Hull City 1 Cardiff City 1

Hull Pharaoh Tigers 1 Cardiff Redbird Dragons 1 Yesterday’s result clearly generated a fair bit of negativity among sections of the paying customers, typified by the guy with the abnormally large head trudging just in front of me up the steps to the railway footbridge after the game. I find it harder to place people in their correct social and behavioural pigeonhole these days, but this same guy a generation ago would have worn Crimplene slacks (cream, probably with finger marks on them), driven a Ford Escort 1100 and drunk keg Tetleys, which he would sip with a smug, knowing look on his face. Resplendent in his new City away shirt, and, one suspects, with a couple of less colourful replica shirts, advertising the wares of Messrs White & Mackay and Top Man, folded away in the bottom of the chest of drawers in his spare room, for about half the walk to Argyle Street, until I finally managed to get out of his earshot, he delivered to nobody in particular at intervals of about twenty seconds a series of soundbites (“Can’t score”……..”Won’t do owt till we get some strikers”…….”Need to get rid of that Graham”……”Be going down at this rate”…….) looking round after each one in search of a word or gesture of assent or approval from those around him, in exactly the same irritating way that Ian Hislop does in Have I Got News for You? Then there was the imbecile journalist or sub-editor whose headline today declared that City were in for a “Long, hard season”. A cursory glance at the report below revealed this headline to be no more than a somewhat gauche attempt at a play on words around the collapse of the Shane Long deal, but nevertheless creating an unnecessarily-negative impression for someone without the time or the inclination to read the report more thoroughly OK, it’s fair to say that, on the balance of play and chances created, yesterday might arguably have been a case of two points dropped, and yes, to that extent one might conclude that if anything the result was a tad on the disappointing side, and yes, nobody is under any illusions that the strike rate will not need to improve if we are to avoid a struggle but really, does any of that justify the levels of gloom and despondency that seemed to have descended over the Tiger Nation yesterday? Would we not have taken where we are now before the start of the season, especially with the difficult fixtures we have had away from home? Thankfully, the way in which the manager, sensing the mood, one suspects, placed our season to date into perspective, both on Humberside and later on MOTD, and brought a healthy and frankly much-needed dose of sanity to the proceedings. Could a Club of our stature and means possibly be blessed with a more sure-footed and capable manager at this level? Very doubtful indeed. It was also pretty clear from yesterday’s game which of the two teams looks – at this admittedly early stage – the more comfortable and better-equipped overall at this level, and no, it isn’t the one that has spent all the money. The injury scare surrounding McGregor having evaporated, and with Sagbo serving out his last week of self-inflicted exile, City lined up pretty much as expected:- McGregor Elmohamady Chester Davies Figueroa Koren (C) Livermore Huddlestone Brady Graham Aluko …..or something like that. Sub: Quinn (for Brady, 66 minutes) For the first time this season the autumnal nip which has crept into the air of late made it feel like proper football weather as the game kicked off with City playing towards the 1,268 Welshmen clad, pleasingly, for the most part in blue and occupying the deeper recesses of the North Stand: not a terribly impressive following for such an early away game for a Club returning to the top flight after more than half a century, but after years of it being rare for more than a couple of half-full busloads of Cardiff fans to show their faces in Hull undoubtedly the most they have ever brought to Hull apart from the rather special circumstances of last season. Their team, rather more surprisingly but even more pleasingly, was clad in blue too. What’s up, Mr Tang? Colour clash? The first threat to either goal comes from the visitors, when Campbell gets into a position on the right side of the City box which momentarily looks a touch threatening, but Figueroa skilfully glides in between man and ball and ushers the leather to safety. Which brings us nicely on the one-time monopolist of the City man of the match award, even when he wasn’t playing. Why do City fans insist on booing him? OK, so he declined to re-join us in 09 or whenever it was, but what the boo-boys have to remember is that footballers for the most part lack the intelligence to make their own decisions about career moves and that the decision of Campbell to go to Sunderland was almost certainly made by his father, who acts as his agent. If you want to boo somebody, boo Campbell senior, but even then do bear in mind that Campbell junior was under absolutely no legal or moral obligation to come back to the Circle (shortly to be renamed the Pyramid, my sources tell me), neither was his father to make him. But back to the football. Two minutes on and we really should have got off the mark. Aluko skilfully makes space on the edge of the D and fires in low. Stand-in Cardiff keeper Lewis (sporting the only Welsh surname in the visitors’ squad) dives low to his right but can only push the leather out to the feet of Graham, who, with the goal gaping before him, spoons the leather into the gleeful away support. Admittedly, the ball came back at him off the goalie quite quickly but one ought to expect a bit of anticipation at this level. Truly a shocking miss: highly reminiscent of one for which my younger brother was responsible when playing for his Cub pack many years ago, but at least he had the excuse of being inherently slow-witted and clumsy. For much of the rest of the half the game adopts a somewhat formless guise. Initially Cardiff have most of the ball and when City do get they give it back quite quickly, with little of the fluency that was so evident at Eastlands on show. The visitors though do very little with their possession, the only real scare coming when one of theirs takes a tumble in the box but referee Madley is having none of it. Shortly afterwards Campbell’s name finds its way into the book after a late lunge on Elmo and the Cardiff number 10 then spends much of