Norwich City 1 Hull City 1

It’s a little over seven years since that cathartic day when we won at Carrow Road to record a first away victory after thirty or more futile journeys. We haven’t won there since but that is largely down to both teams yo-yoing between the top two leagues. On a sunny Norfolk Saturday we travelled more in hope than expectation of a repeat to end the current winless streak. Campbell had picked up a knock and was not available so we fielded, hoping to cut the mustard: McGregor, Aina, Hector, Dawson, Clark, Meyler, Bowen, Henricksen, Larsson, Grozicki and Dicko. With the home team in fluorescent yellow and green we sported our anemic white kit.

Norwich kicked off and had the best of the early exchanges. We were muscled out of several challenges and with the notable exception of Meyler appeared more lightweight in most areas. It took us a few minutes to mount any kind of threat. Grozicki and Dicko combined but the latter dragged a tame effort wide. Not for the first time I had to shield my eyes against the low October sun: it’s hard to take notes, watch a game and try to shield one’s eyes simultaneously.

Our front line had little physical presence against a strong Norwich defense and most of the aerial challenges were lost. Norwich were giving both Aina and Clark a hard time down the flanks and it was no surprise when Aina committed a foul. For a moment it was heart in mouth expecting the fussy Keith Stroud to point to the spot. It was just outside the area however, McGregor punched clear the resulting cross-shot. We didn’t clear the ball, it was recycled, Maddison advanced unchallenged and his shot clipped the outside of the post on it’s way out of play.

The game was quite evenly balanced at this point. We had a couple of shots blocked and Bowen put one straight into the keeper’s arms: the son of a Gunn. A quarter of an hour in Norwich broke the offside trap and Wildshut found himself clear through, one on one with McGregor. The latter kept his composure better and saved with his feet. A couple of minutes later our keeper saved well low to his right. The resultant corner cleared everyone and drifted out of play harmlessly on the opposite flank.

The game was quite open at this stage with both sides creating chances. Meyler picked up a yellow for an innocuous challenge. Stroud was probably influenced by the theatrics from the Norwich player: not the first time this happened, and it wouldn’t be the last. The card reduced Meyler’s effectiveness and was to prove decisive in the 2nd half.

Just before the half hour mark we opened the scoring. Hector won the ball in midfield with a strong challenge and played it to Henricksen. The latter released Dicko with a defense splitting through ball that left him one on one with the keeper. The flag stayed down, correctly. Dicko calmly drew the keeper, kept his composure and swept the ball into the net for his maiden Hull City goal. The lead was just about deserved on the balance of play.

The rest of the half saw Norwich start to dominate. Wildshut was giving us plenty of trouble on our left flank: Clark didn’t get much support from Grozicki on that side. Deep into added time – mostly for a clash of heads that left Jerome groggy – Henricksen was wiped out by Wildshut. With Grozicki clear and heading for the penalty area Stroud decided not to play an obvious advantage so he could book the Norwich man. The was the latest in several strange decisions from a referee who obviously wants to be the center of attention rather than enabling a decent game of football.

We finished the half with ten men whilst Henricksen was off getting attention. He was fit to resume at the start of the second period, neither team making any changes at this point. Norwich seemed to have had the proverbial rocket during the break and started with more intent. We were pushed back for several minutes and there were inelegant scrambles around our box that didn’t yield any decisive chances. The pressure was finally broken by Bowen who ran forty or fifty yards unchallenged before the resultant shot was saved. We then enjoyed the ascendency for a few minutes before the turning point of the game.

Norwich broke at pace. Meyler tangled with an advancing canary and both went down. From my viewpoint it was a fifty-fifty at the worst and possibly a foul by the Norwich player trying to run through our Irish vice-captain rather than around him. Stroud saw it differently, handed Meyler a second yellow and dismissed the player that was holding our sometimes fragile midfield together. Larsson was booked as well for protesting to vehemently. There was still well over half an hour left, the majority of which I spent staring into the sun as Norwich were camped in our half. The rest of the game fell into a repeating pattern. Norwich pressed, we repelled with Hector and – in particular Dawson – throwing their bodies in the way of chances. There was the occasional break and we could have snatched a second goal on more than one occasion. Slutsky tried to shore things up. Dicko went down in the center circle and went off injured to be replaced by Stewart. Later Grozicki and then Larsson were withdrawn in favour of Diamonde and Tomori. Larsson had put in a good shift, Grozicki less so. This was best summarized by the sage next to me who commented that Turbo had “given up a bit early, as in, right from the start”.

Norwich continued to press, ably assisted by Keith Stroud who seemed determined to give Norwich every opportunity to score with more decisions that could charitably be described as iffy. A series of Norwich chances went begging and the game entered five (5) minutes of added time following a final foray forward by Bowen and Henricksen.

