Sheffield United 3 Hull City 2

A rip snorter. Goals aplenty, a splendid comeback, freak weather, an obvious penalty denied, neck-hair-raising atmosphere. A real derby is played out at Bramall Lane, the home side claiming all 3 points deep into injury time.

There are probably three levels at which to reflect on yesterday’s game. On one level, it was very much a case of “same old, same old” where our Blunt friends are concerned, in that having clawed our way back onto level terms from a 0-2 deficit with twenty minutes to go, and survived the inevitable farrago of dodgy decisions (of the ten genuinely bad ones I counted, only one was in City’s favour) which have characterised our every fixture against the Blunts since time immemorial, we eventually were cruelly stripped, deep into injury time, of the hard-earned point which had looked to be ours. On another level, it was case of the Tiger coming back down to earth, in that, despite some very pleasing football at times and a generally spirited response to the riotous second-half backing from the 3 000-plus Tiger Nation delegation, our unbeaten run came to an end and, mathematically at any rate, our status for next season is still not guaranteed. And on a third, and final level, but perhaps most memorably, this was an absolutely rip-roaringly barnstorming good old-fashioned Div 2 Yorkshire Derby, with both teams slugging it out on a proper football ground, in an often-seething atmosphere (although this was confined to the way end except when the Sheff goals went in) with the weather fluctuating from one extreme to the other seemingly in keeping with the oscillations of the pendulum of the game, in some respects even overshadowing the WS game. As my companions and I sat post-match in our pre-match hostelry and reflected over a further couple of pints on the day’s events, the general view was that it was some years since we had seen one of those, and, as we gravely informed the youngsters among us in what we fondly imagined to be sage tones, it might be a while before we saw its like again.

Sure, it was a pity that we lost, as a point would have pretty much made us mathematically safe, but to be honest we ought to have to come to expect that, aside from the odd occasion (about every 15 years or so) when we take the Blunts apart on a grand scale, it generally doesn’t happen for us against that lot. Personally, I knew our fate was sealed when my new (4 games old) lucky pre-match routine, the 107th of my City-supporting career, went wrong; this consists of bashing out on the keyboard on the morning of the game a certain tune which would have been familiar among City-goers of the late 60s, and it took me four goes to get it right, having hit a bum note on the first three attempts.

On the plus side, the comparison between yesterday’s game and the first encounter at the Circle gave an encouraging indication of how far we have come in the last three months. It may fairly be said that the Blunts have had a touch of the promotion jitters of late and this was reflected in their performance at times yesterday, but that should in no measure hide the fact that, despite some below-par individual performances, City looked a deal more comfortable in this fixture and with their Championship status than they had done back in January. Taylor was not wrong with his post-match quote to the BBC that we have shown we can now play in the Championship. Granted, there were times when the old respect thing reared its ugly head yesterday, but it’s gradually becoming less of a problem.

On duty yesterday were the following:

Myhill
Thelwell Cort Delaney Dawson
Paynter Green Andrews Ellison
Parkin Fagan

Yes, it really was like rolling back the years yesterday, A Derby game kicking off at 3.00 (Humberside Police please note; it isn’t rocket science, you know), jostling through the hordes shoe-horned into the labyrinthine staircases and concourses of the Bramall Lane end to get to ones seat, being allowed to smoke in the stand, and a raucously-vocal City contingent all served to heighten the mood of anticipation. As, following an infinitesimal but impeccably-observed moment of silence in memory of recently-departed American songster Gene Pitney, the black-shirted Tigers kicked off towards the Shoreham (as it used to be called) the rain which had lashed the dye out of our trousers on the walk from the pub subsided – temporarily – in favour of bright sunshine and the scene was set.

