watson could’ve tapped it in with his knob. Pools’ Smith saw a free header swing just wide after one particularly negligent piece of collective non-defending by the away side, while Keates twice sliced clearances appallingly, the second time straight to the feet of Williams (Eifion) on the edge of the box, only for the umpteenth last ditch Whittle tackle to block a routine shot on goal. As the half time whistle tooted, a battered and bloodied City XI retreated for what was no doubt a prolonged session of teacup throwing and Scousease cat-calling. Emerging unchanged for the second half, City made the first chance within two minutes when Dudfield got free down the left and pulled a cross back to Alexander whose fatal hesitation resulted in him being closed down and screwing an impossible shot well wide. This was enough for some of the City, err, “support” to now get on Alexander’s back with a tirade of heckling and name-calling rarely witnessed since, well, since Saturday. Gary’s head dropped. If it had’ve dropped any further, it would’ve dropped off. After 53 minutes Bradshaw was stripped and ready for action – surely Molby would spare Alexander the torture of playing towards the City fans that were baying for his blood and calling him a “fat bastard”. No, the Dane – cocooned in his soundproof dugout for the full 90 minutes – withdrew the nippy Johnson and left poor Alexander to plough an increasingly morose furrow at the spearhead of the City attack. Bradshaw on, surely the message to be relayed was to play the ball on the deck. Nope. Clearance after clearance was hoofed up to the little striker, who battled vainly to win headers while giving away ten inches to centre back Lee. This dumb tactic persisted even after Alexander was later withdrawn and the similarly squat Williams (Ryan) was introduced. Cretinous? Yes. Whose fault? I’ll come to that. On 62 minutes a left wing Pools corner (their 117th of the game, or so it seemed) was cleared back to the taker, and as he whipped in a second cross the City defence appeared to consider their work already complete and the grateful Watson stole in at the back post to convert a routine header. Once again the attempt was blocked by Glennon, and once again it fell unfortunately at the feet of the striker who tapped home from eighteen inches or so. Double bad luck for Glennon, who played OK in this match. Within four minutes Watson had again carved out a gilt-edged opening, charging down a clearance that fell to Smith, whose shot was skied horribly. By now Pools knew they had the points in the bag and eased up, while City realised they were chuffing awful, and also eased up. In one moment of passion Ashbee dished out retribution in a manner that contravened the laws of the game for a late tackle perpetrated on him seconds earlier, and the competent referee made a note of his particulars. One bright moment saw Keates play a decent through ball (a collector’s item from the stumpy ex-Saddler) to Dudfield whose left wing cross was arced towards Bradshaw, but the Pools defender just got a toe in first as Gary shaped to clip his shot goalwards. With ten minutes to go the game had fizzled out completely. Many City fans went home, and the Pools fans inquired as to whether this could become a more regular weekly fixture rather than the current twice a season. I could see their point. Watson finished the game’s action in the 89th minute with a lovely lob from 20 yards that landed on the roof of the net. The ref blew his whistle two and a bit minutes into the four minutes of added time indicated – an act of mercy, methinks. It is clear that individuals are not performing to expectation. Ashbee was poor today, Green was worse apart from the ten minute purple patch in the first half, just prior to Pools’ goal. Petty played like a man scared of his own supporters in the first half and perked up in the second, but it is questionable as to whether he is really any good, although it is hard to fault his willingness to run around. Regan was OK. Keates made his debut today, and I don’t think it unfair to confide that I sincerely hope his first City match is also his last. He couldn’t pass, couldn’t defend and couldn’t mark. He’s five foot five so he doesn’t possess an aerial threat. I can’t understand what he’s FOR – he is a shorter Craig Lawford. But, sweet reader, I lay the real blame at the feet of our manager. I honestly don’t think he has a clue what he trying to achieve at the moment. He has it in his mind that an attacking 4-3-3 formation is a good thing, yet he is incapable of instilling into his players (and they are HIS players in the main) the necessary mobility and flexibility to make it work. He is trying to make the players fit the system, rather than choosing a system that suits the players. Thus we play with three static forwards that fail to interchange, three static midfielders who take as little responsibility as possible and four defenders who struggle manfully to plug the breaches that occur. We seem to be playing Subbuteo tactics with real life players, in stark contrast to the mobile interchanging style of play that Hartlepool employed today to devastating effect. No one wants to take charge, no one wants to organise, no one wants to succeed above all else. Five games in we have a squad of players that appears almost to a man demoralised, and a manager who changes formations and teams with alarming regularity. Molby is incapable of motivating his players to perform to the required standard for the third division. Games in hand and points deductions aside, we are bottom of the league. My view is that Molby continues to be an abject failure, and could be no more than three games away from the sack. I don’t say “Molby out” because I want him to succeed, but the state of affairs can’t be allowed to persist and the manager must take the ultimate blame if this slump continues much longer. And judging by Adam Pearson’s head-in-hands display as he left the Victoria Park directors’ box today, I think our chairman might be of like mind to me.

