Swansea City 4 Hull City 2

Needing a win to retain their League status, struggling Swansea and their chum in the black shirt with the whistle took care of business.  Steve Weatherill admonishes the Swans’ twelfth man for his many misdemeanours.
Most times in life expectation wins out over hope. And so it was yesterday at the Vetch Field.I had hoped to witness us relegate football’s most evil club, preferably in the most viciously painful fashion – a disputed last-minute winner, perhaps. But I’ve had realism beaten into me over long and crushing years of watching Hull City, and in truth I had expected the occasion to overwhelm even the most valiant, and it was hard to avoid the logical conclusion that by hook or more probably by crook Swansea would survive. And so it came to pass. But the men overwhelmed were not our players, who in the main showed a commendable fighting spirit in the most hostile of environments and who for much of the first half held out the promise of winning nationwide gratitude by severing Swansea from the Football League. The cowering gibbering apologies for human beings that officiated at this game were directly responsible for Swansea’s salvation. Bad refereeing I can tolerate – we get it most weeks. Biased refereeing stinks. We suffered it at home to Hednesford a few years ago and we suffered it again yesterday. Mr Mathieson was his name. It was shameful stuff. It didn’t take him long to put his cards on the table. A clumsy challenge from Ben Burgess ten seconds into the game merited a brief cautionary word at most but with the home fans baying for blood and clambering over the seats as if to swarm on to the turf referee Mathieson hastily whipped out his yellow card. He couldn’t have made his intentions clearer if he had commandeered the tannoy and announced “Don’t worry Swansea fans, I’ll see you right, just don’t hurt me, please, I want to get home for my tea tonight”. Our players were understandably cautious and began feebly – and got feebler. Swansea pumped the ball forward artlessly, we defended far too deep, and cracks were obvious. A ball down their left, in behind Otsemobor, found one of theirs offside, but normal service will be resumed only once Swansea are safe, and in the meantime the linesman whistled tunelessly, pointed to the “Wife and two kids back home, don’t hurt me please” notice pinned to his back and allowed play to continue. A cross was met firmly and a shot thudded against the post before spinning behind for a goal kick. The referee gave a corner. It was already plain that our team would be facing an arduous task without the commission of any individual errors, but that proviso wasn’t long in being shattered. Big-Hits Melton attempted a reckless and dreadfully-judged tackle out wide, just inside the penalty area, over went his immediate opponent, and referee Mathieson gleefully pointed to the spot. “O terrific, we’re really going to show some guts this afternoon, aren’t we City?” mused a morose travelling support of 192, as Thomas stroked an unstoppable penalty past Fettis and a roar of relief burst from the three sides of the Vetch crammed with the usual gang of mutants and thugs. Five or six of humanity’s detritus raced on to the pitch, one of whom joined the players in their celebratory cuddles. All the invaders were allowed to take their time in strolling back to the terraces and picking their spot to resume enjoyment of the game. No attempt at all was made to apprehend these criminals, though it would have been perfectly easy so to do. No doubt Swansea, on their regular visits to football’s governing authorities, tell tales about how they are committed to stamping out misconduct in their ground. All lies. We had lined up 4-4-2:

Fettis Otsemobor Joseph Whittle Smith Reeves Keates Delaney Melton Burgess Elliott

