Fulham 2 Hull City 1

Fulham in the Autumn. It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as Paris in the Spring, but it’s as pleasurable an away football experience as you’re likely to get on the face of it. Except Hull City don’t do pleasurable away experiences any more. I’m not that sure we still do pleasure full stop.

So, after a lovely few beers in a lovely pub and a lovely walk through some lovely parkland towards the lovely cottage next to one of the loveliest stands in football (the best-preserved Archibald Leitch building that remains) we braced ourselves for some un-loveliness. And it started with the team announcement. The 5-0 spanking by Derby had seen Slutsky opt for a formation change. 3-4-3 it goes, and looks a bit like this:

McGregor
Tomori, Dawson, Hector
Aina, Meyler, Larsson, Kingsley
Bowen, Dicko, Grosicki

Frankly, after Friday night I’d have sent Larsson to the Far Side of the training ground and forgotten about him (those of you who spent far too long in Athena in the early 1990s will hopefully get that horrendously crown-barred-in reference). It was good to see Meyler restored to starting duties however. Campbell was back on the bench, alongside Toral and mystery man Jackson Irvine.

We started on the back foot, seemingly hoping that the trickery of Grosicki and Bowen would conjure up something. That isn’t a bad tactic in some respects. Grosicki is better than this level when it comes to skill levels. And Jarrod Bowen is the best thing about the club right now. But we look a bit toothless and formless to be honest. On three minutes, a goal-bound Fulham shot is blocked by Kevin Hector. Ahh, great stuff Big Heck. With defending like that we’ll never concede.

We don’t really do much for the first 10 save for the odd bit of Bowen trickery, aided by Aina – who is terrific going forward – creating more space for our top goalscorer.

Then on 12, Big Heck takes the ball out of defence and absolutely leathers a pass in the vague direction of Kingsley. I mean, he REALLY leathered it. It went nowhere near our left-back and straight out into touch. I’ve no idea what he was thinking. I mean, he REALLY, REALLY leathered it. Sorry, it was unimportant, but Hector is an odd footballer to watch. There’s some brilliant stuff, some horrendous defending, and then just weird stuff like that. He confuses me. And not in a good way.

On with the game. On 15, the tricky Ayité gets a shot in that Meyler does very well to block out for a corner. The corner falls back to Ayité who produces an outstanding save from McGregor. McGregor was outstanding last night. This was the first of four or so magnificent saves.

On 17 Dicko has our first shot of note parried away. Given the lack of imagination largely shown by footballers, I can’t imagine what Dicko’s nickname is, as his surname is already a nickname. Do they go with just ‘Dicko’? Or ‘Dicko-y’? Our even ‘Dicko-o’? Either way, this conundrum posed me more problems than Dicko posed for the Fulham defence all night.

On 26 minutes, I’ve simply written “Larsson is a useless nobhead”. I haven’t elaborated on this sentence any further, and I can’t recollect what drove me to write this out, but on the evidence we have so far, I don’t think that it can be argued with.

Nothing happens for the next 15 minutes so I’ll freestyle:

Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out! Allam out!

Not so much freestyling really, was it? But I’m sure it’s a sentiment we can all get behind.

On 40 minutes we concede. Ojo breaks down their right, Oh Heck can’t really deal with it and a low cross sees Ayité blast home with ease. There were defenders sort of near him but they weren’t near enough. And even though a Cairney-less Fulham haven’t really got out of second gear, they still sort of deserved the lead.

The half fizzled out. We didn’t do much, save for when the ball went near Bowen. It wasn’t Derby bad, but we’d been a long, long way from good.

In the second half, nothing was changed by Slutsky and little seemed to have changed on the pitch. On 49, Ryan Sessegnon – the subject of numerous bids of the equivalent of the GDPs of several small Caribbean nations combined over the summer – somehow contrived to miss with a header from about eight yards out. Sessegnon looked terrific all night, but you can see why he’s a full-back and not a centre-forward.

For us, Bowen and Aina continue to combine pleasingly down the right, and happily it’s the former who draws parity on 53 minutes. Grosicki flights in a lovely ball over their defence on to a perfectly timed run by young Jarrod. His header is well saved by Button, but Bowen reacts brilliantly to nod home a header from the rebound. I know I’ve already mentioned it but Bowen is such a joy to watch. I look forward to his contract being allowed to run down and then him be sold for bugger all.

