Hull City 1 Cardiff City 1

Hull Pharaoh Tigers 1 Cardiff Redbird Dragons 1 Yesterday’s result clearly generated a fair bit of negativity among sections of the paying customers, typified by the guy with the abnormally large head trudging just in front of me up the steps to the railway footbridge after the game. I find it harder to place people in their correct social and behavioural pigeonhole these days, but this same guy a generation ago would have worn Crimplene slacks (cream, probably with finger marks on them), driven a Ford Escort 1100 and drunk keg Tetleys, which he would sip with a smug, knowing look on his face. Resplendent in his new City away shirt, and, one suspects, with a couple of less colourful replica shirts, advertising the wares of Messrs White & Mackay and Top Man, folded away in the bottom of the chest of drawers in his spare room, for about half the walk to Argyle Street, until I finally managed to get out of his earshot, he delivered to nobody in particular at intervals of about twenty seconds a series of soundbites (“Can’t score”……..”Won’t do owt till we get some strikers”…….”Need to get rid of that Graham”……”Be going down at this rate”…….) looking round after each one in search of a word or gesture of assent or approval from those around him, in exactly the same irritating way that Ian Hislop does in Have I Got News for You? Then there was the imbecile journalist or sub-editor whose headline today declared that City were in for a “Long, hard season”. A cursory glance at the report below revealed this headline to be no more than a somewhat gauche attempt at a play on words around the collapse of the Shane Long deal, but nevertheless creating an unnecessarily-negative impression for someone without the time or the inclination to read the report more thoroughly OK, it’s fair to say that, on the balance of play and chances created, yesterday might arguably have been a case of two points dropped, and yes, to that extent one might conclude that if anything the result was a tad on the disappointing side, and yes, nobody is under any illusions that the strike rate will not need to improve if we are to avoid a struggle but really, does any of that justify the levels of gloom and despondency that seemed to have descended over the Tiger Nation yesterday? Would we not have taken where we are now before the start of the season, especially with the difficult fixtures we have had away from home? Thankfully, the way in which the manager, sensing the mood, one suspects, placed our season to date into perspective, both on Humberside and later on MOTD, and brought a healthy and frankly much-needed dose of sanity to the proceedings. Could a Club of our stature and means possibly be blessed with a more sure-footed and capable manager at this level? Very doubtful indeed. It was also pretty clear from yesterday’s game which of the two teams looks – at this admittedly early stage – the more comfortable and better-equipped overall at this level, and no, it isn’t the one that has spent all the money. The injury scare surrounding McGregor having evaporated, and with Sagbo serving out his last week of self-inflicted exile, City lined up pretty much as expected:- McGregor Elmohamady Chester Davies Figueroa Koren (C) Livermore Huddlestone Brady Graham Aluko …..or something like that. Sub: Quinn (for Brady, 66 minutes) For the first time this season the autumnal nip which has crept into the air of late made it feel like proper football weather as the game kicked off with City playing towards the 1,268 Welshmen clad, pleasingly, for the most part in blue and occupying the deeper recesses of the North Stand: not a terribly impressive following for such an early away game for a Club returning to the top flight after more than half a century, but after years of it being rare for more than a couple of half-full busloads of Cardiff fans to show their faces in Hull undoubtedly the most they have ever brought to Hull apart from the rather special circumstances of last season. Their team, rather more surprisingly but even more pleasingly, was clad in blue too. What’s up, Mr Tang? Colour clash? The first threat to either goal comes from the visitors, when Campbell gets into a position on the right side of the City box which momentarily looks a touch threatening, but Figueroa skilfully glides in between man and ball and ushers the leather to safety. Which brings us nicely on the one-time monopolist of the City man of the match award, even when he wasn’t playing. Why do City fans insist on booing him? OK, so he declined to re-join us in 09 or whenever it was, but what the boo-boys have to remember is that footballers for the most part lack the intelligence to make their own decisions about career moves and that the decision of Campbell to go to Sunderland was almost certainly made by his father, who acts as his agent. If you want to boo somebody, boo Campbell senior, but even then do bear in mind that Campbell junior was under absolutely no legal or moral obligation to come back to the Circle (shortly to be renamed the Pyramid, my sources tell me), neither was his father to make him. But back to the football. Two minutes on and we really should have got off the mark. Aluko skilfully makes space on the edge of the D and fires in low. Stand-in Cardiff keeper Lewis (sporting the only Welsh surname in the visitors’ squad) dives low to his right but can only push the leather out to the feet of Graham, who, with the goal gaping before him, spoons the leather into the gleeful away support. Admittedly, the ball came back at him off the goalie quite quickly but one ought to expect a bit of anticipation at this level. Truly a shocking miss: highly reminiscent of one for which my younger brother was responsible when playing for his Cub pack many years ago, but at least he had the excuse of being inherently slow-witted and clumsy. For much of the rest of the half the game adopts a somewhat formless guise. Initially Cardiff have most of the ball and when City do get they give it back quite quickly, with little of the fluency that was so evident at Eastlands on show. The visitors though do very little with their possession, the only real scare coming when one of theirs takes a tumble in the box but referee Madley is having none of it. Shortly afterwards Campbell’s name finds its way into the book after a late lunge on Elmo and the Cardiff number 10 then spends much of