Millwall 0 Hull City 0

The overnight rumour mill suggests that the 0-0 draw against struggling Millwall will be Leonid Slutsky’s final act as Hull City manager.

Whether the rumours come to fruition and the Russian is replaced by Scunthorpe’s former manager Nigel Adkins, it can be understood when looking from the outside why Slutsky is on the brink. A team relegated from the Premier League should always have the financial clout and quality of player to take this second tier by storm. If a manager cannot motivate a squad of players who 6 months ago were battling the likes of Tottenham & Manchester City, to a league position well above City’s current 20th position, surely he deserves to go?

But for Slutsky, those close to the club know the hand he’s been dealt. Supporter unrest with the club owners. Large numbers of the relegated squad sold with vastly inferior replacements brought in at minimal cost. All of this will take its toll on a person who only began to learn English in the hope of getting a job a year ago

With the pressure firmly on, Hull City take to the dragon’s lair of the New Den, lining up in a traditional 4-4-2

McGregor
Tomori Dawson Hector Aina
Bowen Stewart Henriksen Irvine
Dicko Campbell

The opening 10 minutes of the game saw Millwall take the game to the timid Tigers. Often playing neat triangles down the channels, the City back line struggled under these attacks, led by the initially impressive Elliott.

Having survived that initial onslaught, Elliott’s impact on the game rapidly diminished and with it, so did much of the threat posed by the home side.

Even in this early stage, one player was starting to stand out from the rest of the Hull City side. Much maligned in recent weeks, the additional space in the middle of the pitch seemed to galvanise Henriksen. Dropping back to head clear an early soft free kick, working hard to try and build an attack going forward. This is not to say his performance was the reincarnation of Maradonna, often his passing would seem timid or some of his movement was very slow, but on this performance much of the recent criticism would be excessive.

On the left, Aina often tried too many slight passes that none of his team read. He certainly has quality, but needs to work better with the rest of the team. When he does get his head up, he can get forward really well, spins past markers with ease. Once such move saw him combine with Irvine to create the best chance of the half for Bowen, only for him to shoot over.

The left side proved to be City’s key in the attacks. Too often the right sided pairing of Bowen and Tomori either played far too narrow to stretch a limited home side, or particularly in Tomori’s case, he seemed rather loathed to advance too far forward. Perhaps this is understandable as he’s a centre back being played out of position, but isn’t helping City’s cause too much. So another City attack up the left finds the impressive Henriksen whose long range shot is tipped over by Millwall’s keeper J. Archer.

Whilst City were enjoying most of the play, Millwall still posed a threat with Saville turning Bowen before cutting inside Tomori and teeing up Gregory, only for his shot to be tipped over by McGregor. The resulting corner causes further confusion in the City defence as O’Brien’s goal bound shot is cleared off the line by Hector.

A final attack of the half sees Bowen’s cross field ball find Aina, but his mishit shot bobbles to Dicko. His drive is well saved by J. Archer and City have no other players following up to apply the finishing touch.

Clearly the first half of the game is going to plan. No panicked half time substitutes are deployed as City return to the pitch.

City start the second half much as the finished the first. Campbell breaks forward and has a clear sight of goal, but another mishit shot sees the ball screwing parallel with the goal line. Dicko is on hand to follow up, but can’t get a good connection

The first substitution comes five minutes after the break as Morison replaces Elliott for the home side. A quick break then offers Saville a sight of goal, but his shot is wide. At the other end, Campbell and Dicko combine before squaring to Henriksen, but he opted to take a touch when the shot was available allowing the Millwall defence to get back.

Millwall are certainly playing with backs to the wall, with 8 outfield players crowding out any chances for City. McLaughlin is also the first to see his name taken after tripping Stewart on the half way line.

On the hour mark, shortly after Millwall replace O’Brien with Onydinma, Grosicki replaces Dicko. This had a very negative effect on the City side with the Pole taking a position on the left of the pitch and City reverting to a 4-5-1 lineup. Suddenly where the forward pairing of Campbell and Dicko were stretching a home side, the revised line-up began to isolate Campbell up front.

At this point I probably had to apologise to this lists premier Plumber, as a recent twitter conversation with him left me suggesting that forward pairing wouldn’t work. Clearly on the showing at Millwall, it does have a chance.

Also noticeable in this change in formation was that Henriksen became less than his impressive start to the game. He seemed to no longer revel in the midfield. Overall City play became congested, chances started to become rarer.

Soon after also came Millwall’s best chance of the game. A cross into City’s box sees Dawson deflect Gregory’s shot over. From the corner Cooper heads goalwards, only for a fine reaction save from McGregor to keep the clean sheet. City defenders are throwing themselves in front of the ball just in time for Morison to shoot over.

Campbell is next to have is name taken, after a firm challenge on McLaughlin leaves the defender rolling around as if shot from a sniper behind the scoreboard. From then City did seem to suffer a string of soft free kicks against them from a rather fussy referee.

Another Millwall chance sees Gregory pulling wide, before unleashing a shot that has McGregor at Full stretch to catch. But it’s not all one way traffic now. Grosicki makes a cross field run, playing a 1-2 with Irvine, but just as he finds space, he elects to chip a shot wide, when a firm drive would have caused much greater threat to the home goal.

By now, Campbell had pulled up injured, so was replaced by Diomande. Millwall also used the last of their substitutes with Ferguson replaced by Twardek.