And in the early stages, it was the Tigers who made the running. On 6 Fagan returned a poor clearance first time inches past Kenny’s right hand post, and the Beast, who it must be said generally met his match in Short throughout the afternoon and had his least effective game in a City shirt to date as result (but don’t worry folks, that won’t happen every week), took down a long ball and steered it inches wide of the other post. Sheffield were absolutely at sixes and sevens during these early stages, the biggest threat to City at this stage coming from referee Crossley who, as Mike Scott pointed out to me so many times yesterday that I’ll never hear the end of it if I don’t mention it, never plucked up the courage once during the afternoon to make a difficult decision. After the quarter hour mark, at which point the rain started to teem down again, the Blunts started to crank a little bit of steam out of themselves, but we remained composed, and went close again on 23 when Andrews squared to Ellison, for whom a gap suddenly opened up for the ex-Chest to thump a low drive which seemed destined for the bottom corner only for Kenny to get down and save well.

It could so easily have been 3-0 to us at this stage, but instead on 27 we very nearly went a goal down in what was our first real scare of the afternoon. A poor clearance from Cort (who curiously lacked his customary levels of authority and effectiveness yesterday) was turned back in and Jagielka hit a low effort which Boaz, moving in the wrong direction, managed to block with his legs and then gather the ball as it stopped dead in front of him.

This scare seemed really to get to City. From being generally positive and spunky we suddenly became hesitant and withdrawn, and the Blunts, sensing their chance, and no doubt apprehensive of the welcome their performance so far would elicit from Warnock (and how relieved I was to discover that I was not the only one among my friends not to have known for the last three years that Neil Warnock is an anagram of Colin Wanker) were not slow to capitalise on this and gain the ascendancy as a result. At first they seemed to lack the penetration to exploit this but then on 37 produced a goal out of almost nothing. There didn’t seem a lot of danger when Tonge whipped in his cross from the right but Shipperley, showing remarkable agility for a man of his girth, beat the cover and toe-ended the leather inside Myhill’s right hand post.

At this point we were dealt a stark reminder of just how the fetid tide of footyism has flooded our beloved game. For as Shipperley turned away in triumph to receive the plaudits of the City contingent in front of him, out of the tannoy blasted the ubiquitous “Tom Hark”. In Sheffield. At what I thought was a proper football ground whose regulars would give short shrift to such embarrassing behaviour. I’m sorry, but this is dashed bad form.

This heralded probably the quietest period of the game, the only real incident of note in what remained of the half coming again at the City end a couple of minutes from the break when Cort stood off Webber, whose drive was tipped over by Boaz.

More cringe-making stuff from the Bramall Lane PA man at the start of the second half, with his exhortation to the “Red and White Wizards”, followed by the first line of Annie’s Song as a prompt to the Blunts to sing that song of theirs – called the Greasy Chip Butty song or something similar – which actually sounds quite impressive until you cotton on to the lyrics and wince at the sheer banality of them.

Any hopes that City would reprise the ascendancy they had shown in the game’s first quarter were soon dashed as Sheffield – clearly having had a bollocking from Colin anyway – got and stayed on top from the off. City were all over the place at this stage and it was not surprise when on 52 Ifill beat the City defence to a Webber cross and headed in from the near corner of the six-yard box.

Oh bugger. We looked in for a real towsing now. But City never lose their capacity to conjure up the unexpected (even if it is normally to an adverse effect), and, with the support of the City faithful now rising to thunderous levels – nice to see and hear when so often the fans go quiet in adversity – and the double substitution on 56 things turned round in a manner and with a speed that nobody in the City end could seriously have been expecting. The team, given new impetus by the roaring-on they were getting, started to press forward and suddenly the Blades were looking anything but sharp. After one of theirs had been beaten fairly to the ball by Ellison in the box and won a free kick by falling over (dodgy decision number 6), we came scorching down the right wing and a raking cross from Alton, who generally had a decent game, evaded everybody except Elliott, who had time to control the ball, pick his spot and smash the ball past Kenny’s right hand.