the game in a mood of petulance until his eventual substitution just before three-quarter time. Finally City rally, and shortly after Lewis is forced to bat out a Koren cross after a nice crossfield move, Aluko makes space for himself on the inside left channel and fires powerfully into the side netting one of those efforts that look from the far side as if they have gone in, and yes, a few East Standers fell for it. This is a good City spell, with Graham just failing to convert a cross from Aluko, and then the City number 24 himself steers one just wide of the near post. We are looking very likely to score now and on this occasion follow the script. Six minutes before half time, Livermore and Huddlestone combine, and the latter hits a low drive which Lewis is glad to be able to push round the post. The resulting corner is cleared, but only as far Huddlestone, out wide on the right, who curls an absolutely delightful cross in behind the Cardiff defenders, completely wrongfooting them in the process and allowing the alert Davies (what an impressive start to the season from him, by the way) to ghost in and glance a header into the pokey from three or four yards out. Nothing else of note happens in the remaining few minutes of the half, and a neutral would conclude that we were just about good value for the lead. So half-time, and perhaps an observation or two about the ongoing name change fiasco, and in particular the Grauniad interview with the Chairman on the subject during the week. Whether you are consumed with a desire to burn the stadium down in the event of a name change, or whether you think it’s high time that City embraced modern commercialism and move into the 21st Century, one thing is now clear, namely that, whatever his actual motives, the Chairman’s plans cannot possibly not rooted in any kind of commercial thinking, the key to this conclusion lying in his frankly incredible declaration to David Conn that Man City should be called Manchester Hunter. Those in favour of, or ambivalent about, any name change might be well advised to reconsider their position in the light of this. The protest that was planned at short notice before the game did not seem to have any appreciable effect on the numbers in the ground, but that should not be taken as any indication that there is no real groundswell of opinion against this nonsense, or that only those protesting are opposed to any change: I personally know numerous fans who, for various reasons, choose not to take part in the protest marches but have said that they will not renew their passes if the name changes. Not only that, but the majority of those who will stay away are fans of longer standing, whose support – both vocal and financial – will be sorely missed if and when times get hard. The observation made during the week by one regular contributor to this list that this could all get very personal if the Chairman presses ahead with his plans is, to my mind, absolutely correct. That would be an enormous shame, because the good he has done for our Club is near-immeasurable, and yet he would only have himself to blame. He really ought to consider whether this is all worth it, especially as it’s by no means certain that he would be allowed to make the name change, even if it is his club. Back on the pitch, a promising situation is pissed up the wall when Brady (who turned in a largely lazy, self-indulgent performance, for which he was deservedly substituted) tried to be too clever when he had easy options, After a free kick to Cardiff causes some problems until a goalbound-looking shot is blocked, Aluko delightfully skins Turner on the right and is hauled down, earning the defender a yellow card. The resulting free-kick, near the by-line, is, instead of being crossed, cleverly pulled back to the unmarked Koren, whose shot is similarly blocked. We’re looking decidedly sprightly now and the more likely of the two sides to score, and so experienced City watchers know what’s coming next. Campbell feeds Cowie out on the right, and the cross is volleyed home in fine style by Whittingham. Undoubtedly questions need to be asked why Elmo allowed Whittingham to cut inside him, but it was a fine finish nevertheless, poignantly reminiscent of the Graham goal that was ruled narrowly offside against Man Citteh. Sometimes the line between hero-worship and opprobrium is that thin. It could be much worse a couple of minutes later, when Gunnarsson, unmarked seven or eight yards out, really ought at least to have hit the target with his free header, but directs the leather over the angle of post and bar. That, though, is pretty much the last time that Cardiff threaten, as City generally dominate the last quarter of the game. Graham almost manages to walk the ball through the entire Cardiff defence on 76 but just fails, and a couple of minutes later we suffer some genuinely cruel luck as a corner is cleared, the ball is played out to the lively Quinn, whose energy and probing are a welcome contrast to the posturing and indolence of Brady, and the City sub’s teasing ball is poked home at the far post by Aluko, only for the City striker (correctly) to be ruled offside. The Nigerian forces Lewis into a save from 20 yards on and then on 86 is felled just outside the box but Huddlestone’s free kick thunders into the wall. The clock is running down now and four minutes’ injury time are signalled, but still City press on and, having negotiated one potential scare when Davies dallies on the ball, loses possession and is forced to bring his man down, for which he is booked, have one final chance to secure the full three points. Elmo picks up a clearance, works a nice one-two (not sure with whom) and delivers a pinpoint cross onto the head of Graham. A couple of feet either side of the netminder and it’s in, but in fact the header is planted straight into the arms of Lewis. A chance spurned, and it’s our final one of the afternoon. Still, we’ve had worse days, and we’ll have better ones this season, for sure. In conclusion, one question and one request. Anyone know why Steve Bruce wears a suit for some games and a tracksuit for others? If I were Malky Mackay I’d be quite hurt at our manager’s scruffy garb yesterday, a far cry from the sartorial elegance he displayed when standing shoulder to shoulder with Mourinho at Ver Bridge. And the request. Can someone please tell David Osgerby that his poetry doesn’t scan?

