Hull City 2 Scunthorpe United 0

A dominant City performance sweeps aside a stunned South Bank eleven.  Mark Gretton reports on late goals, jubilation and a naked man.
For the busy amongst you we won 2-0, deserved pressure finally bringing two late goals, making us unbeaten in 5 since Molby departed and, just to keep it all in perspective, keeping us 11 points off the leaders, 7 points off a promotion spot and 4 points out of the playoff zone, as we occupy an 11th place that was considered catastrophic when we ended up there at the end of the last campaign.Right, now bollocks to perspective. We were excellent on Saturday, settling into an easy rhythm from the outset, dictated throughout by the marvellous Stuart Green. The boy really can play. When I tell you that older supporters were likening him to the wondrous Theodore Whitmore then you can imagine what we witnessed. He shimmered, he shone, he floated and he completely dismantled a Scunt side that had as severe a chasing on our greensward as I can remember. Ah, poor Scunny! Now I enjoy a good local derby as much as the next, so it saddens me that we don’t get to play any.  For a start such matches have to be, well, local, not between places 30 miles apart. Remember that for North Lincolnshire folk, who regard somewhere like Newark the way that the rest of us might regard Atlantis, 30 miles is equivalent to interstellar travel. They are not local, they are not our neighbours. And they are rubbish. But now is not the time to be patronising. I’ll do that a bit later. We lined up thus:

Musselwhite Regan Whittle Anderson Delaney Green Ashbee Keates Williams Jevons Alexander

And we played towards the North Stand and pretty full it was too as though the visiting fans thought they might not be completely outclassed. And for the first 10 minutes, strange to relate, that proved to be the case. They had a couple of free kicks, one scuffed wide, one well held by Musselwhite and then Calvo-Garcia advanced and shot past the post. The visitors were holding their own whilst we seemed to be coming to terms with the fact that, though Williams was playing wide on the left, Green was not a mirror image on the right and we initially looked a little lop-sided as Green wandered and Regan hung back. But then after what had looked like random brush strokes leaving only a few splodges on the canvas, as the Kempton wondered aloud is this art?, the brush was seized by Stuart Green and our afternoon went from Turner Prize tosh to Fine Art majesty. He drifted from right to left, occupied the centre, tackled, passed and prompted and what had looked a slightly clunky mechanism suddenly meshed sweetly. A typical interchange with Keates made room on the right and Regan, doing what he does best, was suddenly keen to overlap and a good cross went behind for a corner. Next up he wandered over to the left flank and set Williams away, the Scunts again clearing at the expense of a corner. After 20 minutes Alexander shot wide after a sumptuous move from the right as the Keates/ Regan axis was again launched by the ubiquitous Green. Then Green won a free kick that Keates put wide, then a Green run to the left resulted in a corner from which Delaney shot narrowly wide. My notes at this stage said ‘it’s all us’ – but you’ve probably gathered that and also, as Joy Division would have put it, that everything had gone Green. The Scunts, well, what can we say? I know they seethe at the thought of us being a big club, so I won’t use that term in order to avoid giving offence, but they really looked out of their depth. For the baseball fans amongst you it was as though the Duluth-Superior Dukes, plucky minor league outfit, had unaccountably wandered into the major league and were getting a seeing to from the mighty Minnesota Twins. In all honesty I hadn’t expected them to be this poor. After all, in Torpey and Carruthers they have a nineteen goal strikeforce so far this term and thick-as-mince manager Brian Laws had remembered this time that Calvo-Garcia was a midfield player and played him accordingly instead of at the heart of the defence as he did here last season. Their other star ( I know, I know) is ex-Bradford, SheffU and Everton serial failure Peter Beagrie who enjoyed a comically useless afternoon. We are told that Beagrie is injured, but that is to do less than justice to a complete waster of a footballer who can produce displays of such mediocrity when fit as a flea. Anyway he lasted well into the second half, so presumably the manager felt, useless though he undoubtedly was, he was better than what he had sat next to him on the bench. As this included Lee Ridley and Steve Ridley but not, sadly for us Dad’s Army fans, Arnold Ridley, perhaps this was understandable. You did feel at times as though Private Godfrey, or even his sister Dolly, might have brought more to the Scunts table. But perhaps they felt they needed Beagrie’s presence when they are playing such an, er, sizeable club as us. The Stuart Green show continued as he put Jevons through for a shot that was blocked for another corner and then set up Jevons again, the striker this time cleverly juggling the ball before getting in his cross that again was cleared for a corner. Green wasn’t the only impressive midfielder on view. Keates was busy and skilful and Ashbee continues to surprise, combining his major role of buttressing the defence with supporting the attack as the extra man whenever possible. The ‘opposition’ were now visibly flustered, perhaps due to playing against such a large club, and the cracks were appearing. Beagrie got a good shouting at from a hard working defender and was now virtually a second left back. It didn’t help. The keeper and proper full back got in a right tizzy, each left the ball for the other, then both hoped it would run out of play. It didn’t, but Jevons didn’t react as quickly as he might have done and the chance passed although the laughter from the Tigerfolk went on through the half-time interval. A fine half, good football, but the final pass hadn’t quite been there and the Scunt central defence had stood up to it well. Second half and we carried on, a high speed move between Green, natch, Alexander and Ashbee filleted them again but again there was no finish and we just started to fret that it might be one of those afternoons, that can sometimes bedevil huge clubs playing against minnows. And the Scunts got going! No, really, they did. A bright move ended in a free kick and Musselwhite custoded the leather in typically assured fashion. He might have had to work harder when the torpid Torpey roused himself briefly to screw, and I use the term advisedly, a shot wide. A bad miss from a man having a very bad game. At the other end Alexander headed a difficult chance wide from Green’s cross and then Jevons badly wasted a free header. But we didn’t let up, Keates and Williams linked on the left and little Ryan ran directly at ’em before shooting past the post. Next up Jevons tried the run and shot thingy and got his on target as the keeper fubled and seemed to have let it past him but then got up with great nonchalance to clear his lines with an ‘I meant that, y’know’ air about him. I suspect the lining of his shorts told a different story. Elliott came on for Jevons and this produced no let up for the Scunt defence as the sub turned refulgently but spoiled it by tumbling over too easily as he burst into the area. The referee waved away our howls of anguish and he was probably right to. Branch came on for Williams and Tigerinsecurity grew as Elliott gave away a daft free kick on the edge of our box, in rather the same way that Hodges duped us last time. But the Scunts have lost their gifted fatboy, lured away by moneybags Rochdale, an humongous club I reckon, and no-one in the visitors line up made us pay as the wall blocked the shot. Like a wall, it was. So we were in the last five minutes and we still hadn’t broken through. But with rain pelting down, the Scunts dam was finally breached. The defence unaccountably watched a ball run towards their line, but Damien Delaney didn’t, he charged after it and, better yet, he reached it and dragged it back. Michael Branch was there and he drilled it between the keepers knees and joy was unconfined. There was no way back for the visitors and they clearly knew it, not even making a token effort to go forward. But the best for us was still to come, the loping Delaney got a ball forward that looked again as though it should have been the defender’s but Gary Alexander, having spent the afternoon buffeting and barging, got on the end of it, got inside his man and then wellied it past the keeper in a fashion to put Manc disaster Diego Forlan to shame. A glorious finish to the game. Unlike Forlan, Gary has scored many goals and so celebrated modestly and kept his shirt on, but one fan didn’t, leaping o-er the greensward with tackle out. He’d either done this incredibly quickly or he’d been stood au naturelle since the first goal, but he looked pretty well made, the blokes round me thought it looked a good 8 inches, the women thought 2. But we’d won, and it was wonderfully pleasing, not just because it was another three points and further signs that Peter Taylor really is doing things right, but because we’d never wavered in our desire to play proper football and beat the opposition senseless with it. The goals were late but they were no less deserved for that. ‘Brain’ Laws bleated that the goals came from defensive errors and they did, but that was a result of them being asked to work without a let up from the outset. In truth, their defenders were the only ones who can look back on their afternoon’s ‘effort’ with any satisfaction at all. Torpey and Carruthers were appalling and the midfield seemed to have given up long before the end. As we filed out, watching disconsolate Scunts standing in the good old Hull downpour whilst we walked past them and shouted words of encouragement and consolation, they were probably thinking, like Groucho Marx, that they’d had a great time, but this wasn’t it. In truth they’ve had a number of good days at the Ark over the years, more than we might like to admit. But they were spanked this time, as the Americans and we fetishists like to say. I suppose that’s what happens sometimes when you’re up against a real behemoth of a club.

HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Delaney, Green, Ashbee, Keates, Williams, Alexander, Jevons.  Subs: Elliott (for Jevons, 63), Branch (for Williams, 78), Burton, Peat, Deeney.Goals: Branch 85, Alexander 90 Booked: Delaney, Elliott Sent Off: None   SCUNTHORPE UNITED: Evans, Stanton, McCombe, Balmer, Dawson, Barwick, Graves, Calvo-Garcia, Beagrie, Carruthers, Torpey.  Subs: Featherstone (for Barwick, 45), Brough (for Beagrie, 73), L Ridley, S Ridley, Collins. Goals: None Booked: Balmer, Beagrie, Dawson. Sent Off: None   ATTENDANCE: 11,885

Hull City 1 Swansea 1

Bottom of the table Swansea come to Boothferry and benefit from another gutless Tigers performance.  According to the manager, it’s all the fans’ fault.  Steve Weatherill sets out the case for the defence.
O crikey, chums, another horror show. As bad as the Macclesfield debacle, except that yesterday we did at least tug a point clear of the mire – but at home to The Bottom Of The League, we won’t be hanging out the bunting for that modest triumph just yet. Our Chairmen filled his programme notes with a biliously daft rant against Radio Blunderside, alleging a negative attitude (fie! Whatever might that stem from?), while our Manager took to the airwaves after the game to blame the fans for getting on the players’ backs, to lament the trials of having to play home games at the Ark (yesterday once again bulging with a crowd in excess of 8,000) and to offer not a hint that he has a strategy for improving this curdling season, aside only from waiting for Stuart Elliott’s return. On the pitch, we were defensively unfocused on the rare occasions when Swansea threatened, the midfield was drab throughout and the attack mooched around grumpily. So here we are, a quarter of the way through the season, and if you have identified any signs of progress, sustained or even sporadic, under the Molby regime, then you have sharper eyes than me. And with legendary t/chat penman Mike “Mike” Scott lately offering up a schoolboy howler pertaining to Stuart Elliott’s nationality, it is hard to evade the conclusion that our whole club is blundering around like a rudderless ship lost without navigation somewhere out beyond the Dogger Bank. It looks THAT grim right now. I can only agree with the wise man on Bunkers whose succinct summary was “Fishcake!”.A bad game, this. Plugging away on a grey but clement afternoon:

Musselwhite Regan Whittle Anderson Smith Green Keates Ashbee Williams Alexander Jevons

We attacked Bunkers, while Swansea aimed at their meagre travelling band dribbled over the North Stand terrace. There were only about 50 of them, the worst following I can ever remember my least-favourite opponents fetching across the border. They are plainly a club intent on descent, and I applaud that with glee, but as the game lurched into a formless muddle they seemed able to stifle us all too easily. We had most of the possession, but showed little wit when confronted by sturdy Swans determined to huddle behind the ball and allow us minimal space. Swansea broke down their right and slid a low cross into the six-yard box where a chance winked briefly, before a safety-first hoof preserved parity. Then, at the other end, a gorgeous flicked pass by Williams opened up the stolid visiting defence, offering a shooting opportunity to Green, who had made an intelligent dart from right to left. But the delicately struck shot slipped just wide of Roger Freestone’s far post. It was a bright moment, but embedded deep in shapeless dross. A moment of ungainly confusion between Musselwhite and Whittle on the edge of the penalty box saw the ball spin free to a Swan 25 yards out from goal, and, with the Muss stranded, we looked undone. The ball was struck firmly but Anderson had cantered back to guard the goal-line and he thumped a header clear. Alert defending … following ill-disciplined, indecisive defending. And then, for the third home game in succession, we conjured up a lead that our banal play didn’t merit, and for which no expectation had been generated. It began from a Swansea corner, but the ball was quickly cleared to Williams, who made rapid progress and released Green, inside the attacking half of the field. He demonstrated beautiful skill and vision to slide a glorious pass into the path of Jevons, who strode away from the defence and finished cleanly, low past Freestone’s left hand. A sparkling goal in a half speckled by drudgery. A trio of attacks brought us up the to the break. Keates darted gamely down the right, but crossed just behind Gary Alexander, whose attempt at an audacious backheel was pure comedy. Then a Swansea corner was sent soaring goalwards, but the Muss punched the header clear with confidence. And finally Jevons found some space down the left but saw his shot blocked easily by Freestone. No shape, no fluency – a poor 45. It’s half-time, it’s 1-0: would we do a Carlisle and now assume glittering superiority, or would we collapse grotesquely in the genial style served up to bemused Macclesfield? Neither. We let Swansea equalise, and the game petered out into a tame draw. It was a rotten second half. The Swansea goal, first of all. Throw-in wide on their right, deep inside our half. The ball sails high through the air, one of theirs heads it on, another of theirs loops another header up over the Muss who backpedals frantically, but he’s too late, and the ball tumbles gently into our net. Indecisive work from the Muss, who should have stayed put on his line or else come charging out to collect the ball with all the zeal of a rhinoceros fixed on the task of putting David Attenborough and his poncey voice and intrusive film crew into the middle of Madagascar. But though I put “being stuck in no-man’s land” on our keeper’s charge sheet, I wasn’t much taken with the lack of defensive intervention either. Swansea celebrated two free headers well inside our penalty box before the ball trundled into our ropework. Shoddy covering. Perhaps Mr Molby blamed Smith, because he hauled him off in favour of the divine Mike Edwards shortly afterwards. It was a triple substitution: Johnson came on for Williams and Dudfield replaced Alexander. As a tactical move, it smacked of desperation and it was not a success. Swansea fancied it now, and the Ark was unsettled. Fortunately the visitors carried little punch, with the spiky Watkin more intent on sly feuding than playing proper football. But this current Tiger pack is in no position to sneer at feeble opponents. We do feeble all too convincingly ourselves. Ashbee is at his least effective when playing at home against teams that are content to stifle midfield, because he simply adds to the ugly roadblock of turgid scrapping. Keates generally has a shade more imagination on the ball, but carried little threat yesterday, and so our plodding central midfield duo contributed almost nothing to our attacking vigour. Williams was patchy, while Johnson, when he arrived, mostly looked bored. Green, as ever, flashed brightly but briefly. Up front, Alexander rarely looked likely to trouble an obdurate defence, while the newly-shorn Jevons, though perkier than his partner and worth his goal, is still not fully convincing, and is certainly no target man. A brief aside pertaining to the referee. He was awful – a true exponent of the “rabbit caught in the headlights” school of whistle management. He hadn’t a clue. A rough midfield melee early in the second half fazed him completely and Swansea soon realised they simply had to crumple to the turf to induce him to halt play. He dithered, he wobbled, he was dreadful. But he made no difference to the result of the match. Dudfield, on as sub, looked our liveliest player as the half ticked onwards. The Dude, striding elegantly down the left, is stopped illegally, and, from Green’s lofted free-kick, Ashbee finds space at the back post but heads directly into Freestone’s ample gut. Then Swansea break down the left and a ball crossed low towards the six-yard box seems to offer a chance to Watkin, but it is whisked away from him at the crucial moment. Now it’s us, and Johnson sprints down the left before sliding a neat cross on to the Jevons forehead, but the flick bounces down into the ground and away beyond the far post. Dudfield crosses soon afterwards, but it is just two inches too high for Jevons, and the ball bounces away harmlessly. It almost sounds exciting when you write up these incidents all-in-a-row. But it wasn’t exciting. These were eccentric moments of interest spattered on a grey canvas. And the mood in the condemned old ground was part sullen, part resigned. Three added minutes brought nothing of note and a wretched game was gone and forgotten. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen plenty worse. But, as this season evolves, the combination of, on the one hand, an increasingly large pot of poor displays and, on the other, the sense that we as a club are frittering away the momentum on offer from acquisition of a shiny new ground is really getting me down.

HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Smith, Green, Ashbee, Keates, Williams, Alexander, Jevons.  Subs: Dudfield (for Alexander, 57), Johnson (for Williams, 57), Edwards (for Smith, 57), Glennon, BradshawGoals: Jevons 27 Booked: Johnson, Keates Sent Off: None   SWANSEA CITY: Freestone, Evans, O’Leary, Theobald, Howard, Lacey, Phillips, Jenkins, Williams, Thomas, Watkin.  Subs: Reid (for Williams, 86), Moss (for Lacey, 88), Marsh, Keaveny, Wood Goals: Thomas 52 Booked: Freestone, O’Leary Sent Off: none   ATTENDANCE: 8,070

Hull City 1 Leyton Orient 1

At last!  A wonder strike from Dean Keates inspires the Tigers to show some much needed passion and guile.  Meanwhile, the opposition field a werepig.  Mike Scott reports on matters.
Those of us who have supported Hull City for a few decades know the score. The Tigers are generally crap, a total let-down, but about every 5 or so years they have a purple patch of perhaps only 4-6 weeks that somehow makes suffering all the dross worthwhile. The last of these purple spells was April 2001 when Big Kev was steering a course towards the Division Three play-offs. Prior to that we must go back to early in 1993-4 when Dolan’s Tigers topped Division Two, March 1989 (the run-up to the Liverpool cup tie) and the back end of the 1983-4 promotion season.Well the Tigers need another excellent spell now if their promotion aspirations are to come to anything. And while this game against a steady and well organised Leyton Orient side was not exactly top drawer stuff, it signified a move in the right direction after Monday’s Durham Coast debacle. “Well organised Leyton Orient”. “Well organised Hartlepool”. “Disorganised Hull City”. It is the way in which the Tigers started to throw off the latter tag, and therefore look more capable of living with more organised opposition, that was the key difference in this game. The disarray at Victoria Park was replaced by a more solid feel yesterday, Molby’s back-to-basics training ground theme has had some effect. It’s a fragile new beginning – the Tigers wobbled horribly after Orient opened the scoring against the run of play – but it’s there, and the collective effort of Ashbee, Anderson and Keates in talking up team confidence bore fruit on this warm and pleasant Saturday afternoon. Returning again to a 4-4-2 line-up that fits the personnel on show were:

Glennon Regan Anderson Whittle Smith Johnson Ashbee Keates Williams Alexander Bradshaw