Just when it looked like our heroic defense would yield an unlikely win we conceded an equalizer. That this happened in the seventh (7th) minute of added time was galling. Stroud had presumably invoked the well known “we’ll play until they score” law. A long throw resulted was flicked on at the near post and Oliveira (a late Norwich sub) steered it home.

There was just enough time to kick before full time when the ten of Hull sank to the ground in disbelief.

We didn’t end that winless streak. But there was enough quality, and enough determination on show, to suggest it won’t be long before it does, perhaps next week at Oakwell.

Reading 1 Hull City 1

Reading 1 City 1

To the Madejski, dull and unimaginative, the most colourless of the stadiums newly built round the country these last twenty years. Outside they sit in the September sunshine on friendly wooden benches, laughing and joking, shoving down burgers on the concourse, gulping chemical lager, tasteless and bland as the out of town concrete landscape. Inside they blare out Sweet Caroline over the tannoy – Sweet Caroline, what in God’s name has that to do with the football? What has any of this to do with football? A day out for the kids, ice cream and chocolate biscuits, and fixed glassy grins whether the team wins, loses or draws.

Passion and emotion are strangers on the pitch too. This is a dull game, a game full of players of limited ability and contested by two teams frequently cancelling each other out. The only excitement of the afternoon features our stubborn attempt to hold on to a lead that would have delivered the relief of a first away win in the league for fully thirteen months. But Reading equalised late, as they (as a minimum) deserved to on the overall balance of possession.

Casting a humdrum shadow over a bright blue day in Berkshire:

McGregor

Aina Tomori Dawson Hector Kingsley

Bowen Meyler Irvine Larsson

Campbell

A 5-4-1, then, with a sturdy looking pairing in the centre of midfield, and Campbell preferred to Dicko for the thankless task of running around hopefully up front on his own. No place for Kamiel Grosicki, who’s not on the bench either, and rumoured explanations for his absence ranged from ‘tweaked a muscle playing subbuteo’, through ‘interviewing for a new agent’ to ‘poring over Mrs May’s Florence speech to see if it gives him an excuse to flee the country’. Meanwhile the hooped home side carded the indomitable Paul McShane, the reliable and well-liked Vito Mannone, and the resurgent Sone Aluko, plus another eight folk ranging from the gnarled (Chris Gunter, Gareth McCleary) to the tyro (Tyler Blackett and a diminutive midfielder name of Liam Kelly – sounds Irish, may be so, born in Basingstoke – whose demeanour and stature immediately put the drooling away fans in mind of the sublime Paul Wharton). Football time! And off we go!

Crikey this is poor fare.

The game is congested, with no space at all in the cramped midfield, and the quality is low low low.

It would be unfair to say nothing happened during the opening 27 minutes of the match, because a lot of passes were misplaced, a lot of touch was found, Stephen Kingsley wasted possession several times (on this evidence we’d be better off with Charles Kingsley) and quite a few people went to the toilet. What was not on show was any hint of footballing creativity. Until, all of a sudden, what’s this? It’s Seb Larsson playing a delicate and exquisitely beautiful through ball which splits their defence, allowing Fraizer Campbell, making an intelligent run, to hare into the created space. He doesn’t even need to break stride before sliding a confident shot past Mannone for the game’s first goal.

I’m going to confess here that, in the ground, with this moment of sorcery taking place at the far end of the pitch from the watching City support, I convinced myself it must be Jarrod Bowen who had delivered the killer pass, because I simply didn’t think Larsson capable of such joy and magnificence. But Larsson it was, and more of that skill and dash will have him firmly in our good books.

On 33, Reading advance, a slick move down our right, their left, opens us up calamitously, the ball is transferred inside and crossed to the back post, where Aluko must score.

But doesn’t. He shovels it wide of the post from close range, and turns away ruefully.

Thanks Sone. I’d like to think he did that specially for us. Except he did, when he played for us, from time to time do that sort of thing specially for us. Admirable player. No predator.

The first half has offered little, but we lead 1-0, and a dour Reading side look unlikely to hurt us. In fact the most alarming aspect of the play has been a profoundly erratic linesman, who appears to be attending his first ever football match. At one point he signalled that the ball had gone out of play (which it certainly had) and indicated that it was a Reading throw (it was ours, in fact), but, after a couple of seconds during which the ref failed to notice the raised flag, the lino simply lowered it and carried on scooting up his touchline. I’d’ve been quite cross had Reading scored after this moment of bizarre behaviour.

Second half.

And it begins with a fizz.

