Hull City 2 Ipswich Town 0

In frosty conditions a rather limited and disinterested Ipswich side roll into town and roll over fairly comprehensively, taking a 2-0 beating that sees the Tigers consolidate their mid-table spot.

I haven’t been a fan of Joe Royle for many years – since about 1984 in fact, when he tried to chat up my girlfriend. And he didn’t exactly redeem himself with his comments about City on Humberside before last night’s game. Ostensibly praiseworthy of the Tigers’ start to life back in the higher echelons (sounds good that, doesn’t it?) what he actually said when you analyse it was nothing more than a thinly-disguised and offensively-condescending verbal pat on the head. His veiled observation that there are many teams in the Division that are a class or two above the Tigers is probably something that most of us in fairness would not have disagreed with, were it not for the obvious insinuation that he was talking about his own charges in particular.

Well, Mr Royle, I have a piece of advice for you. Print off a copy of the League table after last night’s results, read and memorise it, roll it up, seal both ends with your very best sealing wax, and shove it firmly where the monkey put the grapefruit. For not only are we now above you in the League, but your team were deservedly beaten by a better side last night.

Yes, it was a good night on which to be a member of the Tiger Nation. For all their current travails, playing teams like Ipswich again is one of the things that makes being back in Div 2 great, isn’t it? A crowd of 20 124 (and immense respect to the 750 or so Suffolk folk who braved goodness-knows-what in the way of weather conditions to reach the Circle and then had to do it all to get home again) made it all reminiscent, for those of us whose memories go back that far, of Waggy, Chillo and Simmo pitting their wits against the likes of Ray Crawford, Colin Viljoen, Frank Brogan and Bill Baxter (whatever happened to him?). And we demonstrated without doubt our right to be where we are on merit, with a very sound performance which saw our heroes outthink, outpass, outfight and of course outscore our East Anglian visitors pretty much throughout the game. If I had to describe it in one word I’d say “accomplished”, but if you want a more telling testament to how warming it all was, reflect on the fact that the Circle thermometer didn’t fall below two degrees all night (the point of saying which, if you weren’t there, is that it must have been at least six degrees colder than that).

Unsurprisingly, Taylor opted for a, ahem, more enterprising formation than had been carded at Crewe:-

Myhill
France Cort Collins Dawson
Price Andrews Delaney Barmby
Paynter Fagan

The Circle sward was clearly suffering from the effects of the extreme conditions, especially down the East side, the best efforts of the undersoil heating notwithstanding, although this paled into insignificance alongside the Walton Street car park, the droves of bulkily-clad Hullensians silhouetted against the pure white blanket as they gingerly picked their way across it before the game making a fascinating sight. That said, the conditions did nothing to stem the pace of the game or the commitment of the players, and credit to both teams for that.

We kicked off towards the North Stand and made a bright start, Paynter getting his nut onto the end of a France cross after three minutes but his header lacking power. There were hopeful appeals for a penalty on 6 when Barmby nipped in between some dithering Ipswich defenders and drove the ball hard against the hand of one of them from a range of about four inches, but referee Oliver was – quite correctly – unmoved. He got it very wrong though about four minutes later when pulling back a promising-looking City break because De Vos had keeled over, not as the result of any foul play, in the centre circle. He also got it very wrong on 12 when booking France for doing nothing more than coming off best in a genuine 50/50 challenge.

We continued to have the better of it for the first twenty minutes or so, and some neat interplay between France and Pricey (who seemed to have swapped wings with Barmby at about this point) saw the Welshman tear into the box but sadly overhit the ball into the hands of the Ipswich netman. Shortly after, Paynter was set up nicely but fired over the bar.

At about the quarter-time mark, though, the game entered bit of a formless phase, with the Blues (to give them their correct nickname, as the match programme did (but, tellingly, not the Coca-Cola ad); the expression “Tractor Boys” is – like the so-called “Black Cats” – the creation of Sky/tabloid paper-inspired “footie” orthodoxy) starting to assert themselves. That said, and despite a couple of corners, they didn’t really get an attempt on goal until 36 minutes, when a miscued France header allowed a left-wing cross which was poked just wide, although we hadn’t done much either, apart from a Price effort going miles wide until it cannoned off Fagan and forced rookie Ipswich keeper Supple into a save. In fact, the most intriguing part of this spell for your correspondent was the conversation of the two delightful Canadian ladies, relatives of one of our match-going troupe and over here on holiday, to my right, not least when at one point I was asked a question about the “cleats” worn by the players, and then again in the second half when I was asked whether the goalkeeper was ever “pulled” (and no, it doesn’t mean “substituted”).

