Match Report Coming Soon.
Another top of the table side – Sheffield United – receive a decent going over by the Tigers before easing to a victory as the City challenge fades. In this case, the Blades allied fortune to good play in order to eke out a result.
This game had peculiarly loud echoes of the one at Leeds four days ago. We played some very decent football in the first half, reached stoppage time level (albeit at 1-1 last night, not 0-0) but conceded a very late goal and then, confronted by another goal which doubled our opponent’s advantage soon after the break, largely ran out of steam (and self-belief) second half.
Deja vu all over again.
The creepy feeling of having been here before was not confined to the short-term perspective of comparing last night with Elland Road on New Year’s Eve. There were much longer-term demons that came rattling back to make us suffer last night. Younger fans will, I hope, have looked forward to the first renewal in many years of a fixture which was by far our most regular local match in the mad bad 70s and 80s, and which frequently brought wild scenes around Hull Station, on Anlaby Road and the Ark’s car park, as well as round the back of Bramall Lane’s John Street stand, a seriously intimidating corridor which separated the away end from Sheffield Midland station. Skirmishing of that type and on that scale is no longer part of football, but it was heartening to see a Proper Travelling Support populating the Circle’s North Stand last night, and a suitably ferocious atmosphere was the result, at least for the first hour or so. But what was also a hallmark of those past games was rank injustice. Time and again we would be cheated by the Blades, by referees or by ill-luck that so consistently helped out our opponents that it could be explained only by a red-and-white pact with Satan (a coincidence that the demonic Neil Warnock is now their manager? I think not). So it was last night. Again. They equalised courtesy of a ludicrous deflection, of a type so absurd that you could watch football week in, week out for a decade and never again see its like – unless your itinerary included visits to Sheffield United v Hull City games. And they scored the decisive goal of the match in added time at the end of the first half as a result of a moment of criminally negligent refereeing. A blatant shove in the back on Price was ignored, the space where the fouled Price should have been was exploited and the ball was in our net. Our players protested long and loud, Mr Taylor joined in, the crowd hooted in disbelief and fury. Sheffield smirked. They know their history.
On duty on an evening modestly warmer than the sub-zero conditions that greeted Ipswich were:
France Cort Collins Dawson
Price Andrews Delaney Elliott
No Lynch, no surprise, but otherwise an orthodox 4-4-2, with Elliott and Barmby swapping positions regularly during the early exchanges. These were lively and largely well-balanced, until the first chance arrived on 13 – messy Tiger defence encouraged a sharp shot from ten yards, brilliantly parried by Boaz.
After that, however, we began to look the better side. On 18 Price sends a long cross sailing in from right to left, and Barmby, running alertly to the back post, is squeezed out at the expense of a corner. A couple of minutes later Barmby, displaying bristling aggression as we attack the goal in front of the rancid Blade hordes, chips cleverly up and over Kenny, who twists in retreat to fingertip the ball over the crossbar. From the corner Elliott makes poor contact with an inviting cross.
And then we score.
It’s not any old goal. If you weren’t there, make a point of seeking it out on television. If you were there, you don’t need me to tell you to go look at it again – and again.
Jason Price. He smacked it in from 25 yards. With his left boot. Making the ball curve and dip like Rivelino. Rippling the netting as the hapless Kenny flew through the air in beaten despair, his mouth agape at the audacity and genius of the strike.
He’s had a good holiday period, has Jason Price, and this was simply glorious.
A couple of minutes later a free-kick on the edge of the box allows Dawson to test Kenny, who tips the effort over the bar. But soon after, the scores are level, and in desperately unfortunate – though historically unsurprising – circumstances.
It’s a waft of a shot, it’s not going anywhere dangerous. It hits Dawson – in fact, it seems to hit him not once but twice – and spins up in the air, wobbling crazily. Boaz is hopelessly and, of course, entirely excusably wrong-footed. The ball, cavorting drunkenly as if on its way home from a torrid New Year party, could feasibly career out for a throw, behind for a goal-kick, back up the pitch into midfield … but no, it spins wickedly inside the post and into our net.
1-1, which is less than we deserve, but shortly afterwards, on 35, we are agonisingly close to regaining the lead. A free-kick into the box, a flick-on, and Cort smashes a right-foot volley towards the near corner of Kenny’s goal. It looks in. It’s saved. Brilliantly saved. Sheffield have a pair of porkers on the pitch in Shipperley and Unsworth, and keeper Paddy Kenny is no waif either, yet he belies his unathletic figure with a wonderfully agile stoop to his left to push Cort’s fierce shot on to the post and back out into play, where the ball is cleared.
A great chance, but great defiance by Kenny. But he should have been picking the ball out of the net five minutes later. Price surges through two tackles, Elliott crosses low and hard into the box and Paynter, judging his run down the middle to perfection, escapes the defence and has only to slide the inviting opportunity into the net. He runs over the ball and somehow contrives to let it bobble loose behind him.
And then, during stoppage time at the end of the half, the game is won.
This second goal was so disgraceful that I am doing my health no good at all forcing myself to relive its pain. Ghastly. I mean, it couldn’t have been more obvious. Price had the ball inside their half, their man came in sneakily from behind, barged him in the small of the back, sending him crashing to the turf … and the referee, though well positioned, simply waved play on. Webber picked up the ball in the inside left channel and he was in space – well, of course he was in space, the relevant opponent, Jason Price, had just been taken out of the game unlawfully. Webber sprinted clear, ducked inside and fired an unstoppable low shot past Boaz’s left glove, and a fine finish it was, but most strikers in this Division will score at will if their support players are allowed to clear away potential tackles and create space by fouling the opposition.
Sheffield Bloody United.
Into the second half. We’d played well. But I’m afraid I didn’t think we’d have the energy to get back into this game now. And I think the players felt the same way.
On 47 Shipperley skipped past Collins with alarming ease and crossed to the back post, where Boaz produced a fine block to a well-struck shot. A corner, a melee, a shot hard against our crossbar. And then on 53 we’re opened up down the right, quick passing, across the box, low shot, 3-1.
And that’s the end of that.