Was it my imagination, or did Stu’s team mates seem reluctant to congratulate the Ulsterman as he did his celebratory somersault? No matter: this was game on big style, now. The game had swung our way, although it looked to have swung back against us a mere minute after the goal when, after Cort had done well to block a Jagielka effort, a long ball found Duffy who hared into the box and beat the advancing Kenny to the ball. the leather ran loose, and as Greeny, who turned in a pleasingly spry performance on the whole, headed towards it and the unguarded onion bag beyond he was upended by Kenny in a manner which would have had Eddie Waring waxing lyrical. Mr Crossley however opted to do a Wenger (presumably, at least; if he had seen it it’s hard to see how he could have done anything but point to the spot). The sheer fury emanating from the Bramall Lane End was literally enough to make your eyes water, as this raised the standards of injustice with which we have to put up when we play that shower to unimaginable levels, and Taylor didn’t seem too enthusiastic about it either.

So, dodgy decision number 8, and with it the chance of doing what had seemed impossible three minutes previously and securing a point now surely whipped heartlessly away from us. Oh, ye of little faith! With the only noise in the ground coming from the City end (but enough noise being made from there to make up for the lack of it elsewhere) and with Kenny clearly struggling with an injury sustained whilst committing his foul on Greeny, we press forward again on 70. This time a lofted ball comes though to Green, who crosses to the near post and Duffy, arriving at the point of contact a nanosecond before the ailing Kenny, pokes it over the line.

Total ear-splitting, stand-shaking, breathtaking pandemonium. Easily the equal of the hysteria which greeted the Beast’s winner against the WS.

We might even have gone in front on 74 when Elliott’s header from outside the box was misdirected with the still-struggling Kenny out of his goal. But surely the energy created by the City fans in that event would have caused the universe to implode, and rather than provoke any cosmic adventures of that nature City opted to settle back for a point which – if you were going to be fair (some chuffing hope!) – you might say was a tad hard on Sheffield. Inevitably, and with the home crowd finding their voices but only for the purpose of getting impatient with their own team, there were a couple of scares in normal time, with one of theirs putting a free header wide from two yards out on 84, and then Nsworthu hit the outside of the post with a low drive.

But injury time – swelled to a lengthy five minutes due mainly to the injury to Kenny – came, and when after a couple of minutes of it Jagielka was through on Boaz in a one-on -one, only to see his effort blocked by the City netman, we thought we might be home and dry. But this is City and, well, you know the rest. The City defence jabbed and feinted at the resulting corner, and when a point-blank stop from Boaz came out again Nsworthu smacked home the rebound. Needless to say, Mr Crossley, taking no chances, then brought an end to the proceedings before the end of the allocated five minutes.

The Blunts celebrated like reprieved killers, as well they might as, frankly, on this showing, they won’t get too many chances to do so next season. Oh yes, Colin the former chiropodist will soon be reminded how callous the Premiership can be for the ill-equipped (sorry, that was a bit corny….er, I’ll get me coat). I was going to say that when we next meet them in the League in 07/08 they’ll find us a very different proposition, but, even if they do, will it be enough to defeat the Sheffield hex?

Anyway, hopefully our Championship status will be put beyond any doubt next Saturday when we entertain Burnley, along with their strange supporters who, if you watch them, all walk in oddly short, shuffling steps with their shoulders hunched.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Thelwell, Cort, Delaney, Dawson; Paynter, Andrews, Green, Ellison; Parkin, Fagan. Subs: Elliott (for Paynter, 56), Duffy (for Fagan, 56), France, Wiseman, Duke.

Goals: Elliott 65; Duffy 70

Booked: Myhill

Sent Off: None

SHEFFIELD UNITED: Kenny, Short, Morgan, Kozluk, Unsworth, Jagielka, Ifill, Tonge, Armstrong, Shipperley, Webber. Subs: Kabba (for Ifill, 87), Akinbiyi, Montgomery, Gillespie, Lucketti.

Goals: Shipperley 36; Ifill 52; Unsworth 90

Booked: None

Sent Off: None

REFEREE: P Crossley

ATTENDANCE: 26,324

Leicester City 3 Hull City 2

Chaos at the turnstiles and things weren’t much better on the pitch as a disheveled City performance saw a second 2-3 reverse against very limited opposition in our first ever visit to Leicester’s Walkers Bowl.

I hated this game more than any game since Terry Dolan was in charge of our team.

