In frosty conditions a rather limited and disinterested Ipswich side roll into town and roll over fairly comprehensively, taking a 2-0 beating that sees the Tigers consolidate their mid-table spot.
I haven’t been a fan of Joe Royle for many years – since about 1984 in fact, when he tried to chat up my girlfriend. And he didn’t exactly redeem himself with his comments about City on Humberside before last night’s game. Ostensibly praiseworthy of the Tigers’ start to life back in the higher echelons (sounds good that, doesn’t it?) what he actually said when you analyse it was nothing more than a thinly-disguised and offensively-condescending verbal pat on the head. His veiled observation that there are many teams in the Division that are a class or two above the Tigers is probably something that most of us in fairness would not have disagreed with, were it not for the obvious insinuation that he was talking about his own charges in particular.
Well, Mr Royle, I have a piece of advice for you. Print off a copy of the League table after last night’s results, read and memorise it, roll it up, seal both ends with your very best sealing wax, and shove it firmly where the monkey put the grapefruit. For not only are we now above you in the League, but your team were deservedly beaten by a better side last night.
Yes, it was a good night on which to be a member of the Tiger Nation. For all their current travails, playing teams like Ipswich again is one of the things that makes being back in Div 2 great, isn’t it? A crowd of 20 124 (and immense respect to the 750 or so Suffolk folk who braved goodness-knows-what in the way of weather conditions to reach the Circle and then had to do it all to get home again) made it all reminiscent, for those of us whose memories go back that far, of Waggy, Chillo and Simmo pitting their wits against the likes of Ray Crawford, Colin Viljoen, Frank Brogan and Bill Baxter (whatever happened to him?). And we demonstrated without doubt our right to be where we are on merit, with a very sound performance which saw our heroes outthink, outpass, outfight and of course outscore our East Anglian visitors pretty much throughout the game. If I had to describe it in one word I’d say “accomplished”, but if you want a more telling testament to how warming it all was, reflect on the fact that the Circle thermometer didn’t fall below two degrees all night (the point of saying which, if you weren’t there, is that it must have been at least six degrees colder than that).
Unsurprisingly, Taylor opted for a, ahem, more enterprising formation than had been carded at Crewe:-
France Cort Collins Dawson
Price Andrews Delaney Barmby
The Circle sward was clearly suffering from the effects of the extreme conditions, especially down the East side, the best efforts of the undersoil heating notwithstanding, although this paled into insignificance alongside the Walton Street car park, the droves of bulkily-clad Hullensians silhouetted against the pure white blanket as they gingerly picked their way across it before the game making a fascinating sight. That said, the conditions did nothing to stem the pace of the game or the commitment of the players, and credit to both teams for that.
We kicked off towards the North Stand and made a bright start, Paynter getting his nut onto the end of a France cross after three minutes but his header lacking power. There were hopeful appeals for a penalty on 6 when Barmby nipped in between some dithering Ipswich defenders and drove the ball hard against the hand of one of them from a range of about four inches, but referee Oliver was – quite correctly – unmoved. He got it very wrong though about four minutes later when pulling back a promising-looking City break because De Vos had keeled over, not as the result of any foul play, in the centre circle. He also got it very wrong on 12 when booking France for doing nothing more than coming off best in a genuine 50/50 challenge.
We continued to have the better of it for the first twenty minutes or so, and some neat interplay between France and Pricey (who seemed to have swapped wings with Barmby at about this point) saw the Welshman tear into the box but sadly overhit the ball into the hands of the Ipswich netman. Shortly after, Paynter was set up nicely but fired over the bar.
At about the quarter-time mark, though, the game entered bit of a formless phase, with the Blues (to give them their correct nickname, as the match programme did (but, tellingly, not the Coca-Cola ad); the expression “Tractor Boys” is – like the so-called “Black Cats” – the creation of Sky/tabloid paper-inspired “footie” orthodoxy) starting to assert themselves. That said, and despite a couple of corners, they didn’t really get an attempt on goal until 36 minutes, when a miscued France header allowed a left-wing cross which was poked just wide, although we hadn’t done much either, apart from a Price effort going miles wide until it cannoned off Fagan and forced rookie Ipswich keeper Supple into a save. In fact, the most intriguing part of this spell for your correspondent was the conversation of the two delightful Canadian ladies, relatives of one of our match-going troupe and over here on holiday, to my right, not least when at one point I was asked a question about the “cleats” worn by the players, and then again in the second half when I was asked whether the goalkeeper was ever “pulled” (and no, it doesn’t mean “substituted”).
We started to show again though towards the end of the half, and an astute decoy run from France allowed Pricey (who turned in a monumental performance last night, possibly his best ever in a City shirt), the space to cross for Paynter, but the Scouse Tiger’s header was well saved by the keeper. Three minutes before the break Dawson somehow found himself on the right, and if he was confused by this then so were the Ipswich defence, as they made a complete horlicks of dealing with the resultant cross, eventually bundling the leather behind for a corner when surely all it needed was a Tiger boot to be stuck in to get us off the mark. A minute later Cort, who produced, needless to say, another highly sound display, was unlucky when Paynter flicked on a long Collins throw and the City number 5 hit the leather cleanly on the half-volley from 12 yards but sadly straight at the keeper, so Supple didn’t need to live up to his name.