Curtis and Green replaced Andrews and Elliott on 62, with Price and Paynter taking on the front-running duties until Price himself came off in favour of Ellison on 72. But Sheffield United looked capable of adding a fourth through most of the middle stages of the second period. Webber danced round a sluggish Collins with impudent ease before scuffing a shot comically feebly at Myhill; a header from a corner flew narrowly too high. Dispiriting stuff. But later on we showed more dogged determination than we had in drooping at Leeds, and had slightly the better of the last ten or twelve minutes, though the only moment of goalmouth excitement involved a Cort header at the back post, firmly directed into the sidenetting. I think our opponents were easing down long before the finish.
Jammy equaliser. Disgraceful refereeing handing them a winner. Hull City versus Sheffield United. The sheeted dead rise up and gibber anew.
Onwards. For reasons of local pride as well as salvation in this Division, it would have been precious to have extracted points from these games at Leeds and home to Sheffield United, but the core of our campaign to stay up will be built on good results against other teams likely, like us, to finish in the lower third of the table. By my reckoning we’ve only got one such fixture at home over the next two months. So we need to be bloody-minded against the stronger teams we meet at home and we need to improve our results away. And get Coles back fit as soon as possible, reinstate Welsh in midfield and buy someone to do the goalpoaching task that McPhee was intended to fulfil. Give it a couple of years and we’ll be as resilient and as well-organised as Leeds and Sheffield United, and we’ll have as strong a squad too – but only sale of our souls will allow us to match the Blades for sheer good luck.
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; France, Cort, Collins, Dawson; Price, Andrews, Delaney, Elliott; Paynter, Barmby. Subs: Woodhouse (for Andrews, 62), Green (for Elliott, 62), Ellison (for Price, 72), Lynch, Duke.
Goals: Price 23
Sent Off: None
SHEFFIELD UNITED: Kenny, Geary, Bromby, Morgan, Unsworth, Ifill, Jagielka, Tonge, Armstrong, Shipperley, Webber. Subs: Gillespie (for Ifill, 76), Montgomery (for Tonge, 80), Kabba, Quinn, Kozluk.
Goals: Ifill 31; Webber 45; Armstrong 52
Booked: Unsworth, Webber
Sent Off: None
REFEREE: M Thorpe
City travel to Reading and suffer periods of extreme pressure as well as periods of parity. However a bad 90 seconds sees two goals scored and City beaten again after Nick Barmby had levelled an early opener.
56 minutes into this game, and Craig Fagan wins the ball in a tackle in midfield. The ball swirls out to the wing, beyond Fagan’s reach, but Mark Lynch, hurtling forward from right-back wins a 50/50 challenge with a nervy home defender, surges to the by-line and, ball under control, looks across to the penalty box. Ben Burgess is there, beyond the penalty spot, and Lynch picks him out with an excellent cross. Burgess heads powerfully back across the face of the goal and Nicky Barmby, typically more alert to the possibilities than anyone else on the pitch, runs in intelligently to intercept the ball and slides a deft header high past Hahnemann, the exposed home keeper.
It’s a truly superb goal. Fast, energetic, plenty of men shoved forward, and we’ve shredded the home defence. It’s an equaliser, and at 1-1 early in the second half we’ve got a big shout in this game. And for almost quarter of an hour, as the cold sky of sparkling blue gently turns roseate before surrendering to the icy grip of winter’s night, we look as capable as the homesters of collecting all three points.
Whereupon a thrilling overhead kick followed by a dazzlingly quick surgery performed bloodily on the belly of over overworked defence makes it 2-1, then 3-1. And we’re doomed.
Fact is, quite a few teams in this Division are better than us. We can fight, we can resist, and we did all of that yesterday at the Madgitski Stadium. But Reading are better than us. And we lost to them.
Plugging away in a worryingly downhill direction were:
Lynch Cort Collins Delaney
Barmby Welsh Green Fagan
Sort of? It was, I think, designed to serve as 4-3-3 in our more ambitious moments, and as 4-5 -1 when we needed to stifle, which was more frequent, and so a lot was asked solo of Burgess, while Fagan and Elliott, on the flanks were expected to do a lot of running and, tougher still, a lot of quick thinking and re-positioning. Still, make no mistake about it, our best and busiest player was our excellent goalkeeper. Myhill was – again – splendid yesterday and the scoreline would have been a deal more damaging had he not been.
5 minutes in and, already we’re indebted to Myhill. A well-struck left-foot half-volley from Con-vey ex-tracts a top-class leaping-save from My-hill. The subsequent corner is survived, though only after a hair-raising melee. Busy Convey is repelled for no more than three minutes and on 8 he sprints into space clear of our bemused and tattered defence and sends a hugely confident shot flying beyond Myhill to billow the net. Short of standing in Wiltshire, I could not have been worse positioned to judge whether the scorer was offside, but it seemed significant that our fans were more incensed than our players, and I suspect that one or both of Cort or Delaney had loitered to leave Convey safe from the flag.
Reading have the lead, and display no sense of urgency in a quest to extend it. On 17 Elliott and Barmby link well to set up a glimpse of a chance for Burgess, but he’s crowded out. On 19, up the other end, Lita, the former Bristol City player and a handy performer, whips in a clever overhead kick which draws a stretching save from Boaz. A minute later and we’re torn apart down our left, with Delaney AWOL and Green and Elliott scurrying in vain to cover – a cross is whipped in low, a shot is blasted goalwards, a save is made superbly to his left. It’s Boaz. He’s terrific.
Good job too. We’re second best.
Reading’s strength lies largely in a tight and tough midfield. Sidwell is, I understand, rated as tidy a player as you’ll find outside the Premiership. Well, I like to argue with orthodoxy, but I’m not bothering here. He’s a sensible player. He does his job. He doesn’t do daft stuff, or fancy stuff. I was very impressed. I like young Welsh and if with a couple of years more experience he’s as well organised and influential as Sidwell, I’ll be well ‘appy (as I believe the Redknapps would have it).
On 25 Burgess heads the ball back across the face of the box and a Cort shot is well blocked by baldy tough guy netman Hahnemann, who also leaps to his feet to stop Burgess pushing home the rebound. On 38 a well-constructed move results in a cross from the right and a looping Barmby header clips the outside of the far post. A couple of decent if sporadic efforts. But we’re a goal down at half-time and I heard no one arguing that was about right. Had I done so, you know, gentle people, I would have remonstrated with them.
