Hull City 1 Coventry City 2

A disappointing Tigers performance sees Coventry City tough their way to a 2-1 win, revenge for the first defeat inflicted at their new Arena earlier in the season.

City slumped to a fourth successive home defeat in disappointing circumstances as a robust Coventry side, rocking on the ropes at half time, thundered back into the contest in the second half and exploited City’s inattentive defending to claim a unanimous points victory. Chief pugilist was Dennis Wise, a pugnacious, repugnant pug of a man that contributed very little with the ball other than squaring it to their right back all night, but was the difference in unsettling and unnerving our key players with a snappy performance on the very edge of acceptability in the modern game. Dreadful player to watch play against your side, fabulous player to have in your team.

They had Wise, we didn’t. We also didn’t have Fagan, banished from the 16 for what Peter Taylor later described as a lack of effort in training. He then went on to imply that young Craig was perhaps not as keen to play in the position the manager had picked out for him as he might have been, what with him being a professional and getting paid a very good wage to run around a bit on a Saturday and Tuesday doing your dream job and stuff. Delaney and Ellison – cited by Taylor as exhibiting sperior attitudes to Fagan – did play, the latter in the right midfield berth vacated by Fagan’s strop with occasional hilarious consequences thanks to Kev’s ultra-left-footedness.

With Barmby injured and the nippy Scotsman Duffy getting his first City start we lined up:

France Cort Collins Delaney
Ellison Welsh Andrews Elliott
Parkin Duffy

A game of four quarters. One a stalemate, one City’s, two Coventry’s. The goals followed the pattern of the four quarters rather precisely.

The first quarter was all probing and snarling. Wise immediately started nudging and pushing around Parkin, it got to the big man and he was quiet through much of the game before bursting to life in the last fifteen minutes and getting no penalty joy from the referee, even when he had his shirt torn from his back in the box. The City training ground has obviously been Setpieceville, Arizona these past few days. Within 15 seconds Sam Collins was hurling his first long throw into the Cov box and this set the scene for the opening exchanges – City play the ball quickly into Parkin’s chest or down the channels for Duffy to chase (result: not much threat) while Cov try something similar with Adebola with similarly lacklustre results. After 11 minutes Ellison was felled on halfway while dribbling sideways across the pitch, though an obvious foul the ref played advantage as City attacked. By the time Kev had returned gingerly to his feet, palmed the dust off his shoulders and sauntered towards the Cov goal the ball was being half cleared to where he was, and he lamped a 30 yard shot over the bar. Collins had a header deep in the Cov box saved after an Andrews free kick, Cov saw Delaney head over his own bar after a similar set piece and McSheffrey had a brief sight of Myhill’s goal before he fell in a heap and Delaney cleared.

As the half wore on City gained the upper hand and soon the lead was ours. Duffy blocked a weak clearance and advanced on goal only to see his shot blocked. The ball rebounded to Parkin whose shot was also blocked, this time falling at Welsh’s feet. The young Scouser, in fine form for a second game in a row since his lay-off, worked the ball wide left to Elliott who beat his defender and thundered a powerful shot into the net from a very tight angle. The game needed a goal – it got a good one.

City now took the game to Coventry and opened them up repeatedly as Wise, booked for a crazy lunge on halfway, was unable to exert any influence on the pattern of the game. Parkin had a low shot saved by keeper Fulop, Elliott crashed an elaborately worked freekick straight at a startled goalkeeper and Andrews rattled the crossbar after chesting down a half clearance. Although apparently all at sea on the right Ellison was at the heart of most of City’s chances, either winning fouls for free kicks or supplying crosses after cutting inside the full back. Coventry needed half time, City needed a second to hammer home their supremacy. Cov got their way.

The second half was different. Very different. Coventry focussed their game far more on Adebola, whose brute strength worried a severely bested Collins. Cov also switched speedy wide man McSheffrey with lumbering wide man Scowcroft, and McSheffrey proceeded to give France, unable to muster la resistance, a torrid time with pacy straight line running and neat tricks on the ball. France was again exposed as our weak link in defence, it really is about time we found another right back. If only we had a long term injured one returning to fitness …..

Long periods of the second half were almost entirely dominated by the away side’s attacking threat. Scowcroft was the first beneficiary of McSheffrey’s domination over France as he latched onto a near post cross and headed just wide. Then powerful play by Adebola ended up with Wise deep in our box and a chance to shoot, fortunately a last ditch intervention by Delaney saved City the embarrassment of conceding a goal to that clown. It was only a temporary respite however as Duffy ceded possession cheaply deep in City’s half, Delaney couldn’t clear the resulting cross looping the ball into the air 18 yards out, and Wise was afforded the chance to perform a tremendous overhead volley that whistled past Myhill at great speed. This was harsh on our netminder, who had just pulled off two of the finest saves seen by a Tiger in a long while as McSheffrey saw a point blank shot blocked and then, from the resulting corner, Adebola thumped a free header goalwards from 4 yards out only for Myhill to snake out a hand and perform what was a near-impossible block. The boy is solid gold and could be critical to us avoiding relegation this term.