We started to show again though towards the end of the half, and an astute decoy run from France allowed Pricey (who turned in a monumental performance last night, possibly his best ever in a City shirt), the space to cross for Paynter, but the Scouse Tiger’s header was well saved by the keeper. Three minutes before the break Dawson somehow found himself on the right, and if he was confused by this then so were the Ipswich defence, as they made a complete horlicks of dealing with the resultant cross, eventually bundling the leather behind for a corner when surely all it needed was a Tiger boot to be stuck in to get us off the mark. A minute later Cort, who produced, needless to say, another highly sound display, was unlucky when Paynter flicked on a long Collins throw and the City number 5 hit the leather cleanly on the half-volley from 12 yards but sadly straight at the keeper, so Supple didn’t need to live up to his name.

Half-time, and you know what that means folks, don’t you? Yes, the Rev. Allen Bagshawe’s Christmas carols (or rather one carol; all five verses of “We Three Kings”). Now, I worked at the club on match days for many years in the 80s and 90s and got to know Allen quite well, often sitting with him to watch the game. He’s a delightful fellow, with a great passion for all things Tigerish, and it’s sad to see him suffer the humiliation of singing along with gusto and sincerity but in total (and I mean total) isolation, although choosing some material which people actually know without having to buy a programme to get the words might have helped. It’s probably a matter of time anyway before some socially-dysfunctional busybody, still stung by never getting the Christmas presents they wanted as a child, tries to have a stop put to the singing of carols at the Circle on the grounds that it might “offend” someone, but isn’t it time anyway to replace the singing at the ground, which most don’t care about and the rest daren’t join in for fear of being lampooned, with a City carol service for those who want to sing, and presided over by Allen in his or some other suitable church? If Adam and Pete could see their way to attending and getting a few of the players along it would surely be a worthy and altogether more dignified occasion. (I have a vague recollection that this used to happen back in the Don Robinson era, but am a bit out of touch now; if it still does, apologies for my burblings).

Any road, back to the action, and a somewhat hesitant start by City as Ipswich capitalise on the amount of space we give them and go close on 49 with a shot from Westlake going just wide. But then, as we get going, we really should have gone ahead on 51 when Fagan weaves his way into the box and, under pressure from an Ipswich defender, the ball breaks twelve yards out to the unmarked Paynter, who unfortunately effects a perfect impersonation of the Subbuteo Rugby kicker as he spoons the ball high into the South Stand.

Delaney is then similarly wasteful, sending the ball into orbit from fully 40 yards when team mates are better placed, but then Pricey does rather better on 54 when forcing Supple into a difficult low save. And then we score. Pricey is released in space on the right, and his deep cross is nodded down by Barmby to France, who controls the leather before teeing it up perfectly for the wee man to take the return and sidefoot it firmly into the right-hand corner. A fine team goal which epitomised the crispness of much of our ball-handling throughout the night. The Circle faithful celebrate in style; admittedly, the entreaties of “Taylor, Taylor, give us a wave” stay unanswered until a peremptory acknowledgement of the fans at the fourth time of asking very late in the game, but one can hardly begrudge him his little stand after the abuse he got at Crewe.

We nearly get a second straight away. Pricey – again – storms up the inside-right channel having been released by Andrews, and everyone including the Ipswich defence is expecting the simple lay-off to France on his outside. Instead, the City number 18 crosses left to the unmarked Paynter, who times his run well but Supple smothers his header down by the foot of the post.

It’s becoming an increasingly absorbing contest now as Ipswich see plenty of the ball but find the City defence in resolute mode, although things got a bit slack on the hour as a throw is flicked on to one of theirs who is allowed far too much space and time to turn on the corner of the six-yard box and fire just over the angle, and then again at about the three-quarter mark, when we allow them far too much room on the left and the resulting low cross flashes across Myhill’s goal less than a yard from the line.

But then, after Fagan is through but lobs the ball into the keeper’s hands on 68, we seal it. Steve Weatherill, in his report on the Cardiff game, eulogised over The Pass. Well last night, we had The Pass II, an almost-exact copy of The Pass, except that this time Delaney was the provider, and the grateful recipient was the irrepressible Pricey, who took the 50 yd ball down and crossed low into the box, where Paynter touched it on leaving Fagan, unmarked by the far post, with an easy finish.

And that was it. As we do (nowadays at least), we took no risks after that. Paynter might finally have got the goal he deserved when his header from a Dawson corner was cleared off the line, and for them Williams volleyed high into the night sky from 5 yd out in our only real defensive lapse in the last twenty minutes. That apart, the game was won and it drifted benignly to its conclusion, the only other subject for discussion being the garment being worn by Woodhouse under his stripes when he came on, which looked, as Mike Scott was the first to point out, suspiciously like Allen Bagshawe’s dog collar; perhaps our Stu is having more of an influence on his team mates than we realise.

