Hull City 2 Ipswich Town 2

Another late goal denied City a win we barely deserved in a battle of two mediocre Championship teams who can’t defend to save their lives. Sound fun?

The pre-match atmosphere was dead. The pub – once buzzing with anticipation before matches – barely hummed. The announcement of a game of dominoes or a meat raffle would have taken the excitement up a notch. The walk to the ground was desolate. Inside, it was understandably sombre given this was the game chosen for remembrance but we were 35 minutes into the game before anyone realised the minute’s silence was over.

Tomori – Dawson – Hector – Aina
Stewart – Larsson
Bowen – Henriken – Grosicki

Max Clark bore the brunt of the recent calamities leaving Daws to nurse the three from Chelsea. It didn’t solve the problem. Hector gave away three free kicks in the first quarter, Aina developed a Shaun Smith-like talent for slicing the ball into the West Stand and Tomori’s dreadful header lead to the opening goal. McGregor has brilliantly pushed away a shot from the irritating Joe Garner when David McGoldrick punished Tomori’s gaffe with a low shot from the resulting corner [0-1].

The response took half an hour to come. City being lucky that Ipswich are a limited mob whose interest was in breaking up the game with cheap fouls. We displayed the same flaws we’ve seen all season. We’re wide open at the back, we’re riddled with errors all over the pitch (unforced errors they’d call it in Tennis) and we’ve got the wettest midfield imaginable. For various reasons, this was the first time I’d seen Kevin Stewart since the Nantes friendly. He was unimpressive. Larsson wasn’t a patch on the player who was so brave in a Yellow shirt last week. Henriksen is comfortably among the weakest (physically) players I’ve ever seen in our colours.

Out of nowhere we equalised when Grosicki turned nicely in the box and crossed, slightly deflected, for Bowen to poach at the far post [1-1]. That was Bowen’s ninth league goal of the season. In any other season, a home developed player scoring nine goals in sixteen games would be more lauded. Against the tide of grief this season and with the inevitability of his departure when a bigger club shows interest, it’s being lost somewhat. It shouldn’t be – he’s tremendous.

City improve with the momentum from the goal. Henriksen is tripped on his way to goal and the ref decides it’s a yellow card rather than red. From the free kick the ball is played of the City player standing in front of the wall to create a shooting opportunity for Grosicki (blocked) which I the first sign of a bit of creativity at set piece we’ve seen for ages. Dicko’s touch is heavy when he races into their half after a mistake by Webster. Despite the last few minutes, it was a wretched half.

Half time: Hull City 1 Ipswich Town 1

The start to the second half is as slow as the first and McGregor is called upon again to palm away a shot from Celina. But it quickly turns after good pressure on the right hand side. A ball over the top has them struggling at the back and Dicko and Aina dart in front of them. Dicko take control and slides nicely past Bialkowski [2-1]. It was a composed finish from Dicko who had a decent game doing the hard graft up front and holding up the ball well. Too often he was asked to compete in the air when there was no-one near him even if he won it but he was always willing.

Grosicki should have made it three when he cut in from the left and dragged a shot wide. Dicko shot wide when Henriksen played him in – though Grosicki on the left was the better pass. Ipwich were racking up the yellow cards at this point. Their breaking up the game tactic turned into pettiness at losing. Dirty bastards. Garner got a yellow for a raised arm and almost immediately threw Hector in trying to retrieve the ball. The ref bottled the decision but was probably helped by Hector spending a minute on the floor pretending he’d been hurt by it. Dicko then just fails to pounce on an under-hit back pass and Bowen heads in the wrong direction form an excellent Larsson delivery.

Out of nowhere, they get a penalty. Stewart coughs up possession and then runs into the back of their man while trying to correct his error. Really poor play. Whatever “wor achilles heel” was under Steve Bruce, under Slutsky it’s our ability to be the opposition’ best attacker. The penalty is taken by McGoldrick and is poor but McGregor reads it and pushes it away. Our player of the season is him or Jarrod Bowen by several million miles. I hear a little kid behind me, probably aged 5 or 6, sing “He dives to the left, he dives to the right…” but sadly I couldn’t hear the rest.