And ten minutes in they were all rubbish, we were losing 1-0, and this looked likely to yet another in the long procession of scoreless, pointless surrenders by Hull City teams visiting Swansea. And then Elliott equalised. Burgess set it up, the home defence was shredded, and Elliott struck a confident left-foot shot past Cutler in the Swansea goal. And then Reeves put us 2-1 ahead. This was shocking defence – dithering, confused and wonderful to watch. Reeves strode clear with the ball and lifted a cute chip up over Cutler, and three sides of the ground now went very quiet. The fourth side erupted in joy, delight, and, my o my, it felt good, it felt so very good. The whole mood had altered. We had arrived under the billing of sacrificial victim and suddenly we were running the show. Swansea looked empty and confused, the home crowd was eerily quiet, and that long-odds bet, that we might really make a fight of it and send Swansea tumbling out of the League, was suddenly available at a rapidly shortening price. Elliott was mobile and full of ideas: his partnership with Burgess could develop into something very interesting indeed. The midfield (except Melton) was competing vigorously, and, on an afternoon where delicate ball skills were never likely to be on the menu, Delaney’s energy and enthusiasm were offering just what was required. Swansea had a half-chance, but put it over the bar; we whipped in a free-kick from the left, just too high. Then more sloppy defending from the lamentable Swans presented Elliott with a shooting opportunity which brought out the best in Cutler. Swansea looked most dangerous when they tried to bring the ball from deep and run at us from midfield, but they really aren’t good enough to piece together moves of the necessary quality, and as we approach half-time 2-1 up the entertainment value on the away terrace is increasing in direct proportion to the growing and palpable sense of anxiety among the seething home fans. Whereupon Mr Mathieson steps in. Justin Whittle sweeps imperiously across the box, removes the ball from the possession of a doleful attacker and clears the danger. It is superb defending, in the excellent unflustered professional style we have come to associate with Justin. The Swansea players’ heads drop a little further, the home crowd sigh in despair. And Mr Mathieson awards a penalty. Apparently for hand-ball. Madness. Absurdity. Cheating. No one can quite believe it. Certainly no one appealed for a penalty, not even the most rabid Swansea fan (and that’s rabid): even though the incident occurred right in front of the tightest, maddest knot of home supporters. It was quite ludicrous. But what can you do? Nothing, except give thanks that we hadn’t needed anything from this fixture. It was pure injustice, but had it been injustice that really affected our club’s fate for the season it would have been a great deal harder to stomach. The penalty was tucked away for 2-2, and then it was half-time. And soon after half-time they scored again. A free-kick by Martinez from wide on the left was headed back across the face of our goal and bundled in from close range by Johnrose. A few minutes later Otsemobor received a pass in space, but refused to transfer the ball to waiting team-mates and instead cut infield. He promptly lost possession, the ball fell kindly for Thomas and he chipped the ball over Fettis from 25 yards out. It was an undeniably fine finish, but Otsemobor’s play was witless and criminally unprofessional. I will secure pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix before this guy ever plays a game in the Premiership. We released Mike Edwards to make room for this can’t-defend, won’t-defend dummy? It is obvious that both sides recognise that a two-goal advantage is to be treated as decisive, and at 4-2 the heat vanishes from the game. Roberto Martinez, television pundit and occasional footballer, is controlling midfield with a display of assured passing and thoughtful movement of the ball that would have graced the CV of Bobby Doyle himself. Swansea are safe. We’ve done our best by Exeter with a spirited first half display, but if the plucky Grecians want to know why they’ve gone down despite their superb finishing spurt, then they can look to referee Mathieson and his ridiculous penalty award in Swansea’s favour just before half-time. That is the incident on which this game turned, and it may kill off Exeter. Sleep easy, Mr Mathieson. Only Stuart Elliott was unwilling to sleepwalk his way to the final whistle and the promise of a beach holiday (but not in Wales). A low shot forced Cutler to concede a corner and a short while later a cross-shot brought a good diving stop from Cutler to his left. It is a shame to see the avuncular Roger Freestone ousted from the home side’s net but they seem to have discovered an able replacement. Meanwhile another atrocious piece of defending from Otsemobor gifted possession to Swansea, though the error fortunately went unpunished. Burgess was replaced by Webb; Otsemobor by Burton, who went to left-side midfield while Melton moved across to right-back. It was all a bit tame now. We’ve given up. Keates and Delaney have worked industriously, Elliott has played an uncommonly fine game. Burgess began well, but faded. Collectively our defence was too often shaky, but special mention is reserved for Smith, Otsemobor and Melton. All three were scandalously poor. There are three minutes to be added and in the first of them O’Leary shoves his arm firmly across Webb’s throat as the young striker rushes past him inside the Swansea box. It is as clear a penalty as you could wish to see. Of course it is not given. And so 4-2, an enormous pitch invasion, and I hope the players reached the sanctuary of the dressing rooms safely. I didn’t hang around. I was off and away, but only after being wished a safe journey by a smiling and genuinely pleasant member of the local Heddlu. A smile in Swansea? As unexpected as seeing City score in Swansea. And so we will be back to Wales again next season. With what sort of a team? The improving imaginative and potent outfit that has put Carlisle, Bournemouth and Kidderminster to the sword in the last couple of months? The bloody-minded, hard-working bunch that ground out wins at Macclesfield and Boston? The ragged, rudderless rabble that turned in such dismally insipid displays at Darlington and Rochdale? O blimey, I dunno. Season 2002/03. 49 games. Most of them pretty poor. It’s over now.

