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|City finish their home season in style with a comprehensive victory led by hattrick hero Ben Burgess. Ian Thomson enjoys sun, goals and dodgy defending.|
|For the second time in two consecutive visits to the Circle, the pleasure of seeing an, on the whole, convincing Tiger performance and victory was followed by a slightly disconcerting encounter with Radio Humberside, in the guise of the Taylor post-match interview followed by the fans’ phone in. On each occasion, we heard from both the City manager and a succession of City fans who had reached home so quickly that they clearly hadn’t parked in the Walton Street car park that the Tiger win we had all just witnessed was a promising sign of a more successful campaign next season. I’m sorry, but, certainly in the case of the fans, these are lazy, complacent and groundless observations. Both were end-of-season games in which the City players had been freed, for what remained of the season, from the pressures of trying to fulfil the huge expectations of the City support, against opposition which – certainly in the case of Kiddy, but even Bournemouth also to an extent, their play-off spot looking reasonably safe while Wrecsam’s fine run was busy building a bridge too far for the Cherries in terms of an automatic spot – might probably not have been pursuing victory with the same fervour as if the fixture had taken place when there was more to play for. I can understand, and condone, Taylor’s stance on this, as it’s part of his job to put the right spin on things, especially now we are into the season-ticket sale season which, like the season proper, seems to start earlier every year, but please tell me that we’re not, after another season of on-the field disappointment, in for another happy-clappy close season, with half the Tiger nation predicting promotion next year on the strength of the last couple of home games of this season, some grand words from the Chairman and a draw against Grimsby in Manny’s testimonial. Why should yesterday’s result be any more telling a sign of things to come than the one at Darlington? OK, rant over. I felt it needed saying, but, taking yesterday’s Circle offering at face value, let not a word of my diatribe detract from what was, from the Tiger perspective, an overall highly entertaining and enjoyable afternoon. Although a bit patchy in the endeavour stakes, especially when the score got back to 2 ?1, and the sometimes questionable resolve of the opposition notwithstanding, City dominated probably three-quarters of the game, played some absolutely stirring football at times and, in the end, were good value for the magnitude of a victory which provided a couple of firsts, namely the first four-goal haul for the Tigers, and the first Tiger hat-trick, at the Circle. To those of you who would gladly eschew such delights in favour of going on holiday, I say Ha! Performing for our delectation were the following:-
Fettis Otsemobor Whittle Joseph Delaney Regan Melton Keates Elliott Walters Burgess
Big talking point on the selection front was the absence from the team and the bench of John Anderson. Humberside-fuelled rumours of an impending move back north of the Border were purportedly dispelled by Taylor post-match, when he cited nothing more alarming than that, as part of his planning for next season, he wanted to see how Joseph and Justin worked together as the middle two. Be that as it may, the Tigers, attacking the North Stand end after their ritual and pointless pre-match huddle, started brightly and it was a mere four minutes before the Circle scoreboard operator was called upon to earn his corn. An astute Keates ball put Regan in space in the inside-right channel. For what would not be the first time that afternoon, the City no 29’s second touch was terrible, allowing a Kiddy defender in to make what looked to be a good tackle. However, as Regan went sprawling over the defender’s trailing boot, and the East Stand voiced indignation more out of mischief than conviction, referee Crossley pointed to the spot. Definitely a dodgy one. Surprisingly, Keates, after his miss three weeks earlier, seemed to have been relieved of his spot-kicking duties, and it was Ben Burgess who stepped up to place the ball in the corner, low to the keeper’s right. A text-book penalty. As the Circle relaxed in the sunshine, City continued to play some adventurous and attractive, if not particularly incisive football, with lots of crisp, accurate passing, some sensible running and, it appeared, a greater level of understanding among the players, with the Kiddsters only getting forward sporadically. Just as the control being exercised by the Tigers seemed to be waning a bit around the 20-minute mark, it was emphatically re-imposed as City began to put the visiting keeper Brock under some real pressure. On 20 minutes a curling Keates free kick from out wide was headed just wide by Burgess when he might perhaps have done better, ignorant as we were that he would fully atone before the afternoon was over. A couple of minutes later Elliott hit the side netting after some tenacious work by Walters out on the left had set the Ulsterman up, and then a couple of minutes after that it was the turn of Delaney (who, I’m pleased to say, had a more or less error free afternoon but gave his all as usual) to terrorise the right side of the Kiddy defence as he outstripped his man and turned in a low cross which unfortunately was deflected just behind the three (yes, three!) inrushing Tigers. After a few minutes