Aina, marauding with intent (he’s no Harry Maguire, but I like this lad carrying the ball forward a lot, and much more than I like his defensive positioning), draws a foul just outside the box, in the inside left position. Tempting. Larsson hovers over the ball, and so, peculiarly, does Stephen Kingsley (on this evidence we’d be better off with Ben Kingsley), but Larsson it is that takes it. Up and over the wall, and WHUMP the ball crashes off the angle of bar and post, and bounces back into play.

Do it again. A couple of minutes later Bowen surges forward thrillingly, plays in Campbell, who can’t get a shot away and is tackled, the ball spills to Meyler who is fouled on the edge of the box, this time in the inside right position. Larsson again. A scuffed low shot which takes a wicked deflection which, for a moment, seems likely to squirt it past Mannone’s left hand as he is moving to his right. But Mannone’s footwork is swift and agile and he adjusts to stop the ball just before it crosses the line.

Did we fear that our chances to seal the deal had come and gone? O yes, we did. We are, after all, Hull City supporters and we know despair like a pair of comfortable old shoes. It fits.

The game unfolds now with Reading in possession most of the time, yet unable to show any spark of creativity in midfield and incapable of creating space up front. The defensive shape fashioned by Mr Slutsky is strong and it is sturdy. Five across the back, four suffocating midfield. Dawson is commanding, Irvine committed, Meyler tireless. Come on, Reading, show us what you’ve got. Not much, it seems.

But you can’t help thinking we’re being too submissive. It only takes one error, and the win is squandered.

Campbell is replaced on solo patrol up front by Dicko, while Larsson gives way for Toral. Toral, again, offers nothing at all. Stephen Kingsley, meanwhile, is getting his head down and working hard and effectively, which is fortunate because I have run out of people with the surname Kingsley with which to berate him. The lithe and pacy Tomori produces a brilliant crossfield run on 84, culminating in a left foot shot that slips just beyond the far post. Deal not sealed, again. But the clock is ticking, as referee Michel Barnier notes, and we’re gonna hang on here, yes?

No.

As above, only takes one error. It’s Dicko’s, and it arrives on 87.

He receives the ball inside the Reading half. His job is clear. Hold possession. Wait for team mates to arrive in support. Pass to one of them. Retain possession in the Reading half, and squeeze the life out of their thinning hopes.

Dicko loiters and lingers, dawdles and dangles. Team-mates are arriving in faithful support, but he doesn’t feed them. He clumsily coughs up possession. Reading break, our defensive shape has been stretched, and all of a sudden the home side find a bit of space that has previously been ruthlessly denied them. Sub Bodvarsson races through the inside right channel and flays a low shot across McGregor and just inside the far post.

Bah.

Two more minutes are left and then an added three, but a stalemate descends. A melee in our box is the final moment of action, and the referee blows the whistle on a draw that had its quirky and lively moments but was largely forgettable. The clubs on show were, remember, in one case, in the Premier League last season and, in the other, just a penalty shoot-out away from reaching it. Neither looks likely to trouble the upper reaches of the Championship table this season.

Steve Weatherill

Hull City 1 Sunderland 1

If ever you want to know what makes a touchline different from a goal
line, or what materials football pitches have to be made of, then read
Law 1 of the rules of association football. It’s not racy, nor is it
unputdownable, and there are nopictures, but it’s handy. Especially if
you’ve just watched a game played on a field with no penalty spots.

No penalty spots. Can you imagine? Actually, you don’t need to. Back in
1977, Derby County were giving Manchester City something of a seeing-to
at the Baseball Ground when a bearded Archie Gemmill was fouled by Gary
Owen in the box. Penalty given, no penalty spot located. The usual April
deluges in the East Midlands had turned the pitch into a quagmire, and
as such the gluey mud had managed to scrub away any previous evidence of
a penalty spot.

A bloke with a tape measure, a bucket of whitewash and a brush walked on
to the pitch (in suit and brogues) and repainted the spot. Gerry Daly
then scored the penalty, 4-0. A very good win for a struggling side
against title challengers that season, and yet the game only has infamy
because there was no visible penalty spot.

City didn’t have the excuse of a sludgy pitch to account for the lack of
penalty spots for the visit of Sunderland. They also didn’t require any,
as no penalties were given in a decidedly average 1-1 draw between two
sides still licking their wounds and rediscovering themselves after
their mutual awfulness of the previous season.

But, you know, no penalty spots. Who’s responsible? Well, we could ask
why the referee, the underwhelming and diffident Darren England, didn’t
notice their absence during his warm-up or, indeed, any time during the
match.

Just to check this, we asked Keith Hackett.

