Hull City 3 Brentford 2

The headlines are written. “Adkins revives Hull’s fortunes”. The new manager bounce kicked in on cue as City won their first game in eight, and their first at home since September (as well as continuing this season’s weird run of only beating teams beginning with B) in a Jekyll and Hyde performance under our new coaching team.

That’s all true, and what turned into a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at the Circle started Nigel Adkins’s reign as manager with a much needed victory. A victory moreover that ought to provide at the very least a psychological boost to management and players alike as we begin a run of games against third, fourth, and seventh placed teams, entering the hectic Christmas schedule. In fact, anything less than a win today at home against Brentford could have been massively problematic.

Good news then, and happy faces all round. But I would be failing in my duties as match reporter if I just covered the riveting last 40 minutes or so and ignored the combination of tedium, lack of focus, and shockingly poor play that preceded City’s Grosicki-inspired second-half revival.

Adkins began his career as City boss carding the following starting 11, lining up in a seasonally appropriate Christmas tree formation:

McGregor

Tomori Dawson Mazuch Clark

Aina Meyler Larsson

Irvine Grosicki

Campbell

We knew before the game that Jarrod Bowen was out injured. Ditto, I think, Evandro. Less publicised were the apparent injuries to Kevin Stewart and Markus Henriksen. And quite where Michael Hector was, I don’t know. Our bare-bones squad had been stripped down further than usual, leaving a trio of under-23 team players (Batty, Clackstone and Luer) to join Marshall, Diomande, Dicko, and ex-Brentford man and eventual second-half hero Jon Toral in occupying the bench.

On a bright and bitterly cold December afternoon, City began the Adkins era attacking towards the North Stand of a half-empty stadium. And I sat there, for the umpteenth time this season, despondent at what has been wrought upon our club this year. I had half expected that — Arctic temperatures and Christmas shopping notwithstanding — the arrival of a new manager might have tempted a few more than usual into the stadium. Not so.

Or perhaps that the more vocal amongst the support would have been inspired to get a little bit more behind the team than usual. May be even some chant-mongers would have come up with something to welcome the new boss? No chance.

But anyway, in the world of ‘football as business’ so beloved of our club’s owners, we are the paying customers; if anyone should have been putting out the metaphorical welcome-to-a-new-era bunting, it should have been the players, the paid performers looking to entertain us and impress our new supremo. Well, if that was the idea, you certainly wouldn’t know it in a shoddy and uninspiring first half that largely carried on just where Leonid Slutsky left off.

First-half City played with the lack of pattern and passion that has been our hallmark this season, against a skilful and well organised Brentford team. We were slow, verging on reluctant when it came to tackling. In possession, we were too often a bunch of individuals, dwelling on the ball too long as if having no knowledge of where, how, and perhaps even why, to find a teammate.

After prodding and probing for the first quarter of an hour or so, Brentford began to realise how poor and uncombative City were, particularly down our right-hand side where the only barrier was two young Chelsea loanees —Aina playing in front of Tomori—who have spent too much of this season looking out of their comfort zone.

On 25 minutes, Aina breaks down our right and falls down under a tackle, winning a free kick. Max Clark —whose main contribution to being noticed by the new manager thus far has been to boot a ‘cross’ about 50 feet in the air— floated an aimless freekick into the Brentford box. They headed clear and broke forward at pace. Within 20 seconds of our freekick, Brentford’s number 9 is through on McGregor’s goal in front of the South Stand.

Happily, Brentford’s number 9 is young Frenchman Neal Maupay, whose main claim to fame since signing for the Bees has been to produce ‘the miss of the season’ against Cardiff a couple of weeks back (well worth a giggle on YouTube). True to form, Maupay drags his shot wide of the post, but it’s a let off for City.

We stumble towards half-time, with the mildest flicker of encouragement coming from the impressive Fraiser Campbell. Despite the Christmas tree formation, the aim of which is to fill gaps between defence and attack, Campbell has been isolated on top of that tree for most of the first half. Then, around the half-hour mark, our new manager calls him over during a break in play and gives him some urgent instructions, after which Campbell plays with more energy and freedom to roam, fired up and chasing down the ball.

The nearest we come to a first half goal is from an Aina long throw, flicked on by Mazuch (wearing a McEnroe-esque headband), to Campbell, back to goal and 10 yards out, who spins and takes a smart left-footed shot that is palmed round the post by Bees keeper Bentley.

Half-time. If you can excuse Adkins from too much blame for the first half shambles on the grounds that he’s inherited a poor squad replete with injuries and has only worked with them for a couple of days, well now it’s time for him to make his first in-game impression.

Whilst the fans mutter about the performance and stamp our feet against the cold, whilst our poorly run club’s hierarchy thinks that watching a bunch of camouflage-wearing squaddies boot the ball at the crossbar somehow merits the term ‘half-time entertainment’, surely deep in the bowels of the KCOM, holed up in the home dressing room, Nigel Adkins is weaving his rhetorical and tactical magic?

May be so, may be not. But whatever happened in the dressing room, the second minute of the second half produces one of the shoddiest passages of play I’ve seen from a Hull City team in many a year.

Brentford clear the ball after a City attack, towards Max Clark, standing unchallenged around the half-way line. He swings a lazy leg at it, missing completely. Appalling. All of a sudden Brentford are attacking towards the north end of the ground. One of theirs makes rapid progress down their right wing, in front of the Bees’ enthusiastic away support, and looks up for support. There is a teammate arriving at pace at the far side of the area, but —I note with relief— at least two City defenders are in front of him in the area. Undeterred, the cross is played in low, only for David Meyler to let it cannon off him from five yards out, into the back of McGregor’s net.

0-1

And a poor performance has reached its nadir. Adkins hauls off Max Clark and replaces him Jon Toral, who slots into midfield with Aina taking over the left back berth.

Right Dr Jekyll, drink this potion. Right, you miserable match-reporter, we just won a thrilling game under our new manager, lighten up, will you? Absolutely. You got it. After all, the whole point of a nadir is that the only way after that is up.

The rest of the match, the rest of the afternoon, the rest of this match report is a flowering of skill, passion, excitement, goals, stomping on the late collapse hoodoo, and at last winning at home.

Stop moping, get off your seat, and enjoy the ride.

The man who sparked City’s second-half revival was the enigmatic Pole, Kamil Grosicki. To my mind the best player in City’s squad, perhaps the only one left of Premier League class in terms of pure ability, which goes some way to explaining, but not justifying, his regularly displayed petulance at the inadequacies of his teammates and his evident frustration at still being at the club. He will be gone by the end of the next transfer window.

I don’t know whether Grosicki’s return to the team today was a stroke of managerial genius on the part of Adkins, or merely a result of Jarrod Bowen being injured. But I’d have him in the team every week.