HULL CITY: Fettis, Otsemobor, Joseph, Whittle, Smith, Reeves, Delaney, Keates, Melton, Elliott, Burgess.  Subs: Webb (for Burgess, 62), Burton (for Otsemobor, 66), Anderson, Regan, Musselwhite.Goals: Elliott 9, Reeves 25 Booked: Burgess Sent Off: None   SWANSEA CITY: Cutler, Jenkins, O’Leary, Tate, Howard, Coates, Britton, Martinez, Johnrose, Nugent, Thomas.  Subs: Freestone, Hylton, Smith, Richards, Williams. Goals: Thomas 8 (pen), 45 (pen), 57; Johnrose 48 Booked: None Sent Off: None   ATTENDANCE: 9,585

Rushden & Diamonds 4 Hull City 2

A game with everything, ending ultimately in defeat.  Steve Weatherill assesses the highlights of another Nene Park goalfest.
Two minutes into this match a Rush slid a pass down the inside right channel. But it was over-ambitious. The attacker was a yard behind the covering defender, who had ample time to clear the danger. Instead that defender simply spanked a solid low shot beyond the right hand of the aghast Fettis, and Rushden were – to their utter astonishment – ahead. As own goals go, it was a quality strike. As witless, ignorant, thoughtless and unprofessional defending goes, it was gold medal stuff. You. Do. Not. NOT. Hit. A. Back. Pass. Directly. At. Goal. We have all had that beaten into us in the school playground. All of us, that is, except Damien Delaney. Young Delaney is surely on the right road to becoming a cult figure of Eddie Edwards proportions. He is the sprinter who trips over his starting blocks. The cricketer allergic to newly-mown grass. The high jumper with vertigo. His game gaucheness and his unmistakable eagerness-to-please make it impossible to dislike him, but there comes a point at which you have to say “honest endeavour is not enough”, and I really would prefer never to see him again playing for the Hull City first team. Or at least not until he’s spent a couple of years in the reserves learning the basics of defending and losing his unnerving fawn-caught-in-headlights demeanour. I mean, don’t get me wrong. For me, part of the joy of football is the spectacle of profound incompetence. I tend to prefer it when it’s provided by the opposition rather than the team I support, but even so I have, in an odd sort of a way, thrilled to the Craig Lawford malpassing academy, the Roger De Vries hoof into touch and Darren France’s ability to jump for a header and look shorter than when he was when still in contact with the ground. But I don’t think there has ever been a player as monstrously prone to disastrous errors – game in, game out – as this hapless fellow Delaney. Enough about Damien Delaney. We would probably have just about lost this match even if we’d had someone worth his wages in the Irishman’s stead. This was a lively game spotted by a multitude of mistakes. We trailed 1-0 at half-time (Delaney, o.g.) and were down to ten men (Whittle, red card), and yet, showing admirable spirit, we claimed a 2-1 lead before the mid-point of the second half. And then, amid managerial indolence and shocking defending, we duly surrendered the points to eager, promotion-bound opponents. Lining up for us on a beautiful sunny afternoon by the River Nene were:

Fettis Otsemobor Whittle Anderson Delaney Reeves Appleby Keates Elliott Walters Forrester