As the clock entered those final dangerous last 5 minutes for the recent Hull City defence, Bowen is replace by the enigma that is Evandro. Some may have thought it’s not possible, but the Brazilian does in fact still exist.

The away end certainly expects the inevitable final 5 minutes, watching through parted fingers as both Aina and Irvine slip to allow Gregory a shot that’s saved. Then another Gregory chance is blasted over.

City do end the game with a final chance as Diomande passes wide to Grosicki and his cross finding Evandro, only to shoot wide.

The final score 0-0 gave the first clean sheet in a month. Perhaps a draw is the best City could hope for in a season where victories are only gained in matches against teams whose name begins with a ‘B’.

Next team up? Bristol City. But who will be the Tigers manager?

Southampton 0 Hull City 0

The clouds were grey, flecks of blue streaked around the sky, the wind swirled around St Mary’s Stadium, but it wasn’t until 2.45pm that the sun finally broke through. My first ever visit to this ground, but momentous for the fact that it completed the set of all 92 Premier/Football League grounds for me, hence my wish to volunteer for writing this report.

Marco Silva decided continuity was the key and so no changes to the starting line up were made to the side that started against the Hornets last Saturday, the red card for Niasse rightfully being rescinded to keep the momentum going. Baffling that Mr Madley’s performance last week should earn him the Crystal Palace v Burnley battle later on….and yet more controversy!

Jakupovic
Elmohamady Ranocchia Maguire Robertson
Markovic N’Diaye Goebel Clucas Grosicki
Niasse

Subs:

Marshall Dawson Huddlestone Hernandez Henriksen Bowen Maloney

The first few minutes set the trend for most of the game and it was a joy to see as the relegation battlers took the game to Southampton. As early as the fourth minute, Niasse chased down a backpass to Forster leading to a hurried clearance, fed to Markovic, a free kick being drawn 25 yards out which Grosicki bent superbly over the wall leaving Forster admiring it, but the ball cannoned off the post. Very unlucky.

Our football at times was slick, fast, accurate, defence to attack, spreading play. It was a joy to watch. How is it we struggle for consistency away from home? The answer almost came when a moment’s lapse in concentration saw a ball played behind Ranocchia and Gabbiadini had a clear site of goal but screwed the ball embarrassingly wide when faced with Jakupovic.

Our first half performance was excellent, apart from being level at 0-0. The chief reason for that was the willingness for every player to battle and lay their bodies on the line and, with reference to Andy Dalton’s superb report from last week, having the class act on our team in Evandro Goebel. His performance in the first half was a masterclass of midfield supremacy. His calm control, clever movement and timing was exquisite to watch.

My one concern was that 0-0 scoreline because this season away from home has seen so many errors that have cost goals that the net normally needed to bulge at the other end for something to hold on to. Added to which, surely Southampton would come out with more purpose having been booed off by their own supporters.

The second half saw Southampton forcing us back more and a few hearts started pumping faster when Shane Long was introduced for the Saints after an hour. Not another former player to haunt us? Memories of Stoke two weeks ago flooded back when Crouch and Walters came on and changed the game.

We were made of sterner stuff today and Long never had a sniff, thanks yet again to the imperious Sir Harry. When will Mr Southgate finally recognise his talent? Only if/when he leaves the club? Like Livermore.

Anyway, the half meanders along. We’re comfortable, apart from a dodgy punch from the Jak, which he redeemed himself by saving the follow up shot. Substitutions are made. Henriksen for the excellent aforementioned Goebel (71 mins) and Huddlestone for Grosicki (82 mins). That substitution must have been interesting as the 4th official was Paul Tierney, who’d sent Huddlestone off only four weeks earlier! The final substitution was going to be Hernandez for Niasse. However, Clucas went down injured and after treatment, it was decided Dawson should appear instead, for Markovic.

Enter Mike Dean, a referee I can’t say I rate highly, or even lowly for that matter! He always seems to want the limelight. I have to say that today his performance had actually been very good, though it was a quite sociable game, with no nasty tackles. A shirt pull it seemed, against N’Diaye led to a penalty award for Southampton, with 90 minutes up and injury time being played. From our end it was hard to tell. Paul Clement must have been punching the air in delight. Step up Dusan Tadic, not Shane Long, thank goodness. A low shot towards the Jak’s left post, but our hero gets a strong left hand to it and puts it past the post. Pandemonium at our end and on the pitch. The corner comes to nothing, we break and win a corner ourselves. It’s played across, flicked on and Niasse, despite HIS shirt being held, has a stab at the ball but it is headed off the line. Mike Dean didn’t notice that though. Cue the final whistle and maybe a few thousand Welsh voices being muffled ahead of Swansea’s trip to Old Trafford tomorrow.

Overall, a great away performance, the team ethic and mindset perfect. Was this the day Hull City finally put the nail in Swansea’s coffin? We’ll know soon enough.