the game in a mood of petulance until his eventual substitution just before three-quarter time. Finally City rally, and shortly after Lewis is forced to bat out a Koren cross after a nice crossfield move, Aluko makes space for himself on the inside left channel and fires powerfully into the side netting one of those efforts that look from the far side as if they have gone in, and yes, a few East Standers fell for it. This is a good City spell, with Graham just failing to convert a cross from Aluko, and then the City number 24 himself steers one just wide of the near post. We are looking very likely to score now and on this occasion follow the script. Six minutes before half time, Livermore and Huddlestone combine, and the latter hits a low drive which Lewis is glad to be able to push round the post. The resulting corner is cleared, but only as far Huddlestone, out wide on the right, who curls an absolutely delightful cross in behind the Cardiff defenders, completely wrongfooting them in the process and allowing the alert Davies (what an impressive start to the season from him, by the way) to ghost in and glance a header into the pokey from three or four yards out. Nothing else of note happens in the remaining few minutes of the half, and a neutral would conclude that we were just about good value for the lead. So half-time, and perhaps an observation or two about the ongoing name change fiasco, and in particular the Grauniad interview with the Chairman on the subject during the week. Whether you are consumed with a desire to burn the stadium down in the event of a name change, or whether you think it’s high time that City embraced modern commercialism and move into the 21st Century, one thing is now clear, namely that, whatever his actual motives, the Chairman’s plans cannot possibly not rooted in any kind of commercial thinking, the key to this conclusion lying in his frankly incredible declaration to David Conn that Man City should be called Manchester Hunter. Those in favour of, or ambivalent about, any name change might be well advised to reconsider their position in the light of this. The protest that was planned at short notice before the game did not seem to have any appreciable effect on the numbers in the ground, but that should not be taken as any indication that there is no real groundswell of opinion against this nonsense, or that only those protesting are opposed to any change: I personally know numerous fans who, for various reasons, choose not to take part in the protest marches but have said that they will not renew their passes if the name changes. Not only that, but the majority of those who will stay away are fans of longer standing, whose support – both vocal and financial – will be sorely missed if and when times get hard. The observation made during the week by one regular contributor to this list that this could all get very personal if the Chairman presses ahead with his plans is, to my mind, absolutely correct. That would be an enormous shame, because the good he has done for our Club is near-immeasurable, and yet he would only have himself to blame. He really ought to consider whether this is all worth it, especially as it’s by no means certain that he would be allowed to make the name change, even if it is his club. Back on the pitch, a promising situation is pissed up the wall when Brady (who turned in a largely lazy, self-indulgent performance, for which he was deservedly substituted) tried to be too clever when he had easy options, After a free kick to Cardiff causes some problems until a goalbound-looking shot is blocked, Aluko delightfully skins Turner on the right and is hauled down, earning the defender a yellow card. The resulting free-kick, near the by-line, is, instead of being crossed, cleverly pulled back to the unmarked Koren, whose shot is similarly blocked. We’re looking decidedly sprightly now and the more likely of the two sides to score, and so experienced City watchers know what’s coming next. Campbell feeds Cowie out on the right, and the cross is volleyed home in fine style by Whittingham. Undoubtedly questions need to be asked why Elmo allowed Whittingham to cut inside him, but it was a fine finish nevertheless, poignantly reminiscent of the Graham goal that was ruled narrowly offside against Man Citteh. Sometimes the line between hero-worship and opprobrium is that thin. It could be much worse a couple of minutes later, when Gunnarsson, unmarked seven or eight yards out, really ought at least to have hit the target with his free header, but directs the leather over the angle of post and bar. That, though, is pretty much the last time that Cardiff threaten, as City generally dominate the last quarter of the game. Graham almost manages to walk the ball through the entire Cardiff defence on 76 but just fails, and a couple of minutes later we suffer some genuinely cruel luck as a corner is cleared, the ball is played out to the lively Quinn, whose energy and probing are a welcome contrast to the posturing and indolence of Brady, and the City sub’s teasing ball is poked home at the far post by Aluko, only for the City striker (correctly) to be ruled offside. The Nigerian forces Lewis into a save from 20 yards on and then on 86 is felled just outside the box but Huddlestone’s free kick thunders into the wall. The clock is running down now and four minutes’ injury time are signalled, but still City press on and, having negotiated one potential scare when Davies dallies on the ball, loses possession and is forced to bring his man down, for which he is booked, have one final chance to secure the full three points. Elmo picks up a clearance, works a nice one-two (not sure with whom) and delivers a pinpoint cross onto the head of Graham. A couple of feet either side of the netminder and it’s in, but in fact the header is planted straight into the arms of Lewis. A chance spurned, and it’s our final one of the afternoon. Still, we’ve had worse days, and we’ll have better ones this season, for sure. In conclusion, one question and one request. Anyone know why Steve Bruce wears a suit for some games and a tracksuit for others? If I were Malky Mackay I’d be quite hurt at our manager’s scruffy garb yesterday, a far cry from the sartorial elegance he displayed when standing shoulder to shoulder with Mourinho at Ver Bridge. And the request. Can someone please tell David Osgerby that his poetry doesn’t scan?