Half-time, and you know what that means folks, don’t you? Yes, the Rev. Allen Bagshawe’s Christmas carols (or rather one carol; all five verses of “We Three Kings”). Now, I worked at the club on match days for many years in the 80s and 90s and got to know Allen quite well, often sitting with him to watch the game. He’s a delightful fellow, with a great passion for all things Tigerish, and it’s sad to see him suffer the humiliation of singing along with gusto and sincerity but in total (and I mean total) isolation, although choosing some material which people actually know without having to buy a programme to get the words might have helped. It’s probably a matter of time anyway before some socially-dysfunctional busybody, still stung by never getting the Christmas presents they wanted as a child, tries to have a stop put to the singing of carols at the Circle on the grounds that it might “offend” someone, but isn’t it time anyway to replace the singing at the ground, which most don’t care about and the rest daren’t join in for fear of being lampooned, with a City carol service for those who want to sing, and presided over by Allen in his or some other suitable church? If Adam and Pete could see their way to attending and getting a few of the players along it would surely be a worthy and altogether more dignified occasion. (I have a vague recollection that this used to happen back in the Don Robinson era, but am a bit out of touch now; if it still does, apologies for my burblings).
Any road, back to the action, and a somewhat hesitant start by City as Ipswich capitalise on the amount of space we give them and go close on 49 with a shot from Westlake going just wide. But then, as we get going, we really should have gone ahead on 51 when Fagan weaves his way into the box and, under pressure from an Ipswich defender, the ball breaks twelve yards out to the unmarked Paynter, who unfortunately effects a perfect impersonation of the Subbuteo Rugby kicker as he spoons the ball high into the South Stand.
Delaney is then similarly wasteful, sending the ball into orbit from fully 40 yards when team mates are better placed, but then Pricey does rather better on 54 when forcing Supple into a difficult low save. And then we score. Pricey is released in space on the right, and his deep cross is nodded down by Barmby to France, who controls the leather before teeing it up perfectly for the wee man to take the return and sidefoot it firmly into the right-hand corner. A fine team goal which epitomised the crispness of much of our ball-handling throughout the night. The Circle faithful celebrate in style; admittedly, the entreaties of “Taylor, Taylor, give us a wave” stay unanswered until a peremptory acknowledgement of the fans at the fourth time of asking very late in the game, but one can hardly begrudge him his little stand after the abuse he got at Crewe.
We nearly get a second straight away. Pricey – again – storms up the inside-right channel having been released by Andrews, and everyone including the Ipswich defence is expecting the simple lay-off to France on his outside. Instead, the City number 18 crosses left to the unmarked Paynter, who times his run well but Supple smothers his header down by the foot of the post.
It’s becoming an increasingly absorbing contest now as Ipswich see plenty of the ball but find the City defence in resolute mode, although things got a bit slack on the hour as a throw is flicked on to one of theirs who is allowed far too much space and time to turn on the corner of the six-yard box and fire just over the angle, and then again at about the three-quarter mark, when we allow them far too much room on the left and the resulting low cross flashes across Myhill’s goal less than a yard from the line.
But then, after Fagan is through but lobs the ball into the keeper’s hands on 68, we seal it. Steve Weatherill, in his report on the Cardiff game, eulogised over The Pass. Well last night, we had The Pass II, an almost-exact copy of The Pass, except that this time Delaney was the provider, and the grateful recipient was the irrepressible Pricey, who took the 50 yd ball down and crossed low into the box, where Paynter touched it on leaving Fagan, unmarked by the far post, with an easy finish.
And that was it. As we do (nowadays at least), we took no risks after that. Paynter might finally have got the goal he deserved when his header from a Dawson corner was cleared off the line, and for them Williams volleyed high into the night sky from 5 yd out in our only real defensive lapse in the last twenty minutes. That apart, the game was won and it drifted benignly to its conclusion, the only other subject for discussion being the garment being worn by Woodhouse under his stripes when he came on, which looked, as Mike Scott was the first to point out, suspiciously like Allen Bagshawe’s dog collar; perhaps our Stu is having more of an influence on his team mates than we realise.
Altogether then, a sound night, which saw us climb to 15th and stretch the gap as the results generally went in our favour. After the disappointing results at Brighton and Crewe, last night put us nicely back on track, and whilst there’s still a lot of graft ahead for the players and no doubt the occasional attack of angst for the fans, we can be cautiously happy with where we are now, can’t we?
And you are next, White Shite.
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; France, Cort, Collins, Dawson; Price, Andrews, Delaney, Barmby; Paynter, Fagan. Subs: Lynch (for Price, 79), Woodhouse (for Paynter, 88), Elliott (for Barmby, 89), Green, Leite.
Goals: Barmby 56; Fagan 70
Sent Off: None
IPSWICH TOWN: Supple, Wilnis, De Vos, Naylor, Sito, Currie, Magilton, Juan, Williams, Westlake, Forster. Subs: Haynes (for Forster, 27), Richards (for Westlake, 66), Garvan (for Magilton, 83), McDonald, Price.
Sent Off: None
REFEREE: C Oliver