Hull City 2 Cardiff City 2

If I had pitched today’s events as an aspiring scriptwriter to Hollywood as a thriller full of twists and turns I would have been sent away to make it a bit more believable. This is the way it really happened honest Guv. A week ago it felt like any dreams of promotion were over, the play offs looked nailed on and talk of if we had been offered 3rd at the start of the season we would have bit your hand off. Men of steel have gradually melted into puddles of mercury and nails bitten to the quick. Did anyone really believe we would progress through the lottery of the play offs, Saturday was surely our final chance and we are in our poorest run of form this season. Writing a cheque to book my own seat for the semi-final was the moment I finally succumbed to the collywobbles and believed the end of the world was nigh. Leeds of all teams would hold our destiny in their hands, still sitting comfortably? A FLAG meeting in the morning and talk of themed stands, SMC’s and the future of season tickets just cranked up the tension although Linton Brown running around with coffee and bacon banjos set the surreal scene for the rest of the day. So on to the final game of the season? Early reports are that Koren is not fit and will play no part. Humberside are reporting we are going 4-4-2 with Brady upfront. We arrive to a packed ground and the team is announced: Stockdale Rosenior                                  Faye                Chester                        McShane Elmo                                        Meyler             Quinn                          Boyd Brady                                      Simpson We start brightly Elmo shoots from distance and it’s deflected wide for a corner, Mcshane climbs highest from the corner and we get another corner but a foul ends our first spell of pressure. McShane whips in a cross just too high for the onrushing Simpson, Cardiff then threaten for the first time but Stockdale dives on a dangerous near post cross. Elmo goes on a mazy run puts in a decent cross but Cardiff are defending well. We crank up the pressure with a series of half chances a Quinn shot, Elmo putting in some decent crosses a shot deflected straight in to the keepers hands a great long ball by Meyler is well controlled on the chest by Brady but Cardiff again tackle well and the threat subsides. On 20 minutes Cardiff come close to breaking the deadlock a shot deflected inches from the far post. Stockdale throws out quickly to set up a quick break from Elmo and then neat interplay from Quinn and Boyd and a lay off from Simpson sets up Mcshane marauding down the left, his shot deflected out for yet another corner. Elmo and Rosenior combine with a quick combination of passes, Boyd releases Brady with a ball through and Brady curls a ball over the bar. Meyler bursts through the Cardiff midfield and is brought down, Brady strikes the resulting free kick straight in to the wall. We give away a soft free kick and Cardiff scare the horses for the second time but we are spared as the ball deflects wide again, Stockdale playing better today punches the corner well clear. Another well hit shot from the lively Brady is well pouched by Marshall in the Cardiff goal. Cardiff fans start singing 1-0 to the Watford and desperate attempts to find the score find no conformation. Then they announce 2-0 Watford and nobody seems to be able to find out what is happening. Cardiff whip in a decent cross but the colossus that is Faye heads clear. We finally hear from Watford and the news is good, Leeds have taken the lead, Cardiff fans just having a bit of fun at our expense the little scamps. We make our first change just before half time as Proschwitz replaces the injured Simpson. Brady again finds space to run and shoot but again just over. The whistle blows and we are still in it, 0-0 and playing well. We hear more from Watford, they are 16 minutes behind us following an injury to their replacement keeper. They have a child in goal now, we must now be favourites.  