Hull City 1 Norwich City 0

Curtis Davies reminds me of Carlton Palmer. And this is meant as nought but a compliment. There was a moment in the second half of a compelling and nerve-shattering game against Norwich City when the new centre back, on his home debut, made an interception, played a pass and then just kept on running. He received the final ball and got to edge of the box, ready to have a pop at goal before contenting himself with a corner and a deafening round of applause from the City faithful. That run, that spindly-legged, unconventional, utterly determined, manic run. That was the kind of thing Palmer did at his peak in the early 90s as a marauding, awkward sod of a midfielder and sometime centre back in one of Sheffield Wednesday’s best sides. It got him the 18 England caps that to this day tiresome people say he didn’t deserve, despite being in the form of his life. Davies probably doesn’t walk like Rihanna, though he may do press-ups like Sinitta, eat cakes like Tracey Ullman and vacuum clean like Susan Cadogan. But he runs like Carlton Palmer. And it was gripping to see. His performance at the back and as a general behemoth encapsulated a totally absorbing return to the Circle of Premier League football. That City won the game was slightly fortuitous thanks to Norwich, sporadically threatening but generally a disappointment, not creating anywhere enough chances for a team that had a man advantage for two thirds and more of the match. The determination, the endeavour, the enterprise, the self-made luck; all were clustered together by a resolute Tigers ten after a temerarious sending off for Yannick Sagbo left a bewitched 23,682 crowd biting approximately 216,820 nails. And nails is homonymically appropriate, as that’s what the Tigers were. Determined to put all references to Iain Dowie to bed once and for all were:

McGregor
Elmohamady
Chester
Davies
Figueroa
Livermore
Sagbo
Koren
Huddlestone
Brady
Aluko

… ish. All of our sides and formations express fluidity these days. With Danny “Jimmy” Graham, faultlessly isolated but culpably unenamoured at Chelsea last week, demoted to the bench and the exposed David Meyler also in a bib, the team looked somewhat more ravenous for the ball, with Robert Koren aiming to support Sone Aluko as much as possible. Norwich, elegant in a basic white with black change kit, had City’s great defender of the modern era, Michael Turner, among their ranks. The Canaries made the first chance when the gangly Leroy Fer, whose surname looks like the registrar’s pen ran out while completing the birth certificate, headed a Steven Whittaker cross just wide of Allan “Rioch” McGregor’s right hand post. Handy chance, gratifyingly not taken. For all the joy and excitement and summery eagerness that goes with a first home game of a top tier season, there was still the nagging fear that City might not yet be up to the job. And surrendering an early goal wouldn’t have helped. The visitors had another try through Nathan Redmond’s shot from distance that McGregor tipped away well, and James Chester needed to make a timely interception after Fer and Redmond combined fluently down the right before the latter issued a low tempter to the six yard box. City settled down, with the resourceful Jake “David” Livermore banging one shot over the bar after divine interplay with Aluko that included a backheel for the Spurs loanee to chase down on the edge of the area. It otherwise became a smart and open but largely closed game for ten minutes until Ahmed Elmohamady swung in a cross and Turner got forearms all over Sagbo, forcing the Ivorian to the ground. Turner wasn’t happy but the penalty decision was instant and pretty obvious, and despite a bit of needless gamesmanship involving Fer and the position of the ball, Robbie Brady was as cool as required in sidefooting it in, with John Ruddy diving the other way. Steve Bruce chose to walk down the track towards the south west corner while all this was going on. Strange superstition of his; firstly because he was for a while a useful penalty taker himself for Manchester United; secondly because the last time he refused to watch when City had a spot kick, it was missed. Be that as it may, this was a first goal in the Premier League this season. The first, in fact, since … hang on … ah yes, Mark Cullen’s close range header at Wigan in May 2010. And a first at the Circle since … back in a jiffy … blimey, Kevin Kilbane’s opener against Burnley early on in what was ultimately as wretched as countless other games that season, irrespective of the many there are to choose from. The maths aren’t pleasant; City’s first Premier League goal on home turf in 357 minutes of normal time. Brady’s penalty looked simple, but the churl in me hates the low, sidefooted, stroked spot kick because unless there’s proper power in it there’s a real chance a keeper shall get it, sometimes even with comfort, if he guesses the right way. Ruddy didn’t and so Brady looked like a phlegmatic genius in dispatching it. But it may not always be thus, as a certain German reserve team target man – and his ritualistic manager – may attest. Buoyed by the gift, City took control and with the wonderful Tom Huddlestone to the