On 54 minutes Grosicki equalises. Jon Toral —the other player gaining particular kudos for our second-half revival — lifts a free kick from right to left, to Grosicki who cuts inside on the edge of the Brentford box and wellies a ferocious shot beyond the flailing arms of Bentley.

1-1

Grosicki’s goal was quality. But he scored an even better one away at Sheffield United a few weeks back and we still got tonked, so will this be any different?

Yes, is the answer. The goal lifts the crowd a little, but more importantly seems to lift the team. Inspired by equalising, prompted by Toral’s skill and attacking mindset, and perhaps taking on board whatever was said at the interval, City are all of a sudden pressing forward with purpose.

The next goal isn’t long in coming, and when it does it’s another cracker. A free-kick on the left edge of the penalty area, in classic Seb Larsson territory. And he doesn’t disappoint, curling the ball into the bottom corner of the net with pace and accuracy. Beautiful stuff.

2-1

So now City have the lead with 20 minutes to go. But we’re not sitting back. A couple of minutes after Larsson’s strike, the vibrant trio of Torral, Grosicki and Campbell combine again, with the latter’s shot hitting the post.

And still we come forward. On 74 Toral forges forward through the middle again, delaying the pass as Campbell and Irvine curve their runs ahead of him to stay onside. At the last moment, the ex-Barcelona academy man plays the ball through, Irvine takes it just ahead of Campbell, surging into the box before hammering it into the net.

3-1

It’s the Australian’s second goal at the KCOM this season. And his first for City.

All of a sudden, City are playing with speed and skill, and a direct attacking intent that we’ve not seen for some time. We haven’t just scored three goals, but we’ve scored three well-crafted goals of some quality.

Then the flow of forward play is interrupted with about 10 minutes remaining as a clash of heads sees David Meyler receive lengthy treatment on the pitch before being stretchered off. Adkins immediately makes two substitutions. Dicko for Campbell was being planned before Meyler’s injury. Meyler himself is replaced by Greg Luer. It’s no slight at all on Luer to point out that bringing on an Under-23 team forward to replace a holding midfielder says a lot about the paucity of the City squad. Luer did OK.

As we enter the final 10 minutes, with the certainty of substantial time added for the injury delay, one stat keeps entering my head, however hard I try to forget it. Brentford have scored more goals in the last 10 minutes of a game than any other team in the division. Given City’s recent propensity to concede late, this is no time to relax.

Sure enough, with 5 minutes of normal time remaining, Brentford get a free-kick, swing the ball into the box, McGregor makes a sharp save, but the ball rebounds straight to Bees’ captain John Egan, who scores from close range.

3-2. Here we go again?

With the fourth official showing 8 minutes time added, and both sides clearly aware of their respective qualities and failings in the dying embers of games, this is no time to relax. It’s good to see Adkins urging City forward, aware that for this current squad, attack is the best form of defence.

And it’s City who come nearest to adding to the goal count during the time played over the 90. A fast attacking move involving Irvine, Luer, and Toral ends up with the ball coming to Dicko about 5 yards out. Reminiscent of his glaring miss against Bristol City, in almost exactly the same far post spot in front of the South Stand, Dicko fails to hit the back of the net.

But this time, the 3-2 score is in City’s favour. Eventually, after 9 minutes added time, Nigel Adkins’ first game as manager of Hull City ends with a victory and three points. We leave the KCOM with memories of the second half putting the dour opening 45 in the shade. But let’s not dismiss that shaky start, as I hope the management won’t also. City’s strengths and weaknesses were once more on display. Getting that win was vital, and whether it was down to Grosicki and Toral, or to an Adkins-inspired change in approach, or to both, there’s still a huge amount of work to be done to turn this season around.

Just after the monumental balls-up that gifted Brentford the lead, I jotted down a quick ‘to do’ list for the new manager. Our subsequent impressive victory does not change what needs to be done. Adkins needs to build a team from this disparate set of loanees, youth players, and fading Premier Leaguers; he needs to identity a clear pattern of play and instil it in the players; he needs to restore or create team spirit; and he needs to be more ruthless with underperforming players and staff than his smiley niceness suggests.

Oh, and he needs to manage the owners as best he can to improve the squad and prevent further damage being done to relations with the fan base. Needless to say, this last task is far easier said than done.

For now though, nice one Nigel.

Ed Bacon

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.

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

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.

Hull City 1 Middlesbrough 3

Middlesbrough at home for the second time in 2017.

A little over half a year ago, City tonked Middlesbrough 4-2 in the Premier League, our second Premier League win in 5 days, taking us out of the relegation zone and setting us up nicely for what would turn out to be a narrow defeat in the next fixture away at Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s team had incidentally been the last to beat us at home, several months earlier on Boxing Day 2016. Things were looking good. The clocks had just gone forward, summer was approaching, and pundits and fans alike were talking up Hull City’s Premier League future under our bright young Portuguese manager.

Tonight’s lacklustre performance against Boro bore little resemblance to what we witnessed less than seven months earlier. We’re in a different league, we had an entirely different starting eleven, and performance-wise things looked so different that it might have been a different sport.

Emphasising how far and how rapidly our club has plummeted were:

McGregor

Tomori Dawson Hector Clark

Meyler Stewart

Bowen Larsson Campbell Irvine

So, a pretty adventurous looking 4-2-4 at kick-off. No surprise to see Henriksen benched, ditto Grosicki. Tomori for Aina was more surprising, but turned out to be like-for-like in terms of performance. They’re both alright, they’re both borrowed from Chelsea and can control a ball well. May be Tomori tackles a bit better, but he can’t throw the ball as far as Aina. As with most of this City squad, you can take one off and put the other on, and you’re not really changing much in the way of quality. Game on game Leonid Slutsky drops some, put some others in, but is changing nothing for the better.

The first few minutes it seemed as if Slutsky — or perhaps our recently appointed Head of Strategy (whatever that is), Oleg Yarovinsky — had at last decided that booting the ball high and long would no longer do as a tactic, and we played some neat and penetrating possession stuff on the ground, as we attacked the north stand end.

But playing two holding midfielders, Meyler and Stewart for now, only works if they hold position in midfield. After a dozen minutes both of them were higher up the pitch than they should have been, leaving a gap to the central defenders. Stewart lost the ball, it went back towards Hector on the edge of the box, who couldn’t – or wouldn’t – get to it before Braithwaite hit it cleanly into the bottom left corner.

0-1

Quarter of an hour gone, one down; City are losing and it’s all their own work.

The lack of top division quality in this City team is striking, given how many of them have either played there or are borrowed from Chelsea. Apart from the obvious stuff about wanting to see my team do well, and liking the profile that it gives to the city of Hull, the main thing I miss about the Premier League is watching quality footballers play quality football. Last time we were relegated, we mostly looked like a Premier League team in the Championship, and we still played reasonable quality football most of the time. Not this time round, so far at least.