“It’s the responsibility of the officials to check field markings.
Penalty mark is part of that. Amazing if no one noticed. Had they done
so they wouldn’t have allowed the game to proceed without the mark
(correct term in law). Potentially the referee could face a suspension
for failing to apply the laws.”

(We really did ask Keith Hackett).

So, the ref could be carpeted for this, but he’s not the painter, just
the foreman.

Now, far be it from me to suggest that the recent unjust sacking of some
loyal ground staff at the Circle is related to this, but I think it’s
possible that the recent unjust sacking of some loyal ground staff at
the Circle is related to this.

Either their replacements are incompetent, or they are supporting their
predecessors by not doing their own job properly. Like a protest. See if
anyone notices. And if they do, Ehab Allam can be blamed. Because like
it or not, be it incompetence or solidarity, even something as trifling
as the absence of penalty spots can be pinned on the hierarchy being
utterly unable to look after staff, recruit properly and generally act
with competence and care.

Law 1 includes the line “within each penalty area, a penalty mark is
made 11m (12 yards) from the midpoint between the goalposts.” City broke
the law.

Wonder if Ehab can sew mailbags?

Meanwhile, there was a match, and not a very good one, really. Law 3 is
about the players; maybe there’s a sub-head in there, covered in Tippex,
that says “no manager of Hull City is allowed to play Jackson Irvine or
David Meyler from the start of the game”. It could be the only reason
why neither were in the team. Markus Henriksen, devoid of confidence.
Sebastian Larsson, devoid of interest. A Scandinavian axis of ghastliness.

Sunderland, meanwhile, brought their usual noisy lot to fill up E1 while
we continued to pretend nigh on 17,000 were in attendance, with a
straight face. West Upper shut, west lower half empty, pockets of space
everywhere else. And no Jackson Irvine nor David Meyler. And no penalty
spots. We embarrass ourselves on a daily basis.

Booking their 5.15pm taxis to get to the ballet on time were…

McGregor
Tomori Dawson Hector
Aina Henriksen Larsson Bowen Kingsley
Dicko Grosicki

… ish. I’ve no idea, really. 3-5-2 at times, 3-4-3 at other times,
5-3-2 when we were defending, which was often. It was disorganised and
shambolic in the first half. Dicko was far too isolated up front and the
central midfield was in a very sorry state. Nobody really had much of an
idea what was going on.

Henriksen made just the one tangible contribution to the half, when a
smart move within the inside right channel allowed him to deliver a
venomous cross shot that Ruiter managed to parry away as Dicko closed
in. What further attacking there was seemed to happen spontaneously,
with few of the City players knowing where to go irrespective of whether
the ball was theirs or not.

Sunderland, with the acidic Lee Cattermole still in their midfield (it
genuinely shocked me when I saw the teams that Lee Cattermole is still a
thing), were quite tidy in the first half. They had passers, runners and
creators, they were putting the challenges in, they seemed quite well
drilled and positive. Any number of things could have gone wrong to make
them as despondent as City in these early weeks, but it could just be
that they are bruised and cautious following their travails last season.

And they scored early. Shocking goal from City’s point of view.
Possession coughed up, cross from the right, James Vaughan heading in.
Sunderland fans reacted like any self-respecting fans who’ve known
nothing but hardship for the last few years would; they hollered and
capered and gestured as if they knew they might never score again.

Vaughan, the dolt, kicked the corner flag clean out of the ground in the
south east corner in celebration; referee Mr England told him like a
naughty schoolboy to go and put it back again or, presumably, risk a
booking for sabotaging the pitch apparatus.

“You made the mess Vaughan, you can clear it up. And look at me when I’m
talking to you.”

Still, good of the official to notice on this occasion that the pitch
wasn’t fit for purpose.

City tried to get back into the game, but the planned use of Grosicki’s
talent on the left wing was constantly foiled by Sunderland’s ploy,
crafty as it was, to stick two men on Grosicki and boot him in the air a
lot. In the absence of any other method of attack, this became a
depressingly frequent occurrence, and Grosicki cut a thoroughly
exasperated figure by the time the whistle went at half time.

The interval began with boos and ended with cheers, thanks to the
introduction of the People’s David who has always, frankly, been a good
footballer, despite what that gruesome chant says. Meyler replaced
Henriksen, who is probably still refusing to come out of a toilet
cubicle at the Circle even now. Hector also went off as Slutsky
simplified the formation and brought on Toral. In between, someone in
each stand won a season’s worth of pies in the half-time draw. Classy
outfit, us.

We didn’t really showcase any class on the pitch in the second half, but
it did seem that boots had been forcibly applied to fundaments and City
were at least a good measure more urgent. Sunderland dropped, soaked up
the collective pressing and relied on the break to pursue a second and,
likely, clinching goal.