The Marjoriedawski is a very fine stadium. I was a shade surprised, I’ll admit. I had it pegged as an indentikit New But Dull Stadium. After all, Elm Park was as ordinary a ground as you’d find. Perfectly pleasant, if functional – but without any single feature out of the ordinary. But the Majmahal is a steep –sided ground on three sides with a well-planned main stand to add provocative assymetry on the fourth. An engineer may be able to contradict me, but it felt steeper than St Mary’s – and certainly it seemed to be a more intense and honest arena for football than Southampton’s dull bowl. Sure, the Mahjongski scores badly for inaccessibility but once you’re inside, you’d like it, I think.
I lived in Reading in the 1980s and I like the place. Good new ground, too. Nevertheless I wish ill on the club. Music after goals. It’s unforgivable, it really is.
Out for the second half, and our chance to hurt them early on. Barmby is playing more centrally now and his influence is waxing. Elliott has a brief glimpse of goal but is foiled by a truly splendid nerveless tackle in the box by Sidwell. I was impressed by him, as I may have hinted. And then we equalised. A seriously good goal, as I’ve already told you. But then they get a second off Myhill’s fingertips and the underside of the crossbar, and, with our team looking horribly dispirited and short of a leader, they promptly scythe a path right through the middle of our defence and slide a shot across poor Boaz and inside his far post.
More bastard music.
We throw some substitutions at the problem (Fry, Paynter, Ellison), but Reading kill the game with practised expertise. The game is up.
We should, by the way, be playing in amber-and-black. Not this unsuitable and frankly undignified dark and pale nonsense.
After 89 minutes, it seems inevitable that the game will drift away as a 3-1 home win, but Lita suddenly surges into our box to convert the easiest chance of the afternoon – but he BALLOONS it high into the night sky. I do like a proper ballooning, and my goodness me this was certainly that. It’s suddenly a shade lively – on 91 Ellison, on as sub, gets no power at all on a free header only eight yards out and Hahnemann catches the effort with ease (Cuh! C’mon Kev! Balditude should be a basis for more, not less, power in a header, just go ask Andy Lochhead and Alan Gilzean), before, in the final flurry, with a knot of City fans down the front showing appealing old-style belligerence towards home fans and officious stewards alike, Myhill produces an extravagantly brilliant save far to his left.
I was back home instructing the batman to mix the pineapple daquiris by twenty past six. That was a pleasing break for me from the norm of long footballing slogs. But, as I slipped on my velvet smoking jacket and lubricated both myself and the gramophone for an evening in the company of Noel Coward, I was still a bit deflated. For the truth is my favourite football team got cuffed flat and got soundly gubbed at the Marigoldglovesski.
Let me be clear. Reading aren’t a great team. But they’re a good team, and, most of all they’re an improving team. Lately they’ve got a bit stronger each season. Likely they’ll go up to Division 1 soon, come back down, re-build, go back up, eventually try to stabilise as what they will doubtless inanely call ‘a Premiership club’. They can’t ever win it, but they can survive once they’ve done the groundwork. That’s what we’re trying to do. It’s no small ambition. Outside of Chelsea, everyone’s just trying to survive at the moment. Survive, and then progress a bit. That’s what we’re doing, just less visibly at present than during most of the Taylor times.
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Lynch, Cort, Collins, Delaney; Fagan, Green, Welsh, Elliott; Barmby, Burgess. Subs: Fry (for Elliott, 73), Ellison (for Barmby, 77), Paynter (for Burgess, 77), France, Leite.
Goals: Barmby 55
Sent Off: None
READING: Hahnemann, Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Little, Harper, Sidwell, Convey, Doyle, Lita. Subs: Oster (for Little, 76), Hunt (for Convey, 76), Obinna (for Doyle, 84), Makin, Stack.
Goals: Convey 7; Doyle 69; Little 70
Sent Off: None
REFEREE: C Penton
Match Report Coming Soon.
Match Report Coming Soon.
Match Report Coming Soon.
|Derby day comes around and while there are small signs of improvement, there is no let-up in tactical switches and ultimate defeat. Mike Scott struggles to see the bright side as the club descends towards the relegation dogfight.|
|OK, this was another nudge in the right direction. A reasonable performance that only diminished when the home team hit a rather undeserved but well taken third goal with just under 10 minutes left. There were some decent personal performances. This was a long way better than Southend, the low point of the season, indeed the low point of the last 5 years. But was it good enough? No. The question that was asked of me as we trudged out of the Meccano Stadium was “can we avoid going down?”. And of course my knee jerk reaction was “yes, of course, there’s no way we can get relegated”. But then I started to consider the facts. 22nd in Div Three has been secured in the last five years with 46, 48, 40, 51 and 41 points (the latter was us in 97/8). There is no dead duck at the foot of the table this year, so a target of 45-48 points is likely to secure the last position of safety. That means City needs another 7-10 points, or 2-3 wins. There are 14 games left. We have the worst form guide rating in the division, we haven’t won in six. We are slowly regaining some semblance of form, but it is painfully slow. We haven’t got much time left. We need to turn this around. We need to defend better. Yes, we can go down. But I don’t know that we will. Yet. “Stability” is the typical cry of City fans, just before the suggestion that we need two new signings and three current first teamers dropping. I do it myself, we’re allowed. Taylor likes to tinker with the team week on week, I think we can safely establish that. Today we went with a 3-4-1-2 formation that defended well in the first half but lacked cutting edge, then attacked better in the second half and gave away three goals from breakaways. It’s like that “hammer the raccoons’ heads” game in the amusements at Whitby – press down on one raccoon and another pops up. Press down on one City deficiency and another one pops up. Mr Taylor is having a lot of trouble with his team at the moment. He’ll probably change it again next week. Good. Smith and Williams both played poorly today and are undeserving of another start for a while. Webb trundled around willingly but looks like a tall fit kid who can’t play football very well. We might as well play Wade Dooley up front. Or Kareem Abdul Jabaar. And most bizarre of all, Taylor chooses the day that Stuart Green is out of favour with the club and about to move to Carlisle to play a formation that would’ve fitted perfectly his skills, strengths and, let’s not forget them, his weaknesses. So off we went on a chilly but sun-drenched day on the North Lincolnshire badlands lining up thus:
Fettis Joseph Whittle Delaney Regan Ashbee Keates Smith Williams Webb Forrester