We seem to have a lot of players who can see the game in their heads but whose ability to do what they see is less obvious. On 20 minutes, Max Clark does the marauding full-back thing, powering down the left. He looks up, sees teammates running into the area, and blooters the cross about 60 ft up in the air. Here’s to you, Andy Robertson.

In midfield, David Meyler bustles about, and to his credit is often on the ball. Time and again though he sees a short and incisive pass, but can’t execute it and gives the ball away.

On the half hour, enthusiastic young Aussie Jackson Irvine bursts into the box with the ball. He looks like he should nip past the defender in front of him and be through on goal. He tries to nip past the defender in front of him. He can’t nip past the defender in front of him. Once again possession is lost.

The one bit of ball retention City can consistently do is along the back four. Dawson, square to Hector, back to Dawson, a short ball to Tomori, who advances a couple of paces, then back to Dawson, then square to Hector. You get the picture. There’s no pressure from Boro, and who can blame them, one-nil up away from home, it’s up to City to attack. But the home crowd is getting restless.

I’m all in favour of possession football when it’s a matter of patient probing to find a way through. I get that having the ball means the opposition can’t score. I admire it when teams frustrate opponents who can’t get the ball off them. But we’re not seeing those scenarios here. City are losing. The passing along the back line stems from lack of options or plan. Impatient shouts and groans come from frustrated fans.

To be frank, City are offering little and looking bereft of spirit and ideas.

Then on 35 minutes, we get a free kick just in our half. Bowen’s hopeful delivery soon bounces back and Boro advance down our left, in front of the West Stand. With little in the way of challenge, Christie sweeps in a deep cross.

In the penalty area, Boro’s record signing Britt Assombalonga strolls towards the six yard box. Noting the ball heading his way, he has time to check his reflection in the mirror and straighten his tie, before standing unchallenged a few yards in front of McGregor’s far post and nonchalantly heading the ball home.

0-2

However often the pundits might try to tell you that two-nil is the most dangerous score to hold onto, we’re not coming back from this.

For the final ten minutes of the half, there’s more “see it, can’t do it” stuff from the Tigers.

Campbell advances towards the Boro area. Campbell sees Irvine sprinting alongside, he sees the pass that would put him in on goal, but he can’t execute it.

A minute later, the ball breaks to Meyler after a free kick, he sees the 5 yard pass back to Larsson on his left. He can’t do it, and gives the ball away.

On 45, Tomori cuts inside, advances menacingly to the edge of the Boro area, sees Larsson breaking through the middle, sees the pass that would split the defence. But his pass doesn’t make it.

City are booed off at half-time, and the feeling of malaise is palpable. It’s not as if our besuited Russian manager has many options. The obvious ones are to try something different in attack. May be bring on Dicko or Grosicki . But again, we’ve got a squad and a selection policy that seems to consist of ‘pick any 2 from 4’ in most positions. If it ain’t working, pick the others. We all love Slutsky, as the song nearly goes. We all know that the problems at City are not of his doing and any manager would struggle with the hand he’s been dealt. But Slutsky is not proving himself an inventive or influential manager. If we carry on in this vein, he’ll be gone before long.

At the start of the second half, Dicko is on for Stewart. We retain the 4-2-4, with Larsson dropping into the 2 with Meyler. Stewart has been OK-ish, apart from giving the ball away for their opener. But one game he’s in, then he’s subbed, then he’s dropped, then he’s in again, then he’s subbed.

Five minutes or so into the half, Slutsky brings on Grosicki for Larsson. This time it’s Irvine who joins Meyler in the holding two. Grosicki plays on the left, showing that combination of petulance and skill that we’ve come to expect from a player who may well consider himself – probably rightly – a cut above most of his teammates ability-wise, and yet finds himself by some combination of fate, timing, and the shortcomings of agents stranded in the wrong league playing for a club unrecognisable from the Premier League team he signed for.

The changes give City a momentary lift in terms of zip and adventure. After ten minutes or so, Meyler in his deep-lying midfield position sees a fantastic through ball and this time executes the pass to perfection, down the middle to meet the curving run of Bowen, who sets it up for Dicko through on goal. Dicko has time to take a touch and place it. Instead he pokes it tamely first time at the advancing Boro keeper, Randolph. If you want to excuse him, you could point out that that he’s not been on the pitch for long. Like a number of his teammates, he’s been picked, he’s been dropped, one minute he’s not good enough, the next he’s brought on because his replacement is not good enough. Confidence and consistency are not the watchwords that spring to mind.

Meyler’s classy pass proves to be the aberration, and he’s soon back to giving the ball away, seeing Clark breaking down the left wing, his execution of the intended pass results in Boro possession.

City’s renewed spirit isn’t amounting to much, other than an argument between Tomori and Grosicki in front of my East Stand vantage point. It doesn’t seem to be a happy camp.

Campbell is taken off for Diomande — probably the most whole-hearted Norwegian on our books at the moment. I turn to my neighbour and mutter, more in hope than expectation, “if we can get one now, you never know …”

And as if he can hear me, on 70 minutes, almost out of nothing, Grosicki meets a ball from Dicko on the volley outside the area and hammers it home. A fine goal.

1-2. Game on.

Suddenly the home crowd wakes up, and it’s all City, for a few minutes at least. We start getting corners. The more nervous Boro fans wonder if they’re about to be robbed of the three points.

They needn’t have worried.

On 82 minutes, Boro sub Ashley Fletcher — a summer signing for £6.5 million from West Ham, who had just replaced Assombalonga minutes earlier — breaks into the City penalty area in front of the Boro fans in the north-east corner, with just McGregor to beat. Michael Hector, not the speediest, brings him down from behind.

It’s a penalty. And surely a red card, as Hector was the last defender and his foul prevented a clear goal-scoring opportunity?

Apparently not. At first the ref busies himself organising the taking of the penalty, as if it’s some complex logistical task that has never before confronted him. Hector wisely moves away, like a guilty schoolboy edging to the back of the group. Then after what seems a minute or so, but was no doubt shorter, the linesman calls the ref over, the ref calls Hector over, a red card is brandished, and our loanee centre-back is sent off.

All very weird, and cause for the lino to get roundly abused from then on by the City fans. And by Grosicki who amazingly goes unpunished despite running 15 yards or so to shout in the face of the assistant referee.

Meanwhile, Boro score the penalty; as McGregor dives low and right, Leadbitter strikes high and left.

1-3

May be it’s going to be a repeat of Saturday, and we’ll get a pointless second?

Nope, not even that. City are even worse than on Saturday. All that’s left is for the temporary hate-figure running the East Stand touchline to give a foul when Irvine dives into one of theirs from behind. Irvine is booked. Grosicki again harangues the lino, and this time he too gets a yellow.