On 54 it nearly gets better. Aina makes a terrific run into the box and shoots to the keeper’s right. Sadly Button makes a good save and we can’t get anything on the scramble that ensues. On 56 Grosicki gets a shot in. It’s all us, IT’S ALL US!

Oh bugger, they’ve scored.

Out of nowhere they attack down our left. On the evidence of last night, Hector and Kingsley are to defending what Little and Large were to, well, comedy. They just don’t do it. A cross comes in from the left, Ayité tries and fails to get an overhead kick in, but then the balls falls to the impressive Johansen who volleys an unstoppable shot into the top left-hand corner. Rats.

Not to worry, Slutsky is bringing on Jon Toral for Larsso… what? Wait! That’s not Larsson. No, it’s Meyler. What’s happening? Ahhh… the fourth official has put the wrong number up. Soon this mistake will be rectified and we can all have a good laugh about it. You can stop walking off the pitch now David. Go and tell Seb that he’s being taken off now. No David, stop! STOP! Please, for the love of god stop walking off the pitch! SSSSSSTTTTOOOPPPPPPP!!!!

We took Meyler off. I’m not sure of the wisdom of this decision.

We concede a free-kick that is hit just wide. On 72 we take Dicko off. I’m not sure he was ever really ‘on’. He’s not a lone striker, that’s for sure. Campbell comes on and immediately offers more of a presence up front. Though before he’s had chance to do anything McGregor pulls off a terrific save from point blank. He repeats the trick on 80 when he saves well at the feet of a Fulham attacker. We’re still a bit tepid. We don’t look like a team chasing the game.

On 81, Diomande comes on for Kingsley and we go back to a flat back four. Kingsley can have no complaints. He isn’t helped by having Grosicki in front of him, whose attitude to hard work leaves something to be desired, but it was a poor night for our new left-back. He doesn’t look much like an upgrade on Clark on current evidence. This also meant that Larsson got a full game. How, I don’t know.

Obviously Diomande didn’t do much, but on 85 Grosicki releases Campbell with a terrific pass which sees our returning hero shoot straight at Button. It is perhaps fitting that the closest we came to scoring was when a Sessegnon header went just over the Fulham bar in Manucho time. Owns goals seem to be our most likely way of scoring given our paucity of centre-forward options. Anyway, Mollo hits the bar for Fulham, the ref blows and we head back into the loveliness.

We didn’t deserve to win. The new formation was only really a success in it allowed Aina to do what he appears to love doing the most – getting forward – but other than that it was hard to see what we gained from it. We need to give it time, perhaps. Hector and Kingsley look a worry defensively. But then so did the likes of Delaney, Turner and Ricketts at this stage of their Hull City careers. I’m really not sure how, of our late signings, Jon Toral, Larsson and Dicko are considered ‘Championship ready’ whereas the exciting Irvine isn’t. The substitutions were baffling and as much as I love Slutsky’s interviews and the like, and I sympathise with him over the positions he’s found himself, such decisions don’t really help his cause. But let’s finish on a high. In Jarrod Bowen we’ve got a player who loves playing football, and loves playing for Hull City. He offers a reminder than supporting the club can be enjoyable too. And if we can win against a broken Sunderland, everything will seem less bleak again. If….

Richard Gardham

QPR 2 Hull City 1

If you are prone to bouts of depression then I advise not reading this report. Instead, here are some images of kittens to while away the time. If you are into self-flagellation then you might want to know more.

Walking back to Shepherds Bush station, weaving through the blue and white hooped hordes and dodging the many deposits left by nervous police horses I reflected on the match. Had I seen more crap on the road (the horse dung, not the QPR supporters) or on the pitch? Probably the latter.

This is my first taste of the 2017/18 vintage Hull City. I don’t think it’s going to be one that goes down in history.

Lining up on a warm summer afternoon and not doing the business for The Tigers were:

McGregor

Aina

Dawson

Hector

Clark

Grosicki

Larsson

Meyler

Stewart

Bowen

Campbell

The first – and very observation – is that Clucas wasn’t on the pitch and nor was he on the bench. A fairly obvious giveaway that we have seen the last of him in black and amber. Wherever he ends up, well done young man. His development over the last couple of years has been great to watch and one in the eye for the naysayers who liked to call him “Clueless”.

