Carlisle United 1 Hull City 5

A run of seven games without victory is ended emphatically as the rampant Tigers with new boy Walters up front run amok in Carlisle.  Steve Weatherill basks in the glory of a defining moment in the reign of Peter Taylor.
Ah, the bitter sweet lifestyle of the Hull City supporter. Think back and remember. You know just you relaxed and at peace you feel when you’re watching as the team swoops to an elegantly crafted and utterly convincing victory? You know how you simply bask in the sheer inevitability of the Tiger triumph? You don’t? No, me neither. And yet this is how it was, yesterday in Cumberland. We eviscerated Carlisle in a startling display of remorselessly incisive finishing. A healthy Tigers travelling support of 700 or so gloried in the slaughter, chortled at our former players’ discomfort, and the more small-minded of us giggled as we listed our chums who’ve suffered decades of drab displays only to stay at home on the day when we reminded the world – or at least the bit of it North of Penrith and South of Dumfries – that we have some lads who really can play a bit. It was our most convincing victory since the last time we played Carlisle. And our most convincing away victory since we played at Carlisle a couple of years ago. Carlisle therefore should have been forewarned, yet plainly didn’t know what had hit them and I’m not sure we quite knew what it was we were hitting them with either. But in black-and-white the amber-and-black cosh looked like this:

Fettis Joseph Whittle Anderson Smith Melton Appleby Keates Elliott Forrester Walters

