Derby County 5 Hull City 0

I hate football. Again.

A trip to Derby on the telly looked likely to be a solid test of the newly assembled City squad and when asked before the game I predicted a narrow defeat on that basis. Not in my worst nightmares did I foresee the sort of capitulation we made a habit of this time last year.

There wasn’t a player who had a good night and the same goes for the manager. He chose to change the 3-4-3 formation that worked so well against Bolton and left David Meyler out of the midfield for Markus Henriksen. Unless Meyler was literally seconds from death, this was the wrong decision.

City 4-2-3-1
McGregor
Aina – Dawson – Hector – Kingsley
Larsson – Henriksen
Bowen – Toral – Grosicki
Dicko

If you’re thinking that midfield looks too soft for an away game in the Championship, you’re absolutely right. Derby’s fans have been downhearted at their start to the season and lack of transfer activity but on paper, they look a decent side. They’re experience at the back with Davies and Keogh, quality in midfield in Huddlestone and Johnson and pace and flair up front and out wide from the likes of Wiemann, Lawrence and Vydra.

City started well and for the first half an hour there was no sign of the horror that was about to unfold. With both sides feeling each other out, we passed the ball around confidently, made the pitch wide and started to assert ourselves on the game, forcing a couple of corners and winning the second balls around the box. Then Henriksen gifted them possession in our half on 15, Aina fouled clumsily and Vydra stepped up to hit a free kick that we knew would go in two minutes before he hit it because McGregor doesn’t save free kicks [1-0]. It was shambolic all round but McGregor’s habit of guessing the wrong way was decisive.

The goal didn’t deter City and we continued to dominate possession but without hurting Derby. Grosicki wandered around looking for the ball rather than staying wide and Dicko had as little affect as Diomande does around the box. From nowhere on 25 mins, Lawrence pulled down Aina at the back post as he tried to meet Grosicki’s cross and City were awarded a penalty. Seb Larsson stepped up to take it and, unforgivably, chipped it over the bar. It was a dreadful effort and the start of a complete collapse. Henriksen jogged around hopefully and passed to them as often as us. Larsson’s impression of Tom Huddlestone was passable against a poor Bolton side but utterly ineffective here. Jon Toral was also in midfield, in theory.

Derby went further in front through a nicely worked goal from their point of view but another hideous one from ours. Hector took himself out of the game, Nugent ran in behind Dawson with Kingsley struggling to cover and laid the ball off for Vydra to smash home untroubled by our midfield [2-0]. Worryingly, it got much worse before half time. Curtis Davies headed in from a right-wing corner after finding himself completely unmarked on the six yard line [3-0]. McGregor made a decent save at his near post and as the resulting corner was recycled, they crossed again from their right and Johnson arrived at the back post to tap in [4-0]. We didn’t stop crosses, didn’t mark properly and didn’t track runners. We’d gone. Shoulders slumped. Faces blank. The absence of anyone with the gumption to tell the rest that they’re a f****** shower of s**** another worry.

Half time: Derby County 4 Hull City 0

The second half was barely worth reporting on. Bowen headed wide after a nice run took him onto Hector’s cross, Grosicki shot wide from close range with his left foot and Meyler curled just over amongst other City chances but Derby rarely looked flustered. Perhaps because they went five up near the hour when Hector twisted, turned, flicked the ball up in the air and eventually smacked it straight down the centre of the pitch where Johnson pounced on it and passed the ball into the bottom corner with his left foot [5-0]. Shocking defending from a player who has started the season brightly but looked way out of his depth against quality opposition.

Slutsky’s decision to wait 66 minutes before attempting to make a substitution was baffling. Irvine, Diomande and Meyler replaced Toral, Dicko and Grosicki in quick succession and Irvine and Meyler will go down as by far our best players on the night. How Henriksen and Larsson evaded the hook is beyond me. I’m getting close to writing Henriksen off. We’ve waited for him to settle and waited through injuries. Now the opposition are worse than last season and he still looks inept.

Full Time: Derby County 5 Hull City 0

I don’t think this game told us anything we don’t already know but it did hammer home just how far this squad has to go. We know it’s been cobbled together far too late and needs time to gel. There is a lack of leadership and know-how. Of the few experienced players we’ve got, too many go missing when the going gets tough and always have.

