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

Boston United 0 Hull City 1

Hull City’s first – and on this performance, last – visit to the quaint old York Street ground saw the promotion pressure lifted, the great away support return and a rousing victory for the Tigers after a torrid opening spell.  Ian Thomson is far from stumped for something to say on the matter.
The one predictable thing about City is the unpredictable. Whatever all the signs tell you to expect never seems to come to pass. But we don’t ever learn from that, do we? And so, as Central Trains conveyed me yesterday morning at a leisurely pace across the northern edge of the Fens, magnificently brooding as ever despite the glorious sunshine, my mind wandered to the subject of what I should write for you about the forthcoming fixture. Soon it was all worked out; I would start off with a short paragraph masquerading as a disinterested, half-hearted, incomplete report of the game, as a reaction to what would surely be a disinterested, half-hearted, incomplete City offering if last week’s second-half stroll at the Circle was to be anything to go by, on the basis that if the team couldn’t be bothered to put the effort in because the end of the season had yet again been reached fruitlessly and prematurely, then neither could I. Course, what then happened at York Street wasn’t like that at all. Whilst it was far from being a classic Tiger performance, in terms of either skill or endeavour, in a game lacking in real incident, it at least provided a welcome surprise. For we actually mustered sufficient self-respect and enthusiasm for the task not only to stifle most effectively (and, literally a couple of instances apart, comfortably) a home side who, although limited in quality, had a great deal at stake and scrapped hard to try to preserve it, but to press forward in search of the full share of the spoils for ourselves in a manner which ultimately brought its just reward. We’ll park the question of why we didn’t get the same at Bootham Crescent, Roots Hall or Glanford Park to name but three since Christmas. Sporting our current change strip on what will probably be its final outing were the following:-

Fettis Joseph Whittle Anderson Smith Regan Keates Delaney Elliott Walters Burgess