Horrible. We were treated like vermin by Leicester City Football Club. I don’t have much desire to be treated like a ‘customer’ at football, still less to be integrated into happy-clappy family entertainment footie fun, but I do like to be allowed to pay into the ground to see the match. The home club were a disgrace, as were the local police, as vile and aggressive a bunch as anything that the late 1980s could have thrown up. And then we were treated like fools by our team, who set aside several weeks of promising performances that have been ill rewarded by poor results and instead served up a foppish self-indulgent ill-disciplined woeful display that got all the points that it deserved. None.

Parkin was wonderful.

No one else was worth their wages. It really is the Dolan era that I last found myself issuing such condemnation. But we played like a relegation team yesterday. Dismal. Inept.

I’m being a bit harsh, I suppose (on the lovely Leon Cort most of all, perhaps). But I’m not happy about yesterday. As you may have noticed.

I reached the ground at about quarter to 3, a bit earlier maybe. I saw that round thing that we call a football for the first time at quarter past 3, a bit later maybe. One turnstile – one! – was open to City fans wanting to pay. Two turnstiles were open for those with tickets, and they were almost completely unused, since we’d been advised we didn’t need to buy tix in advance, since this is a new stadium with copious capacity allied to all modern facilities. Ha! Prattish stewards wandered around asking if we had tickets, waving towards the unused pair of turnstiles. No, we said, politely at first, as the minutes ticked by and kick-off came and went, and our queue got longer.

There were plenty of employees of Leicester City around – none thought to re-designate the ticket turnstiles as pay turnstiles, none thought – imaginez! – to open another turnstile. They did however laugh in most jolly fashion when asked if kick-off might be delayed.

If this was a proper country like Romania or Syria, the officials in charge would have been hung until dead from lampposts, suspended by the gold braid on their epaulettes, while their children would have been slaughtered with piano wire. This being England, we inspected our fingernails and muttered to anyone willing to make eye contact that ‘it is all a bit unfortunate really, all things considered’.

But even the stiff upper lip trembles when jolted with sufficient force. Irritation mounted. All the while sneering police loitered, itching for a fight, treating our increasing protests as a public order issue rather then legitimate frustration at our treatment. Eventually, well after the game had kicked off, one more turnstile was opened. One! And eventually I got in. I expect other City fans are queuing still.

And then we lost.

And, unlike recent reverses, this one we deserved.

Myhill
Thelwell Cort Delaney Rogers
France Green Andrews Noble Elliott
Parkin.

Sort of like that, anyway. We were sloppy, lacking leadership and threw away an importance chance to keep – very ordinary – opposition beneath us in the table. Our goals – both equalisers – were Parkin products. Theirs were horror shows, from our perspective. The second was a freak punt from near the halfway line, but the other two arrived after flowing moves which sped around, past and beyond our stranded midfielders and defence. We looked gruesomely vulnerable.

Four flaws? One, Delaney at centre-back. This utterly admirable young man doesn’t seem quite sharp enough to cope with quick-witted and nimble-footed strikers in this Division. I think this too is Mr Taylor’s view – well, that’s what Andy Dalton told me – but injuries currently force his hand. Two, Andrews is not a bad holding midfielder player. We could do with a better – more engaged, more consistent, more authoritative – holding midfielder. Three, Mark Noble. A talented ballplayer whose ability to find space by roaming across the full width of the pitch could be the source of goalmaking creativity. But when we’re level away from home in a don’t-lose scrap I like to see sundry opponents getting booted up in the air from time to time, and I don’t think young Noble sees getting bloodied or carded in the Hull City cause as the best way to win the heart of Alan Pardew as the chirpy West Ham boss plans for next season. Four, lack of a leader. You can best grasp why Mr Taylor bought Sam Collins when we take to the pitch without him. Collins is a shouter, an organiser, a natural captain, and it’s a role that no one else in the squad can fill. We’re vocally lightweight and I suspect opposing teams draws strength from the impression that we just don’t much fancy getting stuck into it and them.

