Hull City 4 Burton Albion 1

ou forget, don’t you, that a gulf in class between City and an opponent can work in our favour too. For all of its gaudy glitz, a season in the Premier League can be demoralising as the weekly assignments against the significantly wealthier continue without cessation. Back in the calmer waters of the Championship, with fish smaller as well as larger, the scope for dishing it out instead of being a permanent punchbag does possess a certain appeal. And as City pummelled an adventurous but pretty hopeless Burton, we left in a brighter mood than so often last season.

Not that Hull City AFC is a club wreathed in smiles at present. The sight of the whole Upper West Stand closed is a testament to the damage being done by the Allam family, and made for a sorry pre-match spectacle.

Luckily, one man for whom the next beaming grin is rarely too far away is the new City manager, Leonid Slutsky. On his home debut as the Tigers’ manager, he named the same XI that started and improved to draw at Aston Villa a week earlier:

McGregor;
Clark, Dawson, Hector, Aina
Grosicki, Clucas, Henriksen, Bowen
Campbell, Hernández

On the bench was new signing Seb Larsson, and City began the afternoon attacking the South Stand (hooray!).

It was open start, with Kamil Grosicki pinching the ball in the third minute and ill-advisedly opting to conclude his burst down the wing with a shot from an acute angle with unmarked teammates in the middle. Meanwhile, Stephen Warnock – who’d been struggling since a first minute knock – failed to last beyond 3.07pm, limping off to be replaced by Lloyd Dyer.

With the first anti-Allam chants of the afternoon only just subsiding, City took a gratifyingly early lead when a loose ball fell to Markus Henriksen. His fabulous volley hit the crossbar and came back out, where the alert Abel Hernández’s superior anticipation gave him a free header at goal. In it went, via a strong but vain attempted deflection from the exposed Burton keeper.

That began a spell of near total domination, as Burton Albion Brewers – as our own club cretinously renamed them in the build-up – looked close to being totally overwhelmed. Grosicki had a shot blocked after neat play by Fraizer Campbell, but the besieged visitors nearly (and should have) found themselves level soon after. Aina dithered naively on the ball, was dispossessed and Akins’ low shot went past McGregor but was ruled out for offside, erroneously it seemed.

That wasn’t unique, with a disagreeable vein of complacency running throughout City’s otherwise strong work. It became a madly end-to-end affair as Burton grew in attacking intent. McGregor smartly saved from Akins, Hernández fluffed a chance tougher than the one he’d earlier taken, Sordell sent one curling inches wide and Grosicki then wrapped up the 2017/18 miss of the season when rounding Bywater after being released on the right only to then miss the open goal. A crazy match.

It got crazier. More defensive faffing saw City fail to clear their lines repeatedly, and eventually Jackson Irvine was able to bend a superb shot past McGregor into the top right of the goal.

A great finish, and while parity flattered the visitors, they’d probably been worth a goal – City’s mucking around in defence and profligacy up front had badly undone them. Meanwhile, the 473 Burton fans crowed about this sudden and unexpected improvement in their fortunes.

But City weren’t to be the only ones capable of substantial self-harm. With eight minutes remaining before half-time and Slutsky’s charges yet to properly recollect themselves following their concession, Irvine rashly upended Bowen for the second time in the game. He’d seen yellow the first time, and although the City youngster was fully 80 yards from the Brewers’ goal, it looked a promising enough break to warrant a second caution. The Australian international forlornly departed, and the game very much felt City’s to lose.

Save for Grosicki directing a free kick well over, that was it for the half, with both sides appearing content to get to the interval and assess how best to approach the numerical disparity that Jackson’s foolishness had engendered.

Burton’s response wasn’t too unexpected. Nigel Clough deployed his depleted yellows in a 4-4-1 formation, while Leonid Slutsky took the opportunity to capitalise upon Burton’s likely lack of attacking ambition by urging his fullbacks further forward. It was to work splendidly.

On 50, City again began a half with an early goal. It came from the flanks, with the impressive Ola Aina fleet-footedly bewitching his marker before sending in a cute cross with his presumably weaker left. Grosicki determinedly attacked it at the near post, and sent a header bouncing into the far post to make it 2-1. Relief! Even if Burton were unlikely to win with ten, holding on for a point wouldn’t have been impossible, but now they had to chase.

Soon after, their stiff task began to appear impossible. A long ball was partially cleared straight to the unattended Hernández, who instantly crashed a low shot at Bywater. He may have done better with it, though its instant nature and sweet connection made it a challenging effort. Either way, he couldn’t keep it out, and on 53 it was 3-1. Game over, right?

Right. Flanagan replaced Sordell for the ailing visitors, who looked completely winded by their disastrous start to the second half. Campbell missed a chance to get his first City goal in 3,395 days when sending a header wide, but spurned opportunities no longer felt as though they’d materially affect the outcome.

On 68, any remaining doubts were dispelled. Clucas obtained possession in midfield, lost it and then quickly regained it, before threading a perfectly weighted ball to Hernández. The Uruguayan had cleverly found himself a yard of space and his control was perfect, allowing him to hare free of the beleaguered Burton defence. It never felt as though he’d miss, and he didn’t, coolly steering the ball past late-90s City loanee Bywater for his hat-trick and an emphatic 4-1 lead.

That left a quarter of the game remaining, and with the result assured, what to do? Push on for more goals and really put the distressed visitors to the sword, or relax a little with successive midweek fixtures approaching? Pragmatism won the day, with Slutsky swiftly withdrawing Clucas, Hernández and Grosicki for Meyler, Diomande and Larsson. Either way, it was a pleasant situation for the new boss to have.

14,882 was the official gate, incidentally. It felt approximately right, though tellingly it wasn’t announced over the PA system. It was displayed on the big screens though, and precipitated further calls for the Allams to bugger off.