All that’s left is for us to see the game out. Slutsky had already taken off Grosicki for Irvine. I found that one puzzling. For his many faults, Grosicki is still one of our best weapons, particularly on the counter. Meyler then replaced Larsson when Stewart was having a mare. We looked pretty comfortable though and Irvine brought some energy to the wide areas and we threatened to break several times. Then Hector conceded the cheapest of free kicks to Garner, they took it while everyone was getting organised and crossed it in. The header looked utterly harmless but took a nick on it’ way through and squirmed in beyond McGregor [2-2].

We should still have won. Diomande replaced Dicko straight after the equaliser and after Bowen had kept Henriksen’s pass alive, Meyler crossed for Dio, unmarked at the far post with half the goal open, to head wide from 5 yards.

Full time: Hull City 2 Ipswich 2

It was another poor result, though it does stop the run of defeats. Everything wouldn’t have been rosy if we’d won. We’ve only beaten poor sides this season and Ipswich were another terrible outfit. They do have some bottle though and got a point they merited on account of us also being rubbish.

I don’t know what the answer is. The manager is constantly under question but I still maintain that he’s shuffling a deck of duff cards. What he’s been left with defensively is a bloody travesty. Elsewhere, another manager might get more out of some talented players but he’d still have a lack of leadership, no balls in midfield and three strikers who are talented but all too similar. Defensively we don’t look like improving. Some of that is the manager’s responsibility. Other things, like a lack of composure, you don’t coach. It will either come or it won’t from playing games. You can carry some inexperienced players and they’ll develop. We’ve got too many. Regardless of age, they’re rusty, they’re learning and they’re everywhere. Mistakes are inevitable. But they’re making key ones every week. Not for the first time this season – I’ll just be happy if we stay up.

Ipswich Town 1 Hull City 1

Despite spells of impressive play, Ipswich are held by the Tigers to a 1-1 draw before a largely silent Suffolk crowd..

When the Lions play the Tigers on Valentine’s Day you might expect a few references in the Tiger Chat match report to shagging, but such filth would be entirely misconceived for a match played on Lady Day. And so, as I donned the match reporter’s fur-lined alpine salopettes, I took a moment to reflect on the events of two thousand years ago, and wondered what Mary was doing that day before her celestial visitation. Buying Easter Eggs, perhaps. There was a gentleman in front of me in the queue, a retired military type, and I could see that he too was aware of the significance of the day. Indeed, I watched the old chap stand to attention before entering Natalie Portman Road and beginning a rather laboured, groaning ascent.

Beneath grey East Anglian skies and in front of a crowd of 23,968 we carded a much-changed and solid looking starting 11 including a centre back berth for new loanee Rui Marques:

Wiseman Cort Marques Dawson
Green Andrews Delaney Ellison
Paynter Beast

Against an Ipswich line-up of:

Currie Lee
Richards Garvan Westlake Magilton
Barron De Vos Wilnis Sito

Just before the off a super-sized home shirt wafted its way through the main stand in a rather pointless and ineffectual way, doing no more than to prompt speculation that they were planning a bid for the Beast, having produced a shirt big enough for his enormous frame.
The early exchanges were fairly even. First Big Kev fed the ball through to Green who shot wide, then a mix up in our box resulted in Bo’s first action of the day. On 7 Parkin won it and played a ball out to Green, only for his shot to be deflected behind for a corner. Green took it and Cort connected, but on this occasion his header was wide.

On 12 Delaney felled Garvan with a typical defender’s tackle. He likes to get stuck in does our Damien, and doubtless the manager’s words that “they won’t like it up ‘em on Annunciation Day” were still ringing in his ears when he executed this tackle just inside their half with a full team of Tigs behind him. There’s a fine line sometimes between getting stuck in and getting yourself booked for fairly pointless tackles, and on this occasion referee Mr Ray Olivier kept his cards to himself. No doubt your standard Premiership official would have produced an instant yellow or maybe even a flamboyantly displayed red.