Bugger Watford equalise and it’s all on a knife edge again. We start still in Second but Watford not quite at half time, why are we not starting the second half at the same time? It’s a conspiracy we are doomed, doomed I tell you. Frazier comes on at half time and the feeling that the Gods are against us multiplies. Brady tip toes into the box and is felled, penalty please Mr Referee, Nothing doing and Boyd is closed down before he can get a shot away. On 49 minutes a long ball falls at the feet of Cambell, he skips past a despairing lunge and has our goal in his sights, he never looks like missing and slips the ball past the despairing dive of Stockdale. We are behind and dropped into 3rd place and thoughts turn to trips to Bolton, Forrest or Leicester on a Friday night. We respond brightly a Brady cross is headed just wide by Mcshane with Pros desperately sliding in to apply a finishing touch but missing by inches. Brady finds Proshwitz but he shoots weakly, the ball finds its way back to Brady who pulls back to Meyler and his shot is palmed away by Marshall. It’s Quinn who reacts quickest and edges out to the left of the box, he puts in a tempting cross and the German goal machine stretches to get there first and apply the killer touch. We are level as are Watford, we are going up possibly. It is now all City we are taking control and piling on the pressure, Quinn shoots but is deflected out for a corner. Brady whips in the corner, Mcshane flings himself at it and somehow ends up sliding the ball in from two feet out, we are ahead for the first time, cue pandemonium. Hull City A.F.C    2   The team formally known as the Bluebirds 1 We are going up…….Surely nothing can go wrong now. Cambell breaks clear but the mighty Faye steps in to maintain our lead. We continue to be a threat with efforts from Pros and Brady. We are starting to sit back as the clock ticks to 70 minutes and Bruce is urging us to push up. Cardiff get a free kick on the edge of our box, the wall stays strong and after a bit of panicking we clear the loose ball. We are now just clearing everything long and starting to look tired, Brady has run himself into the ground and is looking at the bench pleadingly. He is withdrawn for Fahti as we attempt to hang on, we hear that Watford are down to ten with Deeney sent off. Cardiff are irritatingly still giving it a proper go and only solid defending and Stockdale showing more command of his area than recently are keeping us sane. 4 minutes of stoppage time are announced, we are just a sensible few minutes away from automatic promotion. Meyler chases a ball through and is pushed over in the box, the Ref points to the spot we have a chance to wrap it up. The pitch is invaded as people think the game is over. It takes a while to clear and it is our German who steps up, Germans never miss penalties it’s an unwritten law of football. Bruce can’t watch he turns away we hold our breath and he hits it at waist height, Marshall guesses right and saves to his left. A minute later and a ball into our box comes off a knee and hits Faye’s upper arm, another penalty. This time it is calmly placed in the bottom corner and the scores are levelled. The final whistle blows and we are left in Limbo waiting for the end of the game at Watford. 15 minutes still to play and all our nerves are shot. A wander into the concourse and a quick nip out for a becalming fag and I can bear to look at the screens showing the updates from Sky. Leeds have taken the lead and now we must just wait for the final whistle, the stadium announcer keeps us up to date, stoppage time now at Watford, the big screen showing images of our players waiting for updates. Finally the final whistle goes at Watford, we have done it, we are Premier League. The players gave it everything and City fans just about managed to keep the faith, it was as good an atmosphere as I think we have ever seen at our new home. Congratulations and thanks are displayed to the Allams on banners by those on the pitch. We came so close to going bust again and after one of our best seasons and most exciting games are to dine at the top table, our owners, manager and players deserved nothing less in the end. We can now spend the summer watching cricket and enjoying the rumours of our new signings, I believe a certain Mr Rooney and Mr Bale are looking for moves.