It looked a bit more attacking, except the attacking width was provided by defenders – one decent at going forward, one terrible at going forward, both poor at defending. Smith was the one to fail on both counts. Williams was in the hole – they should’ve filled it in with Ryan at the bottom. Elliott – an international in the week – on the bench for the team 14th in Division Three. Green in the stand. Still too much craziness for my liking. As said before, this was an improved performance in terms of effort. The degree to which this was down to the galvanising effect of the local derby can only be gauged next week, but nonetheless the Tigers came out fighting from the off. Where in recent weeks responsibility was abdicated, now two players were going for the same headers – Delaney and Whittle in the opening minutes, Delaney and anyone else in the vicinity for the rest of the game – there was no doubting young Damien’s fire and passion today. His defending wasn’t too shabby either, while it is true to say that two of Scunnie’s three goals were scored by runs down his channel the fact is that Damien was upfield on attacking duties on both occasions and others failed to deal with the situations presented. City started OK as Scunthorpe looked a little nervous. Ex-Crewe man Smith advanced down the left and fed Forrester out wide. Our new striker, roundly booed by his former south bank idolisers for much of the game, lobbed in a low cross that Webb latched onto but failed to hit with sufficient sweetness and Evans in the Scunt goal smothered gratefully. But after ten or so minutes the home side exerted a firm grip on the game, centred on sending the ball directly into our box for the youngster Hayes and the experienced Carruthers to knock down either to each other or onrushing midfielders. While City repelled these thrusts and went in at 0-0 one can’t help but think that with a little more luck the home side could’ve opened their account – the home fans, who had seen their side’s form dip in recent weeks, must’ve feared the worst. Calvo-Garcia, Hayes and Calvo-Garcia again hit three good chances inches wide, while a Ridley shot and a Carruthers prod drew good saves from Fettis. On countless other occasions the three centre halves nodded and tackled in a last-ditch kind of way, while City offered little or nothing in return at the other end. Only in first half injury time did the Tigers threaten the Scunt goal when a deep Williams corner was headed meatily goalward by Whittle only to see Evans scuttle sideways to scoop the ball round the post. At half time we were “entertained” by the Glanford mascot Scunny Bunny. This furry affair spent at least ten minutes standing in the centre circle staring menacingly at the City fans while Roary entertained the young mascot for the day. The Bunny swayed around in the manner of someone under the influence of alcoholic fluids. He couldn’t join in the footie as he had huge inflatable comedy boots on. He clearly couldn’t see through his costume very well. So he limited himself to passing the time of day with the fork-wielding groundsman. I bet the Scunthorpe kids loved it! The second half started very brightly for the Tigers and we sustained a five minute spell of intense pressure right from the off. Joseph bunged a throw-in to an unmarked Regan wide right and the full back’s cross was cleared for a corner. This was defended badly by Scunny and the ball fell to Ashbee whose goalbound shot was deflected wide. From the second corner the ball was served up to Whittle eight yards out, his shot was saved well by the diving Evans. A couple of other crosses were put dangerously into the Scunnie box and were dealt with in a flap. And then a goal – at the other end. A corner was cleared hastily to Hayes on halfway, who turned and set off goalwards. Regan was brushed aside easily and then Smith treated us to just about the limpest leg-wave half-tackle that we’ll see this season and Hayes was away on goal. As he reached the edge of Fettis’s box he had the confidence to lash a right foot shot that hit the top left corner as he looked, giving our Ulsterman netminder no chance. A short spell of pressure for City, yet 1-0 down after crap tackling. A couple of minutes later poor defending resulted in Hayes again getting through on goal, but the good save he drew from Fettis with his shot was rendered pointless by the lineman’s flag. Then Calvo-Garcia went through a couple of tackles before hurling himself groundwards as Whittle challenged. It was so far away that I couldn’t see how serious the felony was, but as the home side screamed “penalty!” referee Parkes, equipped with two very shiny legs, signalled a City free kick and motioned a dive. This seemed to knock Scunthorpe out of their stride for a while and City got a brief upper hand. Elliott replaced the totally ineffective Williams and we went with three forwards. Correctly, in my opinion – it worked for a time and soon we equalised. Joseph and Regan rode a couple of weak challenges on the Scunt left and Joseph’s cross found Forrester, who swivelled neatly and hit a shot which deflected off a defender’s foot up and over Evans and into the net. A burst of Tigery relief blasted forth from the Caparo Stand and Forrester punched the air gleefully as he received the adulation due for his first strike in Black and Amber. Within 2 minutes of the restart a fine Ashbee tackle and pass on halfway fed Elliott down the unattended inside left channel, but his run onto goal culminated in a shot that was screwed uglily wide. City continued to press for the quarter hour between 60 and 75 minutes as Scunthorpe withdrew into their shell. Delaney booted a clearance which Beagrie elected to watch drop a couple of yards behind him and his arrant laziness was punished as Regan took up the cudgels and advanced towards the byline. His fine cross was met by Elliott at the back post two yards out, but once again the Ulsterman fluffed as he skied a shot that might’ve been easier to score. Not quite Ronnie Rosenthal, but not far short. Then Scunthorpe did us again. A rare foray over the halfway line on 75 minutes saw a punted long cross descend just under Fettis’s crossbar. Rather than touch it over for a corner Fettis got his directions wrong and succeeded only to spoon the ball onto the head of Sparrow two yards out, who gratefully nodded it into an open net. It was a spawny goal in many respects, but Fettis must take the principal share of the blame. Musselwhite’s views on the matter have not yet been recorded. Soon after a corner fell to Jackson and his defender’s shot was cleared off the line. On 81 a slick passing combination down the right engineered Sparrow a run through our defence. As half hearted tackles rained in, Sparrow slalomed through pleasingly before firing a low shot just inside Fettis’s left hand post. From 1-1 and looking poised to score a winner and end Taylor’s jinx, poor play from our back line had seen Scunthorpe take an emphatic 3-1 lead within six minutes. The game died as a spectacle and even the combined prowess of Dudfield and Melton, introduced for Smith and Forrester, couldn’t spark a revival. We lost. Again. Let’s review the evidence. The 3-5-2 looked to provide a better balance between attack and defence when we got hold of the game. When we were pushed back it was the inability of Webb and Forrester to hold the ball and relieve the pressure that did for us rather than the formation. Yet can you say a new defensive line-up has worked when you concede 3 goals? Whatever the chosen formation of Mr Taylor, let’s STICK WITH IT. Let’s get the best players in the squad in their best positions. That’s Burton at left wing back. That’s Smith and Webb in the reserves. That’s Williams on the bench. Perhaps that’s Green rehabilitated and placed in behind the front two of Forrester and “A Big Man” of your choice. Anderson’s return next week may well see us go back to a back four, or a back three with Delaney wide left. More tinkering I’m afraid, but we must continue to strive to find better form than that currently on show – because make no mistake we are showing relegation form, even if we do eventually escape relegation by a handsome margin. I think Taylor would be well advised to consider the remaining games as a relegation dogfight rather than a play-off push. Promotion is gone. Let’s stay in this division.