It’s not all gloomy – we know there is talent in the squad. Even on a terrible night we had the majority of the possession and 18 shots on goal. The game reminded me of the 4-1 defeat at Leeds under Nigel Pearson. With the ball, we looked superior that night, but were punished for mistakes and wasted chances. We grew as a team that season and I think we will this season. We’re not a promotion challenging team though. Nowhere near.

The fans were outstanding. The game just got in the way. I hate football.

Derby County 1 Hull City 1

An entertaining canter at Pride Park spoilt by a late penalty that equalised a splendid Stuart Green drive.

Well, it’s fair to say that in the end it was a bit better than Saturday. After a turgid Saturday afternoon the general feel of which was encapsulated fairly accurately in Mike Scott’s report, the Tiger fans (possibly 1500-plus in number) who headed to Pride Park yesterday must for the most part have done so out of a sense of duty as opposed to any expectation that the performance would reflect the efforts of men anxious to secure for themselves a starring role in Phase 2 of the Tigers’ March on the Championship (due for general release August 2006; check press for details), as the manager would have us believe is the case in much the same way as he told us we were going for the Div 3 title last season once promotion had been secured. And that collective frame of mind will not have been at all unsettled by a first half, matched only in the greyness stakes by the brooding cloud cover save for one moment of drool-worthy pulchritude, which bore all the hallmarks of an encounter between two outfits whose players had clearly decided that the end of term was nigh and that it was quite in order, metaphorically speaking, to get out the Subbuteo and Ker-Plunk (and I did write this before reading the Burnley report posted on here) to while away the time until the plane leaves for Lanzarote.

Maybe the eye had just become accustomed to what it had witnessed in the first half and adjusted expectations accordingly, but the second period did, surprisingly, seem to be something of an improvement, as Dorrbeh (as the locals pronounce it), fired by the enthusiasm of a number of young recruits, at least managed to ping the ball around with the sort of accuracy that one might be entitled to expect of professional footballers and certainly a fair bit more than the appalling Burnley managed on Saturday, even if it wasn’t sufficient to dent a City rearguard showing a generally pleasing resolve and left the whole thing looking like some sweatless exercise in geometry of a kind that might have befitted the State-sponsored games in North Korea or 1980s Albania, while our own favourites played their part by a series of incisive counter attacks and some dangerous set-piece play which left us slightly unlucky not to have added to our tally. In the end, it was left to the man who had looked all afternoon to pose the biggest threat to the Tigers, namely referee D’Urso, one of that new breed of so-called celebrity refs who in their vanity think that the crowd are there to watch them as much as the players, to stamp his mark on the proceedings by deciding in the closing minutes to pull up Wiseman for a challenge which. although the manager and player both admitted that it was a foul (but was Taylor just being diplomatic after the hot water he got himself into at Sheffield?), was nothing worse than probably a dozen ones that had gone unpunished during the afternoon.

Dorrbeh will claim they were worth a point, but whilst they had plenty of the ball they had shown precious little by way of penetration and City, who might well have had a justifiable penalty claim themselves, can rightly feel that the end result was a wee bit hard on them.

Inevitably, there were changes from Saturday’s team, and we lined up as follows:-

Myhill
Wiseman Cort Delaney Rogers
Paynter Welsh Andrews Green
Parkin Fagan

So, our second visit to Pride Park and our first since 9/12. How the fortunes of the two clubs have differed since then. Pride Park, although not a patch on the Baseball Ground for atmosphere (that said, at PP you don’t get some home soap dodger tipping wee onto your head out of a paper cup from the balcony above you), is for my money one of the better of the modern stadia (although not a patch on our own, of course), and it was pleasing to see such a large attendance – a shade under 25 000 – for this one given the lack of any importance attaching to the fixture for either club, and all the more surprising given the Rams’ headlong fall from grace and the state of near-meltdown that exists behind the scenes there, the latter provoking the occasional chorus of “Derby’s Going Bust” from those among the City faithful with either short memories or no inkling of how desperate life used to be for our own club until Pearson rode into town. It was nonetheless interesting to note that the Derby manager’s car park space was vacant before the game; perhaps Mr Westley’s caretaker status does not qualify him to use it, or maybe he was out selling his hot dogs at one of the innumerable vans that lined the route from town to the ground and littered the environs of the stadium.