Final word is for our unassuming hero Eldin Jakupovic. He hasn’t had the greatest career at Hull City but has never moaned. He’s got on with his task of being substitute often enough and also being loaned out. Everyone remembers thec alamity against Sheffield Wednesday not many seasons ago and not all have forgiven him. He has had his good moments too, like last season keeping Arsenal at bay at the Emirates with a record breaking eleven saves there in a 0-0 draw in the FA Cup. However, under Marco Silva he is now our recognised No.1 keeper and he deserves all the plaudits he’s getting, even the recent transfer speculation, which shows he’s being noticed elsewhere too. I’m really pleased his perseverance has paid off and with Hull City and the penalty save today will lay the ghost of Sheffield Wednesday to rest, especially if Hull City do finally stay in the Premier League

Tim B

AS Trenčín 0 Hull City 0

The train meanders along its slow but steady procession out from the pleasingly grimy bustle of Bratislava’s main station into the Slovak countryside. Low hills give way to higher ranges, green countryside and church spires abound, a deep and strongly flowing river joins us on the left side. The town of Trenčín comes and goes, offering a view of a neat but unviably small football stadium and a splendidly romantic castle perched high above the houses. The beer is chilled and studiously downed in the well-provisioned buffet car as the route winds past the scarcely larger stadium in Dubnica, where Trenčín bested Vojvodina Novi Sad in the previous round. We’re on our way to Žilina. We’re on our way to see Hull City in Europe.

Europe! Not the entity from which, contrary to popular misconception, it is geologically impossible for the United Kingdom to separate. Europe – European football, competitive stuff. The UEFA Europa League.

How far we have travelled!

It’s well over twenty years since Terry Dolan took over as manager of Hull City. Now, that’s a journey. Gruesome days. Grotesque football. Six long years and more we suffered, two relegations, poverty-stricken football and a combination of manager and Chairman who resolutely refused to accept the slightest responsibility for the decline and near demise of the club. Most current fans of Hull City don’t have any memory of those dreadful afternoons spent losing to Mansfield and Kidderminster and Northampton and so many others besides. Some are too young but most simply weren’t there: Dolan’s formless passionless defensive garbage sliced our crowds down to the bare bones, 3,000 at most inside Boothferry Park by the later stages.

But oh, we had some fun. Byways and back lanes to some of the remoter towns in the country, welcoming pubs, songs to sing and flags to flutter, a sense of camaraderie and defiance among a small band of regular travellers, a resolute determination to impose high jinks and colourful behaviour on a day that would unavoidably have at its unwanted core a miserable ninety minutes of grey half-paced football.

Long time ago!

We’re in Europe now. It’s different now.

Hull City are in Europe.

Byways and back lanes to a remote town? Check. Welcoming pubs? Check. Songs, flags, camaraderie, defiance, high jinks and colourful behaviour – yes, yes, we had all that in Žilina. And a miserable ninety minutes of grey half-paced football. Yay! Bring it on! O yes, we had that too.

The pelting rain of a Slovak summer afternoon relents and we make our way towards the main square, from which the tunes of Hull City waft. Here I admit to a small sense of impeding dread. I’ve watched Scotland play away dozens of times, and it is a uniquely exhilarating experience. I’ve seen England play away now and then too, though I don’t support them, and the majority of their fans, especially nowadays, are similarly cheerfully minded to revel in the opportunity to travel to new places and meet new people, but there remains a sour-faced knot whose understanding of patriotism is not to love your own country but to hate others’. And I really did not want to find myself making my Hull City competitive debut in continental Europe to the strains of ‘No Surrender’ or ‘German Bombers’.

I needn’t have worried. I shouldn’t be so precious (as if). The main square, a pleasantly if architecturally unremarkable open space, is ringed by cafes and bars, all thronged and songed by Hull City fans determined to enjoy the whole experience. The feel is exceptionally positive, the smiles are broad and genuine, and they have taken decades in the shaping. We are going to have fun in this competition. Heavy-handed police are in sight, but they stay relaxed throughout.

To the stadium, a mere ten minutes walk from the main square (significantly less if you are fleeing to avoid the rain), a neat compact affair. Each of the four stands carries a merciful roof against the darkening clouds that continue to circle above, and the City support, some 600 strong, is housed at the North end behind the goal that Alan McGregor will be defending in the first half. Fine mesh netting stretches from floor to ceiling, protecting the pitch from incursion by fans or projectiles, and here and there ungainly spikes and fences intrude. It’s not like that any more in England.

We are not in England any more.

The game kicks off. I remember now, like it was yesterday, just how excited I felt on an oppressively hot night in Malaga in 1982 as the match kicked off. It was Scotland v New Zealand, and it was the first World Cup game I’d ever been at. I was dazed, I was full of glee (also Sangria, local brandy, beer et al), I was utterly thrilled. And now here I am, the game is kicking off, and I am attending a match I never believed would or could happen. Hull City’s first ever venture into competitive European football.

O, this is great, this is wonderful, this is truly special.

It’s a 4-3-3:
                       Rough
McGrain   Hansen    Evans   Frank Gray
     Strachan Souness  …….
O no, hang on. sorry: 5-3-2
                    McGregor
      Davies      Bruce         Chester
Elmo                                          Rosenoir
        Livermore     Huddlestone    Meyler
               Long        Aluko

 

20140731+Trencin+v+Hull+City+prog+coverIn the first minute we win a corner. Huddlestone delivers to the back post, Bruce heads just over the bar.

Then not much happens for a while. It is – I adjust my reporter’s paisley cravat self-consciously – ‘largely formless’.

Legs look tired even this early. There is no sharpness. The football played is sloppy. Huddlestone and Long are perhaps the most lethargic, though Meyler and Aluko are close behind. In truth none of our players looks noticeably eager to be playing a competitive match in July, and, with a ten month haul now lying in front of them, they have some reason to embrace this caution.

22, Huddlestone’s free kick from the left, bashed straight into the wall. 27, their ‘keeper, Volesak, spills Aluko’s shot, but recovers quickly.