And that’s it. At the moment City look like a club unstoppably nose-diving on and off the field. Two home defeats in 4 days, 6 goals conceded, and little sign of a plan from a likeable manager struggling to settle on system and selection from an uninspiring squad. To force optimism, the difference between the playing side and the rest of the club, is that a victory on Saturday would go a little way to lifting the gloom with regard to the former. But on tonight’s display, getting anything away to the high-flying Blades is not likely. And changes in the boardroom seem even more unlikely.

The clocks have gone back, winter is approaching, and Championship consolidation is more pressing than any idea that Hull City could dream of a return to the Premier League in the near future.

Hull City 2 Nottingham Forest 3

This report won’t be long, as this match doesn’t deserve anything more than
a cursory recollection of the simple facts.

Slutsky recalled Meyler (for Stewart) and Campbell (for Dicko) from last
week’s Oakwell smash & grab,

In front of 15,780 (yeah, right) and after a justified minute’s applause for
City legend Les Mutrie the Tigers carded:

McGregor

Aina Dawson Hector Clark

Larsson Meyler Grosicki

Bowen Henriksen

Campbell

Although to be honest I’ve no idea where Henriksen was actually supposed to
be playing, as he wandered in a free role behind Campbell without ever
really getting his foot on the ball or win a tackle.

One of the rare bright spots of the afternoon – and indeed the season – was
the energy and inventiveness of Jarrod Bowen, and I’ll be surprised if Ehaw
hasn’t cashed-in on our top scorer come January. On four minutes he skipped
through four Forest challenges before seeing his shot cleared, and a few
minutes later he setup Grosicki to blooter wide.

Shortly after Forest took the worst ever corner kick in English professional
football, 19:04 on the clock triggered the release of a few hundred bright
yellow tennis balls raining down on the visitors goalmouth from a baying
North Stand. The game was held up whilst stewards kicked them all from the
KC sward whilst an admirable tirade of abuse echoed around the half empty
stadium. And behind me in the East Stand dimwits shouted their view that the
protestors should be “banned for life”. We truly have a club that some of
our supporter base deserve.

And so on the half hour Forest take the lead. City’s defence stand-off and
Dowell rifles past McGregor from 25 yards. Should our Scotch keeper have
done better? It was at a nice height and looked like he had a good sight as
it arrowed past him.

At this point my notes suggest City’s forwards were not showing for the ball
from midfield, and Henriksen was having another stinker. Indeed, our entire
midfield looked lightweight all afternoon, bar Meyler who always appears two
tackles from a red. Half-time 0-1.

At half-time Henriksen was shepherd-crooked by Toral, and Irving brought
ponytailed light to replace Grosicki’s hovering dark cloud.

All the positive stuff from City was coming through Jarrod Bowen, and on 48
he skipped down the right, beating two Forest before his cross was snaffled
by the keeper. Two minutes later Toral goes down in a hamstring-tweaked
heap, and is replaced by Dicko. City’s quickest-ever substituted substitute?

On 71 more crass defending from City allows Dowell the freedom of the park
and he pings one in off the post. The City players look a sad sight,
heads-down and seemingly accepting game over. But no-one told young Jarrod
as he curled a superb shot into the top corner from 25 yards. Game back on?

But, of course, it wasn’t. Dowell completes his hat-trick via the penalty
spot after Larsson coughs up cheap possession and Meyler trips goal-bound
Walker, though it looked a soft decision.

Hector reduced the arrears after drilling through a crowded penalty area on
87, but it was too little and far too late. Five minutes added saw plenty of
Forest timewasting (who could blame them) and loud boos accompanied the
final whistle.

Most of the post-match media attention focused on the tennis ball protest
and deflected from the rank awful City performance. The Tigers looked a
shell of the side fielded by Marco Silva less than a year ago, and now look
every bit a lower mid-table Championship team bereft of confidence and,
perhaps more worrying, leadership. Our defence is as shaky as an Allam
Employment Tribunal. Even Richard Sneekes would add steel to this current
midfield. City’s forwards are feeding on scraps, and are so playing deeper –
Dicko should be playing on the shoulder of an opposing centre half, not
hunting in the centre circle for the ball.

If this continues we’d all do well to start mentally attuning to preparing
for a relegation scrap, as watching Sheff United beat the White Shite on
Friday night clearly demonstrates how far off a promotion team we are. We
have some talented players, we have some journeymen and some
not-fully-committed loanees, and Slutsky needs to somehow mould this lot to
at least match the sum of its parts, which it currently nowhere near is.

Andy Medcalf

Hull City 6 Birmingham City 1

Hull City 6 Birmingham City 1

Hull City six. But it would be no less apt to have written “Hull City sex”. For this at times was as close to the genuine article as you could get: it was proper pulse-accelerating, breath-shortening, cheek-flushing, pupil-dilating (that’s enough: Listmeister) stuff.

Granted, it wasn’t the finished article and there’s clearly work to do – if all else fails when the transfer window next opens – with the defence (and a special mention here for the Blues’ late consolation, the defending for which would have graced a Laurel and Hardy film) but overall yesterday’s performance represented an immense improvement on recent home showings, in a fixture which had all the makings of a real banana skin against an opposition who had done much better than us in recent weeks and to my eyes were not as hopelessly poor as many have suggested. Particularly pleasing was the fact that City performed over the full 90 minutes, to which the scoring of three goals in each half bears witness, along with the emergence of clear indications that our hastily and tardily assembled squad is now showing signs of developing a shape and understanding.

Slutsky did observe rather pointedly a couple of weeks or so ago that he was effectively still in pre-season mode and that the team would not be functioning as he wanted until October, so was yesterday a sign that things are coming together as the manager said they would? Well, I guess that we’ll know the answer to that by the time the Forest game in four weeks’ time comes to an end, but at least for now we can enter the pivotal month of October, when the season is well and truly into its grind phase and the League table starts to take a bit of shape, with more cause for optimism than we dared have imagined after a decidedly underwhelming September, to put it mildly, to date.

Of course, and whilst not deliberately setting out to pour cold water on what will prove to be a memorable afternoon, the Slut might well have it all to do again in a couple of months as anybody who might command a fee to swell the Allam coffers is offloaded in the next window. I mean, come on, there are some gullible and naive individuals following Hull City, but does anyone seriously believe that Bowen’s new contract has been put in place for any reason other than to increase the fee for which we can sell him? Is anyone still that trusting of Ehab?

That’s enough negativity for now. The only thing that looked on the wane yesterday was the weather, with the fine, perfect-for-football conditions that prevailed at lunchtime steadily giving way to autumnal gloom as the afternoon progressed, none of which dampened the purpose or tempo of our play or the delight of the majority of the 13,000 or so (officially 15,608, yeah right) who saw City line up sort of as follows:-

McGregor

Aina Dawson Hector Clark

Larsson Meyler Toral

Bowen Grosicki

Campbell

Subs: Henriksen (for Toral, 68 min), Dicko (for Campbell, 68 min), Weir (for Bowen, 81 min)

And so off we go with City attacking the North Stand and “attacking” being the operative word, as we show a pleasing tempo and purpose right from the off and monopolise possession in the early stages, albeit with a little less assurance when the back line have the leather than in the days of those lengthy backwards-and-sideways periods of possession so beloved of Steve Bruce. And barely have we settled down when we have the lead. Meyler gets a foot in to block a Birmingham pass in midfield and the ball breaks towards the Brum goal. Campbell, showing alertness and anticipation that would be a lesson to any aspiring striker, is onto it before the defence realise what’s happening and romps away to slide the leather under the advancing Kuszczak.