Anyway, at 1-1 City were briefly awoken – Elliott was set free by Parkin but a Cov defender chased back manfully and performed a well-timed sliding tackle, only to get the ball trapped between his legs and take a kick in the head that eventually caused him to leave the field in a severely dazed state. To be honest that was about it though, Adebola was now utterly dominant and Stern John was beginning to show interest as well. When France cleared his lines lamely the ball was switched to McSheffrey and City’s defence was wrong-footed. When France then allowed McSheffrey to get in a routine near post cross the City defence was still dozing and John appeared to chest the ball into the goal unchallenged at the near post.

At 2-1 Paynter was introduced for Ellison and he immediately contributed to a move that resulted in Welsh shooting over, but that was about it for young Billy. Greenie came on for Welsh and linked up the play reasonably well, but by this time Cov were playing for time skillfully and winding up the City players and fans alike with time-wasting tactics. Chief dallier was Wise, who took a plastic Lucozade bottle in the chops for his trouble when he feigned injury in front of the East Stand. Coventry even had a third goal disallowed after a quickly taken free kick – won when Adebola dived theatrically to get Paynter booked – resulted in Doyle beating Myhill one-on-one, only for the preening referee to bring play back because he hadn’t returned his biro to the correct pouch in his leatherette notebook protective holder. A dreadful decision, but one that saved City from further angst. Late on France and Andrews had shots miss the target while Parkin was twice refused a penalty when being bumped and shoved as he got under a series of panicky City long balls.

But in truth an equaliser was scarcely deserved as Coventry, rather like Millwall earlier in the season, showed that teams lower down the league may not be able to compete with City in terms of footballing skill, but they can use brute strength and professional cynicism to shut down our game and gain an upper hand. City are just not nasty enough still. Worryingly our next opponents, Luton Town, are.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; France, Cort, Collins, Delaney; Ellison, Andrews, Welsh, Elliott; Parkin, Duffy. Subs: Paynter (for Ellison, 77), Green (for Welsh, 79), Wiseman, Fry, Leite.

Goals: Elliott 31

Booked: Andrews, Ellison, Parkin, Paynter

Sent Off: None


COVENTRY CITY: Fulop, Duffy, Williams, Page, Hall, Scowcroft, Doyle, Wise, McSheffrey, Adebola, John. Subs: Heath (for Duffy, 69), Hutchison (for John, 88), Morrell (for McSheffrey, 89), Ince, Jorgensen,

Goals: Wise 61, John 72

Booked: John, Scowcroft, Wise

Sent Off: None


REFEREE: A Woolmer


Coventry City 0 Hull City 2

A sterling Tigers performance sees an intermittently threatening Coventry side beaten 2-0 thanks to a John Welsh brace, despite losing a defender to a red card.

Splendid result. Splendid performance.

We were mugged ten days ago by a poor Stoke side, whereas last Saturday Luton produced an admirable example of how to play away from home – get organised, stifle the home side’s fizz, and then kill the game off ruthlessly. At the Rico Stadium on the outskirts of Coventry we were much more Luton than Stoke. We deserved to win. It was a treat of an afternoon.

The side that proved we can mix it with proper teams in this Division, injury plague notwithstanding, was:

Lynch Cort Delaney Edge
France Welsh Curtis Barmby
Fagan Brown

Dele Adebola’s the sort of forward whose presence on the teamsheet must make defenders sigh in resignation. He’s not a good footballer, he’s scarcely a footballer at all, but he’s big and strong and his business is handing out whacks. On 4 he battled clear and shot wide. Looked ominous. Wasn’t. Cort and Delaney played a fistful of matches last season when they looked as fine a pairing as we’ve had since Jobson and Skipper, but they offered up nothing last season that was as admirable as yesterday’s dominant display. They took on Adebola on his own terms and allowed him no superiority. They fought him to a standstill. Gary McSheffrey is a trickier sort but they allowed him little scope for invention. While James Scowcroft, also, I suppose, a striker, was comically useless. But it wasn’t just our teak-tough centre backs that won us this game. It was our overall well-balanced well-planned shape. Look back at that line–up. Barmby at left side midfield? Yes, and an excellent shift he put in too. The key to our win was organisation – play a secure 4-4-2 and ask Cov what they can do to hurt us. Not much. Barmby was asked to play a dour hand, and he did it manfully. Woodhouse Curtis was excellent, patrolling the area in front of our back four and challenging Cov to show invention. And the home side dismally failed.

We took the lead on 17 and I can’t tell you much about it. A glorious chipped pass from Welsh put Brown in the clear, but his effort was valiantly blocked by ex-Tig Stephen Bywater in the Cov goal. The ball spins out to the left, it’s knocked back across to the right and then a low cross flashes across the face of the goal and, what’s this, it’s slipped inside the side netting and we’ve scored.

Umm … pretty messy, but we have shoved men forward, we’ve shown ambition, we’ve deserved that. Did a deflection help us along the way? Wouldn’t be surprised.