This may well, of course, prove to be City’s only ever visit to York Street in the League (although Exeter and Shrewsbury in particular look to have other ideas at the moment), and I have to say that would be a pity. Lincolnshire east of the A 46 really is the land that time forgot, and the town of Boston itself is a particular delight. Strolling from station to pub and pub to ground through streets lined with traditional-looking pubs, small, independently-owned shops and only a very few familiar names on store fronts, you felt as though you had somehow wandered on to the set of some early 1960s British film, and would surely bump into Albert Finney or Ian Carmichael (or better still, Julie Christie, armed with a wicker shopping basket), round the next corner. However, modern-day reality soon manifested itself, on the approaches to the ground, in the guise of an absurdly heavy and intrusive police presence, given the presence of no more than a dozen or two fake Burberry-becapped scrotes. Having negotiated the lines of police in front of the turnstiles, and even more inside, the ground itself wasn’t half bad, with proper floodlight pylons and some sort of reasonably substantial structure on each side, certainly better than either Cheltenham’s or Macclesfield when they first came into the League and with definitely more of a League than non-League feel to it. The pitch, however, was not quite so impressive, a bare, uneven tract of land giving every appearance of being used between games for the grazing of an especially voracious species of sheep, curling up in the corners like the top slice of the loaf once you’ve opened it, and playing in a manner entirely consistent with its appearance. The game kicked off in the same radiant sunshine with Boston, ex-Tigers Mark Greaves and Matt Hocking in their ranks, playing towards the 1 300 or so City fans who had made the trip – an amazing turnout for a game with nothing at stake for the Tigers, given that many must have shared the same forebodings about it all as I did and they can’t all, like me, have been ground-tick anoraks. Neither side stamped its authority on the early stages, although City, the unconvincing-looking line-up notwithstanding, were the first to show on 7 mins when Burgess at full stretch narrowly failed to connect with a Walters cross from the right. A succession of Tiger corners followed, all coming to nought. The hosts themselves gave no indication of having much to offer, although this was due in some measure to an organised display by the Tigers rearguard, with the impeccable Justin Whittle prominent as ever. Even in these early stages it looked as though one strike would be enough to settle the issue, the more so because after about 20 minutes the game entered its most unsatisfactory spell, with City easily containing a Boston attack which didn’t get near the City goal until quarter time when the Fett had to dive low to smother a cross from the right, but at the same time, whether frustrated by the uneven pitch or overcome by end-of season inertia, seemingly unwilling to take the game to Boston in any meaningful way. Thankfully, some kind of watershed was reached after about 35 minutes, after Fettis had dived to palm away for a corner a fierce low effort from the ex-Yorkie Duffield and I had written down “Burgess shite- no effort” on my piece of paper. The maligned Burgess then almost immediately won a corner after his determined run was stopped by a Boston defender, and the menacing-looking (facially, that is to say) Boston netminder Bastock fubled the resultant corner, the loose ball being turned back to Delaney who eagerly skied it fully twenty feet over. Ah, Delaney. Dear Delaney. So reminiscent of the member of each British team that ever competed in Jeux Sans Frontieres, usually balding and approaching middle age (some will be thinking “pot, kettle, black” at this point) who had boundless energy and enthusiasm but always spilt his bucket of water or fell over just at the vital moment of the game. But, to prove me wrong again, a minute later he viciously volleyed a bouncing ball just over the bar from the corner of the box. We now actually look much more like scoring than Boston, a Fettis save from Angel on 43 notwithstanding, as the half draws to a close, and two Keates screamers in as many minutes which go just over, the second scraping the top of the bar and a surefire entrant for Netbusters if it had gone in, take the Tigers close to opening their account. Into first-half stoppage time and we scorn probably our best chance of the half, as a Boston defender takes a fresh air shot at a cross from the left and the unmarked Walters, perhaps taken by surprise, doesn’t lash the leather as cleanly as he might, allowing Bastock to make a diving save from his looping effort. So half-time, and the players troop off towards the tunnel situated in the stand at the far end, allowing the City support to appraise for the last time the Fett’s bald patch and his increasingly unavailing efforts to conceal it, and a select few Tiger Chatters to enjoy not only coffee but lollipops, no less, fresh from the holdall borne by that most staunch of City fans, T Holmes, Esq. Nice one, Trev and Jan, and much appreciated. So, expectancy mounts as the second-half begins, only to be quashed as virtually nothing happens for ten minutes apart from a succession of injuries to Boston players, until finally a dangerous-looking Regan cross is pouched by the scary Bastock. A minute later Burgess again just fails to connect with a cross, this time from Elliott, who has been drifting in and out of the game but in fairness not getting a lot in the way of service, and shortly afterwards Walters gets pulled up, unfairly it seems, for handball after having seemed to have beaten Bastock fair and square to a through ball, but it was all pretty uninspiring stuff, to the extent that I noted down “goalless draw inevitable” at this point. But this is City, and just as the away support settled down to take the locals to task on the subject of interbreeding (a bit rich, this, I always think), we started to assert ourselves again. Penalty appeals are turned down on 64 as Burgess is (fairly, it seemed) floored, and a minute later a Delaney effort is saved at the near post. Another minute on and the Fett is called into rare action to make a fine save from the Boston number 7, but this is an isolated break from the pattern of play as Greaves is booked after Elliott is felled and, predictably, makes the most of it, but, when, as happened later in the game, he attempts to keep his feet after being tripped and gets nothing as a result (admittedly, a rare aberration from the referee who had a generally sound game) who can blame him?) Bastock saved the resultant Keates free kick. But the force was now undeniably with City and, after Walters had made way for young Donaldson, a deserved win was secured on 73 minutes. Keates curled in a free kick from the right and Elliott rose like a salmon to glance a superb header just inside the far post with Bastock rooted to the spot, to the delight of the City hordes. A fine strike, and a carbon copy of his winner at Macclesfield last month. The home side, seemingly conscious of their grip on League status being prised away, tried hard to raise the tempo after that, but City were in no mood to be denied, and indeed remained the more threatening of the two sides for the remaining seventeen minutes and the five minutes’ stoppage time brought about by a succession of players requiring treatment. That said, the only real incident of note after the goal came on 94 minutes when Bastock, who sportingly acknowledged the Tiger fans at the end, came charging out of his goal to execute a text-book sliding tackle on Donaldson down by the right-hand corner flag. So, a merited win, all told, but all the more poignant for having been achieved when it’s all too late to have any sort of import, and too surrounded by inconsistency to serve as any form of indication as to how we shall fare next season. If Boston do retain their League status and City replicate yesterday on a blustery and wet November afternoon back at York Street, now that would have considerably more significance.

HULL CITY: Fettis, Joseph, Anderson, Whittle, Smith, Regan, Delaney, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Burgess.  Subs: Donaldson (for Walters, 69), Williams, Jevons, Burton, Musselwhite. Goals: Elliott 73 Booked: Delaney, Joseph, Keates Sent Off: None   BOSTON UNITED: Bastock, Greaves, Balmer, Hocking, Chapman, Redfearn, Bennett, Ellender, Angel, Duffield, Logan.  Subs: Gould (for Angel, 53), Weatherstone (for Logan, 69), Rusk (for Hocking, 77), Rpice, Town. Goals: None Booked: Greaves Sent Off: None   ATTENDANCE: 3,782