|HULL CITY: Fettis, Joseph, Whittle, Delaney, Regan, Ashbee, Keates, Williams, Smith, Webb, Forrester. Subs: Elliott (for Williams, 62), Dudfield (for Forrester, 84), Melton (for Smith, 84), Burton, Musselwhite. Goals: Forrester 65 Booked: None Sent Off: None SCUNTHORPE UNITED: Evans, Stanton, Jackson, Byrne, Ridley, Sparrow, Calvo-Garcia, Kilford, Beagrie, Carruthers, Hayes. Subs: McCombe (for Carruthers, 85), Brough (for Beagrie, 89), Graves (for Kilford, 89), Parton, Capp. Goals: Hayes 50, Sparrow 76, 82 Booked: Calvo-Garcia, McCombe Sent Off: None ATTENDANCE: 6,284|
|Kids and reserves were given a chance in the LDV Vans Trophy, but were, as Keith Dean writes, swept aside by a strong Port Vale XI.|
|We’re any of you actually there ? I get the distinct feeling this morning that I could report absolutely anything about last night’s match and be as vague as I want about the key moments without fear of contradiction. But that would be breaking the ethical code of your match reporters circle so sit back and take in a fact-filled account of the glamour of the LDV. Her-hm. Port Vale 3 Hull City Fringe Reserves 2nd XI 1. Mr Horton’s programme notes make it clear that the homesters were taking this competition seriously and he fielded a team including a number of first-teamers. In stark contrast we carded this motley collection of first team subs, reserves, juniors and the odd ne’er-do-well:
Musslewhite Chapman Heard Burton Price Williams Kerr Philpott Peat Alexander Bradshaw.
So, nine names there that you might be familiar with. And a couple of who-the-hell’s-hes in defence. It was a sign of things to come as the right side of our defence looked particularly vulnerable throughout. Muzz, on a return to the scene of former glories, was given a warm reception by the home fans in the BIG stand. Quite why it was labelled thus is a mystery as, if anything, it was the smallest of the four structures. Maybe the stadium owners have a plan or desire to name all parts of it after Tom Hanks films ? You’re guess is as good as mine. The game kicked off with the Tigers attacking the goal in front of their few, but vociferous fans, with heavy drizzle been blown across the pitch from left to right. Or perhaps that should be from over the Green Line Enclosure towards the Forest Gump Executive boxes. We had the better of a lively first ten minutes with Bradshaw and Peat seeing plenty of action down the left flank. The quality of the crosses was a bit disappointing but we were stringing together some neat passing to create the openings. A great, instant turn and cross from Peat forced an early corner, the first of many in the opening period, and we again took advantage down that flank shortly after when Bradshaw latched onto a long ball out of defence. He hit in a low cross which Alexander reached, just ahead of his marker, and flicked the ball out wide to the right. Williams ran in, in plenty of space, but blazed his shot a couple of yards wide. But from there it all went flat as the home team took the lead and never looked in any real danger for the rest of the evening. A high ball was lofted into the area, Heard got his head to it but didn’t get any distance on the clearance. It bobbled around at the feet of Brett Angell (it needed someone from the City defence to take control and get in a challenge) and he was left with enough time and space to turn and hit a low shot into the bottom right-hand corner. Young Tiger heads dropped visibly and it was clear that we were in for a long evening. Only a great one-on-one save from Muzzer, at the edge of the box, prevented the lead being doubled before the half hour. It wasn’t to take much longer though. 35 minutes gone and the stocky, but not yet fallen, Angell got his second. A low cross from the left was allowed to go right along the six yard line without hindrance and was met full on by a Vale forward. Somehow Muzz blocked the shot with his legs (by making himself big, Ron ?) but was unlucky to see the ball balloon straight up into the air and for Angell to be waiting at the bottom of its trajectory to nod home before we could get in a challenge. We did at least make some effort in pushing forward and forced a series of corners. Peat was given the responsibility of whipping them in from the right and was unfortunate to see one cleared off the line, low at the near post, and then Goodlad, the home keeper, flapped at another but we had no-one on hand to tap in the loose ball. But, to be fair, if anyone was going to score during the final 15 of the first half, then it was certainly Vale. A mixture of naive defending and a lack of understanding between the City defence and midfield gifted them a number of chances and it was only their lack of composure in front of goal that kept the scoreline down. And when we did push forward, the home team were quick to break and leave us short at both back and down the sides. The half finished with a half-hearted claim for a goal when a Williams corner was collected by Goodlad periously close to his line. His feet may have been over but I’m not sure the ball was. And then Alexander got his head to a Williams cross but with insufficient power to trouble the goalie. The half time entertainment was provided by a tribute band to Haircut 100 who went by the name of Now All Going Bald and Average Age 100. And as for the second 45, it was a bit of a strange affair really. Vale, having realised they’d got the game won, seemed to let up. We introduced more fresh-faced young uns, scored a weird goal, and then let them regain the two-goal advantage. Donaldson and Russell were given their chance in place of Williams and Alexander after an hour and the former opened his goalscoring account shortly afterwards. He found himself inside the box, left of centre, surrounded by defenders, with the ball ricocheting around very much as it had prior to the opening goal. He got in some sort of a shot but it didn’t look to have the pace to beat the keeper. Maybe he got a second chance but, after an inexplicably long pause, there was a muffled roar and the players began running back to the halfway line. The goal was scored at the far end, amongst a packed penalty area and by Clayton Donaldson. I can add nothing more than that I’m afraid. And so we rallied briefly, scenting a chance to prolong the tie. But it was always patently clear that the makeshift nature of the side would prove a big hindrance. Vale, on the other hand, looked like they had played together all season and forced Muzz into more great saves. One, a full-length dive to his right to palm away a low drive, would have made even Monsieur Barthez or Signor Buffon proud. But he was helpless, after 80 mins, when a cross from the left was met at the far post and one of theirs finished clinically with a first time shot back across goal. One last substitution saw Fry on for Kerr. And what exactly will Mr Taylor have taken from this match ? Well, I would suggest he could go through it with a fine-toothed comb for many hours and he would still struggle to come up with many positive aspects. Muzz was marvellous, of course, but Alexander, Bradshaw and Williams were OK at best. Peat looked as though he could be a useful prospect and it would probably be unfair to criticise the youngsters when you consider the standard of the oppo (although Burton didn’t look anywhere near as comfortable playing at centre half as he has at full back for the first team). So the most disappointing and frustrating part of the whole evening was the lack of effort and committment from the likes of Philpott, Kerr and Price. These are players who should really be pushing for first team places unless they have already realised that the standard of play from the current first eleven is beyond them ? Poor show nonetheless, lads. And clearly none are likely to be taking part in the next instalment of our thrilling league revival against Rushden on Saturday. Skill, team understanding, pace, thrills and spills. That’s not something we can expect from the LDV’s, that’s purely just something for the weekend.
|HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Heard, Chapman, Burton, Price, Philpott, Kerr, Peat, Williams, Bradshaw, Alexander. Subs: Russell (for Williams, 60), Donaldson (for Alexander, 60), Fry (for Kerr, 82), Harvey, Turnbull. Goals: Donaldson 62 Booked: Bradshaw Sent Off: None PORT VALE: Goodlad, Brightwell, Carragher, Collins, Rowland, Ashcroft, Charnock, Cummins, McPhee, Paynter, Angell. Subs: McClare (for Charnock, 66), Armstrong (for Angell, 66), Delaney, Boyd, Burns. Goals: Angell 9 34, Carragher 79 Booked: None Sent Off: None ATTENDANCE: 2,621|
|After a dreadful Tigers performance, Keith Dean returns from holiday and asks what all the fuss is about, we’re just as poor as ever, aren’t we?|
|A roll. We were on one. Apparently. I add the note of scepticism because, you see, I’ve been away on hols for a few weeks. When I left, the disappointing start had stretched to six non-victorious games and just about every aspect of the team’s performance was under question. I missed the draw with Leyton; the thrillingly brave effort against Leicester and the two wins against Cambridge and Carlisle. On my return I read how the defence has become a solid individual unit; how the team were scoring goals and pushing on looking for more and that Ryan Williams was indeed a true wizard of the wing tormenting full-backs with his incisive and direct running. That’s not quite how it seemed last night. Lining up for, perhaps, out last night match at The Ark were,
Glennon Regan Whittle Anderson Smith Green Ashbee Keates Williams Alexander Jevons
Our visitors, in a dapper deep blue kit, included MaccWillo in nets and MaccLightbourne (looking a whole lot slimmer than he ever did in a Tiger’s shirt) up front. A quiet enough start but City did maintain a high proportion of the possession. Jevons and Alexander appeared willing runners onto long, deep balls to the corner flags but the midfield never supported in sufficient numbers. On ten, Jevons caught up with one on the right touchline and, with not a great deal of space to work in, turned the defender and put in an inviting cross to the near post. Alexander was lurking but Bransholme’s No. 1 gathered it safely. That was, in fact, his second safe catch of a high cross and, all night, his kicking was accurate and long. An imposter surely? Green started to get into the game and seemed keen for the ball. Sometimes he would start it from deep bringing colleagues into play, and other times he’d look to get ahead of the strikers and keep the oppo on their toes. A proper midfielder, this lad. And, after a quarter of an hour, it was he who put us ahead. A well-timed, ghosting run down the inside right channel was spotted by Jevons and his precise, perfectly weighted pass beat the offside trap. Green took a couple of touches to get himself to the edge of the area and was able to stroke it past the onrushing MaccKeeper. I started to believe. For the next twenty minutes or so we looked OK. We kept the ball and tried similar moves to open up the Macc defence. It was patient and controlled, and we quite often put a string of passes together, but it lacked a killer touch or an explosive bit of pace to really shake them up. We tried feeding it out to Williams, we tried using Regan on the overlap and we tried high balls up to Alexander but the individual players simply didn’t do enough to cause the away defence any serious problems. With the exception of a couple of goalmouth scrambles, the nearest we came to a second goal was a free-kick, about 25 yards out, which Smith hit low and hard around the wall. The initial strike was parried and then smothered before Alexander could take advantage. And then the final five minutes of the half were a bit of a scare. Firstly, a MaccStriker got on the end of a long ball beyond our central defenders and hared into the area. If he’d had shot early we’d have been in trouble but he took it on a tad further and the cover managed to get back close enough to force him nearer and nearer to the byeline so, in the end, his shot smacked into the side netting. But the real wake-up call was still to come. Justin did well to get any sort of defensive header onto a high punt whilst backpedalling and with MaccLightbourne right on his shoulder. But, for the second ball, we simply fannied around for what seemed like an age and no-one took the responsibility of getting rid. Two or three had the time to hoof it clear but hesitation and indecision resulted in Keates cushioning a header into an open space inside the area. Right into the path of MaccWelsh. To the sound of a huge sigh of relief, he showed us why he is the 39th best player at Macclesfield by pushing his shot wide of Glennon and the post from only 12 yards out. The half time summing up around me made numerous comparisons to Saturday’s win. We were a goal up but hadn’t looked convincing. The opposition looked pretty average. So, that was it then, they were in for a second half pasting again. Within five minutes of the restart I knew I had been the victim of an elaborate hoax. True, we couldn’t have done much about the equaliser. Forty yards out, and yes it was forty, the stocky defender MaccWelch (a totally different character to first half blunder boy) hit a screamer that Glennon would have seen late, and he did get a hand to it, but I’m guessing that the element of surpirse was what really caught him out. It came from nowhere. But the second goal ? Oh deary me. Whittle was tracking back to the edge of his area to clear up a forward hoof. Glennon started to come for it but stopped. Whittle hesitated. Glennon took another step forward and another back. Justin turned his body to enable him to thump it away but, in doing so, opened up the gap for MaccLightbourne to nip in, knock it past the flat-footed keeper and tap into an empty net from the edge of the six yard box. The defence as a solid individual unit ? I think not. And that wasn’t even the end of it. They could have scored more as another three good chances were wasted. A passing move starting from their ring wing was worked across field and the final pass, along the edge of the area, found one of theirs in a lot of space but he blazed over as a last-gasp despairing tackle flew in. Another MaccLad then screwed a shot across the goal and wide of Glennon’s left hand post after more simple passing had opened us up and then a left wing cross flew across the face of our goal needing just a touch to add to the humiliation. Our response ? Well it wasn’t that convincing to be honest. The Dude replaced Jevons and played down the left touchline whilst Johnson came on for a wholly ineffective Williams and pushed forward wide on the right. With Alexander, they looked a lively and more urgent threat but only sporadically. We still struggled in midfield and were now a body short in that area. Dude’s runs caused