And we went one down. Delaney. Shortly afterwards a free kick on the edge of our box offered Rushden a fine opportunity to double their advantage, but a tame shot was easily held by the Fettis. A couple of minutes later our keeper was put to a sterner test, as a dangerous cross was floated towards the back post, but the Fett sprinted off his line to snatch the ball off an attacker’s toe. But we began to settle down after a disastrous opening. Reeves and Otsemobor combined effectively down our right, and the latter delivered a cross that was just too long for our advancing attack. Then Otsemobor played a fine pass into the feet of Walters: he turned and slipped a slick ball into the box, which was hurriedly, worriedly bustled away for a corner as Rushden began to defend anxiously. The Tigers were having the better if it. Both flanks were lively, our front two mobile, and the midfield, though certainly weaker with the disappointing Appleby in and the sturdy Ashbee out, was nonetheless holding its own. Forrester set up a shot for Reeves, which was blasted wastefully wide, but, minutes later, when Forrester this time set up Elliott, Turley in the Rushden goal could only watch nervously as the shot slipped a foot or so beyond his far post. Walters headed down to Forrester, who shot wide, and then a delightful defence-splitting pass from the energetic Forrester put Elliott into the clear down the left for a shot that was well saved by Turley. It wasn’t all City, and Rushden had their moments as they attempted to play a neat passing game rather than kick-and-rush. It’ll never get you anywhere in this Division, as is demonstrated by the current fate of the Division’s main exponents of proper football – Hartlepool, Rushden, Wrexham – and the home side looked decreasingly likely to disturb the Fettis. The equaliser we deserved almost arrived when a quite glorious Walters knock-down released Forrester who scuttled to the by-line before chipping a cute cross on to the forehead of his striking partner – just wide. And then, as half time approached, Justin Whittle got sent off. He fouled Duane Darby, of that there was no doubt. But it was outside the box, and several City players were close to the scene. Darby had nothing remotely resembling a clear run on goal. As the referee reached to his pocket it never even crossed my mind the card’s colour could be anything other than yellow. But it was red. The short period left before half-time was marked by Forrester streaking clear of the defence and deftly lifting the ball over the exposed Turley. But, in contrast to the similarly-executed strike at Carlisle a fortnight ago, the effort hit the post and the ball bounced straight back into the relieved clutches of home goalkeeper. It was a glimpse of what was to come after the break. For City, even a man short, dominated the play. In fact it was an absorbing, thrilling and hugely encouraging spell of football. Appleby was taken off, in favour of Smith, who took up the left-back spot; Delaney moved to Whittle’s position in the centre; and Reeves was asked to take up a more central, hard-running role. And we took control. A marvellous move saw Elliott feed Walters, whose first-time touch released Reeves in space down the right. His cross was met with a sharp shot by Forrester, but the ball flew a yard over the bar. Forrester’s energy and vision were impressive yesterday, but his shooting was awry. Not so our corners. We’re not very good at corners. Not very good in the same way that Nigeria are not very good at ice hockey and Brazil are not very good at cricket. And yet we scored twice from corners inside five minutes at Rushden. The world truly is a strange place. I can’t tell you a lot about the first one. The corner was looped into the box, and a header was despatched goalwards. And suddenly it all went quiet … we noticed our players celebrating … and so we did too. More than that, I cannot say. But the second was a peach. Walters raced clear of his marker across the penalty area to receive a corner directed to the near post, and swivelled to smash an unerring  first-time shot into the back of the net. A thumping strike, a wonderful goal. But 2-1 up soon became 2-2. Our defending was sloppy and horribly lacking in conviction. Rushden simply barged their way through the middle and Hall fired a low shot past Fettis. Neither Anderson nor Delaney cut a happy figure. Poor old Delaney. In one priceless moment he strode clear with the ball at his feet. You could almost hear him thinking, “Here’s me! Damien Delaney, Professional Footballer! Scirea, Beckenbauer, Ruud Krol … I’m too young to know who they were, but if I did know, that’s how they’d play. Just like this, Ball Playing Centre back, Weeeee!!! …. O bugger, I’ve kicked it too hard and I’ve lost it now, I hope no one noticed”. Poor old Delaney. Hall pulled a cross back from the by-line and the giant Onandi Lowe hit the post. Then Lowe turned past Delaney as if he were a pillar of salt before shooting powerfully enough for Fettis to spill the ball before recovering it to the shelter of his gut. And then good defensive work under our crossbar nevertheless resulted in a shooting chance as Rushden exploited their extra man as the ball ran loose, and a shot clipped the top of our bar before skidding over and into the crowd. It’s 2-2 but we’re reeling, and some urgent tactical thinking is needed. Might we go 4-4-1? Perhaps some fresh legs would help? It’s at key moments in difficult games that smart managers really show their mettle. There is no sign of wit from our bench. Except that Reeves, who has enjoyed a lively second half, is withdrawn for … Melton. This useless lump does all that would be expected. Which is to say he prances around well away from the football and – of course – never even remotely looks interested in making a tackle. I could never hate a gentle and hard-working soul like Damien Delaney, even though I would like it if he wasn’t a member of my favourite football team, but, my o my, I could hate this sponging sneering idle meltonian waste-of-space. Another Rushden defensive error frees Forrester, but he is again guilty of wild shooting and the ball soars over the crossbar. We’re into the last ten now, and a point is evidently the summit of our ambitions. We’re dropping deep. With Lowe a constant menace up front (though Darby is quiet), the willowy Burgess providing intelligent prompting from midfield and Peter Stringfellow lookalike Underwood surging down the left, the home side are well on top. Delaney is easily beaten by Lowe down the left; Lowe misplaces his pass and presents the ball to Melton. Who promptly kicks it straight back to a Rushden player. Pitiful. We’re dropping deeper. Walters is limping – we’ve only got nine-and-a-half men now, and one of them is Melton. We’re dropping too deep. The defence scatters, Delaney panics, falls over, gifts the ball to Lowe inside the penalty box, and the beanpole striker gleefully rams his shot beneath Fettis. 3-2, five minutes to go. We’re sunk. There is still time for a piece of defending that should in all fairness guarantee its perpetrator a permanent place in the reserves until his contract expires. Smith is the man. He tries to shepherd a ball out over the by-line. His judgement is flawed. His physical determination is woefully absent. Hall skips past him, collects the ball, cuts in towards goal and strokes a square ball to Wardley, who smashes it into our net from eight yards out. It is dreadful stuff. And there is still time for Burgess to flash a 25-yarder a foot wide of the far post before the referee calls time on a 4-2 defeat. Right then. That’s us done for season 2002/03. The spirit was pretty good today, although we drooped in the later stages – perhaps in part because no useful guidance was forthcoming from our manager. But we’re playing for the medium- and long-term now, so there’s no point having loan players unless we’re likely to be able to sign them. So Otsemobor, Reeves and Walters should be packed off home tomorrow. Smith should never play for us again; Delaney needs a long spell out of the first-team. Melton should be the first to be paid up and booted out. I doubt much, if any, of that will happen while Mr Taylor is in charge. Should he be in charge, do you think?