sitting back, relatively speaking, from the Tigers, Kiddy finally mustered a threat on 31 minutes, when a shot from the edge of the box clipped a stray Tiger boot and looped goalwards, but thankfully the Fett was alert to the danger and did well to tip the ball over. The fragility of the City lead was emphasised yet further two minutes on when a right wing cross was headed in by Kiddy centre-forward Broughton, but luckily the referee had spotted an infringement. The Tigers were stung by this and the response was swingeing. Seven minutes before the break an innocuous-looking ball was knocked in from the right, but the Kiddy defender who should have dealt with it faffed and fannied about, in a manner reminiscent of Mr Grainger in Are You Being Served agonising over whether to bite into a crusty cheese roll without his dentures, which allowed Burgess to hook a long leg round the prevaricator and steer the ball into precisely the same spot within the onion bag as his earlier penalty. Rampant wasn’t the word for it now. Kiddy didn’t get a kick of the ball for the next five minutes. First Walters, then Keates forced fine saves from the visiting custodian, and scarcely had we gathered our breath before Elliott headed just over after Otsemebor and Walters had set up the position. Before the half-time whistle shrilled, though, we had to endure another scare as, in the very last play of the half, everyone missed a bouncing ball in the City box which was eventually pouched by the grateful Fettis. The second half got under way, and guess what? Situation normal, as the ball was sent soaring into touch on the right from the kick-off. But it was soon clear that, for the time being at least, the ascendancy remained with City, and a third notch should have been carved on the Kiddy goalpost five minutes in, when, after some fine defensive work from Delaney, Elliott weighted a marvellous through ball into the path of Walters who, with only the keeper to beat, completely lost any sense of ball control, perhaps out of over-excitement, and allowed Brock to collect. As if to remind us, though, of the continuing fragility of our advantage, Kiddy had a second effort ruled out within seconds, Fettis having been blatantly and uncompromisingly flattened as he went to claim the cross. But City continued to play some good football, and were not deterred by things continuing not quite to come off. On 52 Elliott unfortunately miscued his lob after beating the keeper to the ball on the edge of the box, and then a minute later Walters stormed down the right with Melton (the translucency of whose ears in the sun provided another talking point to add to the once-again justified complaints about his general indolence and ineffectuality) and Burgess in support. The cross found the former Brighton attacking midfield powerhouse who blazed the ball first time over the angle of post and bar. But then we were punished for our profligacy. From a Kiddy break down the right, a cross came in, was punched out by the Fett, under pressure, but was then rifled into the net, first time, by the number 8 Parrish. There were claims that Joseph had been fouled in the build up, and indeed the City no 39 hobbled from the field with a back injury five minutes later, but in truth City had by then spurned enough chances to put the game beyond reach a couple of times over. And now our guests were looking interested. And we, in our worst spell by far of the match, were sitting back. And the crowd were getting restless. Were we to throw away yet another win, to add to the growing list? Not this time. After surviving a couple of edge of the box free kicks and a rasping volley into the side netting, City rediscovered their first for Worcestershire blood and came out fighting. Elliott was desperately unlucky on 75 when his far-post header from a Regan cross was headed off the line with the goalie spectating, and so was Walters when he fired the rebound just wide, but the City number 9 got his own personal reward for a tireless display with just over ten minutes to go. Elliott hooked a loose ball down the left side and Walters, the only City player up, managed to hassle the defender to the point where the latter slipped leaving the keeper, who had ventured from his line expecting the back-pass hopelessly exposed, and the Bolton-based loanee finished coolly, directing his shot just inside the near post from the corner of the box. As the East Stand tried repeatedly and thankfully unsuccessfully to break into a chorus of the Great Escape (can someone please tell me what City are supposed to have escaped from, apart from the queues for the Kempton loos?) and City fielded debutant Simon Russell, things were rendered finite two minutes from the end of normal time. Otsemobor put in a raking cross from the right and Burgess, getting in front of the Kiddy defender despite looking a clear second favourite, directed a looping header over Brock, who had inexplicably strayed from his line, and just under the bar. A goal which Kiddy, on more than one front, should have taken steps to prevent, but no detracting from a marvellous performance from our hat trick hero. The three minutes’ injury time passed without incident, and the ovation at the end from another amazing Circle attendance of 14 544 was deservedly fullsome, as indeed it was, allegedly, when the players returned to the field for an end-of-season lap of honour, but I’d buggered off by then to listen to Humberside in the scramble to evacuate the car park. And do you know what some silly sods were saying in the phone-in????.. ?