They nearly got it when McManaman hit a shot that McGregor did very well
to palm away, with Vaughan’s rebound well blocked by the buttocks of
Kingsley. Escape complete, although Meyler’s prompting and general
positivity was nearly ruined when he was robbed in his own half, only
for Tomori to get across and swipe the ball and accept the thankful
apology of the Irishman as he cleared the danger.

Sub number three was Fraizer Campbell, on with 20 to go for Dicko,
meaning three ex-Sunderland players were now on the pitch. Campbell
immediately did a bit of heel toe conjuring round the edge of the box
before lifting his left foot shot a tad too high, but his instant
willingness to go for a goal seemed to up everyone’s game, including the
City fans. From this moment on, it was all in the Sunderland half.

Often, when you go a goal down at home, you can tell quite quickly
afterwards whether a game is going to finish with that scoreline. This
felt like a 1-0 defeat from the moment the ball went in up to about the
80th minute here, then the hope – that dreaded, toxic, malign thing
called hope – took over. It felt possible.

Grosicki shot wide, Bowen headed one which the keeper palmed away
acrobatically. Chances. Not necessarily getting nearer to scoring, but
the ratio was growing. Sunderland looked panicky and tired. If they held
on it was as much to be despite themselves as anything.

Then, on 82, the leveller. And it was a combo of subs that did it.
Campbell played an inside ball to Meyler who stabbed it goalwards,
aiming at the near post. Did it get a flick off a Sunderland player?
Possibly. Not that any hoots were given. It was in. 1-1, eight to go.

And a player we really wanted to do well had, well, done well. Well done.

Meyler had another effort well saved and in injury time, both Meyler and
Dawson had chances blocked from corners. Though a winner couldn’t be
found, City were chasing it right to the last second and that bodes well
for future encounters. We acknowledged the plan hadn’t worked, we
restructured, we fought back, we didn’t lose.

Slutsky has had a raw deal but he seems to be the only one who doesn’t
see why Meyler should be in the starting XI. The team is inexperienced,
both in aggregate games played and with one another. By having Meyler
ahead of Dawson and McGregor, we have club stalwarts who can organise.
And Meyler looks like he’s playing properly, too. Unappreciated he may
have been for too long, but currently we are a better club for his
presence, and that’s not something we can say about everyone in the
employ of Hull City.

Reading (a) next, then consecutive home games against Preston and
Birmingham. Hopefully by then we will have Jackson Irvine and David
Meyler in partnership in the middle of the team, and penalty spots in
chiffon white near the middle of each 18 yard box.

Matthew Rudd

Aston Villa 1 Hull City 1

Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa 1 Hull City 1

Let us go back in time, thirty-five years ago. A young boy takes a walk across the rolling slopes of the Ural Mountains, lost in thought, deep in his dreams. He is sports-mad, and it is football that most of all grabs his youthful enthusiasm, but not for him the stars of the very fine Soviet Union side of the time. Shengelia, Blokhin, Bal, Dasaev – superb footballers, but the young Leonid Slutsky – for it is he – turns his eyes fondly to the west. As the ancient folk tales of his village tell, there is no higher land between the Urals and the lofty fortresses of the Yorkshire Wolds. ‘How I wish’, thinks the hopeful lad, sniffing the bracing breeze that has crossed the plains of Northern Europe, ‘how I wish I could one day see the trees spilling down over Welton Dale, feed the ducks on the pond at Bishop Burton, and, joy of joys, watch Comrade Nick Deacy play football’.

Dreams. Sometimes they become reality. And so it is today, as Leonid Slutsky has landed the job he has craved for so long. The manager of Hull City.

Sure, back in the days when he was tramping the steppes with his faithful dog Spassky, I don’t suppose Mr Slutsky imagined he’d end up in in the employ of the ghastly Allams, but I also don’t suppose in the troubled days leading up to this opening fixture of a season wracked, for the second year in a row, by atrocious off-field negligent summertime planning by our owners, he imagined he’d able to field a side that showed such a high level of defiance, commitment and ability.

We got a point at Villa Park, and, while it might not have been expected, it was certainly well earned. Early days, but even if we are a traincrash of a club off the pitch, there are hints of a decent team waiting to emerge on it.

This, then, was an unexpectedly enjoyable game of football.

Off we go, on a breezy but sunny late afternoon, the pitch slick from a heavy lunchtime rainstorm, and we card an orthodox 4-4-2:

Campbell Hernandez

Grosicki Clucas Henriksen Bowen

Clark Hector Dawson Aina

McGregor

First thoughts on seeing that set-up were that the midfield looks lightweight – and the midfield did indeed look lightweight – and that young Max Clark at left back is going to need help from Grosicki to repel Villa’s preference to attack down the flanks. And indeed he did need that help. But rarely got it.