City could and perhaps should have scored more as the cowed Albion prayed for an end to their torment – chances fell to (in no particular order) Clark, Henriksen, Dawson, Larsson, Hector, Diomande and Meyler, and if there are any frustrations to be gleaned from a comprehensive 4-1 win, it’s that City missed a boatload of opportunities throughout the game.

But hey, a 4-1 win! That didn’t happen much last season. Behind the affable exterior, Leonid Slutsky won’t have become a national manager without knowing his stuff, and he’ll know there are things to improve upon. Occasionally lackadaisical stuff in defence, too many chances being frittered away at the other end, coupled with the odd piece of bad decision making.

There’ll be tougher tests than a Burton side who played with ten men for over half the match. They don’t look like a side who’ll be seriously contesting for anything other survival this season. Wolves have won all three this season, beating two fancied Championship sides on the way – they’ll provide a much stouter examination on Tuesday. For now, four points and five goals. That’ll do nicely.

Andy

Hull City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 7

They scored seven (7).

Coulda been more.

We scored one.

Woo.

Make no mistake, this was dreadful stuff, and even though it was the heaviest home defeat in the history of our club, overtaking the 1-6 Cup reverse against Chelsea when at least we could field the excuse that three Divisions separated the two sides at the time, it was a small mercy that Spurs didn’t add more. They strolled through our set up at will for most of the first half and for all of the final quarter of an hour or so, and we really could have shipped ten or a dozen goals here. It was ghastly, though some ‘fans’ in amber and black still felt able to applaud the visitors’ centre-forward as he was subbed off after crashing a hat-trick past us. What do you think this is, a teddy bears’ picnic?

I draw a veil over the footballing bloodshed. Spurs are very good. This was a grotesque mis-match, like putting Dave ‘Boy’ Green in against Antony Joshua, though I fancy the Fen Tiger might have shown a bit more mobility and resilience than did the Hull City Tigers [sic] yesterday.

Who to blame? Relatively few of the players. Elmo has been feckless, N’Diaye has squandered his chance to impress, while Elabdellaoui will fill in alongside Gary Gill in the “o yeah, I’d forgotten about him” hall of fame, but over the course of the season most of the rest did as much as could be expected until injury or superior opposition brought them up short, and at least two, Sam Clucas and Harry Maguire, deserve to progress to proper long-term top level careers plus international recognition. Neither of the managers should be hammered either. No one would dream of criticising Marco Silva of course, despite the collapse suffered across our final three fixtures, but Mike Phelan too deserves credit for creating a viable squad for at least a few weeks during the Autumn after the utterly ruinous summer he was forced to endure. So, who to blame? I think you know. Yes, the owners of the club.

And not only the Allams. We were promoted in 2008 in the company of West Brom and Stoke. Look at what proper management and ownership can do for a football club. Two football clubs with which we can fairly aspire to compete on level terms – two clubs that have left us far behind as they have consolidated the advantages of Premier League status while we have wasted every single morsel of success. It was only in 2011 that the Allams took over. It’s not all down to them. But last summer’s crimes are down to them, most of all to Ehab. To allow a Premier League club to approach a new season scarcely able to fill eleven shirts, never mind a subs’ bench, is inexcusable incompetence or pure malice. And we could never overcome that leaden handicap. But relegation is something that we can endure, it’s no stranger. What is intolerable, and immensely damaging to the long-term health of the club, is Ehab’s utter indifference to the interests of the fans, most of all the younger fans, the future of the club yet actively driven away from its stadium by a vindictive pricing scheme. He delights in alienating the local community, he sneers at the attachment we have to our club, he is accountable to no one. And he is not going away.

Valiant deeds and shrewd management provided us with much to treasure from January through April, but May has been catastrophic. Beginning with that inexplicably limp outing against Sunderland, our team has resembled the cartoon character that keeps running even after it has left the cliff edge until it suddenly looks down and realises there is no solid ground beneath its feet. Reality hits. And so begins the long, long fall to the bottom of the valley.

Question is, how deep is that valley, how long is that fall.

Hull City 0 Sunderland 2

Marco Silva’s impressive unbeaten home record stretching back to March 2014 was shattered in ninety disappointingly tepid minutes at the KCOM – pressure on the players finally told as they bottled it and undid all the good work since Silva’s arrival.

City could have finished the day 5 points clear of Swansea but now find ourselves potentially four points (five, considering goal difference) behind by the time we kick off at Palace. The Swans have hit a patch of form at the right time, and we can’t win away. Selhurst could have been a party next week, but it now feels like a grim day out to a funeral. It’s a whole new magnitude of TypicalCity-ness.

But lest we forget our impending relegation can’t and should not be blamed on yesterday’s result alone, but squarely on the Allams’ incompetent, idiotic and downright vindictive refusal to sanction summer recruitment which ultimately saw Bruce walk in disgust.

In front of a nowhere near full KCOM (slow handclap, Ehab) for this crucial penultimate home saw Silva plump for two up-front:

Jakupovic

Elmohamady Ranocchia Maguire Robertson

Markovic N’Diaye Clucas Grosicki

Niasse Hernandez

It was a bold attacking selection – in truth one called for by many home supporters this season – and probably with an eye on the ponderous and porous nature of Sunderland’s back line. No doubt the pace and guile of both Niasse and Hernandez were sent out to give the beleaguered Wearsiders a thoroughly torrid afternoon.

Sunderland had an early chance as young Mackster Honeymen headed a Jones cross just wide following good work by Defoe.

Not for the first time this season City looked far more menacing down our left wing than our right; Robertson and Grosicki combined well and had a real understanding; their attacks largely had some sort of end product. But it’s hopelessly unbalanced on the right as Elmo (fuck off now) and Markovic fail to combine with any degree of fluency. Markovic undoubtedly has ability, but is sometimes undisciplined and goes hunting for the ball around the pitch leaving is oft exposed.