Cardiff City 1 Hull City 0

Despite dominating the second half and appearing to score a good goal in the first, City leave Ninian Park open-handed as the home side continue their run for the play-offs.

Cardiff City 1 City 1

They scored a messy goal, we scored a better one, so level at half-time, and then we dominated the second half as only a series of excellent saves from goalkeeper Alexander protected the point that the home side scarcely deserved.

That’s how it was in reality.

In the dismal parallel universe of footballing larceny, however, it goes down as

Cardiff City 1 City 0

Which we really didn’t deserve.

It’s been an odd week – one we’ll look back on with dismay come late April if we’re teetering on the abyss of relegation. Because we could have gathered seven, even nine, points beginning last Saturday, and yet we’ve taken just two. The bright side is that we’re playing well enough for it to seem inconceivable right now that we can’t find three teams (at least) to finish below us. And yet … it’s a lot of points dribbling away.

Thelwell Cort Delaney Rogers
Paynter Andrews Noble Ellison
Fagan Parkin

Two debutants – the stocky Rogers and the nimble Noble – and a mythical beast at right-back. Unicorn? Wyvern? Minotaur? Nothing so humdrum, it is Alton Thelwell, and a splendidly sturdy addition to our squad he looks too.

Off we went on a clement Welsh afternoon. It was a modestly lively opening, though with little activity targeted on either goalmouth. On 15 Cardiff stuffed a header wastefully over the bar. Two minutes later across, a Cort header, a save by Alexander – and an offside flag.

The pace slackens. Do Cardiff have serious ambitions of gatecrashing the Play Offs? It doesn’t look like it, nor does it feel or sound like it as the crowd slumbers, and there is already a hint of the 0-0 that would suit us cosily enough. Whereupon we get slack and get punished.

Thomson, burly ex-Rangers frontman, finds space, meets a cross, and fires horribly high over the bar. But almost immediately a poor clearance from Myhill arrives invitingly with Jerome and he is able to fight clear of Delaney’s recovery attempt and lob the ball home. All a bit messy. Could Delaney have done more? Don’t think so. Was Myhill a bit hasty to race off his line? Maybe. It was at the far end, I don’t feel confident in commenting.

We equalise. In this I feel confident. And it’s a colourful move, initiated down the right by the Beast, who squares it to – I think – Andrews, who moves the play swiftly out to the left to Rogers who is able to advance into the area and shoot low. Alexander palms it away, the ball falls to the mighty Beast near the by-line, with the angle too acute for a first-time shot, but quick-thinking Jon Parkin cannily and calmly pulls the ball inside and smashes his shot goalwards. Over the line. A foot over the line. Two feet maybe. You English have ‘won’ a World Cup with a vastly more dubious goal. No! That’s a poor analogy. Parkin’s effort was a legitimate goal, no debate, not so Hurst’s. Alexander had gamely hurtled back inside his goal to shove the scoring shot back into play and, gruesomely, the celebrating City support began to realise that neither linesman nor referee had managed to get even close to keeping up with play. They weren’t going to give the goal. And they didn’t.

And so towards half-time, with a deep sense of injustice. For Cardiff, the powerful Cameron Jerome, much touted but deeply unimpressive in Hull back in December, now looked a proper centre-forward, and provided the focus for most of the home team’s play. For us, we came closest to making it 2-1 on 44 when the Beast again terrorised the wilting home defence and the ball ran free to Ellison who broke habit by crashing in a fine right-foot shot through defending legs, only to be foiled by Alexander saving to his left when presumably unsighted.