At five to three this formation looked capable of troubling an in-form home side only if Appleby and Keates could enforce a decent share of possession in midfield, if young loanee Walters turned out to be worth his wages and if Smith and Melton could somehow be persuaded to compete with adequate vigour. All these things happened. Walters, in fact, is worth rather good wages. The early stages of the game were largely formless. Poor control robbed a Carlisle forward of a good opportunity as he surged into our box, while, at the other end, a couple of aimless hoofs were safely pouched by Matt Glennon, who, if he has been attending Weightwatcher classes, has merely been watching the weight travel from his plate to his mouth and on deep into his ample gut. A neat break involving Elliott, Keates, Melton and finally Elliott again resulted in the tricky Ulsterman’s shot being blocked, but, a few minutes in, there was nothing to hint at the carnage that was to follow. Nor was there as shortly afterwards Walters trundled forward with the ball. Think Charlie Cooke or Jimmy Johnstone. And then forget them immediately. For, as he advanced, Walters had the ball glued to his feet in the way that Richard Dunn was light on his feet and John Emburey used to spin the cricket ball. No glue. No lightitude. No spin. Mystified Carlisle defenders backed off as Walters approached the edge of the penalty box, still trying to persuade the watching thousands that he really did have the ball under control. Whereupon he suddenly changed direction and floated a quite wonderful curving right-foot shot into the top corner of the net. Glennon stood rooted to the spot, checking that gravity was still operational, but Lev Yashin, or even Willie Boyd himself, would not have got close to a superbly conceived piece of footballing showmanship. That bit where Walters looked like he couldn’t dribble to save his life? It was a trick. O yes. Carlisle’s McGill wriggled clear and shot wide, but the opening goal had settled City down and we began to play with assurance, stroking the ball attractively, with Elliott’s running down the left a major strength in our game. Appleby shoots – just wide. Then the same player slips a deft through ball behind the home defence for Walters to chase, but he is thwarted by Glennon pounding heavily out of his box to hoof clear. And then we win a corner. It is delivered by Appleby to the near post, where it is headed by a defender straight back out to Appleby. He looks up, and chips a delightful cross to the back post, where Elliott is completely unmarked and he heads the ball firmly down into the net. 2-0, poor defending but alert finishing, and we are well on top. But what’s this? It’s “Carlisle’s free kick move”, that’s what it is. 25 yards from our goal, and some serious preparation is afoot. Five or six blue shirts jostle for position. They pretend to run into each other. They turn their backs and then spin round quickly, before running up to the ball and jumping over it. Our manager gets his tactical inspiration from Italian football; Carlisle’s prefers French mime. The Fettis slips on some white gloves and facepaint and gamely plays his part too, that of “the thoroughly competent goalkeeper who is not about to be impressed by any of this fancy dan frippery”. It’s almost half-time, it’s time for another goal. And another beauty too. Walters, near the touchline ten yards inside our half, turns abruptly away from his man, surging powerfully infield before releasing a breathtakingly imaginative pass with the outside of his right boot. The defence is cut open by the majesty of the vision and Forrester is able to sprint ahead into space and advance on the cruelly exposed Glennon with the ball at his feet. A delicate chip – think Kenny Dalglish in the 1978 European Cup Final against Bruges – provides a sumptuous finish, although Glennon goes to ground woefully early. Big Ron insists goalkeepers must “make themselves big” in such situations, and it is a surprise to observe Matty Glennon failing to score in that department. That’s half-time, and Carlisle’s cocksure announcer encourages the locals to roar their team back into the game. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard any noise – real noise – from a Carlisle crowd, but the racket made by seats being tipped up as their owners leave the ground in disgust is soon overwhelming as the super Tigers purr into a 4-0, and then a 5-0 lead. For the fourth, Melton slips a good pass into the feet of Walters, inside the box: he turns neatly and lays a pass to Forrester whose fierce low shot is beaten away by Glennon, only for Stuart Elliott to swagger gleefully up to the loose ball and smack it into the empty net from eight yards out. Matt Glennon had been let down by his inattentive defence for that goal, but the fifth goal had the “Fatty Glennon” mark of unprofessionalism boldy written all over it. Walters beat the Carlisle offside trap by about minus-one yard – which is to confess that the linesman deserves credit for an assist – but once our muscular frontman was in the clear, there was no mistaking his determination. The shot was ferocious and cleverly whipped across Glennon towards the far post, but the dismally unathletic state of the Glennon physique was to blame for his feeble attempt to leap to his right to get a hand on the ball. He mooched back into his net to gather the ball for a fifth time, and, you know, he didn’t look terribly happy. Between the goals, an audacious Appleby chip from 35 yards had Glennon back-pedalling frantically to clutch the ball in relief just under the crossbar, while a driving Elliott run culminated in a shot that flew wide of the post. Melton had supplied a cross to Forrester at the back post, but the chance was wasted as Forrester dithered instead of shooting. But after the score rose to 5-0 it was time to relax, enjoy the prospect of Spring and participate in Total Tiger Torment. “Matt Glennon ate my pie”, to the tune of “I’m City til I die” went down particularly tastily. The game was won – big style. Dudfield replaced Forrester, and introduced himself to the fed-up Carlisle defence by blasting a shot against the outside of the post after Walters had supplied an excellent pass, and then Regan took over in midfield from Appleby. Finally Webb came on for Walters, just in time to see the eager Dudfield turn sharply and fire in a vicious shot which the beleaguered Glennon tipped gratefully over the crossbar. There was a minute of added time, and Carlisle scored in it. A harshly-awarded free-kick right on the edge of the box, in a central position, was rammed low into the right-hand corner of Fett’s net. And no one cheered. “We didn’t play that well!” Maybe we didn’t – not THAT well, not “5-1 away” well. Carlisle had plenty of possession. But they had few chances. A free header at the back post was wastefully squandered in the second half and shortly afterwards a shot was whisked just the wrong side of the Fettis’s post. For the rest of the game the hard-working duo of Appleby and Keates gave the home side no time and space to prepare passing moves from midfield, while we were solid at the back, with Justin – as ever – making up for his deficiencies in pace with a display founded on canny footballing knowledge. But our finishing yesterday was quite brilliant. That was the real difference between the sides. And there you are. The low point of the season was at Southend a month ago, an atrocious display to cap off a string of horror shows from mid-November through to late January. Since then the level of commitment among our players has noticeably risen game by game, the formations are starting to make sense, the new players are settling in nicely, and at Carlisle it was conclusively proved that Mr Taylor is firmly on the right road and will lead us to promotion, if not this season, then next. I don’t believe any of that, and I don’t think Mr Taylor is the man for the job. But if you can’t finish on a positive note after a 5-1 win away from home, then when can you? “Never”, it would appear, in my case.

HULL CITY: Fettis, Joseph, Whittle, Anderson, Smith, Melton , Appleby, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Forrester.  Subs: Dudfield (for Forrester, 70), Regan (for Appleby, 78), Webb (for Walters, 85), Williams, Musselwhite. Goals: Walters 20, 67; Elliott 39, 48; Forrester 45 Booked: Elliott, Whittle Sent Off: None   CARLISLE UNITED: Glennon, Birch, Raven, Kelly, Murphy, McGill, Summerbell, Hudson, Rundle, Farrell, Foran.  Subs: McDonagh (for Birch, 45), McCarthy (for McGill, 45), Russell (for Summerbell, 54), Wake, Byrne. Goals: Farrell 90 Booked: None Sent Off: None   ATTENDANCE: 4,678