Sam Clucas was once again pivotal to City’s play, and on 19 mins he was unlucky to see his fine low volley being palmed away by Pickford at full stretch.

City had a penalty shout waved away by ref Swarbrick as Niasse’s overhead kick hit O’Shea’s arm, raised high above his head but hardly deliberate.

But a largely turgid first half was exactly what our visitors wanted. Our recently fluidity had completely drained as the dullest of first halves passed without many incidents of note. City had plenty of possession and obviously the first goal would be key – if we could net it, there was confidence we’d win – but the longer the game went on the more nervous the players, and the crowd, got. For the first time since Silva’s arrival the City players seemingly appeared aware of the enormity of their precarious league position – several froze or didn’t put in anywhere near an acceptable shift (Elmo, I’m looking at you mate).

Goalless at the break, and we reassured ourselves that City are a second-half team….

Jakupovic did well to block Defoe’s effort after a fast Sunderland breakaway, and Pickford saved N’Diaye’s header from a fine Grosicki cross.

Markovic saw his header saved acrobatically by Pickford (again) following Elmo’s cross. Jordan Pickford had a fine match as Sunlan leather custodian and surely one of the few visiting players to be still plying his trade in the Big League next season.

A turning-point as Markovic limped-off to be replaced by Huddlestone, switching Grosicki from left to right in a move that appeared to suit Sunderland more than it did El Tigres. Pickford was again the hero, superbly pushing the ball away one-handed as Hernandez shot sweetly from eight yards.

But on 69 minutes Sunderland score. O’Shea flicked on Honeyman’s corner, and Billy Jones powered a diving header in off the post. He was only six yards out, utterly weak defending from City. Zonal marking my arse, as Joe Royle used to say.

And if the players were nervous before, the goal increased arse twitching all round. Silva threw on M’Bokani in place of N’Diaye and the side increasingly had a whiff of desperation about it. Evandro came on for Elmo (to a chorus of boos from both sets of fans).

In added time Maguire gave away a soft foul wide on our left, and Larsson swung round a low free-kick and bundled home by Defoe, who looked at least a yard offside. Maguire’s positioning to defend the free kick was utterly odd – standing yards away from the potential flight on the ball, nearer to the touchline. Final twist of the knife, and the KCOM understandably empties.

So the math is now simple enough. If Swansea win at Sunderland (more than likely) and we fail at Selhurst (again, probable) we can all look forward to that tasty Burton Albion groundtick next season, and save Sky the trouble of having one of those tortuously-hyped “Relegation Showdown Sunday” shows the following week.

Sam Clucas put in another impressive shift (I suspect next week will be his last away match in a City shirt – and he won’t be the only one – final-whistle shirt-collectors note). Robertson and Grosicki generally looking connected and bright. But Elmo stank out the KCOM, and a fresh start with Odubajo next season is long yearned. The Niasse/Hernandez forward partnership wasn’t that – they appeared total strangers; forwards generally hunt in pairs, building a relationship, but yesterday ours looked miles apart – making totally the wrong runs, with virtually no-linkup between them during the entire ninety minutes.

The post-match news the Allams sacked the volunteer pitch divot-replacers (mid-shift!) after 20 years dedicated service gives Ehab another final negative PR pop on a season which was ultimately destroyed by him before it even began. The tit.

Andy Medcalf

Hull City 0 Crystal Palace 1

Tuesday 17th March 1981. We lost 1-0 at home to Colchester. It’s a game I recall whenever I’m asked which was truly the most dismal ghastly Hull City performance I’ve ever witnessed. And given the natural sense of lugubriousness that pervades our city, albeit nowadays in a cultured sense of course, that is a question that doesn’t go long unasked when Tigers fans assemble. We revel in our despair. It’s in our genes. That Colchester game was quite horrible: thoroughly ordinary opposition against which we made scarcely a chance and duly tottered to inexcusably meek capitulation.   Fans of a more recent vintage might choose to go back to December 2002 when, for all the teary-eyed emotion generated by our departure from Boothferry Park, an afternoon of grindingly awful poverty-stricken football was on show. Lost. 1-0. To Darlington. We revel in the gloom. Ornate decoration, pretty promises, gift-wrapped treats – no thank you, that is not the Hull way. The freezing pinched-face wind ripping off the North Sea. That is where we belong, that is what defines us.   Palace at home in November 2013. Add it to the list.   I’m struggling to revel.   This was just dreadful.   Looking nothing remotely like a Premier League side were:  

                           McGregor
Elmohamady  Davies  McShane  Figeuroa
Koren    Huddlestone    Livermore  Boyd   Brady
                          Sagbo