fore, exhibited some delightful touches and put on a bit of a show with pass-and-move football that suggested the rest of the team had learned quickly how to rise to the level of their division and the standards of their newest playmaker. Huddlestone really is a treat to observe; that adage of having the first yard in his head rings truer than most with him, as does this notion that some players instinctively know where to put the ball in the very split-second they know they are going to receive it. Assuming he stays motivated, he will be gigantic in a black and amber shirt this season and players like Brady can only benefit from his presence. But then, a setback. A big one too. It seemed that it had been averted when Davies, winning everything in the air thus far, seemed to take hold of Turner in as similar a way as the former City defender had done at ‘yon end but was bizarrely not penalised. In the box too, meaning some vigorous protests from the Norwich players and some evident wiping of brows in the home ends. A corner was given, and as it swung in and out again, Sagbo aimed a headbutt at Russell Martin and while only referee Mike Jones appeared to see it as live, he nonetheless was entirely justified in showing an instant red card. Foolish boy. He will now essentially have a month off, and it was notable that none of the coaching staff spoke to him as he trundled down the tunnel, having initially been persuaded not to confront the referee or the opponent any further by Koren and Elmohamady’s intervention. One nil up is good; one nil up to a decent Premier League team in hot conditions with more than an hour to play and shorn of a body is less good. At least as it was an attacker who had gone, there was little need to make any emergency changes. The defence remained stoic, Livermore dropped back a tad further, Aluko went wider and Koren did less of the support striker malarkey that had been such an integral part of Bruce’s game plan. This was no more evident than when Huddlestone found the Slovene square from 40 yards out and, striding purposefully, he realised there was nobody ahead of him and so tried a shot with the outside of the boot from 30 yards which Ruddy saw go wide. Livermore then worked very hard to get down the flank and find Aluko who did an exquisite turn to get to his favoured left side and curled a shot a yard or so wide and City, aided by Norwich’s bewildering lack of positivity despite the man advantage, continued with the same tone until first half injury time, including one bit of one-touch showmanship across the field involving six players that finally ended in a right-foot shot from Brady flying over. Norwich won a free kick in the last seconds which Redmond aimed for McGregor’s right hand post but the Scottish stopper flung himself across well to divert it out. The referee gave the corner but then blew for the interval instantly, and City left the pitch and the supporters left their seats with a strange feeling of satisfaction mixed with edginess. After all, ten man teams like ours don’t hold on to leads forever. Do they? A pause here to mention Michael Turner. At one point, this author heard a boo as Turner took possession in defence. It was a single boo, not long, not reciprocated but also not shouted down. Who on earth boos Michael Turner? Who is that dense, that pig-headed, that one-eyed? I know we have extremities among our support, but even so I did allow the sector of fans whose brains resemble their own feet some semblance of intelligence when it came to appreciating our former players. However, there is a school of thought among supporters of all teams that any player who leaves their club, whatever the circumstances, should not be anything but scorned upon their return with another team. And Turner is just that. That he didn’t engineer the move to Sunderland, that he didn’t set the fee, that he didn’t run up the debt that made his move urgent to begin with, that he didn’t take the rise out of the City fans right in front of him when he promptly scored on his debut for his new club against his old one, and that the first three months aside, he gave unflinching, massively consistent and occasionally life-affirming service to the club, putting his gonads on the line (literally) right up to the last seconds of his City career, seems to have passed these unswayable individuals by. They should take a look every day at that moment when his thigh stopped Lee Trundle banging in an obvious equaliser at Wembley. And then shut up. Turner still looks effortlessly good, an interesting and skilled disposition to adopt given that effort is something he possesses and shows all the time. Norwich, aware that their formation was now unduly negative with their hosts down to ten, sent on portly ex-Leeds gabber and creator Robert Snodgrass at the break. Good player, Snodgrass. Also very cynical and very belligerent. Maybe this was why he got all the anti-Leeds invective from Es 1 to 5 in the second half when Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson, just as stained by previous WS connections, were on the pitch and got off lightly. Or maybe it’s because he has a familiar and amusing surname. He was quite influential on