HULL CITY: Fettis, Otsemobor, Whittle, Anderson, Delaney, Reeves, Appleby, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Forrester.  Subs: Smith (for Appleby, 46), Melton (for Reeves, 75), Jevons, Regan, Musselwhite. Goals: Otsemobor 59, Walters 63 Booked: Reeves Sent Off: Whittle   RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS: Turley, Bignot, Edwards, Hunter, Underwood, Hall, Wardley, Burgess, Bell, Lowe, Darby.  Subs: Gray (for Bell, 84), Peters, Mills, Sambrook, Duffy. Goals: Delaney 2 (og), Hall 68, Lowe 87, Wardley 90 Booked: Edwards Sent Off: None   ATTENDANCE: 4,713

Hull City 2 Leicester City 4

Steve Weatherill reports on another rousing Tigers performance, albeit one that ended ultimately in defeat against lofty opposition.
Ah, cynicism, be a stranger. I’m no admirer of the tired old League Cup, but the crowd of just over 7,000 that watched this tie last night will not be forgetting what they witnessed in a hurry. This was terrific entertainment, as vibrant a 90 minutes as we’ve seen at the Ark in a while. I do mean 90 minutes, and not a minute longer, because once extra time began with the scores locked at 1-1 it took Leicester just twelve seconds to claim the lead and less than five more minutes to skate into a 4-1 canter, but over the fluctuations of normal time our team performed with a zest and zeal that wholly eliminated any hint that there might be two Divisions and more stretching between the current status of these two clubs. In the extraordinary course of a dynamic interlude of play between 85 and 90 we simply battered the visitors’ defence with a sustained surge of attacking verve that had us agonisingly close to victory more than once. And we would have deserved that success. On roastingly lively form:

Glennon Regan Whittle Anderson Smith Appleby Keates Ashbee Williams Alexander Jevons