After we had been treated to some excruciating triumphant-sounding Derby song the irony of which in Derby’s current plight was clearly lost on the PA man, the game kicked off with Boaz defending the goal in front of the City support. Derby spent the early stages spraying the leather around with flashy ineptitude, and our first attempt on goal came on 12 when Green, who was generally the pick of the midfield, got Fagan away in space on the left only for the Beast uncharacteristically to spoon the resulting cross high over the bar. The ex-Colchester man went a bit nearer a minute later when making space for himself and firing a low effort a couple of feet wide.

But it was pretty uninspiring stuff on the whole, played in conditions of near-absolute silence at times, and the whole general lack of effort just seemed like a bit of a fraud on the paying punters, who after all are not charged any less for the dubious privilege of attending these fixtures. So devoid of effort and incident were the proceedings that I actually got away with taking the ultimate risk and visiting the Gents just before the half-hour mark, and relieved I am that I chose my time so well, for on 33 we took the lead with an effort that deserved a much better setting to be honest. Fagan swept a Rogers throw into the box, a Derby defender did no more than block with his head as opposed to making the effort to clear it properly, and the ball bounced to Greeny who from the left of goal a good 25 yards out lashed the leather first time into the near top corner with such ferocity that it must have come close to tearing the net from the posts. A genuine wonder-strike.

But then it all reverted to type – a bit like that old Kit Kat ad where the participants in the Anglo-Russian summit, their silence broken only by the arrival of the tea trolley, sit once again, unspeaking, with arms folded as the tea lady disappears – although that clearly suited City now, who it had to be said now actually looked quite comfortable in the face of Derby’s inability to put us under any sort of pressure. It got a bit livelier towards the end of the half as Fagan was felled in the box on 40, and then a minute later the puffed-up, prissy Premiership (or is he ex now?) prick D’Urso wrongly pulled Derby up when Boaz made a poor job of punching a cross, but the goal apart it was generally pretty desperate stuff. The forcing by City of a corner in injury time after the Beast had fed Fagan did nothing to assuage the gloom.

Full marks to Derby though for opening the exit gates at the back of the stand at half time to allow legs to be stretched, tobacco to be smoked and certain of the afore-mentioned burger vans to be visited by those who might otherwise have been discouraged by the lengthy queues at the official outlets. Nothing more elaborate than a line of stewards prevented egress to or ingress from other parts of the ground, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason why City couldn’t do something similar to keep the smokers happy and out of the concourses at half-time, thereby keeping everyone content.

Into the second half as the rain starts to come down, and the firing of a free kick straight at Boaz on 51 generates the first rumblings of discontent from the home support. But a pattern is emerging now with Derby knocking the ball around quite sweetly and City content to defend and attack on the break. After the welcome entry into the fray of Adam Bolder (and would one of the City oafs who booed Bolder like to come on here and explain precisely what possible justification there might have been for that?) on 63, Fagan starts to assert himself. Firstly on 67 he robs their 27 and is fouled for the privilege, Andrews (who was generally ineffectual but no more then others) firing the resulting free just wide, and then four minutes later he gets in behind the cover and crosses for the Beast to get in a shot which is deflected for a corner which Leon heads over.

This is a good spell for us as we start to look increasingly good value for the points, but the mini spell of Tiger domination is ended when Boaz can only block a left-wing cross and Welsh has to hook the ball to safety. For all Derby’s possession, though, we still look the most likely to score and on 80 another City attack sees the Beast set up Greeny, who is denied his brace by the fingertips of Camp in the Derby goal. The resulting corner is met perfectly by Leon and the Tiger Nation rises to its feet…only to see the Derby defender Bisgaard clear off the line, albeit not without a suggestion that he used his hand and was behind the line to boot.

Two minutes on, and an Ellison drive is pushed behind by Camp for another corner which the unlucky Cort heads just wide. The points are surely ours now, as Derby show no more sign of getting the hang of breaching our defences than they had at three o’clock, and we sit back to play out the final minutes.