We kick-off with the sun behind the team, and the City supporters who have made the trip. It’s almost ten seconds before the first anti-Allam chants are raised. It’s an even game. QPR are poor and can hardly string a couple of passes together, but we are competing with them to see who can be worse. Nine minutes into his first start, Kevin Stewart went down with an injury following a routine clearance. It looks like it could be a recurrence of the ankle problems that suffered last season which is worrying. He was replaced by Diomande, the latter going up front with Campbell playing a deeper role.

We are well into the half before the first chances arrive. We have had marginally better of the early exchanges but about twenty minutes in the home team – and their supporters – wake up. The chances go begging and neither goalkeeper has been troubled at this stage. A promising break is lead by Grosicki but the end result encapsulates his career to date, promise followed by poor execution. The first call to action for either keeper results from a Campbell shot after he manages to wiggle free.

After half an hour a trip right on the edge of our area gives the Rs free kick in a dangerous position. An elaborate manouveur with several players running in random directions seems to confuse the home team more than it does us. The first attempt is aborted as a couple of City players have encroached, the second results in a daisy cutter that is easily repelled by the wall. We are still under pressure however and smart defending from Hector and Dawson is needed more than once to keep them at bay.

And then we score. A free kick on the left is played across to the right. It looks like we have messed around too much and the opportunity will dissipate but finally Meyler gets his cross over. It evades the players in the middle and reaches Bowen. He fends off a defender and slots in a low shot. Bowen was one of the few to rise above the morass of mediocrity in the game. The goal actually manages to stop the “Allam Out” medley for a few minutes.

There are still ten minutes left in the half but that’s about it until the break. 1-0 up just about reflects the play but it has mostly been meagre fare on offer.

Slutsky makes a change at half time with Mazuch replacing Campbell. We learn later that the latter had taken a slight knock but it’s a negative move and reduces our attacking threat. It’s also a reflection of the inexperience on the bench: of the seven selected, only Diomande had played more than three games for City. There is almost a complete lack of action in the first quarter of an hour. There are players out there, there is effort, there is no quality and no end product. On the hour mark we win a corner after an incursion by Aina up the right flank but the resulting header from Mazuch is straight at Smithies in the Rangers’ goal.

Diamonde does produce a bit of quality with take down and turn but then negates the good work when the attempted through pass is too heavy and straight to the keeper. By this time Holloway has brought on Matt Smith for the ineffective Lua Lua (it could have been anyone, they were all just as ineffective). This does regenerate the home team. Smith’s physicality is the sonic screwdriver that unlocks the home defence. First he heads straight at McGregor and then just wide but it looks like an equalizer is on the cards for the home team. The traffic is now mostly one way, but there is a respite when first Diomande and then Bowen are brought down. It looks like an opportunity for dead ball specialist Larsson but Grosicki lashes it high, wide and not handsome.

And then the inevitable equalizer arrives. A corner is partially cleared, Freeman returns the ball into the box and the inevitable Matt Smith nods in a close range header with no discernible challenge from a City defender. It’s almost immediately doubled as Sylla (another substitute) hits the post and the resulting rebound off the diving McGregor squirms to safety. QPR are definitely on the ascendency and looking more likely. McGregor is booked for time wasting which sums up our lack of ambition at this point. Therefore it’s something of a surprise when almost snatch a winner. Grosicki threads a through ball that Larsson latches on to. His shot lacks power however and Smithies is able to stick out a foot and direct it away.

The 4th official has just announced seven minutes of added time (there were a couple of injuries to add on to McGregor’s shenanigans) when QPR get what proved to be the winner. I’ll need to see this again to comprehend the comedy defending that lead to Sylla being free to tap in from a couple of feet out from goal. It hard to say who exactly was culpable at that distance so I’ll blame all of the defence. Sylla gets a yellow for excessive celebration (i.e., ripping his shirt off to reveal a very fetching sports bra).

There is still time for an equalizer and we nearly get one. In final flurry, first Hector and then Mazuch have attempts cleared off the line and a couple of of other efforts were sent wide. Finally, after 90+ minutes there is some effort and intent but it’s way too late to make a difference. If only we had shown such intent earlier in the game. QPR were a poor team, there for the taking. It just so happens we were poorer.

As I write this, I see in the morning papers that Clucas’s departure has been confirmed. With the other transfers and injuries we have a threadbare squad. Reinforcements are definitely required if we are not to emulate Wolves and pass straight through this league on our downward spiral.