And we’re distinctly the more convincing side. On 30 the ball is transferred from left to right, France turns it back into the middle and Brown, with his back to goal, turns a shot over the bar. Five minutes later Fagan powers through, dribbling aggressively from the left, and shoots too high.

But, on 40, the decisive moment of the afternoon occurs and it’s down our end, right in front of the 1500 travelling City fans. It’s Coventry’s best moment of the match, a surging run down the right patterned by the sparkling short passing that they generally failed to conjure up, and we’re shredded. A sharp shot from near the penalty spot and only an astonishing save can protect the lead. Boaz obliges. This is wonderful – an instinctive dive to his right, full-length, and he blocks the shot beneath him and then clutches the loose ball to his stomach.

Cov wilt.

We could have gone two up shortly afterwards as Brown stormed clear, ripping the centre of the opposition defence apart, but his well-struck shot sails past Bywater only to clip the outside of the post. Close call – close back up the other end too as Delaney makes his only error of the afternoon, gifting a chance to McSheffrey which Myhill prevents with his legs. Half-time, one up.

The Rico arena, named for a local plumber, is hugely impressive – it’s every bit as good as our Circle, I think. Steep-sided, tightly enclosed – it almost feels as if you’re in an indoor stadium. The acoustics are excellent. This wasn’t a game at which you’d expect noise to lift the roof, but when either side’s support did get cracking with singing, the racket was significantly boosted by the architecture. The Rico would be some stadium when full.

Today I saw something I cannot ever recall seeing before at a City match. A man wearing a Hull FC jersey. A grey-haired, slack-jawed toerag, who made a rapid exit across the concourse at the end of the match, denying me the opportunity to send him home with his ears ringing. The effrontery! The sheer effrontery.

To the second half. A minute in, Fagan tries to divert a firm Lynch shot into the untended corner of the net but manages only to concede a goal-kick. We start well enough, but soon have to commit to some defending.

On 52 a Cov corner is headed goalwards and there is an almighty melee up the far end. I have no idea how the ball stayed out. Watch it on telly. But if the rest of the match is any guide it stayed out because we’re a tough bloody-minded side that will not readily concede. Top Tigs.

On the hour the home side, hitherto seriously deficient in wit and width, tried a double substitution, bringing on winger Willo Flood and ex-Wrex striker Andrew Morrell. And they had a glimpse or two of success. A header hits the outside of a post from a cross. And the hapless Adebola plants a header straight at Myhill in the middle of our goal when he should have been able to target one corner or the other. Adebola’s ungainly style is easy to lampoon but he was the most honest of the Cov frontmen – shortly afterwards his well-judged square ball thoughtfully set up Scowcroft for a shot deep inside the penalty box. He slapped it horribly high over the bar. Credit Edge, who hurtled in to startle the dismal Scowcroft as he lined up the shot.

Barmby came off now, replaced by Elliott. God is busy judging Texas right now, rather than guiding our Ulsterman’s boot, and his contribution was more in the service of sturdy stifling organisation than inventive penetration. But that was just fine. We had the lead, we needed no flourishes. All the more so after Lynch got sent off. Poor lad. Injured on his debut, sent off on his second start. Lynch was a shade unlucky to walk yesterday, in that neither offence really involved an attempt to inflict serious injury. But both were just about bookable, I suppose. And so Lynch left us, and Brown was subbed for Mr Right Back Faute de Mieux for the year 2005, Marc Joseph.

Penned back into our own half, we really needed to break clear, push men forward into their half and perhaps have one of our midfielders seize possession, float around the retreating opposition and then chip a gloriously crafted effort above Bywater and into the back of the net from 20 or more yards out.

Which is precisely what Welsh did.

2-0, and really a gem of a goal: high quality, delicate skill, pure inspiration. We’re in the top half of the League foodchain nowadays and it sometimes shows. Magnificent football, and the travelling support capered around in glee and jubilation. Goals like that – they really make you feel good about investing your time and money watching a football team.

And that was pretty much the size of it. Cov were utterly dulled. Their team’s spirit vanished as did large sections of their dispirited support. We’d done to them what Luton did to us a week ago – taken the best they could put up, shrugged it off and then slid a dagger between their ribs.

Two daggers.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Lynch, Cort, Delaney, Edge; France, Welsh, Woodhouse, Barmby; Brown, Fagan. Subs: Elliott (for Barmby, 69), Joseph (for Brown, 73), Burgess, Green, Duke.

Goals: Welsh 17, 74

Booked: Barmby, Lynch

Sent Off: Lynch


COVENTRY CITY: Bywater, Impey, Duffy, Page, Watson, Jorgensen, Hughes, Doyle, McSheffrey, Adebola, Scowcroft. Subs: Flood (for Jorgensen, 63), Morrell (for Doyle, 63), David (for McSheffrey, 86), Ince, Osbourne.

Goals: None

Booked: None

Sent Off: None


REFEREE: I Williamson