A summer of post-injury re-birth for Collins, Coles, Dawson, Ashbee (though I doubt he’ll ever be back) and McPhee will help us solve these problems, but I need not remind you that no one has ever been spared relegation on the basis that they’ve had a few men out hurt.

Meanwhile, abuse rained down on Mr Taylor like snow in July. Yes, they’re a fierce bunch these Leicester fans. My, I almost heard them once. I could have been mistaken. The Walker’s Bowl is a functional and unimaginative arena, of a type with So’ton and Reading though probably overall poorer than both, and it is home to a dour, dull and somnolent set of supporters.

By the way, I agree with everything Richard Herman has contributed to this list lately. I understand perfectly well that offering a price in April for next season’s pass, when we don’t know which division we’ll be playing in, gives the punter a chance to gamble. Buy early, buy cheap – and maybe buy Boston not Birmingham. That’s fine, it’s your free choice. But stipulating – as our club currently does – that unless you buy at the earliest date, and no later, you lose you chosen seat at the Circle, is completely unfair, a new departure and simply an attack on the flexibility of the hardest core fans. By all means tell passholders they can buy in April at price x while if they wait until June it will be x plus y. But let them keep their seat in either case.

I’m off topic. ‘Cos I’m fed up. Parkin. Let me lighten the mood. He is fantastic. It was his beautifully crafted crossfield ball that allowed Elliott, arriving at the back post much as he had done – but fruitlessly – in stoppage time at Cardiff, to plant a meaty header past Henderson to provide our first equaliser. His astonishingly deft touch set up Green for a firmly rifled shot from just outside the box to bring us back to 2-2. This man Parkin is a genius. You know, I like him better than Aaron Wilbraham, I really do.

Actually, I like him as much as Colin Stein and Derek Johnstone, and now we really are getting serious. And – seriously – will we keep him? He’s scoring goals, even when (as at Cardiff) the linesman fails to spot it, he’s forcing heroics from goalkeepers (Henderson produced one astonishing save from a point-blank effort during yesterday’s second half), he’s leading the line, he’s winning penalties, he’s making goals for others, he’s turning decent defenders into gibbering wrecks (will Lescott ever recover from his beasting last week?). Parkin is a very seriously gifted footballer and when you look at the silly money thrown in recent years after folk like Adi Akimbiyi, James Scowcroft, Blakes Robbie and Nathan, and assorted feckless Poles and Croats you find yourself wondering what size of cheque may be brandished in front of Mr Pearson over the summer (and not only by whoever is misguided enough to employ Harry Redknapp).

Well, with ten or so minutes to go, I was happy with a point, though not much enamoured of my afternoon’s fun. Then Leicester broke clear down their left, the ball was transferred across the field with the minimum of fuss and an alarming absence of intervention from any of our players, and Gudjonsson, twenty yards out, got his head over the ball to clout a firm low shot into the net via the fingertips of the sprawling Boaz. 3-2. Paynter promptly arrived to bustle, Duffy had been doing the same since his arrival on the hour (and the Scot looked perkier this week than last), but the task was beyond us. In stoppage time the best scoring opportunity fell to Leicester when Boaz found himself marooned upfield in support of a fading attack, and a sliced hoof simply left their sub Welsh in space, homing in on an empty net. He slapped his shot wastefully high over the bar as our defence scurried back, to the dismay of team-mates advancing in support both to his right and his left. But, for us, the game was lost, and the fell murmur ‘Millwall have won’ spread among the City support.

Commendably astute pub selection by a reliable china o’mine ensured this was a splendid day up until about quarter to three. After that, it was vile. I don’t think I’ll be bothering with the away game at Leicester next season. Assuming there is one.

HULL CITY (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Thelwell, Cort, Delaney, Rogers; Andrews, Noble; France, Green, Elliott; Parkin. Subs: Welsh (for Noble, 60), Duffy (for Thelwell, 65), Paynter (for Andrews, 87), Ellison, Duke.