A standard 4-4-2, and off we went on a still soft September evening attacking North Stand under a gibbous moon sinking slowly behind the Main Stand. The pattern was sketched quickly; lively and committed football, with both teams getting forward at pace. Leicester threatened first as a long cross reached Trevor Benjamin in an alarming amount of space deep inside our box. The former Cambridge man confounded those critics who doubt the quality of his first touch by flapping haplessly at the ball and failing to make any contact at all. A career in freefall, no doubt. Meanwhile, at the other end, Alexander was leading the line well and pressing the visiting defence into a cheering number of hastily booted clearances directly into Kempton. The discomfort of Matt Elliott, who used to be a good player in his Scunthorpe days, had me chuckling. The game was shaping up nicely as a contest when, sickeningly, Leicester scored. Rogers ran with pace and power from very deep in the midfield and, with no one able to track such a hurtling burst, we could only look on aghast as a pass was whipped into his path and duly thumped under Glennon into our net. It was the sort of goal that just doesn’t get scored in our Division – doesn’t even get dreamed about, for that matter. And Leicester smiled knowingly, patted City on the head and offered us some sweeties, and began to stroll around as if enjoying a half-paced training-ground kickabout. Glennon-Hyde fubled a corner, and was rescued by desperate defence. Callum Davidson repeated the trick that had brought the opening goal and, running from deep, surged clear to receive an astute pass, only to discover Dr Jekyll had taken over between the posts and Glennon nudged a vicious shot over the bar with brilliant nonchalance. The game suddenly lacked bite, and it was all too easy. Ha! Don’t patronise us, matey! A free-kick was awarded to us 30 yards from their goal and Ashbee didn’t hesitate. He slid a pass towards Jevons in the box and, with the Leicester defence utterly bemused and tumbling like blossom in May, the ball pinged around before landing at the feet of Alexander, 12 yards from goal. He steadied himself and rammed a firm shot past Ian Walker. Joy at the equaliser, joy at Alexander getting on target for the first time this season … GAME ON! And it really did all change now. Leicester were rattled. Their fluency was gone – or, at least, we could now match it. Their evening stroll was abruptly terminated and they bared their teeth. Both teams did. It was red-blooded stuff, and from here on in there spiralled an exhilarating helter-skelter of fast-paced attacking football. Williams dribbled spectacularly down the left before rolling a shot just inches wide of the far post with Walker scrambling across his line in a vain attempt to intercept. The Tigers were forcing the pace now, and it was splendid stuff. Appleby had staked a claim for the Frankie Bunn Memorial Award by falling over his own feet when he first touched the ball, but he had quickly regained the favour of the Kempton. He looks an exciting acquisition; strong, sensible on the ball, and confident. He also managed to entertain us royally by fouling Dennis Wise’s victim, Callum Davidson, right on the touch-line, while succeeding in winning the free-kick. A bemused Davidson sat dejectedly on the grass, off the pitch, having the cold spray directed at his ankle as a mist of what looked like dry ice enveloped him, in the manner of the odd bird who sat at the front of the stage when Hawkwind did “Silver Machine” on Top of the Pops. But Davidson, even if still feeling mean, had no chance to prove it, for he was subbed shortly afterwards in favour of the lively Jordan Stewart. For international-spattered Leicester, Mussy Izzet made it two home games in a row in which we have been treated to the sight of a young man pining nervily for his expected big-money move, and Izzet, like Matt Lockwood of Orient before him, showed why he is moderately highly-rated without ever suggesting he is truly worth a place at the top table. Izzet, more than most of the visitors, was growling increasingly fractiously at the turn of events and his frustration earned him a yellow card, and he could have suffered further after stupidly engaging Ashbee in frank debate directly after his caution. The break was reached at 1-1, with the alert Regan concluding the half by heading clear at the back post, and it had been lots of fun. It got better. The second half was terrific, rising to a vibrant crescendo. Williams darted fully 60 yards down the left before feeding Smith, sensibly providing support, and his cross, bound for Jevons racing in at the near post, was hastily beaten behind for a corner. Up at the other end Glennon stretched his full length to stop a low shot. Then a corner to Leicester was blocked on the line by a combination of Glennon’s hand and a defensive boot, and the ball bounced clear via a graze of the crossbar. Johnson now came on for Appleby and we continued to look every bit as likely to win this game as (giants of the world game) Leicester City. A raking Johnson cross from the right was met by Alexander, making a classic striker’s diagonal run, and