Henri ‘Fop’ Lansbury breaks clear on to a through ball within the first two minutes, but his shot slithers across the face of McGregor’s goal and beyond the far post. On 5 Agbonlahor, serial lazybones and squandered talent, sprints clear of Aina down their left, shredding a fragile offside trap, but McGregor smothers his shot. No such respite a minute later, as Grosicki dithers, leaving young Clark exposed to a 2 on 1 attack down their right. The ball is shovelled across the face of our goal, and Agbonlahor, wholly unmarked at the back post, is left free to swipe the ball into the net.

This could get messy. Aina, pulled inside and consequently completely AWOL from the right-back position when the goal was scored, is obviously having trouble adjusting to the intensity of first team football, Clucas is allowed little time on the ball in midfield and gets minimal help from Henriksen, another who is presumably feeling his way tentatively back into competitive action, while Michael Hector, an impressive physical specimen, looks far too easily pulled out of position by Villa’s pace and movement. Hector is also damaged early on by a horrible illegal tackle by Henri Lansbury. Yellow for the Villa midfielder, and a great big old sore Hector.

After twenty minutes or so we finally begin to get to grips with a game that could already be beyond us. Referee Andy Madley aims to keep the game flowing, which leads to a wild spell with several bodies sprawled over the pitch after heavy challenges, culminating in a Grosicki shot that is held by netman Sam Johnstone. We are second best in midfield but showing signs of life, though on 26 Michael Dawson is indebted to Alan McGregor’s feet for blocking a chance created by Dawson’s own clumsy surrender of possession.

Villa’s most impressive player is, no surprise, one Ahmed Elmohamady. Playing in his favoured right midfield role with Alan Hutton backing him up at full back, Elmo is able to dart forward at will without worrying about the defensive side of his game which is so notoriously frail, and he makes life tough for Max Clark throughout. As mentioned, Grosicki is way off the pace through the first half and looks barely interested: a vision of Nikica Jelavić after relegation last time, keener to get on the ‘phone to his agent than to put in a shift for Hull City. Meanwhile, Villa’s central defence consists of a Saint and Satan. James Chester, halo worn nonchalantly, is paired with the genuinely evil John Terry. Neither is at all stretched during the opening 45 minutes of the season as the ball rarely comes anywhere near our forward pairing of Hernandez, anonymous, and Campbell, mobile but hoping in vain for service.

But we finish the half with flickers of hope. On 42 Hernandez swivels, whips a smart shot wide of Johnstone’s right hand post. On 43 a fast break yields us our best moment of the half, as Grosicki feeds Campbell whose shot is saved, and the ball rebounds to the Pole whose shot is also saved. That drags us through to half time, indisputably second best but only a goal adrift.

There are plenty of gaps among the travelling support. Better things to do than slog down the holiday motorways, sneered at by television’s capricious kick-off whims? One can well understand the sense of alienation from our club, and from the ravenous beast that is modern football in general. And there are no tourists scattered among our support. We are not Premier League anymore.

Into the second period, and we begin with refreshing vigour. Sights on goal are however few, though a speculative 30-yarder from Hernandez flies closer to the target than Johnstone was initially expecting. On 61 there arrives reward for a brisk fifteen minutes from our boys, and a strangely indolent spell since the break by the home side. Campbell drives forward with pace and menace, a short spell of broken play in front of the Villa box, Grosicki is fed the ball down the right, and his gently lofted cross sweeps across the face of the goal to Bowen at the back post who cudgels a nonchalant left-foot volley into the net. The ease with which Bowen converts the chance shouldn’t disguise how well he did. He is, on this evidence, what Ruud Gullit would call ‘a good technical player’.

That is a deserved leveller, and we persist in pleasingly positive vein. Grosicki, now playing directly in front of the City fans and visibly concerned to impress us with his rediscovered commitment, is looking for the ball and making things happen. Villa look short of leadership from midfield, and at the back Terry is exposed as hopelessly slow, even if he also has a quick awareness of positioning that will allow him to get away with lack of pace most weeks even against much fleeter of foot Championship attackers. Useful for finding those elusive disabled parking spaces too.

The subs bench is raided by both managers as we move into the final twenty minutes of the match. For us David Meyler replaces Campbell, who has put in a decent shift and is, I suppose, not yet fully match ready. It is a switch that suggest a certain lack of ambition, and so it proves. We are not now pushing to win this game, Mr Slutsky is happy with a point. Villa aren’t, but they are not willing to take big risks in search of the win either. McGregor makes a complete mess of a free kick on 79, clutching at air as the ball soars beyond him, but we survive, and we settle down to a spell of sustained Villa possession to complete the match. Onomah, the Aston sub, can’t stretch to convert a presentable chance on 86 but, that apart, they create little, and the poverty of their attacking imagination is emphasised by the torrent of noise pouring down from the Holte End which they are attacking. There is no torrent. There is no noise.