the second half and City had to graft. Alexander Tettey had a shot deflected wide by Livermore, then a scramble in the box resulted in Davies heroically dealing with it prior to having elongated treatment for a cut head, eventually regaining his feet with a headband wrapped round the abrasion. What was interesting, and gladdening, about City’s performance was that they seemed agile and fit enough to counter attack in numbers when the inevitable pressure caused by Norwich’s extra body and desire to gain parity had cooled. Koren and Aluko combined sweetly in one such instance to cover 50 yards between them before Turner slid in to take the ball away from Aluko, as cleanly as normal. Howson had a swerving effort tipped away with some difficulty by McGregor, then the same two duelled again with a drive that seemed to rise at the last moment, allowing the City custodian to let it be. Norwich maintained the pressure; Javier Garrido chipped in from the wing and Ricky van Wolfswinkel chested down for Fer to slice high and wide. The Tigers rearguard fell short of proper concentration after this, conceding possession cheaply and van Wolfswinkel, quiet thus far, headed a pearler for goal from Garrido’s cross but McGregor was able to stretch up, tip over and land on his backside to roars of appreciation for what was his finest save to date. Apropos of this, Ricky van Wolfswinkel is a superb name. We should have re-signed Jan Vennegoor of Hesslink just for this game and hoped they went up in Dutch combat for a header together when one came back to defend a corner. The commentators on duty would have swallowed their tongues. Tackles flew in as Norwich kept a tight hold of the game, but still their breakthrough wouldn’t come. Assuming you were realistic enough to believe a ten-man City couldn’t hold on for an hour, it’s at around the 70th minute mark you start cursing yourself for hoping they might, thereby setting you up for a bigger fall and a bigger bruise when the predictable equaliser finally comes. Then when Davies, bandaged, drunk on the atmosphere, showing his desire, went on a pitch-length run, some of it with the ball, some without, his legs all telescopic, his athleticism incontrovertible, his directive wonderfully spontaneous, the mood changed. He didn’t get a shot in when Aluko played the final return, despite it being essentially two on two, as Turner was doing his usual shtick of unflustered defensive excellence, taking the ball off his fellow defender’s toes and dousing the flames. But in being so proactive he seemed to trigger a second wind among the other nine players, not to mention the crowd. Nails remained at risk, but suddenly it felt like City would hang on. With good reason. Bruce aided the situation by bringing on Graham as an effetive sponge up front, withdrawing Aluko, then later introducing George Boyd (was I alone in thinking he looked rather good in his brief cameo at Stamford Bridge?) for the immense Brady. Graham and Koren, whose continuing presence on the pitch was brilliant and puzzling at the same time, combined arrestingly on the right side of the box, with the Slovene’s final ball just too far ahead of the slithering Boyd. Maynor Figueroa, whose experience at the back (especially when making opponents angry) was invaluable throughout all this, took on Davies at his own game and traversed at pace down the left flank before delivering a final ball that again just evaded the willing Boyd. Bruce finally took Koren off to massive applause – when he’s like this, he’s still a master of his game – and moved Elmohamady forward while slinging on Liam Rosenior. Boyd turned numerous circles on the edge of the box to make room for a clipped cross slightly too high for Graham just as the board for six – six – injury time minutes went up. Ulp. Six minutes is a long time when you haven’t got the football. And yet Norwich seemed bereft of ideas. In the final seconds Snodgrass wanged in a desperate cross to the six yard area that Howson just failed to flick; any deviation in the ball would have left McGregor in trouble but instead he pouched it safely. The ball went to the other end, and as Ruddy belted it upfield there was a false start – or false end, if you prefer – when the whistle assumed to be the one ending the game actually turned out to be for a retake of the goal kick as the ball was moving. Back it went, down it went, up it went – and off it went. Three magnificent points. The opposition weren’t as good as they should have been. City were better than could actually have been expected of them, however. That really does bode well. Sagbo was a fool and no excuses were offered for his behaviour, but Bruce can now give the majority the rest they need and have earned. Davies was magnificent, Livermore out on his feet, Koren industrious as well as immaculate, Huddlestone dominant, Brady relieved of every ounce of energy in him, the rest all worthy of the praise aimed their way. Meanwhile, esteemed Messrs McShane, Fryatt, Proschwitz and so on can engineer our depressingly inescapable struggle through the League Cup at Leyton Orient in midweek. Then it’s Manchester City. Someone ought to persuade Bruce to try to win there. It can be done.  

