Carlisle United 1 Hull City 5

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

Fettis Joseph Whittle Anderson Smith Melton Appleby Keates Elliott Forrester Walters

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

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

Hull City 4 Carlisle United 0

Murder on the dance floor.  Steve Weatherill reports on how the twinkle toed Tigers clobbered the lead-booted Cumbrians.
Sometimes, though not always, a scoreline faithfully reflects the pattern of the match, and, on this Ark afternoon, it thumped truly into the bullseye. City deserved four, Carlisle deserved none, and we streamed away beaming with glee as we scanned upcoming fixtures with anticipation rather than apprehension. Two League wins in a row, a hat-trick for refreshed centre-forward Gary Alexander, a combined team performance that brooked no argument from flayed Cumbrians; we’re up, and we’re running. 2002/03, watch out, the Tigers are coming, and no, Colin Welland, it is not your ghost that I summon. Green replaced Appleby but otherwise Mr Molby stuck with the side that had begun against Leicester in mid-week, so wielding the scimitar were:

Glennon Regan Whittle Anderson Smith Green Keates Ashbee Williams Jevons Alexander

Since the pre-match minute’s silence has now become the rule rather than the exception, I pledge myself to alert you to it only when it does NOT occur, and yesterday was such an occasion. This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the slaughter of over 2,000 refugees, innocent men, women and children, in the camps of Sabra and Chatilla in Lebanon, a war crime perpetrated by local militia with the active support of the invading Israeli army. There was no minute’s silence for the dead at Boothferry Park yesterday. Still, not to worry, eh? No exciting telly footage of that atrocity to jog our memory, and they were only unarmed dead brown people after all, and there’ll be plenty more of them in the Middle East in the next few months. To the football, as you may prefer, and we began kicking towards a knot of 250 or so Carlisle fans on the North Stand. Three Irish tricolours fluttered in their midst as they celebrated the significant Celtic input into their club that has followed the demise of the Knighton regime. The game was very slow to take any sort of shape. Carlisle had come to spoil. They did it quite effectively. They were well-organised. Midfield was snarled up. Foran, up-front for the visitors, was immensely lively, sprinting from side to side and flashing a cheeky grin at the Kempton whenever he came close to the touchline. Stuart Green nipped inside on to his left foot to deliver our first attempt on target, but the shot swung easily straight into the keeper’s safe hands. Twenty minutes in, and this was poor fare. Whereupon we were allocated a cherry-topped slice of outrageous good fortune. A Williams cross from the left looped into the air and was clutched under his crossbar by the Carlisle goalkeeper. Alexander jumped hopefully, but he was too late to get his head on the ball, and his momentum took him forward where his shoulder collided with the ball, dislodging it from the keeper’s grasp. It rolled apologetically into the net, and the referee, surely about to smile wryly and award a free-kick against a sheepish Gary Alexander, instead sent gales of laughter sweeping around the three black-and-amber sides of the ground as he allowed the goal. If Carlisle were Italy, they’d be giving it the “It’s a worldwide conspiracy against us! The ref’s bent!” nonsense. They aren’t, but I expect they’re still pretty annoyed. The goal seemed to have allowed us to slip into a pleasing rhythm as Green and Williams, in particular, began to float the ball around the pitch with growing confidence, but this was only a fleeting glimpse of improved quality, and the game retreated to a sterile pattern, punctuated only by occasional one-off attacks at either end. Carlisle advanced down the left and crossed the ball in low – a Glennon fuble, a Whittle hoof. Then McGill, one of several nippy Cumbrian Irishmen, darted forward in space and shot over the top from outside the penalty box. For us, a Green/ Alexander combination whipped the ball into the Carlisle net, but a justified offside flag pegged us back. Half-time arrived, and it hadn’t been very good, but we held a lead that would, we hoped, allow us to settle into a more positive frame of mind for the second period. And that is just how it turned out. 1-0 after 45 became 4-0 after 90; we could have had more as we ransacked the Carlisle defence. The second half was a gratifying demonstration of how to exploit a small advantage and convert it into a large one. We mauled them. Smith took a throw-in deep in Carlisle territory, close by the corner flag at the junction of Kempton and Bunkers. Williams received possession and floated a delightful cross on to Gary Alexander’s forehead and he, having scampered clear of his bemused marker, flicked a delicate header beyond the flailing keeper’s fingers. 