    Or, as ever, something like that. Boyd, Brady and Koren attempted at different times and in different ways to push forward to support Sagbo and to provide the midfielders in behind with extra attacking options. But there was no difference in outcome. All were hopelessly haplessly ineffective as Palace resisted our limp forays with ease. Commendably honest toilers though Danny Gabbidon and Damien Delaney, the Lion of Cork, certainly are, they are no more than competent mid-table Championship centre backs and should have been given a more searching examination than we managed yesterday. Palace, to be clear, looked what they are – bottom of the table and spent of confidence.   I’m struggling to revel.   By far the most entertaining action during the first half involved the circulation of the ‘City Till [sic] We Die’ banner, which was paraded to general acclaim, in part because the football wasn’t worthy of attention but mainly because of a strong and (I think) increasing sense that our owner’s foolish name-changing stunt needs closing down before our club is seriously undermined from within. Well done to those who have given up time and money and directed their passion at preserving our club’s good name. As far as I could tell, the peaceful protest was brought to an end by some violent and grossly disproportionate interventions by stewards down near the corner between East and North Stands.   Football? Well, both McShane and Chamakh acquired complex bandages after an early clash of heads.   O, that’s not strictly football is it? Well ….   There wasn’t any.   Really. None.   Palace defended deep and stuffily, we lacked energy, vigour, invention, wit, and it was just miserable to watch.   Suddenly the team looks tentative and lacking in confidence. Not-so-suddenly we carry no goal threat.   Sagbo’s game has improved thrillingly as the season has progressed, but yesterday he looked forlorn, starved of service but worryingly incapable of coming even remotely close to upsetting the Palace defence with his undoubted physical power. Boyd too has looked a better player lately than we could ever have expected of a man previously unknown to the top flight, but he was half-paced, frail and ineffective yesterday. I hope Brady wasn’t fully fit, because, unless he has that excuse, he seems to be moving in the wrong direction – a player who looked full of ideas and shining self-belief at the beginning of the season but now hesitant and slow to find space. Koren too: off the pace and not a hint of the moments of bewitching skill that turned games as tight as this one our way last season.   Half time. Graham comes on for Brady.   Graham’s first few games revealed plenty of hard running but no goal threat. The second bit remains evident. The first bit, not so much. There seems to be nothing useful about Graham now at all.   The game’s astonishingly poor. On 51 Boyd manages to set up Sagbo but his effort is blocked and Palace break quickly, leading to a shot which McGregor saves to his left. Two sights on goal within a minute. Riches beyond price. It’s deception. The pattern resumes. Poor, poor, poor. Rotten first touches, worse second ones.   McShane off, Rosenoir on. Figueroa to centre back.   Palace, for whom Jedinak, a busy midfielder, performed as impressively as anyone, look briefly interested in netting three points rather than just the one, and on 67 Cameron Jerome, a talent wasted by lack of guts and application, wanders lazily though our inattentive defence before punting a shot over the bar. But when, on 78, Bolasie lunges clumsily at Livermore and is sent off, the assumption round the ground is that the visitors will tuck in, defend and hang on to the single point. There is, sad to report, no sense at all that Palace going down to ten men will invigorate our team. The sour dour tone is set too deep for that. The game deserves to end scoreless.   But the afternoon does have a winning goal in it and ten men Palace probably surprise themselves by getting it. Push down the left, low ball into our box, lack of urgency in our defending and weasel-impersonating Scottish midfielder Barry Bannan forces the ball home before fleeing in search of celebration with the jubilant knot of 500 or so travelling Palace fans.   Gedo is on for Koren. We’ve got lots of possession. We’ve got no imagination.   I’m not revelling in this.   The four added minutes spur glimpses of the attacking force we’ve failed to summon consistently. Livermore heads goalwards but the ball is scrambled away by a whirling combination of defensive arms and legs. Rosenoir – Rosenoir! – thumps a shot against Speroni’s left-hand post. Too little, too late. FAR too little.   On this evidence, and that which I’ve gathered second-hand over the course of the season, I’d expect Palace to go down. On the evidence of Hull City’s performances so far this season, I don’t expect us to go down. If I confine my assessment to our last two fixtures, though, I can only be deeply fearful. It’s an alarming dip.   I might revel in how outstandingly memorably atrocious this match truly was when I look back at it in twenty years time. Maybe even in May next year, after we’ve secured safety in this Division, I might raise a smile about how we have recovered from the depths plumbed at home to Palace on a cold winter’s day. Right now, I don’t revel. That was a horrible game