The main surprise was Dudfield’s banishment to the bench alongside Price, Muss, Edwards (hoorah!) and Morrison. Keates kept his place and, despite going absent for a while after Orient’s goal, played much better than at Pools, capping his performance with a thunderous equaliser. Williams gave flashes of his true worth on the left, inspired in the second half by an upbeat Bunkers. Alexander looked a new man and led the line superbly without getting any luck in front of goal. Molby’s tactics, oft explained by the Dane, rely on a high tempo game that takes play to the opposition and forces mistakes and fatigue. Take away the high tempo, as happened at Hartlepool, and there’s not much left. But today City did, for a good 80 of the ninety minutes, maintain a fast pace through quickly taken free-kicks, pressing play all across the pitch and getting the ball forward quickly, either directly or through midfield, when in possession. The opening stages of the game saw this harum-scarum philosophy work to good effect and a useful Leyton XI, with highly rated Lockwood looking ever more like a were-pig at left-back, were rocked onto their collective heels. Three times in the opening 15 minutes City carved through the O’s backline and made good chances in the six yard box (one for Johnson, two for Alexander) that were blocked by committed but last-second defending. The one scare was when a straight punt clearance by Orient saw Whittle chase back with the useful Watts in attendance, Justin looking to usher the ball back to Glennon. Glennon was slow to react however, and in the end Whittle headed clear for a corner just as he made full-on and painful contact with Glennon’s considerable midriff. After some panic amongst the City support Justin returned gingerly to his feet and resumed his masterclass in Division Three defending. With three or four good chances made but no goals as reward, one wondered as to the mood of the footballing gods. They haven’t smiled on the Tigers for some time now, but were they feeling that the East Coast team were worthy of some TLC, or were they grimacing and plotting another body blow? It was the latter. Whittle hit a bobbling backpass to Glennon, who did well to spoon the ball up and out 35 yards in the face of the onrushing ex-Imp Thorpe. Orient’s Brazier was then allowed to comfortably control the high ball on his D-cup chest as “Jack” Regan looked on – I like Regan a lot, but his failing is an unwillingness to challenge the high ball. As Regan put his trousers back on, Brazier fed the advancing dreadlock-bedecked Hutchings in the box and his low cross was met by an unattended Toner in the inside right position who thumped home from 20 yards. The whereabouts of left back Smith were not recorded in my notes – suffice it to say he wasn’t challenging the goalscorer as he should have been. City then “did a Hartlepool” for ten minutes. The team spirit faded away, passes went astray, little effort was expended in the important areas of the pitch. Orient won 2-3 corners, all of which saw alarm bells ringing, beacons flashing and small children running about screaming, such was the panic in the City 6-yard box. But all were somehow repelled, the home side began to recover. Excellent work by Alexander set up a Regan cross that was dealt with in some haste by the O’s defence, and the clearance dropped invitingly to Ashbee whose volley skidded pleasingly towards goal only for the keeper Evans to save adeptly low down near his left post. Evans is on-loan at Orient this season, his first name is Rhys. Thankfully for the East Londoners, he is not as poor as the last netminding Rhys they had on loan, the much-reviled Rhys Wilmot who, when borrowed from Arsenal, was widely attributed with full blame for their 1985 relegation season. Ashbee’s shot was well saved but with 37 minutes gone a repeat Regan cross saw a repeat clearance fall to Keates 25 yards out. The diminutive Midlander steadied himself and drove a rasping shot into the net past a flapping Evans, and then proceeded to celebrate wildly in front of a bubbling Kempton. It was a fine strike and was executed just as I was confiding in a colleague that “that fookin Keates has gone missing again”. Good on yer, little man! Within seconds Watts burst through the City defence and a back post cross found another Orient player unencumbered by the attentions of Smith, but this time Glennon saved. City restored the high tempo and an even half finished even, at 1-1. Half time gave the opportunity to peruse the “End of An Era” merchandise catalogue handed to City fans on their entry to the soon-to-close Boothferry Park. And some fine items are on show there. I would recommend buying the calendar and twelve cheap picture frames from Ikea – then you’ll have a wall-full of BP memories for your favourite room, all for a fraction of the cost of the dreadful £60 daub on offer than makes all the players on the pitch looks 14 feet eleven inches tall. And so to the second half. O’s right back Joseph was clattered by Williams within the first minute and was withdrawn for a young chap called Donny Barnard, who looked rather intimidated by the vociferous Kempton support that he patrolled in front of. More good work on the right from the overlapping Regan saw a cross find Alexander, whose skilful shot was well pouched by the keeper. Then a superb move that began on the left with Williams, switched to the right with Johnson and ended up on the penalty spot with Bradshaw saw the aggressive young striker fluff his shot as the Bunkers goal beckoned invitingly. Young Bradshaw played well today and showed a pleasing willingness to mix it with the opposition in a manner that his fresh face wouldn’t necessarily suggest. Orient made a few half chances, the best of which fell to Thorpe, whose scuffed shot trickled across the face of Glennon’s goal, and Watts whose free header was straight at the grateful netman. But the great majority of the openings were the home side’s – Bradshaw slipped when 1-on-1 with the keeper after a thrilling surging run from Johnson, Alexander was twice more released in the box with shooting opportunities, Johnson shot straight at the O’s keeper after a penalty box melee – and only the final touch was missing from a tidy Tigers performance. As both teams tired in the final quarter several subs were introduced – Dudfield for Bradshaw, Morrison for Johnson – and a few late challenges were penalised by the very efficient Premiership referee Cathy Barry. In the end a 1-1 draw was perhaps just reward for both sides, but I suspect Orient manager Paul “Bog” Brush will feel that his side could not have complained if a City winner hadn’t have flown in, such was the sheer number of chances created by the home side over the ninety minutes. Overall then, this was a heartening performance after the abject shite of Hartlepool. If we can sustain this for a goodly run of 8-10 games then real momentum can be attained and the points will surely follow. That elusive first victory for Molby has still to arrive, but I feel it’s a lot closer after this performance. Time for the Tigers to maul some poncy university types? Oh yes!

HULL CITY: Glennon, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Smith, Johnson, Ashbee, Keates, Williams, Alexander, Bradshaw.  Subs: Dudfield (for Bradshaw, 65), Morrison (for Johnson, 89), Musselwhite, Edwards, PriceGoals: Keates 38 Booked: Smith Sent Off: None   LEYTON ORIENT: Evans, Joseph, Smith, McGhee, Lockwood, Toner, Harris, Hutchings, Brazier, Thorpe, Watts.  Subs: Barnard (for Joseph, 52), Campbell-Ryce (for Watts, 76), Barrett, Martin, Nugent Goals: Toner 19 Booked: Harris, Hutchings, Toner Sent Off: none   ATTENDANCE: 7,684

Hull City 1 Boston United 0

The Tigers return to winning ways against plucky non-Leaguers made-good Boston.  Not a vintage performance, but a triumph of skill over aggression.  Mark Gretton, like City, gets the job done.
Stacks of goal mouth action, end-to-end excitement, incisive yet flowing football and a passionate crowd roaring as their favourites strive to crush the opposition – this match had none of it. That would be the Lincoln game and a treat it was too. But this one also differed from that one in the important respect that this one we won whilst that one, though we dominated with a ruthlessness that would have impressed Cynthia Payne, we didn’t. For those with other things to do, that’s as much as you really need to know. There isn’t a lot of football to tell you about, indeed, as those stood nearby realised that your correspondent was charged with reporting on the proceedings they laughed heartily at his increasing desperation as he waited for something, anything, that might be entered into the match reporters Blue whale embryo-hide bound notebook. It never really did happen, but we won anyway and for that much thanks.Doing just about enough were:

Musselwhite Regan Whittle Anderson Delaney Green Ashbee Melton Keates Branch Alexander

So no start for Marc Joseph but Steve Melton got a go in a midfield that was more fluid than stated on the screen, with only Ashbee in a genuine holding role with Green, Melton and Keates willing to interchange. Ah, Boston. They are as limited a side as I’ve seen for some time, which says an awful lot and none of it good. Think Hednesford and Hayes and you’ll get a pretty good idea. Bostonians must look north west to Sincil Bank with more than a feeling of inferiority – compared to this lot their Lincoln neighbours are football purists. They included ex-tiger pretty boy Matty Hocking in their defence, a player who was always marked out by his poise rather than his brute force. At the final whistle Hocking applauded his fans and then came over and similarly clapped the Kempton. Nice, polite lad, Matty.  He must wonder what the hell he’s doing at Boston. And we got wind of their chosen approach in the first couple of minutes, as one of theirs thundered through the back of Carl Regan, fortunately causing no apparent damage and fortunate to not even concede a free kick. It was immediately clear that we were the stronger in terms of ability and class, but they had a muscular desire to knock us out of our stride that we struggled with all afternoon. This meant a poor first 20 minutes when, frankly, nothing happened other than a rare Bost foray producing a whipped in cross that was headed over. I longed for it to rise to the heights of being largely formless. Still, Branch and Alexander were working hard though seeing little of the ball and our cleverest midfielders Green and Melton did combine well to provide what should have been a shooting opportunity but wasn’t as possession was lost on the edge of the area. A few speculative crosses from Regan were well-claimed by their keeper Bastock in front of the North Stand visitors and that was as much as we got before half-time. Boston had created even less, but had spoiled effectively by standing firm at the back and kicking stoutly at ball or player as either came within range, a steady stream of yellow cards punctuating this endeavour. Half-time couldn’t come soon enough and it didn’t. Second half and Boston showed commendable enterprise as they got within 40 yards of our goal, clueless number 18 Elding found the ball dropping neatly on to his right boot and he essayed a volley that went for a throw in. Cue much Kemptonian mirth, the Boston fans looking on silently from under foreheads so low they ought to have featured warning signs. We perhaps should have stayed in the pub. We’d been enjoying one of those philosophical debates over a pint as to what you would do if you were waiting in one evening knowing that Denise Lewis, Ashia Hansen and Jade Johnson were due to visit to seek your guidance on their various jump techniques when you get a knock on the door and who should have turned up unexpectedly but Gail Devers, coyly requesting you help her get her leading leg over more efficiently. We never got to conclude this one as a most surprising thing had happened on the TV, a Newcastle player had sent over a simple cross from wide on the left and Fabien Barthez, deputising for former Hull City star Roy Carroll, decide to execute a piece of French mime. Now French mime is widely and correctly derided as the most risible, tedious and pointless ‘art form’ in the world, but it was curiously welcome here as Barthez chose to depict ‘Man waving goodbye to his wife as she departs on an aeroplane to a better life without me, I am so sad, boo-hoo-hoo’ rather than catching the ball as a less experienced keeper might have been tempted to do. Consequently the miss hit ball directed far too close to him scudded over his shiny bonce and nestled into the top corner as he waved his arms and bent his body mystifyingly. ‘We’ll not see that again in a hurry’ we thought and we were right, it was getting towards four hours later that Delaney picked up the ball after yet another City move had broken down, misdirected the cross and let Bastock screw it up from there as he waved it into his top corner. Truly it is a funny game. The referee could have stopped it then as it was obvious that Boston had nothing that was going to pull the game back. It would have been nice had we cuffed them after this, but, a Branch cross that Green headed over apart, we suffered still from a lack of width causing us to founder on the grim Bost defence. But there was more excitement, of a sort. McCarthy was late on Branch, Branch kicked McCarthy, McCarthy punched Branch, the referee booked Branch and then sent off McCarthy. I think McCarthy may have already had a card, most of them had, but it probably merited a straight red anyway. They say it’s easier to play with 10 than 11, making you wonder why teams don’t try and steal a march by starting with 10 and then going down to 9 or 8 to really ram home their advantage. It would be stretching it to say the game came alive, but at least some of the torpor was shed as Boston tried to open it up a tad. As they ground their way forward we got a bit more space and Green lashed an excellent shot goalwards that was well saved from a corner, Regan spooned one over from a decent move and Green again crossed dangerously but wide. Another fairly desultory passing move, of the kind we had been producing all afternoon suddenly then caught fire as Green found Elliott (on for Branch) and the substitute’s shot was again well saved. The unthinkable almost happened after an hour as the visitors chugged forwards, we stood off politely and they got in a rather good shot that Musselwhite, in the spirit that goal keepers were exhibiting all afternoon, let go as it caromed against a combination of upright and bar and out again to a more tame follow up which the Muss this time claimed. It was as good as it got for the small time small towners on their day out in the big city. Alexander was replaced by Jevons and we finished in the ascendancy, Green becoming more influential as he crossed for Ashbee to shoot over before both players were then involved in our only really good move of the match. Passes strung together effectively got the ball forward rapidly to Jevons who finished clinically only to see the linesman flag tardily. A pity. And that was that. As I said, we needed the win and we got it. Hard to say a lot more than that. Melton gave the sort of vaguely encouraging performance that gets nice things said about you if it is during the first couple of games but gets you moaned at for not going after the ball more if you are still doing it after half a dozen games. He looks a ball player, rather than a ball winner which I understood to be what Taylor thought we needed, but of course it’s too early to judge fairly. A poor game and desperate opposition, completely devoid of class. In terms of energy and effort and brutality, though, they were as tough as you’d want to meet and, consulting the league table, they would appear to have been too strong for five teams already this season. Beating then is not a negligible accomplishment and if the manager is able to produce a team of fancy dans who can do the hard yards when needed, then he will have done much.

HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Delaney, Green, Melton, Ashbee, Keates, Alexander, Branch.  Subs: Elliott (for Branch, 58), Jevons (for Alexander, 71), Burton, Joseph, Deeney.Goals: Delaney 49 Booked: Branch, Elliott, Whittle Sent Off: None   BOSTON UNITED: Bastock, Hocking, McCarthy, Warburton, Chapman, Thompson, Costello, Higgins, Angel, Battersby, Elding.  Subs: Douglas (for Elding, 67), Cook (for Battersby, 85), Conroy, Redfearn, Weatherstone. Goals: None Booked: Chapman, Elding, Thompson, McCarthy Sent Off: McCarthy   ATTENDANCE: 9,460

Hull City 2 Southend United 2

Steve Weatherill reports on another season opener that promised much, but ended in disappointment
And how was your Summer of Sport? So many thrilling moments of splendour, etching the memory like diamond on speckled slate. The World Cup – the sight of a million and more jubilant Koreans thronging Seoul’s City Square like a lava flow of molten red or, on the pitch, the resurgent genius of Ronaldo, the breathtaking delicacy of the Borghetti bonce, or the fluidity of that gorgeous Turkish midfield. Cricket – the faultless stroke-making of Marcus Trescothick and, you know, at one stage I do believe I spied a Yorkshire bowler who wasn’t injured. Wimbledon, and the heartache of a nation discovering to general astonishment that Tim Henman would get turfed out of the tournament just as soon as he ran across someone who didn’t treat grass as a giraffe would the polar ice-sheet. The Commonweath Games, and the extraordinary feats of Ian Thorpe, the unstoppable front-running of dainty Paula Radcliffe and those mesmerising tiny shiny yellow skirts favoured by the victorious Australian netball team. And always looming on the misty horizon was the shrill bell that would awaken us from our reverie and send us trudging back to our daily bread.Southend at home was the uninspiring verdict of the fixture list, and now season 2002/03 is under way and … well! how about that!… so far it looks remarkably similar to season 2001/02. Bright and lively at the beginning, brimming with flair and promise, only to deteriorate messily and ultimately to deliver horrid disappointment. City led twice, Southend equalised twice, on the second occasion as the game laboured through the three minutes added on at the end of the ninety for the sole purpose of torturing the anguished home support. Meet the new boss ….

Mr Molby is touted as a devout 4-3-3 man, but the starting line-up looked more nuanced that that from where I was standing:

Glennon Edwards Strong Anderson Smith Ashbee Greaves Green Williams Elliott Dudfield

A diamond formation, if you like: Green played directly behind Dudfield, with Williams and Elliott operating consistently close to the touch-line, while the burly Ashbee and the fit-again Greaves performed the holding job in the centre of the pitch, a role that was our most obvious (but far from only) omission from last season’s tactical thinking. The positive elements to take from yesterday’s game? The attack. Dudfield, Elliott and Green were all excellent and, since we have injured bludgeon Gary Alexander to restore to the side sooner rather later, yesterday’s evidence provided a strong case that we will score a lot of goals this campaign and that we will do so on a rising tide of flowing, attractive football. Young Green, on a season’s loan from Newcastle, is a remarkably intelligent footballer. He passes well and, off the ball, he moves into space with a guileful awareness which far surpasses most of what we’ve had to endure from this Division’s midfield hammer-throwers in recent seasons. File under “let’s hope we don’t drag him down to our level”. Elliott is a splendid accomplice. He is fast, sharp-thinking and confident on the ball. He too looks a cut above the normal drudgery of this Division, and his wing-play should terrorise defences this season. And though you would be entitled to comment wryly that much the same was being breathlessly said of Beresford this time last year, I get the strong impression that Elliott is a much more complete footballer than could ever have been imagined of that departed one-trick pony speed merchant. Of Dudfield we know plenty already, and I am glad to be able to report that yesterday Lawrie revelled in this sparklingly fluent environment by producing the brand of trickily elegant football that in the course of the first half of last season stamped him as our most skilful non-Jamaican player since Garry Parker. The negative elements to take from yesterday’s game? The defence. Smith, Anderson, Strong and Edwards all had disappointing games on an individual level – I list them in order from “most” to “least” in the hierarchy of disappointment – and, furthermore, at no stage did they look convincing as a unit. Southend were allowed far too much room to devise attacking options, even deep inside the final third of the pitch. Smith, in particular, rarely seemed positionally alert and far too many Southend advances were carried unopposed deep down his flank. Strong and Anderson look ugly, as all true central defenders must, but their play is too restrained for my liking. Curdle my blood with your challenges if you please, gentlemen. Well, off we went, on the sunny afternoon that is the prerogative of the first day of any season, and a pleasingly lively opening to the fun was crowned by a very fine Tiger goal, rippling the North Stand net. Dudfield won the ball with a vigorous challenge and promptly released a superbly weighted pass into the box where Scott Green, sprinting forward on a run that was delightfully judged and quite enough to elude Southend’s baffled cover, converted the chance crisply with an accurate shot into the far corner from twelve or so yards out. A crowd of over 10,000, all but 300 of amber and black fidelity, roared, and settled back for more of the same. And there was more. A neat interchange between Dudfield and Williams provided space for the latter to dart clear of the visitors’ lumbering back-line – Cort and Phil Whelan? Built for speed they aren’t. Elliott cleverly pulled another defender away from the danger area with a nippy run off-the-ball, allowing Ryan space for a good shooting chance, but he rolled his shot the wrong side of the near post. Then a defensive mis-header invited Dudfield to shoot, but his low effort was saved by the competent Shrimp netman, Flahavan. The absence of comedy keeper Mel Capleton was one of several issues on which stubborn Southend refused to provide us with maximum entertainment value yesterday. Things got a bit silly for a while. A tackle which nowadays has players and fans howling “Two-footed! Over the ball!” sent a Tiger to the turf, whereupon several of our team surrounded the offender and jostled him. More Southend players scurried up, so did more of City’s, and soon enough most of the players on the pitch were performing the ritual “don’t you shove me like a tart, or I’ll shove you back like a slightly bigger tart”. I mean, I love watching this sort of daft melee, but, honestly, the tackle in question wouldn’t even have been treated as a foul back in the days of Duncan Forbes and Eddie Colquhoun. Nobody was hurt, either from tackle or subsequent pastiche posturing, but the referee, a small man with a moustache (where DO such people acquire their fashion ideas?), was in a blind panic, and simply whipped out his yellow card and brandished it in the face of – as far as I could see – four of their players, seventeen of ours, both linesmen, several St John’s Ambulance men, and the apprentice sweeping up the off-cuts of pig from the floor of Imison’s top-notch butchers over on Boothferry Road. In fact, further pointless yellow cards followed as the half proceeded to do anything but boil over. It was a sorry case of a referee hopelessly out of his depth, and it would have taken a brave man to express the view that we would not be seeing red before the game was complete. No such bravery was forthcoming and, as we would later discover, wisely so. Still, we continued to go forward with enthusiasm as a subdued Southend side looked likely to accept that Hull away on the first day of the season was best written-off as a solid no-pointer. Elliott impressed throughout down the left. He’s not a big lad but has an enviable capacity to bring down high passes from forehead to boot and then unhesitatingly to savage his nearest opponent. Dudfield too was in lively form, and he duly produced a spectacularly brilliant chipped pass into space for Green to race past the hapless visiting rearguard and thump a shot just past the angle of post and crossbar. Dudfield looks a little like Denis Bergkamp; this was a moment of sublime skill of which the transportationally challenged Dutchman would have been proud. Two minutes later Green repaid the favour with a cute pass that Dudfield slipped just wide. And so we hold a 1-0 lead at the break, and we had created pretty much all of the proper chances throughout that first 45. Defensively there had been occasional moments of alarm, the majority of which had arisen down the flank defended unconvincingly by Smith, but Southend had rarely looked capable of taking advantage of any scraps that had come their way. And so the complete alteration in the mood of the match came as a considerable surprise. We trotted out for the second half and never re-captured the confident swagger of what had so encouragingly gone before. Southend began slowly to assert themselves and, visibly puzzled as to just why they were enjoying so much quality possession, nevertheless found themselves playing with the air of a side that has thrust upon it the realisation that, after all, defeat is not inevitable. And so had the balance shifted. Time and time again Rawls, the lean number 11, was able to receive the ball in an advanced position, control it and look for the next man to pass to. Why weren’t our central defenders treating him more aggressively, not to say brutally? Graeme Jones looks like a striker in his final season as a professional but even he was enjoying far too much freedom deep inside our half. Defensively we looked ragged; the deep-lying midfield duo was less prominent than in the first period, with Ashbee, in particular, supplying a hot-and-cold first half/second half display. Southend levelled from a corner which was only half-cleared, nudged feebly to the back of the box. One of theirs controlled the ball, slipped inside and stroked a chip high over Glennon and just underneath the bar. From where I was standing in Kempton, it was a deliberate attempt on goal, not a cross that drifted crazily off course, and a reward for audacious skill. As the thread of the game had drifted out of our hands, it had been surprising to see no subs warming up, but happily that equalising goal acted as a cold shower to our team, and we started to play properly again. Smith knocked a well-judged long ball down the left side to Elliott, who squared to Green; a toe-poked shot flew just over the bar. Then Green surged through the midfield and released a delightful ball into the path of Elliott, advancing towards the edge of the box with a narrow window of freedom from defensive attention. But Southend were rapidly covering the gap so Elliott had only a brief opportunity to craft an attempt on goal. It was quite enough. A confident sidefooted shot slid cleanly over the turf, past Flahavan’s groping left hand and just inside the far post. 2-1. Elliott celebrated a delightful moment of exuberant vision by standing in front of Kempton and pointing up to the heavens. He is, I understand, a committed Christian and this was therefore his method of indicating to us that this was the first City goal that should be credited to the Lord since October 1978. Southend still fancied their chances, and came close when a delicate chip left Glennon rooted glumly to the spot, only for the ball to fall just beyond the crossbar. Our goalkeeper looks as chubby this season as last, and his mobility would surely be improved were he to lose half-a-stone or so. Meanwhile the sleek Dudfield found space up at the other end, and belted a left foot shot just too high. We were worth our lead by virtue of the attacking imagination displayed during the first half in particular, but the margin for error was narrow. Narrower still once Ashbee was sent off. It was another innocuous foul but of the silly type that the referee, now on to his fourteenth biro and fifty-fourth emergency supplementary notebook, had been punishing with yellow all afternoon long, and Ashbee walked. Dudfield teed up a shot for Elliott, which was struck over the bar. Philpott replaced Williams. And we were into the last couple of minutes. And then ninety was up and there were three minutes extra. And you knew what was going to happen. Our ten men crowded behind the ball, allowing Southend to compress the pattern of play exactly where they wanted it, deep inside the territory we were protecting. The entire Tiger team was all-too-readily penned into its own penalty area and when a weak Philpott header fell to Bramble, he had no hesitation about whipping in a fiercely struck shot. It was swerving well wide but cannoned into a limb ten yards from goal and the ricochet sent the ball spinning into the back of our net, with Glennon hopelessly wrong-footed by the deflection. There was, however, nothing lucky about that Southend equaliser. They took the chance presented by our witless decision to cram so many bodies into the area closest to our goal, instead of keeping Tiger players upfield who are, after all, eminently capable of taking and keeping the ball in order to run down the clock. When Bramble shot into that penalty box maelstrom, he knew he was more likely than not to gain a generous deflection. I’m looking forward to enjoying our attacking flair this season, and the speed of its delivery may make us even better value on the counter-punch away from Hull than on our own home pitches. But did I mention that our defence needs sorting out?