But then with 87 on the clock a cross comes over from the right, admittedly towards the ineffectual Peschisolido (which interestingly comes up on the spell-check as “semi-solid”; computer having a Freudian slip, maybe?) who looks to be well marshalled by a combination of Wiseman and Cort. The former goes up with the Derby player and with nobody expecting it Mr D’Urso’s whistle comes into play, the latter having apparently spotted a sneaky push by Wiseman. Certainly City skipper Andrews was none too happy with his right-back which suggests that maybe young Lee was a bit over-exuberant, especially in the presence a ref of the kind likely to want to make himself the talking point of the day. Anyway, up stepped the reliable Smith to despatch the ball to Boaz’s left as the City custodian went right. Just as well that we weren’t in need of the full points, for that would have mattered not one jot to an upstart such as D’Urso.

Finally, noise from the Derby fans other than in criticism of their team. And yes, you’ve guessed it, the inevitable “Tom Hark” as yet another once-respected, traditional football club sells its soul. On a serious note, though, was anyone else concerned by the apparent attempt in the Burnley programme to resurrect the debate on whether we should have music after goals at City? There are clearly forces at work who will not let this drop until they get a “yes” vote (and speak to any member of the FLC, and they’ll tell you that the subject is raised at nearly every meeting). Be on your guard, folks.

Nothing else happens of note, and at the end we have that same silly triumphalist Derby record.

Best for City were probably Cort, Fagan and Greeny, with most of the others below par to a greater or lesser extent. Not a memorable showing , though, albeit much better than the awful stuff served up at the end of last season, which still rankles – and rightly so – with a lot of people.

But let’s end on a positive note. This was always going to be a challenging season, and in the final analysis the players and management team have delivered. On any objective assessment, and despite a bit of a flaky record in actual games against the teams concerned, we are better than the three relegated teams and are staying up on merit. Hopefully the message will now get home, and we can kick on from this vitally-important season of consolidation.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Wiseman, Cort, Delaney, Rogers; Paynter, Andrews, Welsh, Green; Parkin, Fagan. Subs: Ellison (for Paynter, 70), Duffy (for Fagan, 90), Thelwell, Fry, Duke.

Goals: Green 33

Booked: None

Sent Off: None

DERBY COUNTY: Camp, Edworthy, Nyatanga, Johnson, Addison, Smith, Bisgaard, Thirlwell, Idiakez, Holmes, Peschisolido. Subs: Jackson (for Johnson, 57), Barnes (for Thirlwell, 64), Bolder (for Holmes, 64), Poole, Ashton.

Goals: Smith 89

Booked: None

Sent Off: None

REFEREE: A D’Urso

ATTENDANCE: 24,961

Hull City 2 Derby County 1

Another see-saw game sees City take the early initiative before Seth Johnson inspires Derby to give the Tigers a proper hiding. In the end though a penalty against the run of play and a late sending-off after a disallowed goal see City claim all three points.

‘Useless referee, just about the worst we’ve ever had.’

So grumbled the Derby fans, as they mooched glumly away from the Circle yesterday afternoon, cursing their side’s maltreatment at the hands and cards of referee Hall.

‘Useless referee, just about the worst we’ve ever had.’

So chortled the City fans, as they skipped gleefully away from the Circle yesterday afternoon, prizing their side’s precious three points gathered amid the bizarre incompetence of referee Hall.

Winning is not the main thing, it’s everything. And in a comically unpredictable game, winning is what we did.

After a rainy lunchtime the start of the game was delayed until a quarter past three because of ‘traffic problems’, though we were in fact underway at 3.13. On amber and black duty were:

Myhill
Lynch Cort Delaney Edge
France Welsh Captain Curtis Elliott
Brown Burgess

No Barmby! Skipper’s armband to Curtis! Two big men up front!

The reason for the last of these choices was rapidly apparent, as Derby fielded an undersize defence and, in particular, a keeper who was simply diminutive by modern standards. No surprise there. Kevin Poole is many things but modern isn’t one of them. He made his League debut while the dinosaurs roamed the earth and his appearance between the Derby sticks suggests things are seriously awry down at Pride Park.

Which is good. There are quite a lot of clubs in this League that I really don’t like, and Derby are definitely one of them. (But I hate Sheffield United most).