Altogether then, a sound night, which saw us climb to 15th and stretch the gap as the results generally went in our favour. After the disappointing results at Brighton and Crewe, last night put us nicely back on track, and whilst there’s still a lot of graft ahead for the players and no doubt the occasional attack of angst for the fans, we can be cautiously happy with where we are now, can’t we?

And you are next, White Shite.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; France, Cort, Collins, Dawson; Price, Andrews, Delaney, Barmby; Paynter, Fagan. Subs: Lynch (for Price, 79), Woodhouse (for Paynter, 88), Elliott (for Barmby, 89), Green, Leite.

Goals: Barmby 56; Fagan 70

Booked: France

Sent Off: None

 

IPSWICH TOWN: Supple, Wilnis, De Vos, Naylor, Sito, Currie, Magilton, Juan, Williams, Westlake, Forster. Subs: Haynes (for Forster, 27), Richards (for Westlake, 66), Garvan (for Magilton, 83), McDonald, Price.

Goals: None

Booked: None

Sent Off: None

 

REFEREE: C Oliver

ATTENDANCE: 20,124

Hull City 2 Cardiff City 0

Initially cautious but ultimately triumphant after a second stupid away side sending off in consecutive home games, City swat aside an average Cardiff side.

There are some games in which one moment, and just one moment alone, lodges itself in your memory. Yesterday provided such an occasion.

It was the match of ‘Elliott’s pass’.

A 50-yard crossfield caress, as elegant as Colin Cowdrey’s cover drive, as insightful as a Muriel Spark novel, as powerful as Hurricane Run’s spectacular surge to victory in this season’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, as refined as a Frank Muir bon mot and as brutally effective in quelling Cardiff’s ambitions as an insurgent’s roadside bomb flipping another Humvee into oblivion.

Good job too, because there’d been precious little else to admire in the preceding 87 minutes. A grind of a game, but as Fagan put the finishing touches to Elliott’s Pass Of The Century, making the game safe against the ten men of Cardiff, there was joy, then relief, sweeping the stadium. Another 3 points harvested, another firm rebuke to those who would label us relegation-fodder.

On duty on a grey winter’s afternoon:

Duke
Lynch Cort Collins Dawson
France Welsh Delaney Barmby
Fagan Paynter

And off we went, with the shrieks of glee from Canada’s spectacular West Coast ringing loud in the ears of the tiger-chat faithful. ‘Delaney’s in midfield!’ Indeed he is, and predictions of cassastrophe proved wide of the mark as the honest, tough-minded Irishman, asked again to play out of position, turned in a fine shift. Before kick-off Welsh internationalist Koumas would have been widely reckoned to be the best player on show in this encounter, but, free-kicks aside, he had little impact on play. Koumas needs to take a good look at himself (whatever that means: it appears to be the footballing cliché de nos jours, and I use it for I wouldn’t want to be thought to be anything other than a la mode) for pairing gloves with a short-sleeved shirt, but the main reason for a subdued display by Koumas was not this fashion faux pas but the sturdy and persistent attentions of doughty Delaney.

Koumas, Mike Scott might well inform you, failed to earn the right to play.

Err, nothing happened during the first-half. That’s why I’m chuntering on a bit. Well, that’s not strictly accurate, because there was plenty of noise from the visiting support. And on one of the few occasions when Koumas slipped his shackles – largely, I think, as a result of a waste of possession by Barmby – Duke was equal to the low shot, pushing it away for a fruitless corner. Overall, however, it was deeply conservative stuff from both sides. There was every suspicion that both managers would be content with a single point from this game – fair enough, I suppose, given the state of the league table – and very nil-nil-ish it looked.

On 39 Purse picked up a yellow card for a heavy challenge on Fagan, though the booking was delayed while referee Taylor intelligently allowed us an advantage, earning himself only derision for his alertness from those among the City fans who don’t know the laws. Most of them. Two added minutes, and deep into them the well-regarded Jerome smeared a horrible shot high and wide, and it was half-time.

There was a game against, I think, Colchester in about 1982 where almost nothing happened, except a bomb scare. So far this game against Cardiff had been like that, except without the bomb scare. A very flat 45 minutes of football.

Never mind. It gets better.

The second period began with a very harsh handball awarded against Collins just outside the box. Koumas struck his shot well, but didn’t target the corner of Duke’s goal and our ‘keeper tipped the ball clear of the crossbar. Duke did what he did well yesterday and will be heartened by his clean sheet, though enormous credit belongs with the mighty protective duo of Cort and Collins, individually excellent and better still as a defensive combination.