Hull City 1 Sunderland 0

There was always likely to be an extra frisson of rivalry on the KC turf this afternoon. Not being a betting man, I didn’t check the odds on 22 players remaining on the pitch at the game’s end, but they’ll no doubt have been shorter than usual. As we kicked off under the already darkening sky  of our first Greenwich Mean Time home game of this winter’s stirring schedule, Listmeister Andy leaned forward and offered me his long-acquired wisdom. A thing to be treasured of course, but when he suggested that Meyler would be heading for the proverbial early bath first, I reminded him that Lee Cattermole was lining up in the oppo’s red and white stripes. Cattermole thinks yellow is for wusses.   Bringing City’s game time to over 300 minutes in less than a week were:                                               Harper Rosenior              Davies   McShane             Figueroa Elmohamady      Meyler   Huddlestone     Livermore       Boyd                                                  Sagbo     Sone Aluko’s injury-disrupted Tigers’ career suffered yet another reverse in the warm-up. He was on the teamsheet at 2 p.m. only to be replaced by Meyler by the time the teams came out. Hardly like-for-like. Steve Bruce seems to be a manager who picks the player over the pattern, and Meyler’s inclusion meant that we carded three ex-Black Cats – a fact that was to prove not without significance in the match’s progress.   As ever, Sunderland fans packed out the away section in what seemed a near capacity crowd at the KC. It was a raucous but largely formless opening quarter. City looked like a team trying to find its shape. On Meyler watch, I tried to pin down his position, as he spent the first few minutes almost as an inside forward, before going back into midfield, and allowing the excellent Livermore to roam higher up the field. Sunderland looked disorganised. Ex-Tiger Altidore as guileless and lacking in touch as I remember from a few seasons back, but lacking the naïve enthusiasm of his spell in Hull. Altidore scored goals for fun in the Dutch league last season, and spent the summer smashing various US national team records – scoring 7 goals in all over 5 consecutive games including one against Germany. May be the Premier League just doesn’t suit. Or may be the chaos that has been Sunderland AFC of late has robbed him and his teammates of the necessary ease and endeavour.   As the game moved through its first half hour, City – attacking the north stand end – were getting the better of the exchanges and half-chances. Tom Huddlestone whipped in a dangerous free kick from our left which almost found McShane towards the far post, but the lunging Irishman couldn’t quite connect.   Shortly afterwards, Jake Livermore dispossed the unwary Altidore with apparent ease. We’re just about on top, but lacking in bite. Sagbo is a presence, as ever, but the supply line hasn’t been established. For Sunderland, Cattermole is getting tetchy. Though perhaps ‘getting’ is superfluous.   Then we score. A Huddlestone freekick from the half-way line, just in front of the benches, finds its way to the edge of the penalty area on our right, and eventually to Rosenior who dinks a dangerous ball towards the near post. Sagbo and a defender go for it together, and Sagbo appears to flick it across the goal and inside the far post, past the flailing Westwood.   1-0   The scoreboard later records it as a Cuellar own goal, so presumably someone saw a replay and deemed that it came off the Sunderland man last. Who cares. Well, may be Yannick Sagbo does, as it was his presence and attempt on goal that did the damage.   It’s the sort of forward play that Sunderland loanee Danny Graham has been unable to provide so far this season.   After we take the lead, the rest of this half is all City. Rosenior and Elmohamady work well as a combination down our right. Our five man midfield begins to large it with pass after pass after pass, each greeted with cheers from the home crowd.   Meyler, to Livermore, to Huddlestone, back to Livermore, to Boyd, to Figueroa, neat triangles leave an increasingly frustrated Sunderland flailing and chasing. 104 passes in total before finally the ball is given to Harper who clears it up to Huddlestone.   Obviously it might not have been 104. Just let that number stand for ‘a lot’. It was great to watch a City team playing this way. Sunderland’s frustration became more evident.   Just before half-time that frustration increased still further, when keeper Westwood and ex-Black Cat McShane collided going for a ball whipped in by Boyd. Westwood lies prone for a good few minutes, carries on playing for a couple more, but is then replaced by ex-Tiger Vito Mannone, who gets  warm applause from the City fans as he joins the fray.   It’s not all warmth and bonhomie on the pitch though. As the first half ticks over into 5 minutes added time, Lee Cattermole, in the middle of the pitch, right in front of the referee, launches himself into a two-footed tackle on his former teammate, Ahmed Elmohamady. With scarcely a pause to check the red of referee Marriner’s card, Cattermole walks off the pitch and down the tunnel. Whether he took a bath or not, I can’t tell you.   It’s all done with the insouciance of a professional mafia hitman, and immediately makes me wonder whether there’s some grudge held over from the days – only last season – when Elmohamady and Cattermole were playing and training colleagues.   That would be some end to the half in itself, but we’re not even half done with added time. Play briefly resumes before the fourth official alerts Marriner to something that Sunderland’s new don – sorry, manager – Poyet has said or done. Marriner ticks off Poyet, who stares down at the official silently. He doesn’t look happy.   