some panic in the Macc defence and brought about a number of corners. They were swung in and MaccWillo at last began to look like the lightweight flapper we recalled from days gone by. But we never ever got anyone in the right place to take advantage of his fubles or pick up the loose ball. Ashbee was the worst culprit when he failed to have a pop at goal from inside the area, instead choosing to turn and retreat and try to feed the ball out wide again. And we had had one golden opportunity to get back onto level terms with 15 mins or so remaining. Dudfield advanced down the left flank then checked back inside before swinging over a quality ball, with his right foot, angled into the area. Alexander had read it and got between and beyond their two central defenders and met the ball just five yards out. MaccWillo had remained stranded on his line, and now cowered, his kness knocking together, as foot met ball. And we watched in disbelief as the ball then, somehow, arced up and over the bar. Reality bit. Just to finish off a grim evening the visitors increased their lead in the dying seconds. One of theirs ran into the area, inside left channel, and again should have hit it early but the extra touch allowed Anderson to make a perfectly timed sliding tackle. The MaccBoy stayed on his feet and was able to play a simple pass inside to MaccAskey who finished to Glennon’s left. So it was true then. You had all been lying to me. What had I witnessed ? Well, Green put us ahead early and then we go on to concede 3. I’d seen that at Exeter. The defence looked, at times, shambolic and seemed incapable of communicating with each other. I’d seen that at Hartlepool. And Ryan Williams was totally ineffective and was substituted well before the end. We’d be here all day if I started listing where I’d seen that before. Next time I go on holiday, I’ll make sure it’s during the close season.
|HULL CITY: Glennon, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Smith, Green, Ashbee, Keates, Williams, Alexander, Jevons. Subs: Dudfield (for Jevons, 58), Johnson (for Williams, 58), Edwards, Musselwhite, Bradshaw Goals: Green 16 Booked: Ashbee Sent Off: None MACCLESFIELD TOWN: Wilson, Tinson, Ridler, Welch, Hitchen, Whittaker, Priest, Welsh, Adams, Lightbourne, Tipton. Subs: Askey (for Lightbourne, 65), Robinson (for Tipton, 73), Munroe (for Welsh, 81), Martin, Hardy Goals: Welch 47, Lightbourne 50, Askey 90 Booked: Askey, Priest, Welch Sent Off: none ATTENDANCE: 8,703|
|Exeter City (2) 3 Hull City (1) 1|
|Another trip to the West Coast sees the Tigers capitulate meekly to a limited Exeter City side. Steve Weatherill reports on more red cards and red faces.|
|Desperate, woeful stuff. I’m shaken, I’m baffled, I’m frustrated, I’m angry. And I’m worried. Who can bear the thought of another season in this accursed Division? Who can begin to measure the agony of squandering the momentum available from our shiny new stadium by failing to baptise it with a promotion season? It is, perhaps, too early to start grappling with such self-torture, but this thumping reverse at St James’s Park was emphatic and wholly justified, and revealed – or, better, merely confirmed – deep flaws in the set-up and personnel chosen for this season by Mr Molby. I’ll trot out the team and then I feel the need for a cathartic rant.
Glennon Regan Anderson Strong Smith Ashbee Price Green Dudfield Elliott Alexander
“And so, Mr Molby, all those four defenders are your personal acquisitions and all four, that’s ALL FOUR, are conspicuously short of the required standard. What’s the point in fetching in Regan, a loan signing from Barnsley, and then bringing his modest talents into the team in place of Mike Edwards rather than the bewildered Smith? Sure, Smith had his best game for the club yesterday. And was still dreadful. So Edwards to left-back, please. Then there’s Strong. I suppose that he, like Smith, must once have been quite a good footballer, and quite recently too, but all the evidence is that this is a man plunged on a very rapid descent down the slippery slope of under-achievement. Sure, you hauled Strong off at half-time yesterday and quite right too, Mr Molby, but the damage had been done by then. And while I’m on, Lawrie Dudfield, a word with you too, if you please. You have abundant talent, and it was a joy to see you back to your sleek best against Southend. But you were off the pace at Bristol, and you showed minimal appetite for the fight yesterday at Exeter. I don’t want any repeat of the way you sulked your way through the later stages of last season – pull yourself together man, and do it now.” … Yes, I know, calm down, calm down, it’s only three games in, and only a half-wit with the attention span of a young puppy would seriously have expected our new manager to have crafted an irresistible promotion machine out of the smouldering wreck that was bequeathed to him last April. Marathon not a sprint, yeah yeah, don’t patronise ME sonny. Yesterday was plain awful. With Elliott off injured, Green red-carded (yes! that’s three in three!) and Dudfield subbed after guilt was established on a charge of recidivist lethargy there were spells during the second half, in particular, where we looked like a dullard lumbering pub team, casually held at bay by polished superiors. At Exeter! Throw in a first half during which we took the lead but then rapidly threw it away, and proceeded to get ripped to defensive shreds time and again, and the mood of sullen shock that settled on a City support that had braved a fearful motorway obstacle course to win the prize of viewing this shambles was palpable and painful. Exeter began by attacking the away end, and any expectation that we would extract maximum glee from witnessing the combined incompetence of aged sledgehammer Steve “Roberta” Flack, winsome waster Lee Sharpe and long-suffering absurdly Afro’d Don “Beyonce” Goodman was rudely shattered as it became horribly apparent that this comedy trio were far too lively and canny for our defence. Goodman set up Sharpe who transferred the ball on to Flack, and, in a penalty-box melee that owed everything to a lack of defensive leadership and decisiveness in our ranks, we were ultimately rescued only by a desperate toe-end from Regan. Sharpe looked keen to impress (though, one would suppose, any watching managers and scouts that swim in more elevated seas than the English 4th Division were the intended targets, rather than the Exeter support) while Goodman was visibly relishing being permitted the unaccustomed luxury of receiving and controlling the ball without any serious interference from opposing defenders. It was disturbingly poor stuff, so City, quixotically, scored. A ball was knocked in by Elliott from wide on the left towards Alexander, stationed just outside the penalty area. He squared the ball with his first