Goals: Elliott 35; Green 73

Booked: Elliott

Sent Off: None

 

LEICESTER CITY: Henderson, Stearman, Gerrbrand, Kisnorbo, Johansson, Maybury, Gudjonsson, Williams, Hughes, Hume, Fryatt. Subs: Welsh (for Hughes, 71), Brevett (for Fryatt, 88), Logan, O’Grady, Hammond.

Goals: Hume 30; Gudjonsson 64, 84

Booked: None

Sent Off: None

 

REFEREE: N Miller

ATTENDANCE: 22,835

Hull City 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 3

A splendid game of football and a superb attacking display by the Tigers – nevertheless the class of Wolves forwards ensure a 2-3 reverse and extend the period of winlessness at the KC beyond two months.

Another game goes by. The bottom three don’t catch us up and we remain nine points clear of relegation. Again City turn in a performance against top-half opposition that showed huge promise for the future, but produced a zero points haul. Just like Cardiff last week the Tigers dominated proceedings but in the end clinical finishing by an Arsenal loanee striker, a Scottish international striker and a striker that has commanded a £7m fee in recent years saw the away team win late on. And there’s the difference. We can all go on about how City should “not fear the opposition” and “let’s get at them” and “let’s not get overawed”. City avoided all three of those pitfalls in this game yet still lost – because when the chances came, Wolves had better players than us. We’ll learn. We’ll improve. We’ll get there.

With three strikers on the bench and big Jon Parkin alone up front City lined up in a formation that generally matched the away side’s. France and Elliott supported the Beast wherever possible, Green was in an advanced role, Andrews and Noble tidied up and kept the decrepit but capable pairing of Ince and Anderton in check. We carded:

Myhill
Thelwell Cort Delaney Rogers
Noble Andrews
France Green Elliott
Parkin

City have tried this formation a few times before, generally with Ben Burgess at the spearhead, and it has rarely worked. Yet today it did – another sign of the progress we are making as a club, both in terms of training and the capability of our squad to perform flexibly according to match conditions. A decent Wolves following cheered on the away side while City emerged in a state of considerable fired-upness. As early as the 3rd minute Leon Cort had outmuscled his elder brother Carl (were the Charltons the last centre forward/centre half brothers to play a league game in direct opposition?) and played in Parkin down the right, whose first shot was blocked and second was underhit and saved low by renowned amateur porn star Postma in the Wolves goal. Moments later Parkin held off Lescott – such a dominant force at Molineux in August – and played a sumptuous flick into France’s path but the opening was squandered. A great start with Jon Parkin once again looking like a proper footballer as well as an enormous presence in the City attack. City continued to press while Wolves played the ball around nicely when they had it, but didn’t actually pose any threat in City’s last third. City had a corner cleared to Noble on the edge of the box but his low shot was deflected wide. Then Andrews screwed a shot wide after a tidy knock-down by the advanced France. On 18 minutes Mark Noble had a Star Trek moment, a move started with the West Ham youngster on the right before neat City passing in midfield saw the ball fall to Noble wide on the left, apparently teleported across the pitch in a matter of seconds. Noble cut inside and shot over the crossbar, then went on to give a display of great promise, much better than his rather limp effort at Cardiff which had left this correspondent wondering whether he was any better than the previous incumbent, John Welsh. I can now see the point of Mark Noble, a fine player with a great engine.

All these shots and chances, surely a goal was coming. Rogers and Parkin combined on the left to feed Elliott in space, Stuey cut inside and shot straight at Postma, who stood as erect and firm as his young lady’s Poke-u-Like 12 Inch Strap-on as he caught the ball. Penetrative stuff by City, and for once Postma didn’t turn his back. Then Delaney stepped out of defence to intercept a clearance and advanced 30 yards before thumping a low shot a foot past Postma’s post. City were utterly on top, waves of attacks were crashing over the Wolves defence and the City crowd was as fired up as it had been for a while. Time for a show of real class to open the scoring.