Trenčín’s small knot of fans in the corner of the stand opposite us begin to become more vocal as the half progress, grasping, perhaps with surprise and certainly with relief, that their opponents from the self-styled finest league in the world are not going to obliterate their hopes. The home side, in a predominantly white kit, with a single vertical red stripe off-centre on the shirts, are well organised and hard working and, their League season already underway, evidently fitter than our team. They press a little in the later stages of the first half, though without causing serious alarm to McGregor, soundly protected by the three centre backs that did such a fine job for much of last season, including in the Cup Final.

Half time. No score.

On 49 Bruce blunders horribly, gifting possession in a dangerous area, and only desperate defence rescues the situation, at the expense of a corner. Then on 52, as the home side enjoy the better of the play, a shot rips into our side netting – one of those that the dopy fan with a poor sightline celebrates, thinking it’s a goal. Ha! Slovak dopes are duly reeled in. You’re dealing with professionals here, sonny.

None more professional than Shane Long.

Which I do not mean in a good way.

Long does remarkably well to wrest possession wide out on the left, and cuts inside, racing at high speed into the box. He slips the first challenge, but it’s as obvious as the nose on Gareth Southgate’s face that he has not the slightest intention of shooting nor or finding a team-mate with a pass. He’s looking for a defender’s leg to fall over. He finds one, tumbles to the turf with extravagant theatre. And the referee awards a penalty.

I understand the match was not televised so perhaps there is a referee or two tucked away somewhere in a remote corner of Europe who is still not aware that Shane Long dives. Not occasionally, but routinely.

Defenders whose tackling verges on the brutal. Midfielders who attempt ambitious through passes too frequently. Wingers who over-elaborate their stepovers. Flawed players, but I recognise what they’re trying to do and sometimes – especially the defenders, especially if they’re ours – I can enjoy the exuberance. But forwards whose primary aim when they enter the field of play is to win a penalty? No. I can’t accept that. That goes beyond any proper definition of the purpose of this sport. We’ve done some exciting transfer business during the summer but a deal that saw us sell this weasel Long before he gets a richly deserved long-term ban for simulation would please me most.

Still, penalty it is. Huddlestone takes the ball, and, since no one else looks interested in stepping up, I suppose he must be our designated penalty taker. For the moment. Da Silva, one of their defenders, approaches Sir Tom, talks to him, pats him. He’s been watching Tim Krul. Sir Tom’s head is down, focused on the ball sitting placidly on the spot. I’m wanting to believe he is concentrating. In fact he looks tentative and unsure.

The penalty is dreadful. It’s hit without power and close to the goalkeeper, on his left side. Volesak stops it easily. But the ball bounces up kindly for Huddlestone who is able to advance and slam the ball into the exposed net from no more than four yards out.

Except he leans back. He looks for the stars and he sends the ball in their general direction.

Ye cannae defy the laws of physics Cap’n, but putting the ball over the crossbar from that short distance out demands some pretty challenging geometry.

Snodgrass and Ince come on, replacing Aluko, almost entirely anonymous, and Meyler, slightly better but far short of his sharp best.

Snodgrass and Ince had the easy job in Trenčín, because they were asked only to play a cameo rather than extend depleted levels of fitness over the full 90, and so too, arriving fresh, they were able to take on opponents that were beginning to tire. Even allowing for that, both our subs impressed. They looked lively, eager to please and both offered a couple of neat touches of a quality that we’d seen precious little of until their arrival.

A Snodgrass free-kick is stopped by an utterly blatant hand ball by a man in the wall, standing just inside the area, but the referee ignores an obvious penalty (plus yellow card). But the game’s petering out now. Trenčín are tiring, but grimly determined to see it out, and we lack the resources to trouble them. In fact the home side probably shades the possession over the last ten or so minutes, and a mazy run on 87 briefly threatens to unravel our defence.

Jelavič makes a brief appearance in place of Long, but soon enough, after three added minutes, it’s over, and nil nil it is. Rightly so. The City players acknowledge and applaud us. Then Trenčín’s do the same, rather more warmly and rather closer up. They are greeted with admiration for their spirit by our excellent support.

I have been too critical. The whole idea was to treat this game and next week’s as only slightly more testing than a pre-season friendly. It would have been absurd for Mr Bruce to have got his team fully prepared for a game in late July, ahead of a season that will stretch deep into May. A steady if humdrum scoreless draw is just fine. As long as we finish the assigned task next Thursday. I hope we will, and we should, but I confess I am a bit twitchy we have not killed off determined but limited opponents, who look to me perfectly capable of being durable and hard to break down in Hull. I really don’t want to get knocked out.

Because I absolutely love watching Hull City play in Europe.

Stephen Weatherill

 