HULL CITY: Glennon, Edwards, Strong, Anderson, Smith, Ashbee, Green, Greaves, Williams, Dudfield, Elliott.  Subs: Philpott (for Williams, 89), Price, Musselwhite, Whittle, BradshawGoals: Green 8, Elliott 68Booked: Ashbee, Smith, Strong, WilliamsSent Off: Ashbee   SOUTHEND UNITED: Flahavan, Broad, Cort, Whelan, Searle, Clark, Maher, Selley, Jenkins, Rawle, Jones.  Subs: Bramble (for Clark, 73), Thurgood (for Broad, 80), Gay, Belgrave, Beard Goals: Jenkins 62, Bramble 90 Booked: Broad, Jones, Maher, Selley, Whelan Sent Off: none   ATTENDANCE: 10,449

Hull City 0 Oxford United 0

Promotion chasing Oxford come to the KC to spoil and delay their way to a draw.  Mark Gretton describes how City nearly made it three wins in a row.  But didn’t.
So the all too brief winning run came to an end and we again dropped points at home, dropped points that will almost certainly extinguish the optimism behind even the most black and amber tinted spectacles. But getting that out of the way at the start, that apart, this was another hugely encouraging display to build on to the back of the games at Carlisle and Macclesfield. We played well from start to finish, the defence was solid, the attack created chances and the midfield, glory be, was an effective link between the two, buttressing the first and launching the second. In short, we looked again like a proper football team and we did it against a side 4th in the league who looked frankly terrified of us throughout the second half and whose ambitions seldom rose above a point. Rubbish they were, so I shan’t really talk about them. That’ll show ’em. Lining up as I took my seat were:

Fettis Joseph Whittle Anderson Delaney Appleby Ashbee Keates Elliott Walters Forrester

So Delaney back for Smith, new man Reeves on the bench, kept company by Melton, amongst others and those on the pitch were immediately into their work attacking towards the South East stand, forcing 4 quick fire corners which the visitors dealt with with strategies veering from competence to panic, the latter including a defender scooping just over his own bar. That’s nice, we thought, and we kept on thinking it, as the flow of traffic was entirely towards the Oxish goal. An Elliott cross-cum-shot was tipped over after the netman gazed at it for an inordinately long time, before deciding, belatedly but correctly, that it was on target, then Elliott was again involved in flicking on Joseph’s long ball for Forrester whose shot was deflected wide. Anderson played a good ball long and wide to Joseph who ran on and shot, the keeper parried to the feet of Forrester who pounced tigerishly. It looked like 1-0, but a defender had anticipated even more rapidly than our diminutive goalsmith and the block was brave and effective. In truth, some intelligent breaking down of our moves was about as good as it got for the Oxen in the early stages. Appleby, Ashbee and Keates had the midfield in their grip, won the 50-50’s and then set us moving towards their goal. Walters was strong and Forrester active. Our occasional problems were almost all created by carelessness on our part rather than adventure on theirs. On 24 minutes Elliott was, as he is too often, in Delaney’s way, so he took a ball far too short with his back to the defence and no good out ball. He fannied about, lost it in the tackle and belatedly fell over, allowing them to skip upfield before the ever reliable Whittle broke up the attack. Elliott seemed to stay down forever in just the sort of blunder that had let Cambridge in a fortnight ago. I don’t object to Elliott doing a bit of what we might delicately call ‘cheating’, on principle. No, when we have a fine exponent of the art,such as David Brown, I think it’s an excellent thing. None who saw it will ever forget, for example, the splendid moment at the Ark when he fell over as Rotherham oaf Guy Branston slide-tackled him fairly, managing to tread on the Rotherham man’s South Yorkshire gonads as he did so. As Browny climbed to his feet in careworn but brave fashion, the understandably irate Branston confronted him, causing Browny to stagger back, fall over and Branston, now having completely lost it, to be sent off, though he had never at any point made any assault on our hero other than raking Browny’s studs with his groin. No, that sort of thing can only ever be good, and Elliott needs to work on it if he is to reach those heights. Alternatively he could, I suppose, try and stay on his feet and chase after the man to whom he’s lost the ball. It’s a thought. As the half wore on, the Oxters did come into it more. They forced a corner that was turned over. After Delaney had misspassed they put in a cross for a free header for Basham that was gratefully pouched by Fettis. And just before the half ended they got away completely, with only Justin Whittle blocking the route to goal. And block it he did, stepping smartly in front of their attacker and flattening him as he knocked the ball past the skipper and prepared to roast him for pace. Instant decision making from Justin but it looked as though the retribution might be swift and terrible. But the referee was lenient and the card was yellow and we exhaled as one as we went to half time just wondering if they might have turned the corner. Half time, 0-0. Second half and Appleby was immediately replaced by Reeves. Whether this was typical tinkering Taylor in ‘if it aint broke, then fix it mode’ was hard to say. Appleby had produced the mixture of strong tackling and astute passing to which we are rapidly becoming accustomed, but he may still be coming to full fitness. Anyway, Reeves was a straight positional swap, wide right on midfield, but operationally he was different. Less likely to come and find the ball, he was more likely to advance. He looks a sallow youth with bog brush hair, in truth not an early playground pick, you would have gone for the much harder looking Walters and hope that he didn’t nick your Curly Wurly. But he worked hard from the off and he can play. Oddly enough, the real catalyst was an injury to Joseph on 58 minutes and his replacement by that renowned and redoubtable right back Steve Melton. This looked like an awful Planet Peterism, but it ushered in our best play of the day. Excellent work by Walters in holding up and delivering the ball just so set Elliott free for the sort of run on goal he enjoyed at Carlisle which, up there had ended with him firing narrowly but wastefully wide of the keepers right hand post. This was very different, as the ball was dragged narrowly but wastefully wide of the left hand post. There was also the little difference of us being 4-0 up at Carlisle at the time and pretty damn mellow, here it was head-in-hands time. But now we were motoring. Reeves won the ball well, interlinked with the advancing Melton, ran wide for the well-placed return and got over an excellent first time cross. Walters was there, headed down, the keeper spread himself dutifully but forlornly and the bloody ball hit him and he clung on to it. Credit it him if you must, but it should have been in. Another intelligent ball forward found Forrester who ran wide, crossed for Elliott and the shot was blocked. Then Forrester picked it up in the inside right position, advanced menacingly on a thoroughly spooked defence, drew back the bow and arrowed one in, dipping, dipping, over the keeper….and on to the cross bar and away. Oxford had given up any ideas of winning it. Their highly rated strikers, Martin Basham and Lee Steele, the latter who has tormented us often in the past in his long term role as ‘Shrewsbury’s only decent player’ (a part now played by Luke Rodgers) were anonymous and were both withdrawn in favour of shoring up a creaking defence. They took an age over goalkicks and an eternity over throw ins, managing to get a booking for timewasting. They also goaded the referee into adding on 5 extra minutes at the end. But they only looked remotely like scoring once, putting over from 4 yards when the ball had ended up loose in our area. Taylor had looked forward to this game, saying that we would have freedom to play as the oppo would come at us. If you were churlish, which thank the Lord I’m not, you might think that this was more of Planet Peter. But in truth, it was surprising that a team so highly placed would be so grateful for a point away to someone in the bottom half. Further evidence, were any needed, of the dreadful standard of teams in this division this time around after last year’s unexpected upwards quality blip. We kept control and kept attacking, but our best chances had come and gone. Walters weakly hit shot was then followed by a much better effort on the turn and just over. Elliott had a scruffy effort scrambled away. Ashbee, worryingly was stretchered off near the end and we couldn’t quite do it. But we had done a lot and we had done well and we are a point nearer to safety and our inevitable place as promotion favourites season 2003-2004. And, for now, that’s enough.

HULL CITY: Fettis, Joseph, Whittle, Anderson, Delaney, Appleby, Ashbee, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Forrester.  Subs: Reeves (for Appleby, 45), Melton (for Joseph, 56), Smith (for Ashbee, 88), Dudfield, Musselwhite. Goals: None Booked: Whittle Sent Off: None   OXFORD UNITED: Woodman, Waterman, Bound, Crosby, McNiven, Savage, Hunt, Ford, Robinson, Basham, Steele.  Subs: Scott (for Basham, 62), Louis (for Steele, 90), Hunter, Whitehead, Hackett. Goals: None Booked: McNiven Sent Off: None   ATTENDANCE: 17,404