Let’s try again, there’s still time on the clock. No sooner does play restart than Sunderland are down to 9 men. This time it’s one of Paulo Di Canio’s signings, Italian internationalist Dossena, who takes the two footed approach, scything down Meyler with a vicious challenge in front of the East Stand. Once more it’s a recent Sunderland player who is the victim. But Meyler never played alongside Dossena so it’s less likely to be personal. Still, if I was McShane at this point, I might be watching my back in case the capo and his crew are out to whack me too.   So at half-time it’s all looking rosy for City. One goal up, Sunderland down to 9 men, Meyler and Elmohamady emerged amazingly unscathed from two dangerous tackles, and the only player forced off by injury being the opposition keeper. If there were any vendettas being played out, our mob has got the upper hand.   John Hawley – one of many players to have turned out for both clubs in recent decades – makes the half-time draw. Micky Horswill, Roy Greenwood, Tony Norman, Billy Whitehurst, Steve Doyle, Kevin Kilbane, Michael Turner. They all would have done a decent job of pulling out the numbered ticket. Chris Brown wouldn’t. Iain Hesford would have got his hand stuck. John Moore would have made a late lunge and missed.     As the teams came out for the second half, there was a feeling that the match was won and now we would put Sunderland to the sword. After all – it’s 11 versus 9. Poyet takes off Altidore and Borini and replaces them with Adam Johnson and Wes Brown, two players with plenty of England caps between them. I’ve long admired Johnson. He’s a fine player and would seem to be well suited to playing on the break, which is Sunderland’s only hope now.   The more the second half goes on though, the more the problems of playing against 9 men become apparent. Sunderland really have no other option but to defend en masse and – very occasionally – to try and nick an equaliser on the break.   It reminds me of those internationals where a decent team comes up against San Marino, and San Marino just pack the defence and concede possession. There’s so many players in the final third that it’s really hard to break through. There’s so much time on the ball for the attacking team in midfield that their normal pattern of play breaks down. The crowd gets frustrated because they see their team with all the possession but unable to do much with it.   That’s basically how the half shakes down. George Boyd in particular sees more of the ball and has more time than he’s ever likely to again at this level. Repeatedly he passes back and forth with Figueroa down the left, getting into the Sunderland box and then either shooting or crossing to no one in particular. Likewise Elmohamady down the right crosses several times, but with no real effect.   No one seems very sure what to do. A little experience and guile is needed. Perhaps this is Bruce’s thinking when he brings on Robert Koren for Meyler after 10 minutes of the second half. Koren does nothing wrong, but not much changes.   The real guile and skill comes from our Tottenham loanee, the excellent Jake Livermore, who comes nearest to extending our lead with a couple of long-range shots. One forces a fine save from Mannone, another – towards the end of the match – smashes against the post and rebounds to Proschwitz, on for Rosenior, who can’t control it in front of the open goal.   Of course, just packing the defence and keeping us out won’t get the Mackems any points, and so as the half progresses they increasingly try to hit us on the break. With quarter an hour to go one such break leads to Boyd fouling Bardsley about 25 yards out, just to our left. A perfect position for Johnson to hit one. Happily Larson takes it. Badly. The ball trickles wide of Harper’s left hand post.   Boyd may have played well in recent games, but he’s no left winger and he’s not having much impact today. With 15 minutes to go he’s replaced by Robbie Brady – in theory a far more natural winger, but in practice today he doesn’t play down the left much at all and looks as bemused as his teammates when it comes to finding a way through the Black Cats’ rearguard.   The nearer we get to the end of the match, the more likely it seems that Sunderland will snatch a goal. Never more likely than when a clearance upfield beats McShane, bounces over the impeccable Davies, and puts Adam Johnson one-on-one with Steve Harper.   Johnson’s a fine player and well suited to playing on the break. Hah! Harper rushes out to meet him, denying the forward both time and a space to shoot into. Johnson’s shot sees the ball hit Harper and rebound to safety. Not that spectacular, but a fantastic points-clinching save all the same.   City’s worries aren’t completely over as Sunderland have two more freekicks from around the halfway line either side of the 90 minute mark. Mannone takes the first and every other player on the pitch is in our penalty area. It’s cleared to Bardsley who shoots poorly wide. Then in added time Larsen takes a similar kick, with Mannone going up for it to no great effect.   And that’s it. The ref blows for full-time and we’ve got another 3 Premier League points and remain unbeaten at home.   We’re a quarter of the way through the season now – 10 games gone, 10thplace in the Premier League. May be it’s because we’ve been in the top division before. May be it’s because we’ve got a manager of immense top flight experience. May be it’s because of the way the team’s playing. Whatever combination of these it is, there’s no doubt that we’re being patronised a little less than last time round. That all makes me happy.   Most of all though, it’s the 3 points that makes me happy tonight. For all the plaudits, we had just lost 3 in a row before today’s game. We needed to win, and we did so. And given that 3 of our next 4 games are against clubs in the top 5, wins like this are likely to seem all the more important as we head into the winter months.