Matthew Rudd

Hull City 2 Cardiff City 2

If I had pitched today’s events as an aspiring scriptwriter to Hollywood as a thriller full of twists and turns I would have been sent away to make it a bit more believable. This is the way it really happened honest Guv. A week ago it felt like any dreams of promotion were over, the play offs looked nailed on and talk of if we had been offered 3rd at the start of the season we would have bit your hand off. Men of steel have gradually melted into puddles of mercury and nails bitten to the quick. Did anyone really believe we would progress through the lottery of the play offs, Saturday was surely our final chance and we are in our poorest run of form this season. Writing a cheque to book my own seat for the semi-final was the moment I finally succumbed to the collywobbles and believed the end of the world was nigh. Leeds of all teams would hold our destiny in their hands, still sitting comfortably? A FLAG meeting in the morning and talk of themed stands, SMC’s and the future of season tickets just cranked up the tension although Linton Brown running around with coffee and bacon banjos set the surreal scene for the rest of the day. So on to the final game of the season? Early reports are that Koren is not fit and will play no part. Humberside are reporting we are going 4-4-2 with Brady upfront. We arrive to a packed ground and the team is announced: Stockdale Rosenior                                  Faye                Chester                        McShane Elmo                                        Meyler             Quinn                          Boyd Brady                                      Simpson We start brightly Elmo shoots from distance and it’s deflected wide for a corner, Mcshane climbs highest from the corner and we get another corner but a foul ends our first spell of pressure. McShane whips in a cross just too high for the onrushing Simpson, Cardiff then threaten for the first time but Stockdale dives on a dangerous near post cross. Elmo goes on a mazy run puts in a decent cross but Cardiff are defending well. We crank up the pressure with a series of half chances a Quinn shot, Elmo putting in some decent crosses a shot deflected straight in to the keepers hands a great long ball by Meyler is well controlled on the chest by Brady but Cardiff again tackle well and the threat subsides. On 20 minutes Cardiff come close to breaking the deadlock a shot deflected inches from the far post. Stockdale throws out quickly to set up a quick break from Elmo and then neat interplay from Quinn and Boyd and a lay off from Simpson sets up Mcshane marauding down the left, his shot deflected out for yet another corner. Elmo and Rosenior combine with a quick combination of passes, Boyd releases Brady with a ball through and Brady curls a ball over the bar. Meyler bursts through the Cardiff midfield and is brought down, Brady strikes the resulting free kick straight in to the wall. We give away a soft free kick and Cardiff scare the horses for the second time but we are spared as the ball deflects wide again, Stockdale playing better today punches the corner well clear. Another well hit shot from the lively Brady is well pouched by Marshall in the Cardiff goal. Cardiff fans start singing 1-0 to the Watford and desperate attempts to find the score find no conformation. Then they announce 2-0 Watford and nobody seems to be able to find out what is happening. Cardiff whip in a decent cross but the colossus that is Faye heads clear. We finally hear from Watford and the news is good, Leeds have taken the lead, Cardiff fans just having a bit of fun at our expense the little scamps. We make our first change just before half time as Proschwitz replaces the injured Simpson. Brady again finds space to run and shoot but again just over. The whistle blows and we are still in it, 0-0 and playing well. We hear more from Watford, they are 16 minutes behind us following an injury to their replacement keeper. They have a child in goal now, we must now be favourites.  Bugger Watford equalise and it’s all on a knife edge again. We start still in Second but Watford not quite at half time, why are we not starting the second half at the same time? It’s a conspiracy we are doomed, doomed I tell you. Frazier comes on at half time and the feeling that the Gods are against us multiplies. Brady tip toes into the box and is felled, penalty please Mr Referee, Nothing doing and Boyd is closed down before he can get a shot away. On 49 minutes a long ball falls at the feet of Cambell, he skips past a despairing lunge and has our goal in his sights, he never looks like missing and slips the ball past the despairing dive of Stockdale. We are behind and dropped into 3rd place and thoughts turn to trips to Bolton, Forrest or Leicester on a Friday night. We respond brightly a Brady cross is headed just wide by Mcshane with Pros desperately sliding in to apply a finishing touch but missing by inches. Brady finds Proshwitz but he shoots weakly, the ball finds its way back to Brady who pulls back to Meyler and his shot is palmed away by Marshall. It’s Quinn who reacts quickest and edges out to the left of the box, he puts in a tempting cross and the German goal machine stretches to get there first and apply the killer touch. We are level as are Watford, we are going up possibly. It is now all City we are taking control and piling on the pressure, Quinn shoots but is deflected out for a corner. Brady whips in the corner, Mcshane flings himself at it and somehow ends up sliding the ball in from two feet out, we are ahead for the first time, cue pandemonium. Hull City A.F.C    2   The team formally known as the Bluebirds 1 We are going up…….Surely nothing can go wrong now. Cambell breaks clear but the mighty Faye steps in to maintain our lead. We continue to be a threat with efforts from Pros and Brady. We are starting to sit back as the clock ticks to 70 minutes and Bruce is urging us to push up. Cardiff get a free kick on the edge of our box, the wall stays strong and after a bit of panicking we clear the loose ball. We are now just clearing everything long and starting to look tired, Brady has run himself into the ground and is looking at the bench pleadingly. He is withdrawn for Fahti as we attempt to hang on, we hear that Watford are down to ten with Deeney sent off. Cardiff are irritatingly still giving it a proper go and only solid defending and Stockdale showing more command of his area than recently are keeping us sane. 4 minutes of stoppage time are announced, we are just a sensible few minutes away from automatic promotion. Meyler chases a ball through and is pushed over in the box, the Ref points to the spot we have a chance to wrap it up. The pitch is invaded as people think the game is over. It takes a while to clear and it is our German who steps up, Germans never miss penalties it’s an unwritten law of football. Bruce can’t watch he turns away we hold our breath and he hits it at waist height, Marshall guesses right and saves to his left. A minute later and a ball into our box comes off a knee and hits Faye’s upper arm, another penalty. This time it is calmly placed in the bottom corner and the scores are levelled. The final whistle blows and we are left in Limbo waiting for the end of the game at Watford. 15 minutes still to play and all our nerves are shot. A wander into the concourse and a quick nip out for a becalming fag and I can bear to look at the screens showing the updates from Sky. Leeds have taken the lead and now we must just wait for the final whistle, the stadium announcer keeps us up to date, stoppage time now at Watford, the big screen showing images of our players waiting for updates. Finally the final whistle goes at Watford, we have done it, we are Premier League. The players gave it everything and City fans just about managed to keep the faith, it was as good an atmosphere as I think we have ever seen at our new home. Congratulations and thanks are displayed to the Allams on banners by those on the pitch. We came so close to going bust again and after one of our best seasons and most exciting games are to dine at the top table, our owners, manager and players deserved nothing less in the end. We can now spend the summer watching cricket and enjoying the rumours of our new signings, I believe a certain Mr Rooney and Mr Bale are looking for moves.