Hull City 1 Torquay United 1

Parity snatched from the jaws of victory.  Keith Dean describes another decent display that ultimately ended in disappointment.
When will we ever learn. I know it wasn’t particularly important last night but it’s still incredibly infuriating. How many times have we seen our team pass over a golden opportunity to finish off a game from a position of dominance and then defend far too deeply and nervously in the final period before succumbing to the inevitable last minute, or in this case injury time, goal ? It’s been a much-told tale over the years and last night was just yet another addition to the list. Add to that another unfathomable and erratic performance from the match official, and you’ll realise that, on reflection, it was one of those evenings when it would have been a far better idea to stay in with a good book. The first refereeing blunder was a failure to book all 10 outfield visitors for taking to the field in an horrendous mix of black and white striped shirts with pissy yellow shorts. Equally as shocking was the realisation that, for the first time this season, your match reporter was able to say that we put out an unchanged team. No injuries, no suspensions (yet) and no managerial tinkering.And, thank goodness, no repeat of Sat’day’s comically disasterous start for it is safe to add that it was a rather cautious and unproductive opening. When some semblance of shape finally showed its face, it was the Tigers who shone that bit brighter. Elliott began to look a little menacing, cutting in from his touchline and running straight at the heart of their defence. And, on the opposite flank, Reeves and Ostethingummy were linking well with the ever-willing Forrester. We’d had a few pops at goal from outside the box, all blocked and cleared, before the first real opening was created at the other end. A free-kick was hit in with pace from the left and a flick header from the edge of the area took it goalwards but it proved to be only a marginal concern for a well-positioned Fetts.That was a rare foray forward for the Torqs as we continued to dominate possession and looked for a way past their solid midfield and back four. The clearest chance we had before half-time stemmed from a similar dead-ball position. Appleby whipped it onto Walters’ head. His effort was low and well angled forcing a full-length diving save. The ball squirmed free and, whilst it was an amber shirt that dashed forward on to the loose ball, it unfortunately was that of Anderson who managed only to place his shot straight back into the prostrate keeper’s midriff. We finished the half with a Reeves free-kick getting up and over the wall and sailing a foot or so wide of the right-hand post and then a low, vicious cross from the right flank was met by the shins of a back-tracking defender on the 6 yard line. It wouldn’t have been a surprise to see the ball fly into any of the four corners of the goal, or even through the goalie’s legs, but sadly it flashed wide of the post and away for a corner. Not a particularly memorable first half then. Much as it has been against Oxford in fact. The majority of the chances had fallen to the home team but, as a spectacle, it had been dulled by irritatingly pernickity refereeing and an away side that was clearly out to defend and frustrate. The second half though, well, it was certainly not dull. There was a shed load of chances at both ends after the game had been opened up with an early City goal. Our first chance came from a looping Delaney cross to the near post that Reeves, running in all the way from the opposite flank, got his spikey head to but he couldn’t put his effort on target. Breaking out from a defensive position, we deservedly took the lead. A quick push left us with Elliott free, overlapping on the left. Appleby tried to put him clear but his pass was halted by a full-stretch despairing slide. The ball fell invitingly at the feet of Keates who continued the move with a simple but inch-perfect pass into the area for Elliott to run onto. He advanced a yard or so before finishing low and hard past the keeper’s left hand. And from then on we were treated to another 30-odd minutes of similar cut and thrust football with both sides looking dangerous on the break. We had the better chances initially whilst the Torqs got at us more but without testing Fettis too severely. Walters saw a well hit drive fly just over before we were forced back and had to resist a bit of pressure. Our young Liverpool loanee lad got himself into a bit of a tangle with two opportunities to clear a left wing corner from his position on the far post. The loose ball fell to a visitor but his cross-shot was off target and had no colleague following up in support. They then had another quality free-kick that was met with a good header from within the D but it was smartly caught by Fettis under his crossbar. From this spell of defensive activity, we broke away and earned that perfect opportunity for a two goal cushion. Justin wellied a clearance forward that was partially blocked on halfway and fell to Elliott in loads of space on the left. He went on and on, with the defence backing off, until he reached the edge of the area at which point he knocked it between two of them and ran through on goal. There was some contact, not a great deal I grant you, but enough for his tumble to look merited and enough for the ref to point to the spot. Forrester stepped up and hit a poor shot that was far too close to the keeper, and at a comfortable height, and was routinely parried away. The despair was eased somewhat in that we continued to push forward and create the clearer chances. We hit a lot of quick, but accurate, long balls out of defence to Forrester and Walters and they both had shots fizz narrowly off target. Melton, who was on for Appleby, made his first telling contribution with a good block tackle midway in his own half. He played it out to Elliott who hit a peach of a diagonal ball over the full-back into Walters’ path. Again, he failed to hit the target. Forrester repeated the trick moments later and then the moment that was to prove equally as crucial as the penalty miss. A great low cross from our right wing flew across goal, only five or six yards out. A defender moved in to effect a clearance but could not decide quite how best to deal with it. In the end he ran into its path and stomached the ball against the post with his keeper completely flat-footed. Forrester and Reeves both had a chance to make something of the rebound before the custodian finally leapt at their feet to claim the ball. From there the tide turned and we had to endure a final ten minutes of spurned chances in front of our goal. A corner was not cleared properly and the resulting cross, from the right, sailed over the heads of all the City defence to an in-running Torq. His mishit shot flew down into the turf before looping up and over Fettis and against the bar. Then they opened us up on the left. The cross was controlled on the edge of the box, centrally, and laid off to another supporting midfielder who really should have hit the target but blazed his shot inches  wide. Then, with a City played down injured in midfield and the visitors not sure whether to play on or push on, a long range drive was deflected straight to the feet of one of theirs just ten or so yards out. His first-time effort looked destined for the net but Fetts had raced out and flung out a hand to make a tremendous instinctive save that looked like being enough to preserve the three points. Oh no. That ain’t how it works. We were into added on time (Jevons had replaced Forrester) when a Torq found himself with too much space to the right of goal. He flashed in a brutal shot that Fettis did well to get his body behind but the parry went almost directly upwards and it was one of theirs who won the header and, even though our keeper had scampered across and was able to get a hand to it, he couldn’t prevent it creeping over the line off the inside of the post. Bugger. I’d heard a snippet of an interview with Mr Taylor on Humberside before kick-off in which he suggested that six points from two home games this week would leave him still thinking our season may yet go beyond that last ever trip to the Vetch. Anything else, he admitted, would mean that the season was over. So what will he do with the remaining matches ? Give some of the young ‘uns and those recovering from injuries a chance to prove themselves ? He’s spent all his time in charge so far confounding us by avoiding a settled team so maybe he’ll continue to mistify us by adopting that tactic now that it doesn’t really matter any more. Suspensions will enforce some changes in the coming weeks and I can agree, to a point, about not playing the loanees who won’t be here next season. Who knows. And quite frankly, for now at least, who cares? Roll on the summer.
HULL CITY: Fettis, Otsemobor, Whittle, Anderson, Delaney, Reeves, Appleby, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Forrester.  Subs: Melton (for Appleby, 62), Jevons (for Forrester, 89), Smith, Regan, Musselwhite.Goals: Elliott 54Booked: Reeves Sent Off: None   TORQUAY UNITED: Van Heusden, Hazell, Woozley, Taylor, Canoville, Russell, Hockley, Fowler, Clist, Gritton, Kuffour.  Subs: Graham (for Kuffour, 34), Woods (for Hockley, 63), Hill (for Gritton, 83), Dearden, Benefield. Goals: Hill 90 Booked: Fowler, Graham, Hazell Sent Off: None   ATTENDANCE: 13,310

Hull City 0 Darlington 1

56 years encapsulated in 90 minutes.  Steve Weatherill sees off Boothferry Park for the last time.
It’s not today’s tottering old Kempton, its roof drizzling filth and rust onto its cowering occupants and creaking menacingly as if about to collapse whenever the ball lands on top of it. It’s the vivid, raucous swell of tribal fervour that for fifty years has taunted its opponents and roared its approval at Tiger feats of daring and inspiration, home to a thousand rattles, ten thousand Woodbines, adoration earned and returned, heroes all, from Raich Carter to Justin Whittle via Bill Bradbury, Ken Wagstaff and Les Mutrie, and sweatshop charged with the task of manufacturing countless snarls and the choicest East Yorkshire insult. It’s not the barren soulless brick back wall of a supermarket. It’s the cavernous North Stand, reaching back darkly into the teeth of its long even ranks of seating, proudly carrying the load of the Hull Savings Bank clock that John Hawley always wanted to hit, and fronting boldly, hugely, on to the cinders of the car park, full of eddying humanity spilling off Boothferry Road. It’s not the Main Stand with its peeling paint and its shabby sulk, it’s a dignified and gleaming cruise liner from which to watch the once-young ground grow in grandeur, adding a roof, a bank of seating, a set of floodlights, six of them, to rank with the best, a new stand, one man’s dream building towards a worthy though ultimately fruitless aspiration to host World Cup matches in 1966, that memorable year when Harold Needler smiled down from his self-crafted perch and witnessed a thrilling Tigers team score over 100 League goals and sweep the 3rd Division title with a flourish never seen before and never since. It’s not the desolate weed-infested corner that splits Bunkers from Kempton, it’s where you stood in awe, crammed shoulder to shoulder with your Dad and his mates at the Cup Quarter-Final with Stoke in 1971, gasping at the unimaginable noise made by over 41,000 people, screaming with joy as Waggy slid one, and then two goals past Gordon Banks, smelling the stale beer and realising the Stoke fans weren’t quite so happy, in fact they were ready for an argument but not with someone as small as you, and then you collapsed in inconsolable tears as the lead was cut, then wiped out altogether before it was our throw-in, but the linesman got it wrong and John Ritchie had won the game for Stoke and City were out of the Cup. Boothferry Park is no longer our home. But it is not gone. It is never gone. Not while we remember. Yeah, well, that was well over the top, wasn’t it, and as unnecessarily soft and flowery as a pot of pink pansies. But, come on, you expected that, didn’t you? I would have liked to have been able to tell you that reliable old Darlo hadn’t come to spoil the party. But they did – but more pertinently, it was our own players who unceremoniously ruined the occasion. We played very badly yesterday. The first half was as barren as any witnessed these last 56 years inside the fortress – I appreciate the enormity of this allegation but I stand by it. We looked much livelier in the second period, but by then Darlo had been reduced to ten men. And we still couldn’t score against them. O dear. Justin Whittle was dropped, and we carded a 4-4-2 of sorts:

Musselwhite Regan Joseph Anderson Smith Green Ashbee Melton Keates Alexander Jevons