Hull City 0 Aston Villa 0

I rather like Paul Lambert. I like the way his teams  perform, the fact that he uses young up & coming talent, doesn’t lambast  them in public, just quietly and calmly gets on with the job, without too much  distraction from his chairman which must help also.   I like the style of football he tries to play,  attractive, pacey, on the deck, as football in the modern era should be  played.   Contrast that then with last weeks opposing manager,  Dudley’s worst footballing export, the odious perpetually winging Sam Allerdyce.  God I loath that man, still smarting & seething from not getting the England  job (thank God) had he done so I would have cheerfully stabbed the fad sweaty  Brummie . Yes I know a Dudley-ite  isn’t a Brummie, but as they term it, a Yam-Yam, not to be mixed up with  a sugar glazed doughnut stick, a Yum-Yum, because sugar coated he aint. But if  ever you DO want to wind them up, call them Brummies, it annoys them immensely,  as I do regularly. And boy can they winge! Winge, winge winge. Just like big fat  Sam. One minute he’s saying “if someone feels a touch in the penalty area he has  every right to go down”, the next its “He’s a diver, a cheat”. These two  scenarios can of course be differentiated dependant upon whether its his team  gaining or conceding the penalty.   Fat oaf.   However, Paul Lambert nice chap,  nice team. And taking aside the dourness  of the fans, also quite nice. And helpful as we found out on Sat pre match as we  set too handing out leaflets & badges on behalf of the  #notohulltigers movement. Villa fans not  only taking the leaflets but helping to hand them out as well.   I Do say movement, as that’s what it has now, real  movement. Prior to my holiday, ( yes it was lovely, thanks) I had joined in with  the two protest marches, about 100 at the 1st, about 50-60 on the  2nd. Upon my return, support has now swelled in a very short  space of time to thousands, and the number of voices against can literally be  counted on one hand. I had three on Saturday. Voices against that is, not hands.  A huge well done to those involved, and anyone who can get involved, should, as  I intend to.   So, on with the match, as I ran out of leaflets with only  a few minutes to kick off, all 80 odd mins of it. Yes a this match report may be  a little incomplete as I found myself locked out as I got to the doorway &  had to hammer at it for a few mins before someone let me in!   Rudely kicking off before I got to my seat  were:   McGregor Rosenior Faye Davies Figuero Quinn Huddlestone Livermore Elmo Aluko Graham     My entrance to the game saw City on the defensive, a  quick chat to those around me  suggested that’s what it had been in the few mins I had missed, with  Delph marauding time and again towards the City goal, skipping past Huddlestone  with ease on at least one occasion. This was not going to be easy.   Kozack fired in from long range which was blocked by  Figuero, as City struggled to get a grip of the game, never mind get out of  their half.   A neat move from Aluko after it looked like he had lost  possession gained a corner, but alas it came to nought.   A move down the right saw Elmo put in a rare good cross,  I say rare as he had an off day by his high standards, which Danny Graham should  have at least ‘worked the keeper’ but Guzan collected with ease, a sign of a  striker desperately lacking in confidence, and maybe its time for Sagbo to have  a go from the start.   The game more even now as City clawed their way into it,  edged towards 19 mins and 4 seconds time for the demo! With leaflets held high  and a somewhat disjointed “City til I die” We made our feelings known. This is  not a protest against the Owner, something we stressed to people we handed the  leaflets to, merely a protest against a misguided decision. However, from my  South Stand vantage point, black leaflets on a sea of black and Amber didn’t  look great. Amber reverse side of the leaflet on a sea of Black & Amber  would have looked much better. Maybe a bright red leaflet with “Stop this  nonsense” would have been easier to spot, although with a slightly less Dr  Martin message. Maybe.   City once again gave away possession to see Agbonlahor  force a good save from the impressive McGregor, and shortly afterwards Villa  maybe should have done better through Kozack as we clung on a bit.   This was certainly a good, fast counter attacking side  we  were facing as ‘Gabby’ had  another good chance but ‘Rossy’ saw off the danger, albeit by scything him down  just outside the box, and seeing yellow to boot from referee Clattenburg, who  did as he always does, and tried to let the game flow.   A purely accidental crunching a bit later as a City  defender landed on Agbonlahor, saw him somewhat subdued for the rest of the  game, but one of theirs, later to be identified as Westwood should really have  seen red as an elbow clattered into Huddlestone’s face.   A neat move a bit later saw Hudds hit a good long rage  shot which didn’t trouble Guzan to much as it was straight into his  midriff.   Mistakes & misplaced passes by both sides were the  order of the day as half time approached.   The second half carried on in much the same vein, with  rare pickings from either side for MOTD cameras and it came as no surprise to  find out we were last, in fact such lacking in goal scoring opportunities, we  nearly made it straight onto MOTD2.   Villa did have one very good move involving a break away  with Bacuna & Wiemann feeding the off the boil Agbonlahor who just fired  wide, thankfully.   Our attacking options were also limited, mainly due a  very poor 2nd half display by Elmo, who’s crossing suddenly became  erratic at best and it was no surprise to find him later subbed.   City came back with three corners in a row, all taken by  Aluko, all failing to find a striped shirt. Wasted opportunity. Dead ball  situations looked our best bet but we wasted all of them.   Villa came close again through El Ahmedi twice, and it  was time for a change.   Off went Aluko, who to be fair had been well marked  throughout and the quiet Quinn, replaced by Sagbo and Boyd.   Sagbo had a chance soon after coming on but was bundled  to the floor as he began to look lively, astonishingly not seen as a foul by the  ref. . Hopefully he’s learnt from his first game, as he didn’t protest too much.   Into the final 15 and we looked the better side as Villa  looked to have settled for a point, and with 5 mins left, we too shored up,  replacing Elmo with Mayler, who promptly sliced his first clearance into West  stand.   It sort of fizzled out after that, and ended a very  respectable 0-0 against a side I think will do well this year.   My Villa supporting work colleagues were subdued today,  as I think they thought they would give us a thumping, but as teams are finding  out, our defensive work is proving to be a match, if we can find the net, a good  season awaits.   One of our Manchester United season pass holding ( I’ll  give him his due, he IS from Manchester) senior Managers passed my desk this  afternoon, and commented “Good result for you guys at the weekend, you’re doing  well, you were even above United earlier this season”   To which I had great pleasure in replying, “ We still  are, Dave, we still are…”