Highlights from Hull City Official YouTube Channel

A Fan’s view of the Penalty

Follow Chris Skelton on Twitter

Hull City 0 Aston Villa 0

I rather like Paul Lambert. I like the way his teams  perform, the fact that he uses young up & coming talent, doesn’t lambast  them in public, just quietly and calmly gets on with the job, without too much  distraction from his chairman which must help also.   I like the style of football he tries to play,  attractive, pacey, on the deck, as football in the modern era should be  played.   Contrast that then with last weeks opposing manager,  Dudley’s worst footballing export, the odious perpetually winging Sam Allerdyce.  God I loath that man, still smarting & seething from not getting the England  job (thank God) had he done so I would have cheerfully stabbed the fad sweaty  Brummie . Yes I know a Dudley-ite  isn’t a Brummie, but as they term it, a Yam-Yam, not to be mixed up with  a sugar glazed doughnut stick, a Yum-Yum, because sugar coated he aint. But if  ever you DO want to wind them up, call them Brummies, it annoys them immensely,  as I do regularly. And boy can they winge! Winge, winge winge. Just like big fat  Sam. One minute he’s saying “if someone feels a touch in the penalty area he has  every right to go down”, the next its “He’s a diver, a cheat”. These two  scenarios can of course be differentiated dependant upon whether its his team  gaining or conceding the penalty.   Fat oaf.   However, Paul Lambert nice chap,  nice team. And taking aside the dourness  of the fans, also quite nice. And helpful as we found out on Sat pre match as we  set too handing out leaflets & badges on behalf of the  #notohulltigers movement. Villa fans not  only taking the leaflets but helping to hand them out as well.   I Do say movement, as that’s what it has now, real  movement. Prior to my holiday, ( yes it was lovely, thanks) I had joined in with  the two protest marches, about 100 at the 1st, about 50-60 on the  2nd. Upon my return, support has now swelled in a very short  space of time to thousands, and the number of voices against can literally be  counted on one hand. I had three on Saturday. Voices against that is, not hands.  A huge well done to those involved, and anyone who can get involved, should, as  I intend to.   So, on with the match, as I ran out of leaflets with only  a few minutes to kick off, all 80 odd mins of it. Yes a this match report may be  a little incomplete as I found myself locked out as I got to the doorway &  had to hammer at it for a few mins before someone let me in!   Rudely kicking off before I got to my seat  were:   McGregor Rosenior Faye Davies Figuero Quinn Huddlestone Livermore Elmo Aluko Graham     My entrance to the game saw City on the defensive, a  quick chat to those around me  suggested that’s what it had been in the few mins I had missed, with  Delph marauding time and again towards the City goal, skipping past Huddlestone  with ease on at least one occasion. This was not going to be easy.   Kozack fired in from long range which was blocked by  Figuero, as City struggled to get a grip of the game, never mind get out of  their half.   A neat move from Aluko after it looked like he had lost  possession gained a corner, but alas it came to nought.   A move down the right saw Elmo put in a rare good cross,  I say rare as he had an off day by his high standards, which Danny Graham should  have at least ‘worked the keeper’ but Guzan collected with ease, a sign of a  striker desperately lacking in confidence, and maybe its time for Sagbo to have  a go from the start.   The game more even now as City clawed their way into it,  edged towards 19 mins and 4 seconds time for the demo! With leaflets held high  and a somewhat disjointed “City til I die” We made our feelings known. This is  not a protest against the Owner, something we stressed to people we handed the  leaflets to, merely a protest against a misguided decision. However, from my  South Stand vantage point, black leaflets on a sea of black and Amber didn’t  look great. Amber reverse side of the leaflet on a sea of Black & Amber  would have looked much better. Maybe a bright red leaflet with “Stop this  nonsense” would have been easier to spot, although with a slightly less Dr  Martin message. Maybe.   City once again gave away possession to see Agbonlahor  force a good save from the impressive McGregor, and shortly afterwards Villa  maybe should have done better through Kozack as we clung on a bit.   This was certainly a good, fast counter attacking side  we  were facing as ‘Gabby’ had  another good chance but ‘Rossy’ saw off the danger, albeit by scything him down  just outside the box, and seeing yellow to boot from referee Clattenburg, who  did as he always does, and tried to let the game flow.   A purely accidental crunching a bit later as a City  defender landed on Agbonlahor, saw him somewhat subdued for the rest of the  game, but one of theirs, later to be identified as Westwood should really have  seen red as an elbow clattered into Huddlestone’s face.   A neat move a bit later saw Hudds hit a good long rage  shot which didn’t trouble Guzan to much as it was straight into his  midriff.   Mistakes & misplaced passes by both sides were the  order of the day as half time approached.   The second half carried on in much the same vein, with  rare pickings from either side for MOTD cameras and it came as no surprise to  find out we were last, in fact such lacking in goal scoring opportunities, we  nearly made it straight onto MOTD2.   Villa did have one very good move involving a break away  with Bacuna & Wiemann feeding the off the boil Agbonlahor who just fired  wide, thankfully.   Our attacking options were also limited, mainly due a  very poor 2nd half display by Elmo, who’s crossing suddenly became  erratic at best and it was no surprise to find him later subbed.   City came back with three corners in a row, all taken by  Aluko, all failing to find a striped shirt. Wasted opportunity. Dead ball  situations looked our best bet but we wasted all of them.   Villa came close again through El Ahmedi twice, and it  was time for a change.   Off went Aluko, who to be fair had been well marked  throughout and the quiet Quinn, replaced by Sagbo and Boyd.   Sagbo had a chance soon after coming on but was bundled  to the floor as he began to look lively, astonishingly not seen as a foul by the  ref. . Hopefully he’s learnt from his first game, as he didn’t protest too much.   Into the final 15 and we looked the better side as Villa  looked to have settled for a point, and with 5 mins left, we too shored up,  replacing Elmo with Mayler, who promptly sliced his first clearance into West  stand.   It sort of fizzled out after that, and ended a very  respectable 0-0 against a side I think will do well this year.   My Villa supporting work colleagues were subdued today,  as I think they thought they would give us a thumping, but as teams are finding  out, our defensive work is proving to be a match, if we can find the net, a good  season awaits.   One of our Manchester United season pass holding ( I’ll  give him his due, he IS from Manchester) senior Managers passed my desk this  afternoon, and commented “Good result for you guys at the weekend, you’re doing  well, you were even above United earlier this season”   To which I had great pleasure in replying, “ We still  are, Dave, we still are…”