Villa’s empty cupboard of attackers prompts Mr Bruce to bring on dear old Chris Bamba right at the end, forty seven years old and the same number of stones in weight. The wily Slutsky, having already swapped Weir for Grosicki, reacts to the arrival up front of the vast but ponderous Bamba by withdrawing Henriksen in favour of the sturdy Mazuch, and that is quite enough to get us safely over the line. A point, a precious point! Only the fourth we’ve gathered away from home since the end of last August, remember.

At the end the players offer warm applause, and receive it in return. That performance and that result are about as good as we could reasonably have expected, after yet another summer of gross mismanagement at our club. Campbell, all smiles through most of the match, hands his shirt to a kid, and finally Mr Slutsky himself, boyhood ambition fulfilled, walks over, wreathed in smiles, to take the plaudits.

There are tougher tests to come … No, hang on, there aren’t really, at least not if the bookies are to be believed. That is one of the hardest fixtures we’ll face all season out of the way already, and safely negotiated. The real tough test is prising the money out of the Allams to acquire the players we need to create a squad that can be viable in this brutal slog of a Division. We will see, but yesterday was a far more encouraging display that anyone can seriously have foreseen.

steve weatherill

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?

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

Hull City 1 Torquay United 1

Parity snatched from the jaws of victory.  Keith Dean describes another decent display that ultimately ended in disappointment.
When will we ever learn. I know it wasn’t particularly important last night but it’s still incredibly infuriating. How many times have we seen our team pass over a golden opportunity to finish off a game from a position of dominance and then defend far too deeply and nervously in the final period before succumbing to the inevitable last minute, or in this case injury time, goal ? It’s been a much-told tale over the years and last night was just yet another addition to the list. Add to that another unfathomable and erratic performance from the match official, and you’ll realise that, on reflection, it was one of those evenings when it would have been a far better idea to stay in with a good book. The first refereeing blunder was a failure to book all 10 outfield visitors for taking to the field in an horrendous mix of black and white striped shirts with pissy yellow shorts. Equally as shocking was the realisation that, for the first time this season, your match reporter was able to say that we put out an unchanged team. No injuries, no suspensions (yet) and no managerial tinkering.And, thank goodness, no repeat of Sat’day’s comically disasterous start for it is safe to add that it was a rather cautious and unproductive opening. When some semblance of shape finally showed its face, it was the Tigers who shone that bit brighter. Elliott began to look a little menacing, cutting in from his touchline and running straight at the heart of their defence. And, on the opposite flank, Reeves and Ostethingummy were linking well with the ever-willing Forrester. We’d had a few pops at goal from outside the box, all blocked and cleared, before the first real opening was created at the other end. A free-kick was hit in with pace from the left and a flick header from the edge of the area took it goalwards but it proved to be only a marginal concern for a well-positioned Fetts.That was a rare foray forward for the Torqs as we continued to dominate possession and looked for a way past their solid midfield and back four. The clearest chance we had before half-time stemmed from a similar dead-ball position. Appleby whipped it onto Walters’ head. His effort was low and well angled forcing a full-length diving save. The ball squirmed free and, whilst it was an amber shirt that dashed forward on to the loose ball, it unfortunately was that of Anderson who managed only to place his shot straight back into the prostrate keeper’s midriff. We finished the half with a Reeves free-kick getting up and over the wall and sailing a foot or so wide of the right-hand post and then a low, vicious cross from the right flank was met by the shins of a back-tracking defender on the 6 yard line. It wouldn’t have been a surprise to see the ball fly into any of the four corners of the goal, or even through the goalie’s legs, but sadly it flashed wide of the post and away for a corner. Not a particularly memorable first half then. Much as it has been against Oxford in fact. The majority of the chances had fallen to the home team but, as a spectacle, it had been dulled by irritatingly pernickity refereeing and an away side that was clearly out to defend and frustrate. The second half though, well, it was certainly not dull. There was a shed load of chances at both ends after the game had been opened up with an early City goal. Our first chance came from a looping Delaney cross to the near post that Reeves, running in all the way from the opposite flank, got his spikey head to but he couldn’t put his effort on target. Breaking out from a defensive position, we deservedly took the lead. A quick push left us with Elliott free, overlapping on the left. Appleby tried to put him clear but his pass was halted by a full-stretch despairing slide. The ball fell invitingly at the feet of Keates who continued the move