There are seven on the clock, and by the time it reaches ten we have doubled the lead. Campbell turns instigator, chasing a loose ball to the by-line and going to ground under the challenge of Nsue. Referee Duncan unhesitatingly points to the spot. Nsue doesn’t look too pleased and you have to say it was a bit soft: Fraizer took his tumble much too easily. But hey-ho, that’s football, and Meyler gets his reward for setting up the first goal by firmly and accurately planting the leather to Kuszczak’s right.

As is often the case when sides go two down, the Blues rally for a while, and to be honest our defence still does not look massively comfortable, with Birmingham having too much space to play in, especially the wide men, and we have to be grateful for the fact that they really aren’t very good at crossing; arguably worse even than Elmo. You do feel, though, that the next score is going to be crucial, a feeling hammered home on 14 minutes when Campbell really ought to have done better with a free header from the excellent Grosicki’s cross, but the striker’s instinct that he showed when scoring deserts him, and he looks more like the kid at school who’s always last to be picked, heading the ball over the bar with the top of his head and very probably with his eyes tight shut.

So we go back to defending alarmingly, Hector living up to the reputation of his cartoon namesake (ask your dad, anyone under about 50) by failing to cover properly and he and Dawson both guilty of giving the leather away when under no pressure. We’ve thrown away leads to teams much more inept than this Brum outfit and this is a testing time for the nerves of the City support.

Until Jarrod Bowen rides to the rescue on 26 minutes. receiving the leather in the inside right channel from Aina and firing low from outside the box just inside Kuszczak’s left-hand post. All the more impressive for being a goal out of nothing. The away support, maybe 1,000 strong and defiantly boisterous, must now know how we felt at Derby. it’s hard to see how we’re going to hang onto this admirable young talent, and i was about to observe at this juncture that maybe we have to resign ourselves to his departure in three months’ time and just hope that he attracts the attention of the type of Premier League outfit that has more money than sense, before remembering that it matters not one jot to us, since any revenues will ultimately be spent on Lamborghinis or yachts, with maybe a loanee to replace Bowen an hour before the end of the transfer window if we are lucky.

For now, though, we are rampant, and after a Birmingham foray on 29 which forces McGregor into a save from Dean, Grosicki, enjoying himself enormously (and, it has to be said, instilling a bit of confidence into young Clark, deputising for the injured Kingsley, in the process) goes on a tremendous run before cutting inside and rifling in a low drive, saved by the custodian. Two minutes later and Turbo is at it again, curling one just over.

The last ten minutes of the half are rather formless, although we survive a scare when McGregor has to charge out of the box to block an attack. Otherwise we see the half out. What was noticeable though as the ref draws the first half for a close was the decidedly reserved ovation that the team received as they trooped off. Under normal circumstances, a City side 3-0 up would be cheered to the rafters at the interval, and the fact that they weren’t really yesterday was another example of how the antics of the owners have relentlessly dampened the zest and fervour of the Tiger Nation. it wasn’t much better at the end.

During the half-time interval, a massive roar is heard from the concourse. What could it be? Leeds losing? No, they weren’t playing. Ehab has fallen off the West Stand balcony and been savaged by a police dog? No chance: he was as usual nowhere to be seen. Maguire, Clucas, Jakupovic and Huddlestone have come onto the pitch, pledged their undying and eternal allegiance to Hull City and begged forgiveness from the fans for even harbouring thoughts of playing for any other club? Not really. Apparently some cove had won the crossbar challenge and relieved Deano of £20 in the process.

Anyway, we’re off again, the Tiger Nation wondering if it’s going to be 5-0 or 3-3, and for a while early on we are a bit under the cosh, outgoing Birmingham temporary manager Carsley no doubt having reassured his charges that there are still goals in this for them. Clearly, though, Mr Slutsky, for his part, has had words with his defence at the interval and Hector in particular has a better half, making a couple of vital blocks. We do have a real let-off though about 20 minutes into the half when Vassell nips in behind a flat-footed City rearguard to connect with a cross, but somehow manages to put his header wide when he really ought to have scored. Evidence, though, that it’s going to be our day, perhaps.

By now most of the game is being played out in their half, but we seem quite content not to take any risks. We win a couple of free kicks but too far out for Larsson to have a go. This all changes though with the double substitution on 68 minutes: not so much the replacement of the much-improved Toral with Henriksen, but more the subbing of Campbell, who seemed to have taken some sort of knock, with Dicko. It seems that the ex-Wolf has taken to the field with instructions from the manager to up the attacking tempo – quite possibly because Slutsky could see more goals in the game for City too – and if true it had the desired effect almost immediately, as Dicko picks up the leather from a City break, cuts inside and hares off towards the Birmingham goals. As he reaches the box he’s crowded out by a brace of defenders, but the leather runs loose in the direction of two City men, the first of whom is Grosicki, who without breaking his stride cracks it fiercely into the bottom corner to make it 4-0. Just reward for an impressive performance.

The game is settled now, but we’re not done yet, and indeed the move of the match on 76 minutes brings a fifth for City. Henriksen starts the move, Meyler and Larsson combine and feed it back to Henriksen, who has continued his run into the box and slides home. Sumptuous football, absolutely sumptuous. If Barcelona had scored that goal the pundits would have been purring. If Chelsea or Man City had scored it it would have been shown in every Sky Sports ad break and trailer till kingdom come.

Amidst a background of increasing rancour in the North-East corner, with the Brummies getting a touch feisty and missiles being visible on their passage from one encampment to the other as the police and stewards intervene (apparently they went for a gallop round the hockey pitches as well after the game) Vassell again goes close, steering the leather low past McGregor only for it to come back off the post.

But it would only have been a consolation at this stage, and after Grosicki sees his free kick pouched by Kuszczak with five left the despondency in the beleaguered visiting defence is laid bare when none of them bother to track Larsson, who runs unchallenged onto a fine cross from Grosicki following another silky passing move, and pokes the leather under the exposed Kuszczak.