Hull City 0 Oxford United 0

Promotion chasing Oxford come to the KC to spoil and delay their way to a draw.  Mark Gretton describes how City nearly made it three wins in a row.  But didn’t.
So the all too brief winning run came to an end and we again dropped points at home, dropped points that will almost certainly extinguish the optimism behind even the most black and amber tinted spectacles. But getting that out of the way at the start, that apart, this was another hugely encouraging display to build on to the back of the games at Carlisle and Macclesfield. We played well from start to finish, the defence was solid, the attack created chances and the midfield, glory be, was an effective link between the two, buttressing the first and launching the second. In short, we looked again like a proper football team and we did it against a side 4th in the league who looked frankly terrified of us throughout the second half and whose ambitions seldom rose above a point. Rubbish they were, so I shan’t really talk about them. That’ll show ’em. Lining up as I took my seat were:

Fettis Joseph Whittle Anderson Delaney Appleby Ashbee Keates Elliott Walters Forrester

So Delaney back for Smith, new man Reeves on the bench, kept company by Melton, amongst others and those on the pitch were immediately into their work attacking towards the South East stand, forcing 4 quick fire corners which the visitors dealt with with strategies veering from competence to panic, the latter including a defender scooping just over his own bar. That’s nice, we thought, and we kept on thinking it, as the flow of traffic was entirely towards the Oxish goal. An Elliott cross-cum-shot was tipped over after the netman gazed at it for an inordinately long time, before deciding, belatedly but correctly, that it was on target, then Elliott was again involved in flicking on Joseph’s long ball for Forrester whose shot was deflected wide. Anderson played a good ball long and wide to Joseph who ran on and shot, the keeper parried to the feet of Forrester who pounced tigerishly. It looked like 1-0, but a defender had anticipated even more rapidly than our diminutive goalsmith and the block was brave and effective. In truth, some intelligent breaking down of our moves was about as good as it got for the Oxen in the early stages. Appleby, Ashbee and Keates had the midfield in their grip, won the 50-50’s and then set us moving towards their goal. Walters was strong and Forrester active. Our occasional problems were almost all created by carelessness on our part rather than adventure on theirs. On 24 minutes Elliott was, as he is too often, in Delaney’s way, so he took a ball far too short with his back to the defence and no good out ball. He fannied about, lost it in the tackle and belatedly fell over, allowing them to skip upfield before the ever reliable Whittle broke up the attack. Elliott seemed to stay down forever in just the sort of blunder that had let Cambridge in a fortnight ago. I don’t object to Elliott doing a bit of what we might delicately call ‘cheating’, on principle. No, when we have a fine exponent of the art,such as David Brown, I think it’s an excellent thing. None who saw it will ever forget, for example, the splendid moment at the Ark when he fell over as Rotherham oaf Guy Branston slide-tackled him fairly, managing to tread on the Rotherham man’s South Yorkshire gonads as he did so. As Browny climbed to his feet in careworn but brave fashion, the understandably irate Branston confronted him, causing Browny to stagger back, fall over and Branston, now having completely lost it, to be sent off, though he had never at any point made any assault on our hero other than raking Browny’s studs with his groin. No, that sort of thing can only ever be good, and Elliott needs to work on it if he is to reach those heights. Alternatively he could, I suppose, try and stay on his feet and chase after the man to whom he’s lost the ball. It’s a thought. As the half wore on, the Oxters did come into it more. They forced a corner that was turned over. After Delaney had misspassed they put in a cross for a free header for Basham that was gratefully pouched by Fettis. And just before the half ended they got away completely, with only Justin Whittle blocking the route to goal. And block it he did, stepping smartly in front of their attacker and flattening him as he knocked the ball past the skipper and prepared to roast him for pace. Instant decision making from Justin but it looked as though the retribution might be swift and terrible. But the referee was lenient and the card was yellow and we exhaled as one as we went to half time just wondering if they might have turned the corner. Half time, 0-0. Second half and Appleby was immediately replaced by Reeves. Whether this was typical tinkering Taylor in ‘if it aint broke, then fix it mode’ was hard to say. Appleby had produced the mixture of strong tackling and astute passing to which we are rapidly becoming accustomed, but he may still be coming to full fitness. Anyway, Reeves was a straight positional swap, wide right on midfield, but operationally he was different. Less likely to come and find the ball, he was more likely to advance. He looks a sallow youth with bog brush hair, in truth not an early playground pick, you would have gone for the much harder looking Walters and hope that he didn’t nick your Curly Wurly. But he worked hard from the off and he can play. Oddly enough, the real catalyst was an injury to Joseph on 58 minutes and his replacement by that renowned and redoubtable right back Steve Melton. This looked like an awful Planet Peterism, but it ushered in our best play of the day. Excellent work by Walters in holding up and delivering the ball just so set Elliott free for the sort of run on goal he enjoyed at Carlisle which, up there had ended with him firing narrowly but wastefully wide of the keepers right hand post. This was very different, as the ball was dragged narrowly but wastefully wide of the left hand post. There was also the little difference of us being 4-0 up at Carlisle at the time and pretty damn mellow, here it was head-in-hands time. But now we were motoring. Reeves won the ball well, interlinked with the advancing Melton, ran wide for the well-placed return and got over an excellent first time cross. Walters was there, headed down, the keeper spread himself dutifully but forlornly and the bloody ball hit him and he clung on to it. Credit it him if you must, but it should have been in. Another intelligent ball forward found Forrester who ran wide, crossed for Elliott and the shot was blocked. Then Forrester picked it up in the inside right position, advanced menacingly on a thoroughly spooked defence, drew back the bow and arrowed one in, dipping, dipping, over the keeper….and on to the cross bar and away. Oxford had given up any ideas of winning it. Their highly rated strikers, Martin Basham and Lee Steele, the latter who has tormented us often in the past in his long term role as ‘Shrewsbury’s only decent player’ (a part now played by Luke Rodgers) were anonymous and were both withdrawn in favour of shoring up a creaking defence. They took an age over goalkicks and an eternity over throw ins, managing to get a booking for timewasting. They also goaded the referee into adding on 5 extra minutes at the end. But they only looked remotely like scoring once, putting over from 4 yards when the ball had ended up loose in our area. Taylor had looked forward to this game, saying that we would have freedom to play as the oppo would come at us. If you were churlish, which thank the Lord I’m not, you might think that this was more of Planet Peter. But in truth, it was surprising that a team so highly placed would be so grateful for a point away to someone in the bottom half. Further evidence, were any needed, of the dreadful standard of teams in this division this time around after last year’s unexpected upwards quality blip. We kept control and kept attacking, but our best chances had come and gone. Walters weakly hit shot was then followed by a much better effort on the turn and just over. Elliott had a scruffy effort scrambled away. Ashbee, worryingly was stretchered off near the end and we couldn’t quite do it. But we had done a lot and we had done well and we are a point nearer to safety and our inevitable place as promotion favourites season 2003-2004. And, for now, that’s enough.