his flick header flashed just wide of the far post with Walker a flat-footed spectator. Williams powered down the left once again and attempted to release Johnson with a cross-field pass which he struck just too close to a defender, who gratefully intercepted. And then we had a decent shout for a penalty as Impey wrestled Williams off the ball as he plunged into the penalty box. It was a game played with an unusually fast tempo (by the standards of our Division at least) and it was end-to-end. Terrific! Williams was stampeding down the left like a herd of buffalo. Well, like one buffalo. Quite a small buffalo. In fact, his was the most thrillingly assertive display of hard direct running by a wide man seen at the Ark since Oleg Blokhin paraded his shimmering majesty twenty years ago. It was a truly magnificent sight as time and time again Williams raced 40, 50, 60 yards with the ball under close control, picking it up deep inside our half and instantaneously converting defence into attack as he carried the ball unerringly deep into Leicester territory. Of course, the ringing plea sounds – “Do this in League games, and do it more than once every two seasons!”. Fair enough, though League opponents at the Ark will never emulate Leicester’s attacking ambition and Williams will never again enjoy such vast savannah in which to cavort at will. But let’s enjoy the moments while we can – last night’s performance from Williams was simply glorious. At no stage did Leicester dominate midfield, which confers credit on the hard-working Ashbee and Keates. Izzett had been seen off – subbed on 70. When Leicester threatened – and, of course, they did, particularly courtesy of some dangerous crosses whipped in with savage pace – both central defenders once again validated the claim that they are a top team. Anderson won header after header, while Whittle, as ever, supplied a demonstration of the art of proper sensible defending. By all means, stride clear of the penalty box with the ball at your twinkling toes and distribute the ball forward as if you are Gaetano Scirea if that’s your defensive bag. It isn’t Justin’s. He just gets in the way. It’s very worthy. The fast-improving Smith did little wrong and plenty right and Regan who, like Whittle, believes in positionally sound, unflashy defensive rigour, also deserves credit, and all of a sudden we have a distinctly capable back four taking shape. And while I’m in positive mood, a word for the ref, Mr H Webb. He didn’t look much like Cliff Richard, but then again he didn’t look much like a typical ref either. He was fit, alert and quite excellent. Always up with play, eager to play the advantage, and can we have him again regularly, please? Last five minutes. Fantastic stuff. City rampant. Flowing, incessant, super-confident attacking football. A slick move places the ball at Johnson’s feet 12 yards out. He has more time than he realises, for the weary Elliott is backing off, but he hooks a right-foot shot over the bar. A corner, more corners. A long cross from Johnson flies across the danger area and Jevons strains, but cannot quite get a decisive toe-end to the ball. The net gapes. It’s wonderful; it’s not quite enough, and in the final seconds of normal time Leicester break and we are in Smith’s debt as he thumpingly blocks a dangerous link between Dickov and the languid Reeves. It’s 1-1, it’s extra time, it’s been great. I abbreviate the remainder, for extra time went horribly flat. Straight from the kick-off a through ball reached Dickov. He seemed to have dithered and lost the shooting opportunity but then he curled a well-judged shot beyond Glennon and just inside the post. Moments later Jevons appeared in a tidy attacking position of his own but blinked and pushed his shot well wide, and we were duly signed off. Rogers powered through and was doubtless surprised to see his shot, hit straight at Glennon, squirm lamentably under our keeper’s body and apologetically into the net. Then Glennon made a feeble attempt to leap for a hopeful cross and it was headed past him and, bang bang bang, it was 4-1. The game was utterly dead now and was concluded with pointless passing triangles. Mad Scot Billy McKinlay succeeded in getting himself booked for a foul in these passionless surroundings, as his victim, Ryan, did just enough pleading with the ref to appear to be Mr Sportsman but not enough to deter the card being brandished. And, at the end, Ashbee bulged the net with a header from a corner to lift the scoreline to 2-4. A disappointing end – a tremendous evening’s football.

HULL CITY: Glennon, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Smith, Appleby, Ashbee, Keates, Williams, Alexander, Jevons.  Subs: Johnson (for Appleby, 67), Price (for Keates, 98), Musselwhite, Edwards, Bradshaw Goals: Alexander 31, Ashbee 118 Booked: Appleby, Ashbee Sent Off: None   LEICESTER CITY: Walker, Lewis, Sinclair, Elliott, Rogers, Impey, Izzet, Davidson, Benjamin, Scowcroft, Dickov.  Subs: Stewart (for Davidson, 42), McKinlay (for Benjamin, 59), Reeves (for Izzet, 74), Stevenson, Heath Goals: Rogers 18 97, Dickov 91, Scowcroft 99 Booked: Izzet, McKinlay, Sinclair Sent Off: none   ATTENDANCE: 7,061