HULL CITY: Glennon, Petty, Whittle, Anderson, Regan, Green, Ashbee, Keates, Dudfield, Alexander, Johnson.  Subs: Bradshaw (for Johnson, 54), Williams (for Alexander, 69), Musselwhite, Greaves, MorrisonGoals: noneBooked: Ashbee, PettySent Off: None   HARTLEPOOL UNITED: Williams A, Barron, Lee, Westwood, Robinson, Clarke, Tinkler, Humphreys, Smith, Watson, Williams E.  Subs: Arnison (for Barron, 58), Widdrington (for Smith, 79), Boyd (for Williams E, 82), Provett, Henderson Goals: Williams E 32, Watson 63 Booked: Williams E Sent Off: none   ATTENDANCE: 4,236

Hull City 1 Boston United 0

The Tigers return to winning ways against plucky non-Leaguers made-good Boston.  Not a vintage performance, but a triumph of skill over aggression.  Mark Gretton, like City, gets the job done.
Stacks of goal mouth action, end-to-end excitement, incisive yet flowing football and a passionate crowd roaring as their favourites strive to crush the opposition – this match had none of it. That would be the Lincoln game and a treat it was too. But this one also differed from that one in the important respect that this one we won whilst that one, though we dominated with a ruthlessness that would have impressed Cynthia Payne, we didn’t. For those with other things to do, that’s as much as you really need to know. There isn’t a lot of football to tell you about, indeed, as those stood nearby realised that your correspondent was charged with reporting on the proceedings they laughed heartily at his increasing desperation as he waited for something, anything, that might be entered into the match reporters Blue whale embryo-hide bound notebook. It never really did happen, but we won anyway and for that much thanks.Doing just about enough were:

Musselwhite Regan Whittle Anderson Delaney Green Ashbee Melton Keates Branch Alexander