HULL CITY: Fettis, Joseph, Whittle, Anderson, Delaney, Appleby, Ashbee, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Forrester.  Subs: Reeves (for Appleby, 45), Melton (for Joseph, 56), Smith (for Ashbee, 88), Dudfield, Musselwhite. Goals: None Booked: Whittle Sent Off: None   OXFORD UNITED: Woodman, Waterman, Bound, Crosby, McNiven, Savage, Hunt, Ford, Robinson, Basham, Steele.  Subs: Scott (for Basham, 62), Louis (for Steele, 90), Hunter, Whitehead, Hackett. Goals: None Booked: McNiven Sent Off: None   ATTENDANCE: 17,404

Hull City 0 Bristol City 0

This is not a season report. It’s a match report. If it was a season report, I might point out that City are in an historically fantastic position, requiring at most just one win to take us back to the Premier League. Quite possibly we might need less than that, given the slump in form of Watford and Crystal Palace in recent weeks. We might even be promoted today (Saturday), if Watford lose and Palace draw or lose. Nothing is settled yet, but it’s looking like being one of the greatest seasons – some are saying the greatest season – in the club’s 109 year history. But this is a match report, not a season report. And tonight (Friday) Hull City were dire. Playing against the official worst team in the division, already relegated Bristol City, the Tigers looked anything but promotion material. Gone were the fluent passing and lightning raids down the wings that have characterised much of our play in recent months, in came the long and high hoof, and the selfish show-boating solo run into trouble. We served up a spectacle which must have had many a Sky Sports viewer channel-surfing in the hope of finding something a little easier on the eye. Our one genuine goal-scoring chance came in the 92nd minute of a 0-0 draw lacking incident, quality, and anything likely to excite the neutral. For us City fans, it was an evening of nervous frustration. We’re wheel-spinning on the verge of promotion to the Premier League. Playing as if they’d only been introduced to each other in the tunnel before the game were: Stockdale Chester Faye Hobbs Elmohamady Boyd Meyler Quinn Brady Gedo Fryatt It’s a mild spring evening, and the game kicks off with City playing towards a North Stand containing a few dozen hardy Bristol fans, and a few hundred City supporters (possibly recipients of free tickets?). There’s a bit of an atmosphere in the KC. Not much of one though. Some sections of the crowd try to pick things up a bit, get a few a songs going, but after ten minutes or so it’s not really happening in the stands. This is a metaphor for what’s unfolding on our muddy and rutted pitch. In the opening 30 seconds of the game there’s a quick and slick attack, with the returning Matty Fryatt reminding us of his skills. It comes to nothing, and in rapid succession City launch three long balls out of defence. What’s going on? That’s not how City play. It’s not how we’ve got to second in the league. Even when it’s looked dangerous to do so, we’ve insisted on playing the ball out of defence and building attacks with close passing and running off the ball. Tonight though, we’ve started playing the long ball. There’s the odd flash of more intricate skill, but nothing to threaten Heaton in the Bristol goal. On 7 minutes Gedo runs down the inside right channel and pulls the ball back to Boyd, on the edge of the box, but Boyd’s weak shot is blocked. On the half hour Gedo is again involved in a couple of neat passing moves. First he has a quick one-two with Quinn, but runs into a Robins defender. Then he receives the ball from Meyler and passes it on to Elmohamady, whose cross from the right comes to nothing. That’s more or less it in terms of playing our normal game in the first half. Everything else is either the long and high pass, or the solo run into trouble. Fryatt has a dinky little foray past a couple of defenders on 28 minutes. Before that, the excellent Jack Hobbs decides to leave his defensive duties for once and dribble upfield, exchanging passes with Gedo and winning a corner. Brady takes it, as he takes all our dead-ball situations in the absence of Koren. Not for the only time tonight, he fails to find a teammate. So it’s a very scrappy first 45. David Meyler is energetic as ever, popping up all across the midfield looking to close down the opposition. The more languid George Boyd drops deep regularly, wanting to get on the ball and try to make something happen. But there’s no real shape to the team. Bristol, either by design or because they’ve nothing left to play for except damage limitation this season, are sitting deep and putting plenty of bodies in between our midfield and the goal. Many a City pass is either blocked or overhit. We can’t find a way through. Half-time, and the assumption is that Steve Bruce will do some re-organising and re-focusing in the dressing room. Surely we’ll come out better. There’s still plenty of time to score. My thoughts turn again, as they have done several times today, to a match against the other Bristol side, Rovers, on a warm spring day some 29 years ago at Boothferry Park at the end of the 1983-84 season. Some of you might, as I do, recall it and recognise some similarities with today’s game. A classic season for a resurgent