touch to Green, who stroked a breathtakingly nonchalant side-foot strike into the back of home net. 1-0, and we dream of the unravelling of a relaxing afternoon in the Devon sunshine and a three-point reward. Such basking never looked likely. Exeter, to their credit, got stuck right back in. A free-kick reached Goodman in space, but he headed wide when he should have scored. Then the home side worked the ball down their right – our left: Smith’s side, I add more in sorrow than anger – and when the pass was pulled back to Lee Sharpe fifteen yards out, he had time enough to take a steadying touch and roast the ball into our net via the underside of the crossbar. Such slack, unfocused defensive organisation seems to be a chronic problem for this City side, and Exeter were by no means satisfied with their deserved equaliser. Flack headed the ball down to Goodman who held possession with supreme indifference to the feeble amber-and-black pseudo-challenges that surrounded him before sliding a pass on to Sharpe. His shot was tipped wide by a morose Glennon. Then a ball hoisted in from their left finds Coppinger, a nippy midfielder who has run unopposed from a deep-lying position, and his shot crashes noisily against the crossbar before bouncing out to safety. And now we lose Elliott. Earlier he had been booked after sprawling across the turf under a robust challenge from an Exe. I thought the booking was for simulation, in which case the referee got it horribly wrong, for Elliott never recovered from the tumble and was now forced to limp off. However, it may be that the referee booked Elliott for a tackle over the ball in the original incident, in which case his injury was, I suppose, self-inflicted. It’s often hard to tell at Exeter – the rake of the terraces is very shallow. Whatever: Johnson replaced Elliott, and slotted in on the right side, while Dudfield switched to the left flank vacated by Elliott. Only moments later Exeter too made a change, though this seemed unforced. Don Goodman ambled happily off, to be replaced by Martin Thomas. There was no apparent injury so perhaps the bustling front-man is contractually required to play no more than a half-an-hour’s cameo these days, delighting his band of admirers with a wink and a burly side-step before taking off early-doors for the sanctuary of more illicit girth-enhancing pleasures. He is surely the West Yorkshire Maradona. The dismal charade continues. Exeter are targeting Smith’s wing for most of their attacking endeavour, and Coppinger cuts in energetically from that side to smash a left foot shot just over our bar. It is a vain aspiration that we might cling on to 1-1 up until half-time, and that vision is trampled underfoot as the dismal half reaches its concluding moments. First, Green is sent off – a straight red for a high tackle. From where I was standing, this was one of those daft sendings-off, like Ronaldinho’s against England in the World Cup, where a referee treats a slightly ill-timed, over-eager but wholly unmalicious challenge as a potential leg-breaker. Well, perhaps, in unusually unfortunate circumstances, such challenges might break legs, but there’s something gone awry with the game’s values when this type of misjudgement is penalised at the same level of severity as Roy Keane’s frequent calculated on-field criminal assaults. But Green is gone and we are down to ten men, and soon after we are 2-1 down as well. It is a truly abysmal goal. The ball bounces towards Strong, in the middle of the goalmouth, six yards out. Instead of lashing it clear, he seems transfixed; have the markings on the new Official Approved Football been tested for their capacity to plunge players into a glassy-eyed trance? Strong dithers, and simply wobbles the ball a couple of yards behind him, where a surprised but grateful Flack intervenes to nudge it past Glennon and over the line. Half-time brings immediate sanction, for the woeful Strong is pulled off in favour of Justin Whittle, while the terminally torpid Dudfield loses his place to Williams. But inside a minute of the re-start it is catastrophically 3-1, as Exe skate down their right and a near-post cross is nodded home by a flurried combination of Flack and Whittle. I don’t consider this was more than bad luck thrust upon Justin. He can hardly be expected to step into the team at this late stage and immediately perform at his usual flawless defensive best, and he did all he could to block Flack’s run. On the evidence we’ve seen so far this season, Strong would have been placidly inspecting his fingernails while Flack rammed an unopposed header into our net. Justin always competes and he is now, I trust, a fixture in our first eleven once again. With the home side 3-1 up and City playing with ten men and deprived of our three most flairful players in Elliott, Dudfield and Green, there was little genuine expectation of a revival, either among players or fans. And so it proved. The second half was anaemic and deserves to be disposed off with maximum brevity. Flack should have scored again when Smith lost his man and permitted the delivery of a cross and an easy scoring opportunity, but the header was negligently tucked wide of Glennon’s post. Alexander, lacking last season’s bite, appeared to have run clear of the cover, only to be tackled pursuant to a poor first touch. In fact, the Exeter central defensive pairing of Curran and Santos was highly impressive throughout, showing mutual understanding, positional sense and commitment in the challenge. Then, up at the other end, Coppinger drifted through two tackles as he cruised from right to left before loosing a shot that Glennon held. Didn’t Coppinger once score for Hartlepool at the Ark? He was very good indeed yesterday. More will be written by stupified others, I should imagine, not least about Exeter’s willowy mascot, but I am weary with the sense of things going horribly wrong. I mean, I’ve only mentioned in any detail the players who played REALLY badly. There was also Williams, who came on at half-time and promptly vanished; Price, who offered nothing going forward and rarely shored up Smith’s over-run emplacement (a formidably large task, I admit); Ashbee, who was booked again. It was truly an all-round shocker. I’ll stop now, I think.
|HULL CITY: Glennon, Regan, Strong, Anderson, Smith, Ashbee, Green, Price, , Dudfield, Alexander, Elliott. Subs: Johnson (for Elloitt, 26), Whittle (for Strong, 46), Williams (for Dudfield, 46), Musselwhite, Bradshaw Goals: Green 10 Booked: Alexander, Ashbee, Johnson Sent Off: Green EXETER CITY: Miller, McConnell, Curran, Gaia, Power, Coppinger, Cronin, Walker, Sharpe, Flack, Goodman. Subs: Thomas (for Goodman, 31), Roscoe (for Sharpe, 67), Sheldon (for Flack, 82), Fraser, Whitworth Goals: Sharpe 21, Flack 45, o.g. (Whittle) 46 Booked: none Sent Off: none ATTENDANCE: 4,257|