The ref signals three minutes’ injury time, and in the first of those minutes Brum finally get the consolation goal that only the hardest of hearts would have denied them for their endeavour. Again Vassell is behind the danger. His low shot is kept out by McGregor’s outstretched right foot, it arcs up into the darkening sky and is headed, none-too powerfully, towards the corner of the goal by Gallagher who is following up. Gregsy has got back to his feet by now and – judging by the TV footage – looks likely to make the block……until Dawson sticks out a foot and the leather ricochets off it at a wicked angle – as a cricket ball might do if played with the wrong side of the bat – into the centre of the goal. Surprisingly Gallagher is credited with the goal, because it was a clear miskick by Dawson and it probably would not have resulted in a goal without his intervention.

“How shit must you be, we’ve scored a goal” yelled the away fans. “How shit must you be, we scored it for you”, chorus the North Stand faithful.

Nothing else of incident occurs, the victorious Tigers troop off to that same oddly-restrained applause and Slutsky delivers his trademark bow. We should be as pleased for him as anybody, not least because Peter Swan’s idle speculation in the HDM this week over how long Slutsky would last was frankly disgraceful. Our manager has not just had his hands tied behind his back by the Allams, he’s had his legs shackled, a ball and chain attached to his ankle, duct tape slapped over his chops and a hood made of blackout curtaining tied over his head, and is still expected to produce credible performances. Well, yesterday’s showing was two fingers in Swanny’s face, and no mistake: let’s hope he has the self-awareness to understand that.

But it would be wrong to end such a fine Tigerday on such a negative note, so it’s pleasing to report closure on a personal matter that’s been bugging me for over 50 years. For it was in September 1967 that Birmingham showed us our arses to the tune of 6-2, when I was a City fan of some eight months’ experience. By an odd coincidence six different players – Fred Pickering, Geoff Vowden. Barry Bridges, Johnny Vincent, Malcolm Beard and Bert Murray (Brum had some bloody good players in those days) – found the net for them that night. Nowadays we would shrug off such reverses, but when you’re seven a loss like that pierces your heart and the hurt can never quite be shrugged off. Today though I have peace of mind.

La Nuvola Nera

Hull City 1 Sunderland 1

If ever you want to know what makes a touchline different from a goal
line, or what materials football pitches have to be made of, then read
Law 1 of the rules of association football. It’s not racy, nor is it
unputdownable, and there are nopictures, but it’s handy. Especially if
you’ve just watched a game played on a field with no penalty spots.

No penalty spots. Can you imagine? Actually, you don’t need to. Back in
1977, Derby County were giving Manchester City something of a seeing-to
at the Baseball Ground when a bearded Archie Gemmill was fouled by Gary
Owen in the box. Penalty given, no penalty spot located. The usual April
deluges in the East Midlands had turned the pitch into a quagmire, and
as such the gluey mud had managed to scrub away any previous evidence of
a penalty spot.

A bloke with a tape measure, a bucket of whitewash and a brush walked on
to the pitch (in suit and brogues) and repainted the spot. Gerry Daly
then scored the penalty, 4-0. A very good win for a struggling side
against title challengers that season, and yet the game only has infamy
because there was no visible penalty spot.

City didn’t have the excuse of a sludgy pitch to account for the lack of
penalty spots for the visit of Sunderland. They also didn’t require any,
as no penalties were given in a decidedly average 1-1 draw between two
sides still licking their wounds and rediscovering themselves after
their mutual awfulness of the previous season.

But, you know, no penalty spots. Who’s responsible? Well, we could ask
why the referee, the underwhelming and diffident Darren England, didn’t
notice their absence during his warm-up or, indeed, any time during the
match.

Just to check this, we asked Keith Hackett.

“It’s the responsibility of the officials to check field markings.
Penalty mark is part of that. Amazing if no one noticed. Had they done
so they wouldn’t have allowed the game to proceed without the mark
(correct term in law). Potentially the referee could face a suspension
for failing to apply the laws.”

(We really did ask Keith Hackett).

So, the ref could be carpeted for this, but he’s not the painter, just
the foreman.

Now, far be it from me to suggest that the recent unjust sacking of some
loyal ground staff at the Circle is related to this, but I think it’s
possible that the recent unjust sacking of some loyal ground staff at
the Circle is related to this.

Either their replacements are incompetent, or they are supporting their
predecessors by not doing their own job properly. Like a protest. See if
anyone notices. And if they do, Ehab Allam can be blamed. Because like
it or not, be it incompetence or solidarity, even something as trifling
as the absence of penalty spots can be pinned on the hierarchy being
utterly unable to look after staff, recruit properly and generally act
with competence and care.

Law 1 includes the line “within each penalty area, a penalty mark is
made 11m (12 yards) from the midpoint between the goalposts.” City broke
the law.

Wonder if Ehab can sew mailbags?

Meanwhile, there was a match, and not a very good one, really. Law 3 is
about the players; maybe there’s a sub-head in there, covered in Tippex,
that says “no manager of Hull City is allowed to play Jackson Irvine or
David Meyler from the start of the game”. It could be the only reason
why neither were in the team. Markus Henriksen, devoid of confidence.
Sebastian Larsson, devoid of interest. A Scandinavian axis of ghastliness.

Sunderland, meanwhile, brought their usual noisy lot to fill up E1 while
we continued to pretend nigh on 17,000 were in attendance, with a
straight face. West Upper shut, west lower half empty, pockets of space
everywhere else. And no Jackson Irvine nor David Meyler. And no penalty
spots. We embarrass ourselves on a daily basis.

Booking their 5.15pm taxis to get to the ballet on time were…

McGregor
Tomori Dawson Hector
Aina Henriksen Larsson Bowen Kingsley
Dicko Grosicki

… ish. I’ve no idea, really. 3-5-2 at times, 3-4-3 at other times,
5-3-2 when we were defending, which was often. It was disorganised and
shambolic in the first half. Dicko was far too isolated up front and the
central midfield was in a very sorry state. Nobody really had much of an
idea what was going on.

Henriksen made just the one tangible contribution to the half, when a
smart move within the inside right channel allowed him to deliver a
venomous cross shot that Ruiter managed to parry away as Dicko closed
in. What further attacking there was seemed to happen spontaneously,
with few of the City players knowing where to go irrespective of whether
the ball was theirs or not.

Sunderland, with the acidic Lee Cattermole still in their midfield (it
genuinely shocked me when I saw the teams that Lee Cattermole is still a
thing), were quite tidy in the first half. They had passers, runners and
creators, they were putting the challenges in, they seemed quite well
drilled and positive. Any number of things could have gone wrong to make
them as despondent as City in these early weeks, but it could just be
that they are bruised and cautious following their travails last season.

And they scored early. Shocking goal from City’s point of view.
Possession coughed up, cross from the right, James Vaughan heading in.
Sunderland fans reacted like any self-respecting fans who’ve known
nothing but hardship for the last few years would; they hollered and
capered and gestured as if they knew they might never score again.

Vaughan, the dolt, kicked the corner flag clean out of the ground in the
south east corner in celebration; referee Mr England told him like a
naughty schoolboy to go and put it back again or, presumably, risk a
booking for sabotaging the pitch apparatus.