We were, by the way, standing on a covered terrace. Of this I approve. I like choice and I would far rather stand up than sit down at a football match. So far, so good. But every other club in this Division has been forced to spend money on eliminating terraces which they might otherwise have preferred to invest in the team. So how come Cardiff enjoy an unfair advantage by being allowed to let Ninian Park moulder and fester, barely a penny spent on it since I was present in a World Cup qualifying crowd of over 40,000 two decades ago?

But let me not wallow over long in my (preferred) pit of curmudgeon. Yesterday the locals were a good deal less aggressive than has been common in the past – and this despite the foolish provocation of a small knot of far right infiltrators among our support – and the stewarding was top notch, calm, efficient and well-balanced. Sturdy work by our old friends the Heddlu too.

Into the second half. In which we dominated possession but such chances as we created bit on the granite of the impressive Scot Neil Alexander in the Cardiff goal.

Paynter departed for Duffy on the hour, having offered nothing of note down the right. His 2006 has yet to take any useful shape. Fagan dropped into the position vacated by Paynter, so we maintained our 4-4-2. And then, only a few minutes later, Elliott and Green came on, replacing Ellison and Fagan, and leaving us light down the right. Ach, we were so much the better team by this stage, but we just couldn’t do damage in the penalty area. We needed a moment of shimmering midfield creativity, a slice of luck – or an attentive linesman back at the turning point during the first-half. On 75 the agile Beast, terrifying his adversaries, was hauled down on the edge of the box, allowing us a decent shooting opportunity from a free-kick twenty yards out. Noble took responsibility. And chipped feebly over the bar. I didn’t enjoy Noble much. He looks skilful enough, but lightweight. He’ll get some useful first-team experience playing for us, but on this evidence we’re not getting the bristling snarling experienced presence we could do with in central midfield in order to seal safety this season. I know, I know, Mr Taylor likes ‘em young and malleable. But couldn’t we just this once have made a short-term choice and signed Ian Ure or Romeo Benetti?

Cardiff offered almost nothing in attack. The only incidents which allowed Boaz a glimpse of the football involved comedy Koumas free-kicks. A harsh handball against Cort allowed him one go. He blatted it haplessly into the crowd. Another try followed a clumsy trip by Delaney, and this free-kick too sailed harmlessly high over the bar into the covered terraces. Our net was as safe from Koumas as a quail pursued by Dick Cheney. This Koumas has a lofty reputation, and may well be a decent plumber or perhaps gardener, but on the evidence of his 180 minutes against us this season he doesn’t deserve note for any ability as a footballer.

Into the last ten, and we get serious inside their box, in search of the equaliser that is the very minimum we deserve. A ball in from the left is headed back square across the face of the goal, a shot, a wonderful – and deeply frustrating – point-blank stop by Alexander. Cardiff are well inside the top half of the table, edging close to the Play Offs, where we’d like to be in a couple of seasons – but on this evidence we’re good enough to get there much more quickly. We are superior to Cardiff City NOW. There are four added minutes and we almost score twice, first when a move initiated by a long Beast throw-in results in a deft chip which reaches Elliott at the back post but his header is directed tamely at a nice height for Alexander to save and then soon after when a wild melee forces an amazing twisting leaping stop from the despicably able home netster.

And then it was time to go home for our tea.

Thelwell, if he stays fit, is a welcome addition to the squad. Rogers will, on this evidence, provide helpful cover in the short-term. Andrews is better off in midfield with Welsh along side him while Stuart Green’s cameo appearances must surely soon disappear. A no-impact player. The Beast is tremendous, and Delaney a hero for his uncomplaining willingness to keep filling different positions. Overall, then, we didn’t play particularly well yesterday, but we didn’t deserve to lose. And we didn’t. Sort of.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Thelwell, Cort, Delaney, Rogers; Paynter, Andrews, Noble, Ellison; Parkin, Fagan. Subs: Duffy (for Paynter, 59), Elliott (for Ellison, 63), Green (for Fagan, 63), Stockdale, Duke.

Goals: None

Booked: Andrews

Sent Off: None

CARDIFF CITY: Alexander, Barker, Purse, Cox, Scimeca, Whitley, Ardley, Koumas, Ledley, Thompson, Jerome. Subs: Weston (for Jerome, 83), Margetson, Boland, Mulryne, Ndumbu-Nsungu.

Goals: Jerome 22

Booked: ledley

Sent Off: None