On a day for bald-headed left wingers Ipswich attacked down the left and Richards beat Wiseman, crossing low into the box. Myhill went down low and pouched it, only to spill it to Lee 12 yards out. 1-0 we thought, with our keeper on the floor and an open goal beckoning playfully, but Lee’s shot was blocked by the perfectly positioned head of Dawson. A let off. On came the physio who chose to clean Myhill’s knees with his magic sponge. I don’t know why.

For the next 10 we were under pressure. A cross from Barron was cleared unconvincingly, then Cort headed one away after Magilton crossed and Myhill saved from Lee. Then on 24 Green fouled one of theirs and Currie swung in a cross that didn’t look particularly menacing but was allowed to bounce its way past Myhill and into the corner of the net. 1-0 and a very soft goal. Think Barnet away in ’98 (but don’t think about what followed). For a few seconds the Portman Road library came alive, until a grumpy lantern-jawed gentleman you’d probably recognise if you’re into television quiz shows silenced them with a loud harrumph.

We fought back. A Delaney shot was blocked and an Andrews shot deflected wide. The corner from Green was cleared to Andrews but his shot was wide of the keeper’s left post. Paynter flicked on to the Beast but his shot found the side netting. On 31 Parkin swung it cross-field to Green who held it up and played in the advancing Wiseman. His left footed shot went narrowly wide. After that, though, we couldn’t get hold of the ball and, when they had it, we backed off and let them pass it around. The exception to this observation was Rui Marques. I don’t want to make wild assertions on the strength of one game (I thought Matthew Wicks was good when I first saw him, I have to admit), but he was good. He is quick and gets into the right positions, heads well and his tackles were strong and well timed. While the rest of the team backed off for the last 15 of the 1st half, Marques got stuck in, felling Westlake with a tackle that was hard but perfectly fair on 35 minutes from which the Ipsman never recovered. McDonald replaced him on 40 as the Ips were forced to switch. But before that, on 39 they should have gone two up when Bo again failed to pouch and Garvan hit over when it seemed easier to score. The muppet.

Three added minutes produced one chance for City when Paynter won a corner that was fizzed in by Dawson. Marques connected but his header was wide. After that there was only time for another offside against Parkin, who had a slightly irritating day for being on the wrong side of the last defender. On came the heavy roller at half time, to repair Ipswich’s soft southern pitch. The local pies were sampled and found to be good.

At the start of the 2nd we sat back and let them pass it around. Like a lot of teams in this division, if you give them time to play they’ll very happily do that, and the longer they have the ball the more dangerous they become. On 47 they won a free kick on their left which was swung in and clipped the top of Myhill’s bar on its way out. A cross from the left evaded Myhill but was headed out for a corner. It was all looking fairly grim. And then it wasn’t.

On 59 Ellison charged down the left and won a corner. Green took it short to Dawson, who returned the ball to our in-form Cumbrian. Green swung it in, Cort rose with the grace of an angel and with his unmarked forehead powered an immaculately conceived header past Supple’s despairing left hand. 1-1 and we rejoiced for it was good.

After that the game, which had been reasonably good up until that point and a whole lot better than last week, became richly entertaining. I don’t think it would be right to avoid clichés when reporting on a game of football, and I’m therefore not afraid to inform you that it was end to end stuff from then on. Andrews played in Ellison who shot just over. At the other end Currie waited a couple of minutes for someone to find him a spoon with which to take a free kick. Over the bar. Two minutes later Parkin with great skill held the ball up and then played in Dawson down the left, but his cross came to nothing. Then Big Kev lost it and a cross found McDonald, who could only shoot straight into Bo’s mitts. On 63 Delaney was finally booked for one foul too many. Currie and Magilton combined and a cross from the left was headed away by Marques, who needed treatment. I like a centre back who’s not afraid to put his head in painful places for the cause, and Marques is of that mould. Ellison shot over after fine work from the Beast before, on 63, we made a double substitution, with Welsh replacing the booked Delaney and Fagan coming on for Green. Green was unlucky to be subbed, I thought, after another good performance. Paynter moved out wide right and Fagan went up front.