On 3, Derby’s problems were cruelly and ruthlessly exposed. A corner, Poole flaps dismally, Burgess heads, a defender clears off the line, a cross is whipped back in, Brown flicks a header goalwards, Poole clings on gratefully. My o my, we’re gonna roast this lot! Up the other end, a brief alarm sounds as Peschisolido finds space on the left side of our box but he slides his shot wide of Boaz’s far post, and the play is almost entirely directed towards the fubling Poole, attempting to defend the South Stand goal. Derby’s defence is gloriously tentative and we’re winning the fight for first touch almost without exception. A skiddy pitch makes defending awkward but so does having rubbish defenders, and Derby are well-stocked in that department.

Still, when we do score, it’s attributable to our excellence not their miserable failings. France sweeps down the right, squares the ball to Brown, who promptly turns the ball across the face of the penalty area to Elliott, who, betraying not a hint of the lack of confidence you might expect after his modest run of form, powers a beautifully timed sidefooted shot past Poole and into the Derby net.

We’re shredding them. It’s superb stuff. It continues deliciously. Two backheels in the same move, deep inside the visiting penalty area! I’m loving this, at last it looks like last season – never mind ‘every game’s a battle in this Division’, we’re battering them.

Or so it seems.

Derby slowly begin to play. And we begin to lose our sharpness.

The middle of the half sees a gradual change in the pattern of play, as Derby pass the ball around with increasing authority. Peschisolido links attack and midfield with skill and vision, Seth ‘Goldfish’ Johnson starts to look a player you might value at more than the 7 penceworth of service he gave Leeds, if not quite at the 7 million pounds they paid for him, and poncy Spaniard Idiakez (a Basque, I suppose, with a name like that) starts to receive the ball and distribute it sensibly, in preference to his opening gambit which involved standing forlorn just in front of the back four allowing himself to be utterly bypassed by the pattern of play.

The visitors have improved, but they aren’t troubling Boaz. That changes on 39, as Stern John controls a high through ball with great virtuosity and lashes a ferocious volley hard against the crossbar, with Boaz beaten and thankful for the protection of his shuddering woodwork. On 40 Elliott fools around inside his own box, John sets up Bisgaard and he shoots across the face of the goal and narrowly wide. Then, on 43, a generous award of a free-kick allows Idiakez the chance to show his dead ball prowess from just outside the box. His prowess resembles a steaming pile of poo, with flies buzzing around it hungrily, and the ball soars gracelessly away from the target.

Half-time comes and goes, but it doesn’t get any better. Worse, if anything. Flabby victims, Derby had looked early on. They’re taking control now. On 48 some rotten defending by us sets up Johnson for a half-volley which Boaz eccentrically tips up into the air before catching. On 54 a surging move down the left results in a deep cross to the back post where the impressive John outmuscles our defence and thumps a header into the net, only to have it ruled out for an alleged push. I think we got very lucky on that occasion, but only a couple of minutes later woefully incompetent referee Hall nudges the scales against us and, as Johnson drives into our box looking for the nearest leg to fall over, awards a mysterious penalty. Idiakez smites it lustily into our net. The scores are level, and Derby are well worth their equaliser.

It’s grotesque. Tommy Smith is running riot down the left – in one appalling moment he simply skips in between the bemused France and Lynch and unleashes a wicked rising shot that just clears Boaz’s goal – Seth Johnson is dominant in the centre and Peschisolido continues to drop off the front line to pick up short passes and bring the rest of the midfield into play. We seem unable to cope. Passing, movement – it’s all coming from Derby and we’re second best all over the pitch.

The travelling support is relishing it, and, happily, they are doing it in numbers – two thousand Rams, maybe more. One of the principal attractions of returning to this Division, our natural home, was the expectation of regular vibrant away support, but so far the turn-outs have been largely disappointing, with spotty Stoke the worst culprits. But Derby, who comply with the rule that grim towns tend to generate intimidating support(ers) (think Leeds, Schalke, Wolves and Fleetwood as well), have travelled with purpose and vocal aggression, and I thank them for that.