Noble received the ball on half way and dithered momentarily as he searched for a short pass when the nearby presence of two Wolves players might have demanded he lump it Beast-wards. He was dispossessed (I think by excellent youngster Davies) and glove-wearing speedster Aliadiere was released down the loosely defended right channel. Those City fans who had wondered before the game who would win a sprint between Aliadiere and Damien Delaney got their answer as the French Gunner eased into City’s box and struck a low drive past Myhill’s right hand. One-nil, thoroughly undeserved on balance of play but justified on balance of talent.

Shaken by this setback, City retreated into their shells, a sign of awe-struck fear rearing its head again for a while. In this period Aliadiere had another raid down the right saved by Myhill and scrambled away by Delaney, while the express-paced Miller looked a genuine threat before heading a cross well over after more unchallenged attacking down City’s left. For this I do not blame Rogers – he performed excellently again and looks to be a real asset – but Wolves realised that they could double up out wide and expose Elliott’s absence when he was caught upfield. In time Noble realised the threat and covered across, thankfully before further additions to the scoreline were made.

As the end of the half approached City regained their confidence and more chances were made and missed. Noble blasted over from 25 yards and Andrews’ clever free kick released France but his cross evaded Parkin. Then five minutes before the break a France throw-in found Parkin on the right by the goal-line and the Beast scuttled past Lescott with a deft shuffle (how can such a big brute be so delicate?) only to be felled by a swishing and mistimed Lescott tackle. The referee was left with little choice but to point to the spot (there was no way the felony could be located outside the box, as per last week at Ninian Park) and Stuart Green stepped up to convert the twelve yarder.

To his credit Greenie looked pretty confident as he waited for the penalty box to clear and the referee to whistle the go-ahead. It wasn’t a confidence shared by many onlookers in the home stands and as Postma correctly guessed which way the blonde Cumbrian was placing his effort, so Green overcompensated and rolled his penalty a foot wide. That’ll be his last spot kick for a while, I suggest. Elliott lashes them straight (he missed the one he placed) while Parkin would surely scare any goalkeeper into submission just with his thundering approach to the ball. Fair play for Greenie to have the nerve to take it. Whether he should have been allowed to is open to question.

Just before half time Green nearly made amends as he took in his stride a splendid Parkin knock-down and breezed past two defenders before rolling a low shot just wide of the post. Green was only 24 inches from bagging a brace – a distance that might not seem much, but would make even Stefan Postma wince in the bedroom.

The second half started as the first left off, and the KC crowd was treated to as thrilling a 45 minutes of football as have been served up for a while. Wolves had clearly upped their level a notch or two and Kenny Miller in particular became more influential with his pace and power. But City too had come out fired up and had soon restored parity. France had powered past Wolves left back Naylor to set up Parkin, whose shot was blocked for a corner. The flagkick was cleared to the right and Noble delivered a swerving cross that was only part cleared. It fell to Leon Cort near the penalty box who struck a sweet volley into the roof of Postma’s net. It was absolutely deserved by both player and his team. Game on.

Alan Rogers has a long flat throw and this looks to be a decent threat. Straight after City equalised Noble headed on a Rogers chuck and Parkin hit a twisting shot from behind his body over from 12 yards. Then Andrews had a shot deflected over the bar after a deft trick by Parkin had opened up Wolves again. The winner looked on the cards and on 56 minutes came the golden chance. Elliott was found free on the left in City’s half from a quick-thinking Myhill throw and the Christian wing-wizard sprinted 60 yards deep into Wolves’ territory before threading a tremendous cross to the back post where Parkin was unmarked and had a simple right foot tap-in from 8 yards. Inexplicably the Beast elected to switch the ball to his left foot – no doubt in an attempt to wrong-foot Postma – but this momentary delay afforded Lescott the chance to effect a last-ditch tackle and the chance was gone. Bah!

Three minutes later we were behind again. Andrews underhit a square pass to Thelwell on half-way and the right back – who looked composed and a real asset to the side for a second match running – trod on the ball and ceded possession to the pacy Miller. The Ireland-bound Scotsman sprinted from half way line to penalty box before rolling the ball to Aliadiere who was lining up a low shot when Rogers got a toe in. Alas this tackle simply returned the ball to Miller who struck the ball inside Myhill’s left post. Double bah!!