The football is livelier now. On 52 a smart Paynter shot is blocked by a defender. On 59 Koumas is granted another free-kick opportunity, but blasts wastefully wide. Then, on 66, Barmby is replaced by Elliott.

Improved though the pattern of play undoubtedly is, the fiercest entertainment is now provided by the North Stand, yesterday housing an impromptu zoo and freak show. As far as I could tell, the Cardiff followers spent most of the second half standing up instead of sitting down (which is good) and attacking stewards and police (which is not). Yet I saw no one at all being removed, not even the one who leapt clear of the cordon and scuttled across no-man’s land towards the City fans before realising he was alone and applying the brakes with a squeal that would have been audible in Tiger Bay. He retreated, yet was able to clamber back into the Cardiff section without having his collar felt. Crazy stuff. Cardiff had maybe 800 fans there yesterday. 100 seemed to be watching the football. The rest were animals, no colours, all dressed the same, no women, no non-white faces. Hull City On Tour is sometimes a pretty unlovely sight, but our proportion of fans to neanderthals is a great deal healthier, I’m happy to say. At the end the Cardiff players trotted across to applaud their thugs. I’m sure that the next time Cardiff are charged with misconduct, they will tell a tale of how they are trying to improve the behaviour of their fans. Pure lies.

There is soon reason for the visiting Welsh to get even crosser. Purse takes Fagan down clumsily and earns his second yellow card. Off he goes, reluctantly. Purse is an old-fashioned effectively intimidating centre-half, but he found Fagan a bit too smart for him yesterday. Deservedly down to ten men, Cardiff have to bring on Neil Cox to plug the defensive gap left by Purse and now, after 69 minutes of playing for a point, they now have another 21 minutes in which to play for a point.

They manage this very well for 1 minute.

Fagan skips brilliantly clear of two defenders down by the by-line, fires in an inviting near-post cross and Paynter stretches to get his toe-end on the ball ahead of the defence and goalkeeper and deflects the ball into the back of the net. Well-crafted by Fagan, and a very smart striker’s goal from Paynter – a hint of the Keith Edwards about his instinctive rush into the correct position at the near-post. Who was the matchreporting prat who said he wasn’t a natural goalscorer a couple of weeks ago? Best of all, Fagan and Paynter, young lively players, are beginning to shape up as a decent combination.

On 76 Koumas bungles another free-kick and then, on 79, we win what I think was our first corner of the whole match. A shame, then, that we hadn’t had the chance to test Alexander in the Cardiff goal any earlier, because he flaps horribly at the looping ball.

Cardiff get away with that and, in fact, play with some energy as they seek to rescue a point. They looked much poorer yesterday than their League position would have suggested, and probably this spell late on, when they abandoned caution and shoved forward with purpose, was a true reflection of their ability. More fool them for playing so anaemically earlier in the game.

On 87 Collins hoiks a ball clear from near our penalty spot. It arrives at Elliott’s boots, wide on the left, deep inside our half.

And he looks up and then hits The Pass.

It is truly exquisite.

It leaves Cardiff gasping in demoralised awe and Fagan, well worth a goal after his best performance of the season, does full justice to the masterly service by rolling the ball past the exposed Alexander. 2-0 to us, three points to us.

There is time for Andrews to confirm he is fit and available after injury as he replaces Paynter for the final couple of minutes, and the game is won.

Perfectly satisfactory stuff. With the centre-backs settled and the front two shaping up well, the seeds of improvement are visible. I didn’t mention either of our full-backs in this report, and that’s good: full-backs should be seen, not heard, and both put in solidly unspectacular afternoons. Players coming back from injuries, Myhill from suspension, midfield admittedly still work-in-progress – a decent haul of points over Christmas and New Year is within our grasp. Yesterday I liked Delaney’s attitude most of all, until, on 87 minutes, the defining moment of the match arrived.

The Pass.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): Duke; Lynch, Cort, Collins, Dawson; France, Welsh, Delaney, Barmby; Paynter, Fagan. Subs: Elliott (for Barmby, 66), Andrews (for Paynter, 89), Green, Price, Leite.

Goals: Paynter 70; Fagan 88

Booked: None

Sent Off: None

 

CARDIFF CITY: Alexander, Weston, Purse, Loovens, Barker, Parry, Whitley, Koumas, Ledley, Jerome, Ricketts. Subs: Cox (for Parry, 69), Lee (for Barker, 86), Ardley, Boland, Margetson.

Goals: None

Booked: Purse, Ricketts, Weston

Sent Off: Purse

 

REFEREE: P Taylor

ATTENDANCE: 18,364