So no start for Marc Joseph but Steve Melton got a go in a midfield that was more fluid than stated on the screen, with only Ashbee in a genuine holding role with Green, Melton and Keates willing to interchange. Ah, Boston. They are as limited a side as I’ve seen for some time, which says an awful lot and none of it good. Think Hednesford and Hayes and you’ll get a pretty good idea. Bostonians must look north west to Sincil Bank with more than a feeling of inferiority – compared to this lot their Lincoln neighbours are football purists. They included ex-tiger pretty boy Matty Hocking in their defence, a player who was always marked out by his poise rather than his brute force. At the final whistle Hocking applauded his fans and then came over and similarly clapped the Kempton. Nice, polite lad, Matty.  He must wonder what the hell he’s doing at Boston. And we got wind of their chosen approach in the first couple of minutes, as one of theirs thundered through the back of Carl Regan, fortunately causing no apparent damage and fortunate to not even concede a free kick. It was immediately clear that we were the stronger in terms of ability and class, but they had a muscular desire to knock us out of our stride that we struggled with all afternoon. This meant a poor first 20 minutes when, frankly, nothing happened other than a rare Bost foray producing a whipped in cross that was headed over. I longed for it to rise to the heights of being largely formless. Still, Branch and Alexander were working hard though seeing little of the ball and our cleverest midfielders Green and Melton did combine well to provide what should have been a shooting opportunity but wasn’t as possession was lost on the edge of the area. A few speculative crosses from Regan were well-claimed by their keeper Bastock in front of the North Stand visitors and that was as much as we got before half-time. Boston had created even less, but had spoiled effectively by standing firm at the back and kicking stoutly at ball or player as either came within range, a steady stream of yellow cards punctuating this endeavour. Half-time couldn’t come soon enough and it didn’t. Second half and Boston showed commendable enterprise as they got within 40 yards of our goal, clueless number 18 Elding found the ball dropping neatly on to his right boot and he essayed a volley that went for a throw in. Cue much Kemptonian mirth, the Boston fans looking on silently from under foreheads so low they ought to have featured warning signs. We perhaps should have stayed in the pub. We’d been enjoying one of those philosophical debates over a pint as to what you would do if you were waiting in one evening knowing that Denise Lewis, Ashia Hansen and Jade Johnson were due to visit to seek your guidance on their various jump techniques when you get a knock on the door and who should have turned up unexpectedly but Gail Devers, coyly requesting you help her get her leading leg over more efficiently. We never got to conclude this one as a most surprising thing had happened on the TV, a Newcastle player had sent over a simple cross from wide on the left and Fabien Barthez, deputising for former Hull City star Roy Carroll, decide to execute a piece of French mime. Now French mime is widely and correctly derided as the most risible, tedious and pointless ‘art form’ in the world, but it was curiously welcome here as Barthez chose to depict ‘Man waving goodbye to his wife as she departs on an aeroplane to a better life without me, I am so sad, boo-hoo-hoo’ rather than catching the ball as a less experienced keeper might have been tempted to do. Consequently the miss hit ball directed far too close to him scudded over his shiny bonce and nestled into the top corner as he waved his arms and bent his body mystifyingly. ‘We’ll not see that again in a hurry’ we thought and we were right, it was getting towards four hours later that Delaney picked up the ball after yet another City move had broken down, misdirected the cross and let Bastock screw it up from there as he waved it into his top corner. Truly it is a funny game. The referee could have stopped it then as it was obvious that Boston had nothing that was going to pull the game back. It would have been nice had we cuffed them after this, but, a Branch cross that Green headed over apart, we suffered still from a lack of width causing us to founder on the grim Bost defence. But there was more excitement, of a sort. McCarthy was late on Branch, Branch kicked McCarthy, McCarthy punched Branch, the referee booked Branch and then sent off McCarthy. I think McCarthy may have already had a card, most of them had, but it probably merited a straight red anyway. They say it’s easier to play with 10 than 11, making you wonder why teams don’t try and steal a march by starting with 10 and then going down to 9 or 8 to really ram home their advantage. It would be stretching it to say the game came alive, but at least some of the torpor was shed as Boston tried to open it up a tad. As they ground their way forward we got a bit more space and Green lashed an excellent shot goalwards that was well saved from a corner, Regan spooned one over from a decent move and Green again crossed dangerously but wide. Another fairly desultory passing move, of the kind we had been producing all afternoon suddenly then caught fire as Green found Elliott (on for Branch) and the substitute’s shot was again well saved. The unthinkable almost happened after an hour as the visitors chugged forwards, we stood off politely and they got in a rather good shot that Musselwhite, in the spirit that goal keepers were exhibiting all afternoon, let go as it caromed against a combination of upright and bar and out again to a more tame follow up which the Muss this time claimed. It was as good as it got for the small time small towners on their day out in the big city. Alexander was replaced by Jevons and we finished in the ascendancy, Green becoming more influential as he crossed for Ashbee to shoot over before both players were then involved in our only really good move of the match. Passes strung together effectively got the ball forward rapidly to Jevons who finished clinically only to see the linesman flag tardily. A pity. And that was that. As I said, we needed the win and we got it. Hard to say a lot more than that. Melton gave the sort of vaguely encouraging performance that gets nice things said about you if it is during the first couple of games but gets you moaned at for not going after the ball more if you are still doing it after half a dozen games. He looks a ball player, rather than a ball winner which I understood to be what Taylor thought we needed, but of course it’s too early to judge fairly. A poor game and desperate opposition, completely devoid of class. In terms of energy and effort and brutality, though, they were as tough as you’d want to meet and, consulting the league table, they would appear to have been too strong for five teams already this season. Beating then is not a negligible accomplishment and if the manager is able to produce a team of fancy dans who can do the hard yards when needed, then he will have done much.

HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Delaney, Green, Melton, Ashbee, Keates, Alexander, Branch.  Subs: Elliott (for Branch, 58), Jevons (for Alexander, 71), Burton, Joseph, Deeney.Goals: Delaney 49 Booked: Branch, Elliott, Whittle Sent Off: None   BOSTON UNITED: Bastock, Hocking, McCarthy, Warburton, Chapman, Thompson, Costello, Higgins, Angel, Battersby, Elding.  Subs: Douglas (for Elding, 67), Cook (for Battersby, 85), Conroy, Redfearn, Weatherstone. Goals: None Booked: Chapman, Elding, Thompson, McCarthy Sent Off: McCarthy   ATTENDANCE: 9,460