It was real gloves-off time for both sides now (the pinky-protecting Frenchman Aliadiere excepted) as both sides ripped into each other with gay abandon. Anderton had hobbled off to give way to Mark Kennedy while Thelwell had been sacrificed to allow the introduction of another fleet-of-foot Scotsman, Darryl Duffy. Alas Duffy was the one City player that looked utterly overawed (“blaady heull, tha’s Kenny Millah ah’m chasin'”) and he was pretty ineffective, especially when Fagan later came on and Darryl was deputed to Stuart Green’s midfield string tugging role. Wolves had one or two glimpses of goal – Ince shot wide after good chest-play by Aliadiere – but the balance of play remained Tigery. Noble accepted a free-kick nod-down from Leon Cort before side-stepping two tackles and shooting striaght at the keeper. Then neat passing in midfield found France – by now playing right back – well advanced and in space to cross. His long ball cleared the back post but found Parkin closing down centre back Edwards at the goal-line. The defender appeared to have the chance to let the ball bounce away harmlessly for a goal kick but clearly a Beastly presence unnerved him and he attempted an extravagant over-the-shoulder clearance. The ball instead went straight up in the air and swirled around in the wind a bit before returning pitch-wards deep into the goal mouth. As the keeper flapped and Noble advanced, the ball dropped directly on the goal-line and bounced up into the roof of the net. Another deserved equaliser.

City didn’t sit back, they went for the win. But the changes in personnel designed to chase an equaliser now came back to haunt us. Duffy was ineffectual as already stated while France has not looked entirely comfortable at right back for some time. Going for a winner seemed the only solution and when Fagan had sight of goal after more Parkin strength on the left, the approach looked a good one. Alas Lescott blocked Fagan’s shot. In the end though, the changes were City’s undoing. With a minute left Duffy failed to close down Miller in midfield and the ball was switched to Ricketts on the left wing. Ricketts stepped inside a lame challenge by France and swung a high cross to the far post where Carl Cort showed greater strength than the tiring Delaney to deftly knock a volley past Myhill for the winner. With four minutes of stoppage time to go City went in search of an equaliser, and it nearly came with three of those minutes gone when Parkin – like at the end of the first half – nodded a long ball into Green’s path who struck a fabulous volley that was tipped wide by the sprawling Postma.

So the points reward that City deserved from this game was denied, nevertheless this was a hugely encouraging performance to take into the much more important game against struggling Leicester next week. After a shaky start Green was a positive addition to the team and only his missed penalty blotted his record – he played in a position that was Taylor-made for Barmby, future-City-formation-spotting-fans. The defence was generally sound although Delaney was ultimately exposed for his lack of pace and weariness. Rogers looks a fine player and on present form looks a better bet than Dawson in that position. Andrews and Noble were a powerhouse combination full of running and clever passing, albeit interspersed with the occasional error that Wolves were good enough to punish so severely. France was excellent restored to his attacking role, and Thelwell looks good enough to make the right back slot his own. Top plaudits must go to Jon Parkin though, his display of hard running, strength and deftness betrayed his massive fitness as well as his target man qualities. Parkin could be our best signing in twenty years if things continue this way, he could be the focus for our rise up the table next season. Top beasting.

HULL CITY (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Thelwell, Cort, Delaney, Rogers; Andrews, Noble; France, Green, Elliott; Parkin. Subs: Duffy (for Thelwell, 65), Fagan (for Elliott, 78), Paynter, Welsh, Duke.

Goals: Cort 51; o.g. (Edwards) 82

Booked: None

Sent Off: None

 

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS: Postma, Ross, Lescott, Edwards, Naylor, Ince, Davies, Anderton, Miller, Cort, Aliadiere. Subs: Kennedy (for Anderton, 62), Ricketts (for Aliadiere, 77), Frankowski (for Miller, 89), Oakes, Rosa.

Goals: Aliadiere 28; Miller 59; Cort 89

Booked: Kennedy, Miller, Naylor, Ricketts, Ross

Sent Off: None

 

REFEREE: I Williamson

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