City under Colin Appleton, we were on the verge of promotion. With three games to go it looked very likely that we’d go up into Division Two. Then we lost an away game 1-0 (to Port Vale). But that was just about OK, because we would win at home against Bristol Rovers. We didn’t though. We drew with Bristol 0-0. (I can still see in my mind’s eye – as I did in reality from low down in Bunkers that day – Billy Whitehurst screwing a great chance just wide). So it went to the last game of the season, Burnley away, and in the end our inferior goal difference deprived us of promotion. Similarly – but with a more positive outcome – nine years ago this week, against Huddersfield, there was another nervy 0-0 at the KC on the verge of promotion. That was to get us out of the fourth tier of English football and we were watched by 23,495. (The attendance tonight was 4900 fewer, very disappointing by comparison, as we stand on the edge of automatic promotion out of one of Europe’s toughest divisions and into the Premier League). Following that 0-0 against Huddersfield in 2004, we went away, to Yeovil, and produced an Ashbee-inspired classic win to secure promotion. I pushed thoughts of those games out of my mind and waited for an improved City to break through in the second half. Whatever our manager said at half-time though, little changes. Quinn tries to poke a ball through the Robins’ defence for Boyd to run on to, but it’s too long. We keep playing high balls that don’t suit our team. On 53 we win a free-kick that’s almost a corner, just at the junction of the Best Stand and the South Stand. Brady overhits it, but it goes for a genuine corner the other side. Brady has to go across to take this one too, which he does, this time short to Boyd, who loses possession. Not much has changed. Except Bristol now seem emboldened enough to venture forward occasionally. On 50 minutes Stockdale fubles a weak and low cross, but Hobbs tidies up. Shortly after that, the otherwise excellent Hobbs is beaten for pace in our box, but the Bristol forward fails to find a colleague with his cross. It’s getting nervy. On 58 George Boyd seems unaware of what’s going on as a Robins player takes the ball off him just inside our half. Then – disgracefully it seems to me – he stands and watches, rather than pursuing, as Bristol advance on our goal. A stronger team might have managed more than the soft shot at Stockdale that results. (I wonder, if we go up, should we take up the option of turning Boyd’s loan into a permanent deal? Not on recent form.) Another long ball over the top for City is too long for Fryatt to run onto before it runs into touch. On 65 a double substition, Gedo and Fryatt off, Simpson and Proschwitz on. With a goal apiece for Simpson and Proschwitz in 2013, you’ll forgive me if I didn’t see this as heralding our much sought after breakthrough. And it didn’t. Simpson, as he usually does, had some decent touches, but never really threatened. Proschwitz the same, but without the decent touches. So we move into the last quarter. Robbie Brady has got on the ball a lot tonight. Recently more than ever – he did this a lot at Molineux on Tuesday – he has started to dribble across the pitch from left to right, rather than attack down his wing. He did this again on 73, ending up getting fouled in the centre circle, winning a free kick which Faye lumped forward. Shortly after, we get a free kick about 30 yards out. Brady, of course, to take. Everyone goes forward and lines up ready for an outswinger into the box. Brady instead plays it straight to one of theirs, who breaks forward with our defence chasing back. Happily Bristol make little of this opportunity. Nor of the other half chances they get in the second 45. They have a couple of long-range shots, which go wide either side of Stockdale’s goal. On 80 minutes we have a penalty shout, as Quinn appears to be pushed from behind and to go down relatively easily. I can’t tell from my East Stand seat, but there’s not too much fuss from City’s players when the ref turns down the appeal. Perhaps TV watchers will tell us that it should have been given, but Steve Bruce, who had a good view of the incident, said afterwards that the ref had got it right. As the time left moves into single figures, we’re realising that we’re probably not going to score. The admirable Abdoulaye Faye tries to inspire his teammates with a crunching tackle and a thumping defensive header. Then Liam Rosenior comes on for James Chester, and all of a sudden the combination of Rosenior and Elmohamady down the right looks impressive, winning a corner that Brady takes to no avail. There are 4 added minutes, in the second of which David Meyler’s foraging forward run finds him in the Bristol penalty area, about 10 yards out. He tries a snap-shot, hard but close to the keeper, who saves competently. And that’s that. 0-0. If this was a season report, not a match report, I’d be positive overall. I think we’ll go up. But it really isn’t done until it’s done. In some ways, tonight’s shoddy display emphasised that fact. On the other hand, let’s not forget that though we didn’t win the game, we won one more precious point. Perhaps it will prove a decisive point. I’ll leave the scenarios to the chat list. Ed