2-0 and, very obviously, more to come. We dominate. Williams races through; the keeper smothers the ball at his feet. Dudfield replaces Jevons who has taken a knock and has had his least effective match so far. Keates makes a rare unforced error to lose possession in midfield but Carlisle are so surprised to have a glimpse of the ball outside of their own half that they are quickly persuaded to give it back to us. Glennon is a bored spectator – I cannot, off-hand, remember him touching the ball at all in the second half. Edwards comes on for Regan and it is all City. There is something deeply satisfying about seeing opponents skulking around, dishevelled and depressed, desperate only to get off the pitch and re-focus themselves on the next game when, they wearily hope, the other team will be more accommodating. Carlisle knew we were too good for them and they were pining for their grimy Border hometown. From the Tiger perspective, the most encouraging feature of this game and of the two-and-a-half that preceded it is our evident and rapid improvement, both individually and collectively. All four defenders look convincing. Whittle’s frill-free excellence we know about; Anderson’s rugged and committed contribution is also on a fast track to becoming taken for granted. Regan and Smith are sound and steady, the latter, rightly maligned for his utter bewilderment when asked to perform the very basics of defending throughout August, having blossomed with remarkable elegance and good sense now that September has cooled the land. Ashbee and Keates, in central midfield, came out of confrontation with very capable opponents in the Leicester game well into credit, and continued their profit-making yesterday. Keates, in particular, seems to improve game in, game out, and now looks a man we could usefully acquire long-term. It gives me no particular pleasure to make the comparison, but the current Keates zest outshines anything the departed Mark Greaves had offered from midfield for many long, subdued and now forgotten months. And then there’s Ryan Williams, whose inspirational current form is – finally – proof that Chesterfield didn’t sell us a pup after all, there’s the imaginative Green and the returning Appleby, a lean and hungry Gary Alexander, spiced with the droolworthy prospect of Stuart Elliott emerging from his injury lay-off. Admittedly, we still face a potential goalkeeping problem, and the identity of Alexander’s preferred striking partner has yet to be conclusively revealed, but overall Mr Molby is entitled to feel he is steering us in the right direction, and quite quickly. But Carlisle have yet to be tortured some more. Williams crosses beyond Alexander to Dudfield, who slips the ball to the advancing Keates whose dangerous cross just eludes Green, hurtling forward on a powerful surge from midfield. Green has wisely decided to quit the right touchline for the centre of the pitch where he can do, and is doing, real damage. Ashbee too is enjoying the unaccustomed opportunity to wade into the opposition half. A third goal is imminent and, pleasingly, it completes the Alexander hat-trick. Edwards wins the ball and slides it forward to Green who releases a striker’s dream ball, into space behind a tired defence. Alexander has started his charge from his own half, so can’t be offside despite the feeble appeals of the visiting defenders, and with plenty of time to take aim he strokes an utterly confident low shot past the keeper’s left hand and into the net. Jubilation all round, and the only outstanding issue now is exactly how many goals we’re going to rip past Carlisle. Johnson is on (for Alexander) and looking typically vigorous, and Williams is flowing down the left. Ashbee and Green combine to provide a opportunity for Dudfield down the inside left channel, but the Dude is judged offside – unconvincingly. There is, however, one more treat in store and it will be scoffed by our wayward striking enigma. A corner from Williams is watched with mournful disinterest by the Carlisle defence, and Dudfield leaps eagerly to smash a header into the back of the net. 4-0. About right. Macc next. They’ll suffer.

HULL CITY: Glennon, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Smith, Green, Ashbee, Keates, Williams, Alexander, Jevons.  Subs: Dudfield (for Jevons, 61), Edwards (for Regan, 67), Johnson (for Alexander, 67), Musselwhite, Bradshaw Goals: Alexander 20 49 73, Dudfield 78 Booked: None Sent Off: None   CARLISLE UNITED: Keen, Birch, Kelly, Whitehead, Shelley, Molloy, Summerbell, Galloway, McGill, Foran, Nixon.  Subs: Jack (for Galloway, 27), Slaven (for Nixon, 55), Wake (for Foran, 75), Andrews, Naisbitt Goals: None Booked: Foran, Kelly, Summerbell Sent Off: none   ATTENDANCE: 8,461