“Of sorts”? Well, Ashbee played deep, just in front of the back four, so Green didn’t have to stick rigidly to the right side, but rather could roam around as his creativity saw fit. Most of the better moments early on were inspired by Green with the ball at his feet, but, the white-booted dynamo aside, it was mostly humdrum midfield scrapping. Alexander had a couple of opportunities to break into space but seemed more intent on diving than running, and his foolishness deserved, but did not get, a yellow card. The visitors had opted for an ambitious formation, with the lightning-quick Turn-to-Page-50 Offiong paired up front with the giant wet-clay-quick Conlon and supported by Hodgson, sporting a Paul Mariner-style mullet, but, measured by the entertainment on show, the game was very rapidly groaning to a halt. Any excuse built on the effect on our players of an emotion-laden atmosphere couldn’t have survived the first ten minutes, by which time the old ground had fallen sullenly silent, horrified at the poverty-stricken football on offer. It was just another dismal Boothferry afternoon. Keates was injured, and went off for Elliott, a switch that seemed likely to improve our flair, and duly did, as Elliott darted down the left and whisked a cross in to Alexander’s feet at the near post. Our once lethal, now morose, striker missed gruesomely. Then Green shot straight at the keeper who attempted a comedy “spill the shot and let it through my legs” Taibian routine, but thought better of it at the last possible second, and rescued the ball on the line. But the half concluded with even this brief Tiger flicker extinguished as determined Darlington took the lead right on the whistle. First, mullet-man’s free-kick was nodded against our bar by Liddle with the Muss beaten, and then a slick move down their left resulted in a hard low cross skidding across our box, which the first-arriving Darlo missed, but the second clouted into our net with gusto. 0-1, half-time, bloody rubbish. It had to improve, or else the assembled 14,100 was more likely to be invading Boothferry Road at half-four on the way home than the pitch at the end of the game. And it did. Almost immediately after the re-start Ashbee and Melton combined to set up a shooting chance for Elliott: his effort was beaten away by the keeper at his near post. Then Jevons broke away, only to be hauled back by a desperate Liddle … red card! Umm. There weren’t any Darlo defenders behind Liddle, but two or three were level, and running across to cut off Jevons before he’d’ve seen the whites of the goalkeeper’s eyes, and I think this was a pretty harsh sending-off. No matter, Green’s free-kick whistled into the side-netting, but we had our boost and would surely rescue this game now. Whittle had replaced Alexander at half-time, with Joseph moved to right-back, Regan to right-side midfield, and Elliott to partner Jevons up front. And, with the extra man, we could afford to play Green further forward and expect him to devastate. And we had the chances to win the game. We made them, and we didn’t take them. Two stand out like ugly scars. Green and Elliott burst clear of the Darlington back-line, the offside trap sprung, dismantled and tossed into a bin by our giggling starlets. Green has the ball at his feet, the Darlo defence stranded ten yards and more in his wake, and the keeper coming off his line to narrow the angle more in hope than expectation. Elliott has checked, he’s too canny to run offside, and he waits for the square ball that he will be able to roll into an unprotected net in front of an exultant Bunkers. Green sees his team-mate, but ignores him, shoots, and the keeper blocks the effort. A few minutes later Joseph wins the ball in midfield and feeds Regan on the right. He transfers the ball to Green, in space on the edge of the box and our newly-flawed hero smacks a vicious swerving shot which the keeper can only parry straight back out to John Anderson. The big centre-back has time to savour the opportunity, he’s six yards out, there are no defenders even close, and the goalkeeper is still reeling from the power of Green’s shot. Anderson wraps his right foot round the ball and carefully guides it a foot the wrong side of the far post. O dear, o dear. Anderson’s only a centre-back. It was a golden opportunity, but he missed it, and these things happen. But I cannot begin to understand why Stuart Green didn’t pass that ball across to the waiting Elliott. There was more, as the Muss spent the entirety of the half spectating at the North Stand end. Elliott put a left foot shot just wide after receiving a Smith pass; Elliott and a defender combined to place a header on to the top of the Darlo bar; Green hit a low shot that was grasped on the very whitewash of the goal-line. A contrite Anderson was hauled off for Webb, an enthusiastic lad who is taller and more physically imposing than his Dad ever was (but will do well to be even half as mean). But we’d had our chances and we’d wasted them. Darlo defended with spirit, Melton and Smith were poor, Regan is no midfielder, at least not a creative one, and our main man, Stuart Green, fell at the final fence yesterday. Even the 4 added minutes brought nothing but shapeless hoofery as we slid to defeat. The pre-match Walk of Legends had been reliably dismally organised, a procession of, initially, elderly and then less infirm gentlemen scuttling out from the tunnel, wrapped in raincoats against a grey blustery afternoon, while the public address blared out their names in tones that were, in Kempton at least, largely inaudible. It got better as the ex-players walked slowly round the perimeter of the pitch, and we smiled at Stan McEwan, proudly escorting his daughter, Billy Askew chortling mightily, Linton Brown, who had slipped a hundredweight sack of spuds inside his clothing for the occasion, and, finally, we marvelled that Sam Sharman had shown up at all. Then, bringing up the rear, Waggy, Chillo and Ken Houghton made a long lingering meander around the pitch and we remembered some very good times indeed. The astoundingly appallingly Straight As Quo spoiled a nostalgic mood, and then the game began and we quickly remembered how much rubbish we’ve seen inside Boothferry Park these last few years. A rotten game, a defeat and, afterwards, the absurd witless nonsense of the Reverend Bagshawe. And then Boothferry Park – the Boothferry Park of the here-and-now, the faded ambition and the decades of neglect – was gone, all gone. The way matches sparked like shooting stars as you looked across to Kempton from the Main Stand on winter afternoons … trains stuffed to bursting with amber-and-black hordes, trundling up from Paragon and disgorging a human torrent on to the platforms and into the ground …. men in ties and trilbies, working of a Saturday morning and then off to the football … the shiny white outfits of the Golden Goal girls … Tigercola … beating Spurs and Leeds, Manchester United and Manchester City, West Ham and Chelsea … Les Mutrie ripping the guts out of Sheffield United as we began to claim repayment on fifteen years of Blade knavery by destroying them 4-1 one special afternoon … Andy Payton taking a nubile football on a glorious waltz from just outside his own box, past the entire Brighton team and most of the population of Sussex before sliding the ball into the net at the North Stand end … Ken Houghton going up for a header in the Anglo-Italian Cup tie with Lazio and getting an acrobatic boot full in the face … Blackburn in the fog … Brentford, a plodding 4th Division side, dominating a 5th Round Cup tie at Boothferry Park before an outrageously generous referee donated the tie to us in a disbelieving final ten minutes. Waggy’s unparalleled poaching helped too, mind. We drew Stoke in the Quarter-Finals. And we led by two to nil as the first half raced towards its close. But we lost, and that 70/71 season’s very real, very serious challenge for promotion soon petered out too, and it’s been downhill ever since for Hull City and Boothferry Park. Until now. See you on Boxing Day. Another time. Another place.

HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Regan, Joseph, Anderson, Smith, Green, Melton, Ashbee, Keates, Alexander, Jevons.  Subs: Elliott (for Keates, 23), Whittle (for Alexander, 45), Webb (for Anderson, 72), Holt, Deeney. Goals: None Booked: Anderson, Ashbee, Jevons Sent Off: None   DARLINGTON: Ingham, Liddle, Clarke, Whitehead, Betts, Nicholls, Keltie, Hodgson, Valentine, Offiong, Conlon.  Subs:  Wainwright (for Offiong, 73), Pearson, Clark, Melanby, Porter. Goals: Betts 45 Booked: Conlon, Whitehead Sent Off: Liddle   ATTENDANCE: 14,162

Hull City 0 Macclesfield Town 3

Whoops!  City slip on another Cheshire banana skin, and fracture their Cup hopes for another season.  Mike Scott pieces together the broken bones.
Oh Hull City. Why do you have to make things so complicated. I’ve seen the way your acting like you somebody else, it gets me frustrated. This was a bolt out of the blue, a weak performance from highly promising beginnings that saw the Tigers crash out of the FA Cup. Pre-match speculative talk was of the chairman offering enhanced players’ bonuses as an enticement to help facilitate a lucrative home 3rd round tie in the new stadium – well if such an offer was made, then clearly it proves that our current squad is not motivated by such base and coarse trinkets as hard cash. Killing us softly with their song were:

Musselwhite Regan Whittle Anderson Burton Green Ashbee Delaney Williams Alexander Jevons

The suspended Keates was replaced by the returning-from-suspension Ashbee while the Cup-tied loanee Branch was replaced by the Grimsby-don’t-care-if-he’s-cup-tied-or-not Jevons. And it all started much as it left off against Lincoln last week. Within 30 seconds Stuart Green skipped through the left side of the Macc defence and crossed, the clearance falling to Ashbee who lifted a tricky falling effort over the bar. Moments later Green again pulled the attacking strings and a cross found Alexander at the far post who nodded across goal only for Jevons to sky a close range effort, albeit under the close attention of the Macc defence. When Macc were looking to attack they went down their right using Eaton, but Burton was getting the better of the early exchanges. When the wide man finally did get a cross in Lightbourne was unattended and his header drew a fine save out of Musselwhite. This appeared to be a turning point. The crowd was quietened. Burton’s game went to pieces. And from the resulting corner Macclesfield opened the scoring. A melee in the six yard box culminated in Delaney swinging at the ball and it rebounded off another City player to Tipton, who has never knowingly refused an open goal chance from three yards. 0-1. But still there was some life in the City team, even though the home support was largely mute for the remaining 79 minutes. Within seconds Regan had fed Jevons who rode two challenges and swept a shot just past Steve Wilson’s post. But as time went on Macclesfield began to get City’s measure and the attacking threat waned. Macc line up 3-5-2, although with Lightbourne tucking in on the right it was often more like 3-6-1. More than enough defenders, and a flooded midfield aimed at swamping the threat of Green. It worked. I would also praise the excellent Tipton up front. I presume he only turns it on for City, otherwise his career would’ve encompassed Oldham and Man City, not Oldham and Macclesfield. His willing running saw him pop up all over the place – wide right, wide left, in the hole, between the centre backs. He even served tea and pies to hungry North Standers at half-time. Perhaps. Tipton was a thorn in City’s side all day, and I suggest we sign him for the simple reason that he then wouldn’t play against us again. After 15 minutes Tipton crossed for Lightbourne to head just wide. That was twice the big Bermudan headed goalwards with scant attention from Whittle and Anderson, and he was finding his range. His next intervention was less positive however, a crude lunge at Regan that earned him a yellow card. From the resultant free-kick Wilson flapped characteristically and twice Whittle had chances to head goalwards from 12 yards but instead elected to square to no-one in particular. The Macc back line creaked a little for 10 minutes as Williams briefly exerted a greater influence on the game, but the threat from the away side continued to be there. When Anderson ceded possession carelessly on the halfway line and the onrushing Tipton fed Lightbourne, City heaved a sigh of relief as Ashbee motored back to block the shot and concede a corner. So relieved, in fact, that they didn’t defend the resultant cross at all and the well-practiced Lightbourne despatched a routine header under the dive of Mussy for 0-2. City continued to play a passing game, quite right too, but the zest had gone out of our play and the attacks lacked any real threat. Green wriggled through the midfield crowd scene to set up Alexander whose first time shot was blasted high and wide when space for at least two touches and a composed finish was available. Regan was set free by Jevons and the cross found Alexander in the box, but his header went over the crossbar – once more Wilson was left untested. Regan may have got this cross in but much of the rest of his play was poor, as passes went astray or were blocked. A similar story was seen on the left with Burton and Williams – Macc had clearly determined that they should cut off the City supply lines at source, and it was a highly effective tactic. As the half closed two flashes of individual skill saw Burton and Delaney both craft shooting chances, but Burton’s dribbled wide off his shin and Delaney’s was parried adeptly by Willo. As the half time whistle approached Jevons drew a further save out of Wilson, and the feeling on the terraces was that while we had been undone by Macc for the second time this season, some well-crafted changes to the formation could see City get back into the tie. The home draw against Leeds was not yet out of the question. A vigorous half-time workout by Elliott confirmed that the required surgery was to be undertaken, but when the players emerged for the second stanza it was apparent that some strange decisions had been made. Williams had been very ineffectual and did not deserve a minute longer on the pitch, and the same could be said for the invisible Delaney. But instead, it was Jevons and Whittle that were withdrawn for Elliott and Peat, with Delaney switching to centre back, Williams to centre midfield, Peat patrolling the left and Elliott going up front. Lessons learnt. Williams is as short as Keates, but is no centre midfielder – he was shocking. Elliott is far more dangerous armed with a left sided brief than he is through the centre. Delaney is a good passing centre back, but lacks positional nous. Peat is capable of being totally ineffectual, he barely touched the ball for the full 45. It was a tactical switch that failed in almost every sense, and I sincerely hope that Mr Taylor realised this. Macclesfield came out and defended with their 3-6-1 line-up now a permanent feature, and they worked hard to protect their goal – plenty hard enough. Burton’s problems of the first half continued to escalate and he spannered a succession of passes and clearances into touch. He was soon replaced by the restored-to-fitness Shaun Smith, who performed OK in the circumstances, and all the manager’s jokers were played. But still no penetration, and the game died a sorry and dampsquibby death. Only the ex-City stalwart Wilson could be relied upon – he rolled back the years and flapped gruesomely at a corner on the hour, the ball dropped to Delaney who showed the composure of a drug-crazed po-going safety-pin-laden Sparks fanatic as he skied his chance over the bar from two yards out. Peat briefly left the shooting stick that he perched upon while observing the game go past him, and fired a decent shot after cutting inside from his wing, and Wilson showed that his shot stopping skills are still in good order as he pushed wide. But the final throw of the dice went in favour of the away side, as a cleared corner fell to the slap-headed Whittaker who lashed a fizzing drive into the top corner, giving Mussy no chance. The only remaining moment of note was when Williams went down and injured and Stuart Green kicked the off the pitch to allow the trainer on. Not a quick roll over the touchline for young Stuart, oh no, he lashed a full blooded drive that propelled the ball at warp speed into the front row of the West Stand director’s box. I don’t know who sat next to Mrs Pearson yesterday, but whoever it was had a sore head this morning. So a meek capitulation for a second time in six weeks against hard working but limited opponents. David Moss, the Macc manager, clearly has Hull City sussed, I just hope he keeps his masterplan to himself. This next week will be very interesting, this is Peter Taylor’s first real test. Will he get the players back up for the visit of statesiders Boston next Saturday? Will he modify the tactics to freshen up the attacking potency? Will he never ever on any account play Ryan Williams in the middle of midfield again? Just two more matches for Hull City to shine at Boothferry Park. Over to you, Mr Taylor.

HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Burton, Green, Delaney, Ashbee, Williams, Alexander, Jevons.  Subs: Elliott (for Jevons, 45), Peat (for Whittle, 45), Smith (for Burton, 69), Holt, Harvey. Goals: None Booked: Regan, Williams Sent Off: None   MACCLESFIELD TOWN: Wilson, Tinson, Ridler, Welch, Hitchen, Whitaker, Monroe, Eaton, Adams, Lightbourne, Tipton.  Subs: Abbey (for Eaton, 60), Martin, Hardy, O’Neill, Askey. Goals: Tipton 12, Lightbourne 27, Whitaker 76 Booked: Adams, Lightbourne Sent Off: None   ATTENDANCE: 7,803

Hull City 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

A goal in seconds promised another rout, but this time Taylor’s Tigers fought for a well-deserved point against quality Northamptonshire opposition.  Steve Weatherill tells the tale.
It’s tempting to feel frustration about this one. We took the lead inside the opening minute, but still couldn’t win, and so saw our winning run under Mr Taylor terminated. But restrain yourself. This was a lively match against powerful opposition, and we were palpably the better side, especially in the second half, so take from this encounter just one point but further confirmation that our team is marching steadily up this Division. We kicked off attacking North Stand, with the same line-up that began the demolition of Torquay, excepting only that Alexander took over as central striker from Jevons, who in turn slotted in on the right to replace the broken Branch. So:

Musselwhite Regan Whittle Anderson Delaney Keates Ashbee Green Jevons Alexander Elliott

And the game started, and we went 1-0 up. Really, no messing. 30 seconds? No more. Green made a run from deep, bursting through the centre to receive the ball with the Rushden midfield on its collective heels and their defence astonished at our attacking presumption. Inside the box, Green shoots, Sollitt saves, but the ball runs loose and Green capers to his right and gleefully slides it into the corner of the net. It was a tremendous beginning, putting City in control before we’d had any opportunity to size up the relative merits of the two sides. But once the game settled down it became plain that Rushden were no dummies. Anderson headed over the bar from a corner that was deftly flicked on at the near post, but then, in front of Bunkers, our defence was horribly exposed by a dangerous left-to-right ball and the diminutive Jamaican international Hall stretched but put the chance over the bar when he could and should have scored. Then Rushden’s other, more effective Jamaican, the giant Onandi Lowe, slid a sweet pass into space for Duane Darby – for it is he! – to chase, and we were relieved he didn’t have his Whitby head on as the low skidding shot flashed across the Muss and wastefully wide of the far post. Rushden looked the better side for a spell, but our midfield trio worked hard to maintain a balance. However, Keates and Ashbee have a worrying tendency to make themselves a target for referees. Keates was lucky to avoid a red card last Saturday, but was, by contrast, sorely unfortunate to get booked yesterday. An innocuous challenge left his immediate opponent sitting on his backside on the turf, entirely unhurt, but as the referee approached, his fingers rightly making no move towards his pocket, the non-leaguer threw himself into a spasm of writhing and groaning, and the ref, duped ridiculously easily, waved a yellow at a fed-up Keates. Another Estelle Morris of a match official, but even Cabinet Ministers seem readier to own up to basic inadequacies than football referees. Our turn for a dose of superiority, and an Elliott free-kick was headed in a loop up over the crossbar and on to the roof of the net by Anderson, under pressure from the visiting defence. Then Jevons crossed from the right and Elliott and Keates contrived to get in each other’s way and the glimpse of a shooting opportunity was lost. We had a few corners too and, in a radical departure from hallowed Hull City tradition, they were whipped in at pace and looked genuinely dangerous. An early imprint of the Taylor method? If the new manager not only abandons our woeful incompetence at corners but also gets players to show a bit of movement when we’re trying to take a throw-in, then we truly will be witnessing the rise of a New Hull City. But Rushden took a turn at pressing, and this time they equalised. Regan was harassed by Darby and surrendered possession feebly, only for Ashbee to intervene with a well-judged saving tackle just as Duane was readying himself for a shot. Then, from a corner, a ball to the back post was headed back across the face of our goal and thumped home on the half-volley from about eight yards out. We didn’t defend this set-piece particularly sturdily, but Rushden were value for their goal. On 45, Green dribbled through a couple of tackles and drifted a shot just wide of the post, and then it was half-time. 1-1: a decent game between two decent sides. Rushden started the second period on top. A surge through the centre was halted by resolute City defence, but Lowe, hopping from foot to foot in agitated manner, was right to be irate – he had been left in complete freedom and a pass to him, out on the left, would have left the Muss exposed. Lowe had the beating of Regan and looks a fine player for this Division, while we could be grateful that Duane, his partner, was being criminally under-used. Darby is a master at controlling the ball and shielding it from attentive defenders, but few such passes were being guided his way by his team-mates. Mr Taylor opted for a change. Williams replaced Elliott, and we switched to a more orthodox form of 4-4-2, with Green playing wide on the right side of midfield. The team gradually re-discovered its poise and took control. Alexander sent a venomous left-foot shot five yards wide. Green received the ball from Williams near the dead-ball line and, in a twinkling shimmy of white boots, he skated round his marker, only for Rushden to shovel the ball out desperately for a fruitless corner. Alexander and Williams combined well out on the left, only for the promising move to fall apart on the edge of the box as both left the ball to the other. Jevons and Delaney exchanged delightful passes, setting up Alexander for an effort that was held by Sollitt. Then Keates delivered a free-kick long to the back post, where Whittle headed back across the goalmouth and Sollitt again stretched to clutch the ball. This was impressive stuff from City. We were playing with appealing fluency and genuine conviction, and in this spell we were definitely worth a second goal. Delaney looks to me more like a midfielder than a left-back, which is to say he’s going to be vulnerable to exploitation defensively, but, with Elliott off, he was getting forward with panache and showing an eagerness to receive long passes. Jevons plays with his head up, but isn’t a natural goalscorer; Alexander is a natural goalscorer (which is something his growing collection of boo-boys, the same lamebrains who two years ago were whining on about the need to sign a 20-goal-a-season man, might wish to recall), but currently lacks confidence. Green is adding a bit more consistency to his performances with each game and, as beleaguered Rushden tried to waste time at every throw-in and every goal-kick, Green, now abandoning the right-side for the centre, was the man most likely to rip them apart. It was high-quality football from our team, but not quite incisive enough. Rushden still possessed menace – or, more specifically, Onandi Lowe did. A thumping header from Lowe was held by the Muss. Then Lowe skipped round Anderson with alarming ease before advancing to hit a left-foot shot wide of our goal. Time for another change, and Mr Taylor sent on Bradshaw for Jevons, and then Burton for Keates, playing the willowy and hugely promising youngster at left back, with Delaney stepping forward into midfield. The game is drawing to a close, but we’re still pressing, and Rushden are still hanging on nervously, selecting time-wasting as their main tactic. A Regan cross – Williams is foiled at the back post by alert defence. Another fine ball played in from right to left – Burton, gliding forward into space intelligently, just fails to get his forehead on the ball. It’s over, it’s 1-1. We were the better side, and Rushden were quite possibly the best-organised opponents we’ve faced this season. If, as seems logical from last season’s placings and this season’s results so far, Rushden are a good bet for promotion, then so are we.

HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Delaney, Green, Ashbee, Keates, Jevons, Alexander, Elliott.  Subs: Williams (for Elliott, 55), Bradshaw (for Jevons, 80), Burton (for Keates, 80), Peat, Deeney. Goals: Green 1 Booked: Ashbee, Keates Sent Off: None   RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS: Sollitt, Bignot, Peters, Tillson, Setchell, Hall, Gray, Mills, Bell, Darby, Lowe.  Subs: Wardley (for Bell, 73), Mustafa, Turley, Duffy, Dempster.. Goals: Gray 38 Booked: Bignot Sent Off: None   ATTENDANCE: 10,659