“You made the mess Vaughan, you can clear it up. And look at me when I’m
talking to you.”

Still, good of the official to notice on this occasion that the pitch
wasn’t fit for purpose.

City tried to get back into the game, but the planned use of Grosicki’s
talent on the left wing was constantly foiled by Sunderland’s ploy,
crafty as it was, to stick two men on Grosicki and boot him in the air a
lot. In the absence of any other method of attack, this became a
depressingly frequent occurrence, and Grosicki cut a thoroughly
exasperated figure by the time the whistle went at half time.

The interval began with boos and ended with cheers, thanks to the
introduction of the People’s David who has always, frankly, been a good
footballer, despite what that gruesome chant says. Meyler replaced
Henriksen, who is probably still refusing to come out of a toilet
cubicle at the Circle even now. Hector also went off as Slutsky
simplified the formation and brought on Toral. In between, someone in
each stand won a season’s worth of pies in the half-time draw. Classy
outfit, us.

We didn’t really showcase any class on the pitch in the second half, but
it did seem that boots had been forcibly applied to fundaments and City
were at least a good measure more urgent. Sunderland dropped, soaked up
the collective pressing and relied on the break to pursue a second and,
likely, clinching goal.

They nearly got it when McManaman hit a shot that McGregor did very well
to palm away, with Vaughan’s rebound well blocked by the buttocks of
Kingsley. Escape complete, although Meyler’s prompting and general
positivity was nearly ruined when he was robbed in his own half, only
for Tomori to get across and swipe the ball and accept the thankful
apology of the Irishman as he cleared the danger.

Sub number three was Fraizer Campbell, on with 20 to go for Dicko,
meaning three ex-Sunderland players were now on the pitch. Campbell
immediately did a bit of heel toe conjuring round the edge of the box
before lifting his left foot shot a tad too high, but his instant
willingness to go for a goal seemed to up everyone’s game, including the
City fans. From this moment on, it was all in the Sunderland half.

Often, when you go a goal down at home, you can tell quite quickly
afterwards whether a game is going to finish with that scoreline. This
felt like a 1-0 defeat from the moment the ball went in up to about the
80th minute here, then the hope – that dreaded, toxic, malign thing
called hope – took over. It felt possible.

Grosicki shot wide, Bowen headed one which the keeper palmed away
acrobatically. Chances. Not necessarily getting nearer to scoring, but
the ratio was growing. Sunderland looked panicky and tired. If they held
on it was as much to be despite themselves as anything.

Then, on 82, the leveller. And it was a combo of subs that did it.
Campbell played an inside ball to Meyler who stabbed it goalwards,
aiming at the near post. Did it get a flick off a Sunderland player?
Possibly. Not that any hoots were given. It was in. 1-1, eight to go.

And a player we really wanted to do well had, well, done well. Well done.

Meyler had another effort well saved and in injury time, both Meyler and
Dawson had chances blocked from corners. Though a winner couldn’t be
found, City were chasing it right to the last second and that bodes well
for future encounters. We acknowledged the plan hadn’t worked, we
restructured, we fought back, we didn’t lose.

Slutsky has had a raw deal but he seems to be the only one who doesn’t
see why Meyler should be in the starting XI. The team is inexperienced,
both in aggregate games played and with one another. By having Meyler
ahead of Dawson and McGregor, we have club stalwarts who can organise.
And Meyler looks like he’s playing properly, too. Unappreciated he may
have been for too long, but currently we are a better club for his
presence, and that’s not something we can say about everyone in the
employ of Hull City.

Reading (a) next, then consecutive home games against Preston and
Birmingham. Hopefully by then we will have Jackson Irvine and David
Meyler in partnership in the middle of the team, and penalty spots in
chiffon white near the middle of each 18 yard box.

Matthew Rudd

Hull City 4 Bolton Wanderers 0

I was unduly worried by the visit of Bolton Wanderers. Worried because though they’re newly promoted and under transfer restrictions, it seemed just our luck that City would go into the game with only one fit striker – Diomande. When Leonid Slutsky named the same team that finished at QPR last week, I was worried further. But I say unduly because Bolton were absolutely garbage and City brushed them aside with atypical ease.

City 3-4-3
McGregor
Dawson – Hector – Mazuch
Aina – Meyler – Larsson – Clark
Bowen – Diomande – Grosicki

It might have been the same names that finished the game at QPR but it was obvious from the first minute that they’d worked hard at the system. The three centre halves were well spread while Grosicki and Bowen played narrow alongside Diomande and left the channels clear for overlapping full backs. Meyler picked up a yellow card for a late challenge after ten mins and then City took the lead and never looked back. Hector went through one of theirs to win the ball off another and then sprung Grosicki on the counter in a style new England call-up Harry Maguire would be proud of. Grosicki drove past Dervite with ease and poked the ball into Diomande who lashed the ball into the roof of the net [1-0]. He’s the butt of all the jokes but Diomande started well with some honest running in behind and good pressing of their centre halves in possession and got his rewards.

McGregor made a decent save with his right boot from sub Pratley who replaced Karacan (who I think was the victim of the Meyler challenge) and then made a far less convincing save with his shoulder after appearing to misjudge a bounce. If Bolton thought they were coming back into the game, they were wrong. A lightening quick counter saw Diomande hold the ball up, play in Grosicki and he delivered from the left with the outside of his right boot onto the head of Bowen [2-0]. A pair of assists for Grosicki who it appears might be a flat-track bully and the Championship has a lot of flat tracks. The cynical amongst you might be wondering why, with six days left in the transfer window and being the only high value player left at the club from last season, Grosicki was putting on a show. I’ve no idea.

If anyone was watching Grosicki, the best was still to come as he received the ball in their half, murdered Dervite for pace again, cut inside and slotted the ball into the bottom right hand corner [3-0]. This report can skip on 60 minutes now because that was game over. Bolton, who are as poor a side as we’re likely to see this season, surrendered and made it their mission to escape with just a three-nil defeat. Phil Parkinson must hate the KC(OM) Stadium. City didn’t exactly bust a gut to try and add to the score content to stroke the ball around and take the occasional counter. Mazuch had a decent game on his home debut with good use of the ball and a couple of nice interceptions. Meyler and Larsson in front had fine games too. Larsson showed an ability to make a forward pass that we often lack while Meyler took great responsibility for organising around the middle and passed the ball simply and effectively. It was a mature showing from two of the few experienced pros we’ve got – once Meyler had killed on of theirs like.

Grosicki should have made another chance for Diomande but delayed his pass and the Norwegian was offside by the time it eventually came. Bowen forced a save with a decent shot from distance and then a defender took one off Diomande’s head with the goal begging after McGregor had launched a quick counter and Aina surged 80 yards down the pitch before delivering a near-perfect cross.

Half time: Hull City 3 Bolton Wanderers 0.