Hull City 1 West Ham United 0

I’ve seen better performances before. I’ve seen us sneak a few wins with a smidgen of luck before. I’ve seen plenty of scrappy games which have left us calling for the final whistle before.   But in 3 decades of regular City watching, I’ve never before known such a match take us 7th in the top division, level with Liverpool and Man City, 3 points and 5 places above the other Manchester club. So far so very good in our Premier League return season – it might lack those feelings of starry-eyed glamour and incredulous novelty that we experienced in season 2008-09’s first few months, but it all feels a lot more solid and well constructed this time round.   Grabbing 3 precious Premier League points, stuffing them in the bag, and zipping it up quickly before anyone could take them back, were:                            McGregor         Rosenior Davies  Faye   Figueroa   Elmohamady  Huddlestone  Livermore   Brady                      Graham      Aluko    The big call in that line-up was Abdoulaye Faye replacing the injured Chester. Faye was the right choice, and he was given a warm welcome by City fans and the impressive turn-out of West Ham fans alike, having been a key player in the Hammers’ promotion season in 2011-12.   It’s not really possible to dislike Abdoulaye Faye. The same can’t be said of chicken-dancing, referee-baiting, fading force at this level, Kevin Nolan, who introduces himself to a sun-drenched East Stand early doors by launching a dreadful tackle on Liam Rosenior.   Rosenior writhes. The ref brandishes a yellow card. Nolan has shot his tetchy bolt too soon and is a subdued bit-part player for much of the rest of the afternoon.   If there is any strutting around to be done in the early exchanges, then it’s City doing it. Sone Aluko in particular seems to be walking tall, boosted by last week’s tremendous 3-point-grabbing, side-foot-volleyed winner at St James Park. Aluko demands the ball tirelessly, and today he is the central element of most City attacks, keeping the ball under close control, at speed, turning this way and that. Aluko is class – and this week’s news that he’s confident of signing a new contract soon is reassuring.   For all Aluko’s star is shining at the moment, it’s our other speedy and skilful young forward – Robbie Brady – who ensures that City take an early, and ultimately decisive, lead. On 11 minutes, Elmohamady, released from his usual defensive duties today by Rosenior being picked at right-back, swings one of his trademark crosses from deep into the box. Brady jumps for it with O’Brien, appears to be pushed from behind during the challenge, and referee Kevin Friend points to the spot. It’s a soft one. Thank you very much, Friend.   Knowing of old how Hammers’ keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen can keep the Tigers at bay, I am not counting any chickens yet. But the bearded Brady is walking as tall as Aluko. A short run-up by Brady, facing the West Ham fans in the north stand, Jaaskelainen dives to his right and watches helplessly as the ball goes hard and low to his left.   1-0 to City.   At this stage of the game, City seem dominant, West Ham lethargic and unable to cope with some of our play. Ex-City loanee and life-long Hammer, Mark Noble, can only try to stop Aluko by fouling him, and is given a lecture by the ref after he’d let play go on to City’s advantage.   For all his qualities – and he seems to be pretty much the fulcrum of West Ham’s team today – Noble’s play looks churlish set against that of the best Londoner on the pitch, Jake Livermore. Livermore plays some really sweet football. Overshadowed a little, literally and figuratively, by the immense Tom Huddlestone, nonetheless Livermore is fast becoming a key figure for City this season.   West Ham’s contribution to the game has so far consisted of obvious fouls, balls hoofed forward for big men, and central defenders trooping upfield for long throws wound up and unleashed by Razvan Rat. Yes, now that things at the Britannia Stadium have been transformed by urbane Mark Hughes replacing old-school Tony Pulis, West Ham United are the Stoke City de nos jours. I don’t know the mood amongst West Ham fans well enough, but it wouldn’t surprise me one iota if distaste for Sam Allardyce’s preferred style of football has only been held back by the relative success of promotion last year. The days of Ron Greenwood and John Lyall are decades behind us, but fans brought up on players like Peters, Brooking, and Devonshire must surely mutter discontent at the less cultured stuff served up now.   Incidentally West Ham’s long-throw specialist has ‘R. Rat’ on the back of his shirt. Players usually use their initial to distinguish them from teammates with the same surname. But, help me here, there aren’t any other Rats playing for West Ham are there?   Right, back to the action. Don’t let me get too cocky, and don’t let me give the impression that silky City ran rings around lumbering Hammers all afternoon. There are shades of that for the first 20 minutes or so, but after that West Ham get far more of a grip on the game. The Allardyce method might not be attractive, but it can be effective.   On 21 minutes West Ham get a free-kick, central, 30 yards out. City clear it for a corner, from which one of theirs heads it goalwards, only for Elmohamady to chest it off the line. They get another corner a few minutes later, and then on 30 minutes West Ham build a good move down the left, feeding the ball in to Diame on the edge of our box, who contrives an air-shot.   It’s a let-off for City. A couple of minutes later a more messy West Ham attack sees the ball fall to Noble who shoots low and hard and just wide. We could do with another goal.   City respond to this West Ham pressure by reviving the attacking threat. An Aluko free-kick goes over the wall, dips impressively, but is pouched by Jaaskelainen. Then another Elmohamady cross finds Brady, who heads it back across the box where Davies tries a brave diving header, only to the see the ball bundled over the West Ham bar.   Half-time. City 1-0 up in the Premier League, and if it doesn’t quite feel comfortable in terms of getting the result yet, it seems entirely normal. We’ve got a decent squad with the odd weak link. So far, and it’s emphasised today, the weakest is Danny Graham. He doesn’t look good enough for our team at the moment. Just on half-time Graham has been booked. Rightly so. A chipped pass to him in the right inside forward position saw him look startled as he failed to control the ball, and then hurl the ball at the linesman when he didn’t get the decision he wanted. Petulance, brought on perhaps by frustration at not playing to the level required.    In the second half the West Ham way shapes the game more and more. Scrappy, not pretty. Effective in terms of getting the Hammers more possession and creating the odd chance, but not threatening in the way a quality passing side can be. Until, that is, the introduction of Stuart Downing mid-way through the second half. I’m very glad that Allardyce decided – inexplicably on today’s evidence – not to start with the intelligent and skilful sometime England man.   Even before Downing came on, at the 70 minute mark, West Ham are increasingly forcing City into defensive errors and tactical fouls. Rosenior looks to be suffering a bit from second-game syndrome, having impressed on his return at Newcastle last week, he is less secure today. His potentially strong combination with Elmohamady down City’s right doesn’t really catch fire, though there is the odd spark.   There’s a burst of hectic end-to-end stuff. An Aluko attack down the right is repelled. United stream up our end and get a shot away, well saved by McGregor. They continue to press, and City give away a number of free-kicks around 30-40 yards out. Each one is delivered into the box by Noble, each one is dealt with without too much danger by our defence. Faced with this sort of assault, I’m preferring Faye to Chester.   City get chances too. On 61 Graham meets a cross by volleying it over the bar. On 67 Graham is involved again, entering the area, he checks back instead of pressing on, and lays the ball into the path of Livermore, whose low shot from outside the box beats Jaaskelainen and bounces back off the post.   On 70 United bring on Downing and Vaz Te (another ex-City loanee). Steve Bruce sends Sagbo on in place of Graham. So for the last quarter West Ham are boosted by the pace and skill of their two substitutes – Downing in particular. He’s starting off deep, almost reprising the full-back role he tried out at Liverpool, but repeatedly raids down our left. City are defending deep too, and leaving only Aluko up top so that when we do get the ball there are few options and West Ham regain possession.   On 74 comes the second contentious penalty decision – this one not given, as West Ham players appeal loud and long for a handball. Not one that could be spotted from my East Stand vantage, though the strength of appeals suggest at the time that we are lucky to concede only a corner rather than a spot-kick. Definitely one that could be spotted from the North Stand where the Hammers fans show their anger by getting behind their team still more.   Later on, TV pictures show a clear handball and an unsighted ref. Bad luck West Ham.   Although that’s the last real scare, United continue to have the upper hand for the rest of the match. City are holding on, and – with 4 minutes added time extended still further for treatment to Rosenior after a clash of heads – eventually that’s that.   So, we’re doing well. Back-to-back Premier League wins are not easy to come by. We’ve won 2 out of 3 home games, but both of those wins are by disputed Brady penalties.   Last week’s goal fest aside, it’s fair to say that Bruce has still not solved the forward problem which he tried to address on deadline day. Long sits on the bench at West Brom. There’s a time limit on how long we can say of Danny Graham, ‘he just needs a goal’. Sagbo’s sending-off against Norwich stopped his progress before he had time to get into his not inconsiderable stride. Proschwitz’s reward for scoring mid-week against Huddersfield was to lose his place on the bench today. And I assume that Gedo when fit will be higher in the pecking order than our enigmatic German.   It’ll be interesting to see how we line up next week, when the vagaries of the fixture list mean we do it all again at the KC against a team in claret and blue. In the meantime, if you find yourself having a bad week for whatever reason, take a glance at the league table. It’ll raise a smile.

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.