with a simple but inch-perfect pass into the area for Elliott to run onto. He advanced a yard or so before finishing low and hard past the keeper’s left hand. And from then on we were treated to another 30-odd minutes of similar cut and thrust football with both sides looking dangerous on the break. We had the better chances initially whilst the Torqs got at us more but without testing Fettis too severely. Walters saw a well hit drive fly just over before we were forced back and had to resist a bit of pressure. Our young Liverpool loanee lad got himself into a bit of a tangle with two opportunities to clear a left wing corner from his position on the far post. The loose ball fell to a visitor but his cross-shot was off target and had no colleague following up in support. They then had another quality free-kick that was met with a good header from within the D but it was smartly caught by Fettis under his crossbar. From this spell of defensive activity, we broke away and earned that perfect opportunity for a two goal cushion. Justin wellied a clearance forward that was partially blocked on halfway and fell to Elliott in loads of space on the left. He went on and on, with the defence backing off, until he reached the edge of the area at which point he knocked it between two of them and ran through on goal. There was some contact, not a great deal I grant you, but enough for his tumble to look merited and enough for the ref to point to the spot. Forrester stepped up and hit a poor shot that was far too close to the keeper, and at a comfortable height, and was routinely parried away. The despair was eased somewhat in that we continued to push forward and create the clearer chances. We hit a lot of quick, but accurate, long balls out of defence to Forrester and Walters and they both had shots fizz narrowly off target. Melton, who was on for Appleby, made his first telling contribution with a good block tackle midway in his own half. He played it out to Elliott who hit a peach of a diagonal ball over the full-back into Walters’ path. Again, he failed to hit the target. Forrester repeated the trick moments later and then the moment that was to prove equally as crucial as the penalty miss. A great low cross from our right wing flew across goal, only five or six yards out. A defender moved in to effect a clearance but could not decide quite how best to deal with it. In the end he ran into its path and stomached the ball against the post with his keeper completely flat-footed. Forrester and Reeves both had a chance to make something of the rebound before the custodian finally leapt at their feet to claim the ball. From there the tide turned and we had to endure a final ten minutes of spurned chances in front of our goal. A corner was not cleared properly and the resulting cross, from the right, sailed over the heads of all the City defence to an in-running Torq. His mishit shot flew down into the turf before looping up and over Fettis and against the bar. Then they opened us up on the left. The cross was controlled on the edge of the box, centrally, and laid off to another supporting midfielder who really should have hit the target but blazed his shot inches  wide. Then, with a City played down injured in midfield and the visitors not sure whether to play on or push on, a long range drive was deflected straight to the feet of one of theirs just ten or so yards out. His first-time effort looked destined for the net but Fetts had raced out and flung out a hand to make a tremendous instinctive save that looked like being enough to preserve the three points. Oh no. That ain’t how it works. We were into added on time (Jevons had replaced Forrester) when a Torq found himself with too much space to the right of goal. He flashed in a brutal shot that Fettis did well to get his body behind but the parry went almost directly upwards and it was one of theirs who won the header and, even though our keeper had scampered across and was able to get a hand to it, he couldn’t prevent it creeping over the line off the inside of the post. Bugger. I’d heard a snippet of an interview with Mr Taylor on Humberside before kick-off in which he suggested that six points from two home games this week would leave him still thinking our season may yet go beyond that last ever trip to the Vetch. Anything else, he admitted, would mean that the season was over. So what will he do with the remaining matches ? Give some of the young ‘uns and those recovering from injuries a chance to prove themselves ? He’s spent all his time in charge so far confounding us by avoiding a settled team so maybe he’ll continue to mistify us by adopting that tactic now that it doesn’t really matter any more. Suspensions will enforce some changes in the coming weeks and I can agree, to a point, about not playing the loanees who won’t be here next season. Who knows. And quite frankly, for now at least, who cares? Roll on the summer.
HULL CITY: Fettis, Otsemobor, Whittle, Anderson, Delaney, Reeves, Appleby, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Forrester.  Subs: Melton (for Appleby, 62), Jevons (for Forrester, 89), Smith, Regan, Musselwhite.Goals: Elliott 54Booked: Reeves Sent Off: None   TORQUAY UNITED: Van Heusden, Hazell, Woozley, Taylor, Canoville, Russell, Hockley, Fowler, Clist, Gritton, Kuffour.  Subs: Graham (for Kuffour, 34), Woods (for Hockley, 63), Hill (for Gritton, 83), Dearden, Benefield. Goals: Hill 90 Booked: Fowler, Graham, Hazell Sent Off: None   ATTENDANCE: 13,310