Hull City 0 Bristol City 0

This is not a season report. It’s a match report. If it was a season report, I might point out that City are in an historically fantastic position, requiring at most just one win to take us back to the Premier League. Quite possibly we might need less than that, given the slump in form of Watford and Crystal Palace in recent weeks. We might even be promoted today (Saturday), if Watford lose and Palace draw or lose. Nothing is settled yet, but it’s looking like being one of the greatest seasons – some are saying the greatest season – in the club’s 109 year history. But this is a match report, not a season report. And tonight (Friday) Hull City were dire. Playing against the official worst team in the division, already relegated Bristol City, the Tigers looked anything but promotion material. Gone were the fluent passing and lightning raids down the wings that have characterised much of our play in recent months, in came the long and high hoof, and the selfish show-boating solo run into trouble. We served up a spectacle which must have had many a Sky Sports viewer channel-surfing in the hope of finding something a little easier on the eye. Our one genuine goal-scoring chance came in the 92nd minute of a 0-0 draw lacking incident, quality, and anything likely to excite the neutral. For us City fans, it was an evening of nervous frustration. We’re wheel-spinning on the verge of promotion to the Premier League. Playing as if they’d only been introduced to each other in the tunnel before the game were: Stockdale Chester Faye Hobbs Elmohamady Boyd Meyler Quinn Brady Gedo Fryatt It’s a mild spring evening, and the game kicks off with City playing towards a North Stand containing a few dozen hardy Bristol fans, and a few hundred City supporters (possibly recipients of free tickets?). There’s a bit of an atmosphere in the KC. Not much of one though. Some sections of the crowd try to pick things up a bit, get a few a songs going, but after ten minutes or so it’s not really happening in the stands. This is a metaphor for what’s unfolding on our muddy and rutted pitch. In the opening 30 seconds of the game there’s a quick and slick attack, with the returning Matty Fryatt reminding us of his skills. It comes to nothing, and in rapid succession City launch three long balls out of defence. What’s going on? That’s not how City play. It’s not how we’ve got to second in the league. Even when it’s looked dangerous to do so, we’ve insisted on playing the ball out of defence and building attacks with close passing and running off the ball. Tonight though, we’ve started playing the long ball. There’s the odd flash of more intricate skill, but nothing to threaten Heaton in the Bristol goal. On 7 minutes Gedo runs down the inside right channel and pulls the ball back to Boyd, on the edge of the box, but Boyd’s weak shot is blocked. On the half hour Gedo is again involved in a couple of neat passing moves. First he has a quick one-two with Quinn, but runs into a Robins defender. Then he receives the ball from Meyler and passes it on to Elmohamady, whose cross from the right comes to nothing. That’s more or less it in terms of playing our normal game in the first half. Everything else is either the long and high pass, or the solo run into trouble. Fryatt has a dinky little foray past a couple of defenders on 28 minutes. Before that, the excellent Jack Hobbs decides to leave his defensive duties for once and dribble upfield, exchanging passes with Gedo and winning a corner. Brady takes it, as he takes all our dead-ball situations in the absence of Koren. Not for the only time tonight, he fails to find a teammate. So it’s a very scrappy first 45. David Meyler is energetic as ever, popping up all across the midfield looking to close down the opposition. The more languid George Boyd drops deep regularly, wanting to get on the ball and try to make something happen. But there’s no real shape to the team. Bristol, either by design or because they’ve nothing left to play for except damage limitation this season, are sitting deep and putting plenty of bodies in between our midfield and the goal. Many a City pass is either blocked or overhit. We can’t find a way through. Half-time, and the assumption is that Steve Bruce will do some re-organising and re-focusing in the dressing room. Surely we’ll come out better. There’s still plenty of time to score. My thoughts turn again, as they have done several times today, to a match against the other Bristol side, Rovers, on a warm spring day some 29 years ago at Boothferry Park at the end of the 1983-84 season. Some of you might, as I do, recall it and recognise some similarities with today’s game. A classic season for a resurgent City under Colin Appleton, we were on the verge of promotion. With three games to go it looked very likely that we’d go up into Division Two. Then we lost an away game 1-0 (to Port Vale). But that was just about OK, because we would win at home against Bristol