Ipswich fought back, and Bo again showed his lack of confidence in missing a Magilton cross that was headed back in but over. Marques looked to be tiring and spannered a clearance out for a throw. It was knocked in and in the melee at the far end I think I saw Myhill make a great save before a second shot was cleared off the line. On 74 Magilton was replaced by the red-booted Haynes. Two minutes later Ellison tricked his way past his marker and headed for goal. His shot/cross evaded Fagan. The Beast looked to be about to connect for our second goal, but one of theirs got a foot in to send it out for a corner. Both sides were playing fast, attacking football. Their tactic seemed to be to lob it over the top of Wiseman into the corner for someone to run onto and cross, and it worked on a worryingly regular basis. On 79 Bo made a great save low to his right. Into the last 10, and after great work down the right from Fagan, Parkin and Welsh had shots blocked. Then Leon made a great defensive tackle to deny McDonald. Into three minutes of added time at the end and Dawson swung over a cross that Paynter headed over.

Then on 92 minutes we almost lost it. First out for the second half had been Myhill, before the rest of the team, for some emergency catching practice. Our custodian, so fine for so much of this season, is going through a bit of a difficult patch and his confidence looks pretty low. So it was delightful, both in terms of point preservation and for his own self-confidence, that it was Bo who deflected away a powerful goal-bound effort with one of those superb low reflex saves with which he’s kept us in so many games this season. Top work. There was still time for Ellison to skip free down the left and take on their defence. Caught in three minds, with the goal in front of him and Fagan and Parkin screaming for a pass, our bald one chose the fourth option of wellying it wide, and the points were shared.

It was a great game to watch and a good performance from City. We put an end to the habit of playing well and losing, and although the chasing pack closed the gap with some surprising victories, we should be satisfied with a point from a game like this. Positives included a good performance on his return from injury from Dawson. Rogers has looked good and we now have two decent left backs to choose from. Wiseman was reasonably assured and I think a run in the first team is what he needs to become (I hope) the solution to our inability to find a right back who isn’t utterly hopeless. Leon Cort: a Tiger legend. There’s a lot of discussion about how well we’ll do next season with the likes of Coles and McPhee back from injury, but I have no doubt that one of the keys factors in a good 06/07 season will be the fitness of Leon Cort.

Marques looked very good although tired later on. He looks a very assured player and worth his place in the side on the strength of this. Ellison had a good game, and looked comfortable on the ball when he had it. If there is a criticism to make he didn’t really know what to do when he had the chance to shoot or pass and mostly chose badly or at least mucked up what he had chosen to do. He also has the irritating habit of not closing down players when defending. Instead he sticks his arms out like’s he’s an airplane and leans forward to the point of scraping his head on the pitch. Kev, mate, it’s no wonder you have no hair. Get a bit closer and use your feet, is my suggestion.

Six to go, nine clear.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Wiseman, Cort, Marques, Dawson; Green, Andrews, Delaney, Ellison; Parkin, Paynter. Subs: Welsh (for Delaney, 68), Fagan (for Green, 68), Duffy, Thelwell, Duke.
Goals: Cort 57
Booked: Delaney
Sent Off: None

IPSWICH TOWN: Supple, Sito, De Vos, Wilnis, Barron, Magilton, Westlake, Garvan, Richards, Lee, Currie. Subs: McDonald (for Westlake, 39), Haynes (for Magilton, 74), Casement (for Barron, 79), Price, Brekke-Skard.
Goals: Currie 23
Booked: None
Sent Off: None

REFEREE: R Olivier