The second half was a non-event. Bolton had eleven behind the ball for the most part and City weren’t open to taking risks to try and break them down. Some in the crowd got frustrated but I enjoyed watching us pass the ball around hapless opposition while Hector rehearsed pushing into midfield to make an extra-man when we had the ball and Seb Larsson practiced his diagonal balls from deep positions. A Bolton fan got fed up of watching his team be rubbish and got himself thrown out of the North Stand. City announced a 16,000+ crowd (but only on Twitter) of which about 3,000 came dressed as black seats. There was plenty of anti-Allam feeling expressed by the fans who were there. It didn’t put the players off to the best of my knowledge.

Left back Stephen Kingsley made a Hull City debut for the last quarter of an hour replacing Max Clark and midfielder Jon Toral followed suit, on for David Meyler. Our last sub provided some unintentional comedy as the board went up for number seven and Seb Larsson, who wore that number at Sunderland, jogged off applauding the crowd’s standing ovation only to be told when he got to the touchline that Kamil Grosicki is number seven here. Sorry Seb.

James Weir came on and provided a little bit of impetus for City to finish the game strongly. McGregor made a routine save at his near post from Armstrong and within a minute, Jarrod Bowen had bagged his fourth goal of the season. He made a lovely run in behind the defence and was found by Diomande with a beautiful through ball. Bowen stayed calm and finished like Andy Payton in his pomp [4-0]. He’s the real deal this kid. With the formation allowing he and Grosicki to be lazy without harming the team, they were just far, far too good for Bolton.

Full time: Hull City 4 Bolton Wanderers 0

It’s hard work this first month of the season after relegation. Every defeat feels like a disaster. Signings can never be made quick enough. Every player leaving is a crisis and every player performing well is potentially the next one to go. From out of the darkness of two successive league defeats, a new day dawns and it’s showing promise. There are players arriving to fill the threadbare squad. Most a good age and of sufficient quality to improve. We’re not building a side that will walk through the Championship but one that with a bit of luck and steady improvement should be closer to the top than the bottom.

There may still be one big “crisis” to overcome though. Grosicki is the only player left who I was certain back in June would be sold. He divides opinion, mainly due to his attitude, but there’s no doubt that he has pace that will terrify teams in this division. He might just have come good at the right time for him and the wrong one for us.

Hull City 2 Wolves 3

Good news: I think we saw the best team in the league tonight. Bad news: it wasn’t us.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Wolves at the start of the season. They spent a lot of money last summer on continental players and it never really worked out for them. But this time they look the real deal. It’s not just the excellent players they’ve brought in but they have a top manager in Nuno and he’s got them set up incredibly well. They’re playing a style of football that, particularly away from home in the Championship, is very brave. They played three at the back stretched out almost the width of the pitch while the two wing backs hugged the touchline high up the pitch and stretched City every time the ball went forward. In the middle exploiting the space this leaves they have clever players who can move the ball about well and, as we saw devastatingly for the opening goal, shoot from distance.

City had started well until Neves smashed one past McGregor from 25 yards after six minutes [0-1] but it was already clear that Wolves wing backs were going to be a crucial part of the game and we were already struggling to cope with them. Not for the first time this season our naive young full backs were exposed – in part by the opposition and partly by our failure to protect them up the field. That situation isn’t helped by us only playing one central midfielder. I’m not counting Markus Henriksen. He’s not a central midfielder – he has no effect on games, he doesn’t make a tackle or a forward pass.

I don’t lay the blame at the feet of the manager for our failure to match them tactically. He just doesn’t have any other fit players to work with. Sure, 4-4-2 is no counter for what is almost a 3-2-5 formation but replacing any of the first eleven with those from the bench is far worse a proposition.

We weren’t just second d best on the ball, with Neves dominating for them like Tom Huddlestone as his very best, but we didn’t have their knack of drawing fouls or killing time, with Neves dominating for them like the love child of Cristiano Ronaldo and Rudi Voller.

After Miranda spurned the chance to double their lead after a corner was flicked on to him at the near post, we equalised pretty much from nowhere. Hector met a Donald Trump corner along with a defender and the ball was shuffled away from the far post. We took the resulting corner short, a cross was whipped past Ruddy, headed off the line and Dawson headed it back in [1-1].

That could have been the catalyst for City to push on before half time but instead, we were sloppy in possession, gave them gifts in our half and looked susceptible to a ball over the top to either wing-back. In the end, it was the little winger Enobakhare who picked up the ball on the right touchline, breezed past Hector and laid the ball on a plate for Jota to score [1-2].

Half time: Hull City 1 Wolves 2

Our flaws were there for all to see but fixing them was going to be difficult. We had nothing on the bench to change the game. In similar fashion to the Villa game on the opening day though, the eleven sent back out changed it themselves by getting on the ball, keeping possession and forcing Wolves to worry about us. And they looked nowhere near as effective.

McGregor made a decent, but simple, save from Bonatini’s far post header in what was suddenly a rare Wolves attack. City struggled to find a final ball after getting into key areas until just after the hour a neat move worked the ball to the edge of the area where Campbell exploded into the box, beautifully beat the last man with a neat trick and was denied by a good save from John Ruddy’s out-stretched right arm. If that was close then Hernandez’s thumping header from Clucas’s corner smashing the post five minutes later was tantalising.

We had momentum. Even Henriksen won two excellent challenges in midfield. Then Campbell was subbed off for Diomande and the game went. Again, it’s hard to blame the manager when Campbell is clearly not yet at peak fitness but there is just nothing outside the first eleven and losing Campbell’s effervescence for Diomande’s clunky and clumsy wandering was the sign that this game was over. Worse was still to come when Hernandez jumped to challenge for a good Grosicki cross (not many of them to the pound) and landed awkwardly. He immediately called for the physio who called for a stretcher and Abel went off with a serious looking achilles injury. Shiiiit.

With the referee just about to announce NINE minutes of stoppage time, we made it irrelevant. Typical. Aina was caught in possession in their half and sub Nouha Dicko raced onto a ball into space to finish under McGregor [1-3]. We were awarded a seriously soft penalty eight minutes into the nine added for a foul on Diomande which David Meyler buried into the bottom left hand corner [2-3] but the game was up.

Full time: Hull City 2 Wolves 3

This felt like a game that would let us know how good we are after a comfortable win on Saturday. In the end though, it’s probably not told us anything we didn’t already know. We’re a decent outfit with 7 or 8 quality players. Michael Hector is a classy defender. We’re at least five players short of having a squad anywhere near Wolves’s (they had actual grown-ups on the bench and the manager didn’t pick who came on by playing Ip, Dip, dog shit). We desperately need a left back. Markus Henriksen isn’t a central midfielder. Kamil Grosicki will have games where you wonder if he gives a toss.

And one new one, we desperately need Abel Hernandez to not be injured for six months. Or even six weeks.