Rovers. We didn’t though. We drew with Bristol 0-0. (I can still see in my mind’s eye – as I did in reality from low down in Bunkers that day – Billy Whitehurst screwing a great chance just wide). So it went to the last game of the season, Burnley away, and in the end our inferior goal difference deprived us of promotion. Similarly – but with a more positive outcome – nine years ago this week, against Huddersfield, there was another nervy 0-0 at the KC on the verge of promotion. That was to get us out of the fourth tier of English football and we were watched by 23,495. (The attendance tonight was 4900 fewer, very disappointing by comparison, as we stand on the edge of automatic promotion out of one of Europe’s toughest divisions and into the Premier League). Following that 0-0 against Huddersfield in 2004, we went away, to Yeovil, and produced an Ashbee-inspired classic win to secure promotion. I pushed thoughts of those games out of my mind and waited for an improved City to break through in the second half. Whatever our manager said at half-time though, little changes. Quinn tries to poke a ball through the Robins’ defence for Boyd to run on to, but it’s too long. We keep playing high balls that don’t suit our team. On 53 we win a free-kick that’s almost a corner, just at the junction of the Best Stand and the South Stand. Brady overhits it, but it goes for a genuine corner the other side. Brady has to go across to take this one too, which he does, this time short to Boyd, who loses possession. Not much has changed. Except Bristol now seem emboldened enough to venture forward occasionally. On 50 minutes Stockdale fubles a weak and low cross, but Hobbs tidies up. Shortly after that, the otherwise excellent Hobbs is beaten for pace in our box, but the Bristol forward fails to find a colleague with his cross. It’s getting nervy. On 58 George Boyd seems unaware of what’s going on as a Robins player takes the ball off him just inside our half. Then – disgracefully it seems to me – he stands and watches, rather than pursuing, as Bristol advance on our goal. A stronger team might have managed more than the soft shot at Stockdale that results. (I wonder, if we go up, should we take up the option of turning Boyd’s loan into a permanent deal? Not on recent form.) Another long ball over the top for City is too long for Fryatt to run onto before it runs into touch. On 65 a double substition, Gedo and Fryatt off, Simpson and Proschwitz on. With a goal apiece for Simpson and Proschwitz in 2013, you’ll forgive me if I didn’t see this as heralding our much sought after breakthrough. And it didn’t. Simpson, as he usually does, had some decent touches, but never really threatened. Proschwitz the same, but without the decent touches. So we move into the last quarter. Robbie Brady has got on the ball a lot tonight. Recently more than ever – he did this a lot at Molineux on Tuesday – he has started to dribble across the pitch from left to right, rather than attack down his wing. He did this again on 73, ending up getting fouled in the centre circle, winning a free kick which Faye lumped forward. Shortly after, we get a free kick about 30 yards out. Brady, of course, to take. Everyone goes forward and lines up ready for an outswinger into the box. Brady instead plays it straight to one of theirs, who breaks forward with our defence chasing back. Happily Bristol make little of this opportunity. Nor of the other half chances they get in the second 45. They have a couple of long-range shots, which go wide either side of Stockdale’s goal. On 80 minutes we have a penalty shout, as Quinn appears to be pushed from behind and to go down relatively easily. I can’t tell from my East Stand seat, but there’s not too much fuss from City’s players when the ref turns down the appeal. Perhaps TV watchers will tell us that it should have been given, but Steve Bruce, who had a good view of the incident, said afterwards that the ref had got it right. As the time left moves into single figures, we’re realising that we’re probably not going to score. The admirable Abdoulaye Faye tries to inspire his teammates with a crunching tackle and a thumping defensive header. Then Liam Rosenior comes on for James Chester, and all of a sudden the combination of Rosenior and Elmohamady down the right looks impressive, winning a corner that Brady takes to no avail. There are 4 added minutes, in the second of which David Meyler’s foraging forward run finds him in the Bristol penalty area, about 10 yards out. He tries a snap-shot, hard but close to the keeper, who saves competently. And that’s that. 0-0. If this was a season report, not a match report, I’d be positive overall. I think we’ll go up. But it really isn’t done until it’s done. In some ways, tonight’s shoddy display emphasised that fact. On the other hand, let’s not forget that though we didn’t win the game, we won one more precious point. Perhaps it will prove a decisive point. I’ll leave the scenarios to the chat list. Ed