Away from the concrete and back on the turf, substitutions are urgently needed. Fagan for Burgess, Green for the toiling Lynch – France drops in at right-back, Fagan goes wide on the right and Green is invited to play in an advanced central role. But the crucial changes are not ours. Smith goes off, limping, and is replaced by Jackson, whose first touch is on the end of a sublime through ball that completely takes poor France out of the play, but the shot is parried bravely by Boaz. Had Smith still been apitch, he’d’ve buried that glorious opportunity. He would likely have done the same a bit later when again Jackson, set up by Tudgay, has a clear sight of goal but allows France doughtily to block the shot at the expense of a corner. By now Peschisolido has trotted off too and Derby, though still the better side, are showing decreasing ambition. As well they might, as Mr Taylor taunts them with our strength in depth. Edge comes off, and just look at the gold that we can deploy in his stead. It’s Marc Joseph!

And we score the winner. I’m not entirely sure that the arrival of Joseph was the direct cause of this happy outcome, but by all mean feel free to contradict me if you reckon me unduly churlish.

Anyway, on 83 Derby sloppily give the ball away deep inside their own half. It’s the first time we’ve had a touch close to their goal for quite some time, and Brown is entitled to be surprised as he is allowed to advance into the box. Even more so when he is clumsily hauled to the floor. It’s a clear penalty, and Mr Hall makes a rare correct choice and duly awards it.

Not an easy one. Late on in the game. Three points at stake. And Derby baboons and buffoons leaping around manically behind the goal. Stuart Green is ice-cool and rams a firm low shot into the corner of the net. 2-1 for us, and remarkably enough it’s not the first goal we’ve scored at North Stand end this season.

Done and dusted? O no, not so fast. On 85 lanky centre-back Davies leaps high and sends a header spinning past Boaz to equalise. Except this too is chalked off. The referee indicates climbing by the ‘scorer’, and there was certainly more suspicion about this effort than attached to the Stern John‘goal’ earlier, which looked clean as a whistle to me. But even Davies could count himself unlucky, because if it really was a foul it was marginal at best. This was evidently Davies’s own view and one he decided to convey to the referee with some force, and he got himself sent off for his pains.

By this stage I think the folk from Derby were quite cross.

I was pleased but mystified. Counting the brace harvested by Davies, I totted up a total of 11 (eleven) yellow cards in this match. I wouldn’t go so far as to say there no bad tackles – there were several silly and clumsy ones, but one or two too high as well – but ELEVEN bookings? With the trainers scarcely in evidence? In fact, did they show at all? Shocking refereeing, a profound disservice to a sport that requires a decent element of confrontational physicality to be worth playing and watching.

There were three added minutes signalled, and five played, but we held on without serious alarm. 2-1, thank you, and off we chortled into the grey late afternoon.

If this chaotically refereed encounter was not quite a match for the extraordinary 3-2 victory over Derby twenty years ago, then it’s fair to remember that there’ve been few, if any, games in Hull in the intervening period that have been as tumultuous as that Billy Whitehurst-led fightback. Yesterday’s game will be remembered for a good while too – by winners and by losers. Of course we didn’t deserve to win. And yet what we are showing with increasing regularity this season is resilience. We are really difficult to beat. We find equalisers, we fight doggedly for winners even when we’re second best. Even in the two games this season where we’ve been unarguably second best – at Wolves and Norwich – we’ve stuck to the task and ensured defeat was confined to a single goal.

And we are now in the top half of the Division.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Lynch, Cort, Delaney, Edge; France, Welsh, Woodhouse, Elliott; Brown, Burgess. Subs: Green (for Lynch, 70), Fagan (for Burgess, 70), Joseph (for Edge, 78), Ellison, Duke.

Goals: Elliott 11; Green 84 (pen)

Booked: Elliott, Green, Woodhouse

Sent Off: None

DERBY COUNTY: Poole, Kenna, Davies, Edworthy, Whittingham, Bisgaard, Idiakez, S Johnson, Smith, John, Peschisolido. Subs: J Jackson (for Smith, 69), Tudgay (for Peschisolido, 73), Camp, Nyatanga, Thirwell.

Goals: Idiakez 56 (pen)

Booked: Davies, Edworthy, Idiakez, Tudgay, Whittingham

Sent Off: Davies

REFEREE: A Hall

ATTENDANCE: 20,661