|HULL CITY: Fettis, Otsemobor, Joseph, Whittle, Delaney, Regan, Melton, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Burgess. Subs: Burton (for Joseph, 64), Russell (for Walters, 83), Weeb (for Elliott, 87), Reeves, Musselwhite. Goals: Burgess 6 (pen), 38, 88; Walters 80 Booked: Regan Sent Off: None KIDDERMINSTER HARRIERS: Brock, Scott, Hinton, Stamps, Bennett, Flynn, Parrish, Williams, Shilton, Broughton, Henriksen. Subs: McAuley (for Scott, 45), Bishop (for Parrish 78), Foster (for Shilton, 78), Danby, Ayres. Goals: Parrish 60 Booked: Hinton Sent Off: None ATTENDANCE: 14,544|
|More promise as an unforeboding start leads to a total Tiger domination of one of this season’s automatic promotion hopefuls. Mike Scott enjoys Stuart Elliott’s cartwheels in the sun.|
|“Fitba, eh? Bloody hell…” As Bournemouth nearly opened the scoring this afternoon after 8 seconds and did ripple the ropework within three minutes, the feeling of despair was palpable. City, with nothing to play for, would lie down and let the promotion hunting south coasters claim their three point haul as they chase down Wrexham, the last vanquishers at the Circle. But no, this massively promising performance showed that the emerging City squad has what it takes to live with elevated opposition and win comfortably. On the back of last Saturday’s grafting performance in our one and only match at York Street – ever – this was a showing to warm the heart and give flow to optimistic juices regarding next season. After Tiger-Chat’s Stateside gloom merchant helpfully revealed that City, a team in mid-table, has generally lost games to teams above us and won games against teams below us (you don’t say!) it was pleasing to see us perform so well against high rolling Bournemouth, who will now probably look to a victory in Cardiff as a route to the Second Division. On this showing they don’t deserve it, as after a dominant 15 minutes they collapsed under the pressure exerted by our forwards, especially Big Ben Burgess, and came a distant second in terms of goals and effort. City lined up as they did last Saturday, the eleven that will go down in history as the only City side ever to play a League game at York Street, thus:
Fettis Joseph Anderson Whittle Smith Regan Keates Delaney Elliott Burgess Walters
In our 42nd match of the season we finally broke our 14 match “won after conceding first goal” duck, the initial part of that equation delivered when the nippy Hayter robbed Anderson deep in City territory and fed the lumbering Fletcher on the edge of our box, who dutifully smacked home a routine right footed chance low to Fettis’s right as Whittle looked on interestedly. It was a goal that had been preceded by a hurly-burly series of opening exchanges, all in the away side’s favour. Within seconds of the off Smith and Elliott were beaten to a header by a Cherry and the resulting shot was lashed inches wide. Then Delaney was booked within 90 seconds for a felony that saw the ball moved forward ten yards, so presumably the problem was speaking out of turn or something. The away side curled the chance wastefully over the bar from 18 yards. With the away side a goal up City then showed admirable spirit in clawing their way back into the game – they earned the right to play through sheer hard work. Delaney and Keates tackled tigerishly and for once the Irishman’s passing was as crisp and accurate as the Midlander’s. As the half progressed Burgess assumed total aerial domination of the Cherries’ defence as they flitted between challenging for high balls (failed every time), dropping off and fielding the flick (about 50:50 success rate) or just flapping around like headless chickens (the preferred course of action for the last 20 minutes of the first half). The tentative signs of Tiger ascendancy were seen soon after Bournemouth scored as the keeper flapped at a corner and Anderson’s return header was cleared off the line. Then Burgess took down a tasty through ball from Smith and while Big Ben’s second touch dinged him rather wide he still donged a shot off that was blocked in hurried fashion. Elliott crashed the rebound into the side netting. A pause – Delaney passing well? A good pass by Smith? Can this be right? Actually Smith’s passing in the opening quarter was generally Swalesque in the way he found touch so regularly. But like his teammates Shaun dug in and went on the give a sound display of the left back’s art. On 18 minutes Elliott scampered away down the left after a crunching Keates tackle on halfway, and the blonde bombshell fed Walters whose left wing cross was headed meatily goalwards by Burgess but straight at Moss in the Cherry goal. Ah yes, Elliott’s hair. Bright blonde. Almost white blonde. Apparently the result of a midweek hairdying prank with his Belfast mates that went wrong. Think of the Romania squad at the last World Cup – rack up the blondeness a notch or two – that Elliott’s hair. It’s no way for a Christian to be carrying on in my book, worship and enjoyment of life are surely not compatible – as I’m sure Tiger-Chat’s resident clergyman will confirm. Back to the game and Burgess is by now winning every header and finding Walters and Elliott with pleasing regularity. Big Ben is also adept with the ball at his feet and has plenty of tricks in his locker. And he has a willing attitude. And a strong work ethic. But he is slow. Which is why he plays for us and not Blackburn. On 26 Walters twisted and turned on the edge of the box before firing a right foot. It was deflected wide for a corner that yielded another goalline clearance as Delaney scooped a shot goalwards after Smith returned the cleared corner into “the mixer”. On 29 Burgess flicked on a throw that landed in the six yard box, and as Elliott advanced to head home he was felled either by an unseen foul or by a ludicrous desire to win a dodgy penalty when the goal was yawningly open. The half clearance fell to Delaney who not for the first time in his City career swung a careless boot at a decent chance and lifted it into the rearmost legions of Bournemouth supporters. Then on 31 Burgess and Walters produced a carbon copy of what had gone five minutes before, except this time Walters’ shot evaded the lunging block and thudded into the net before Moss had had time to react. A straightforward but technically excellent goal that capped off a period of total Tiger dominance. And then what’s this? Four minutes later Walters skips past a challenge wide left and swings a deep cross over the Cherry defence to the advancing Regan. The Scouser’s return header flashes across goal to Elliott who stoops to nod a powerful header past the wrong-footed Moss and it is 2-1. The City supporters – muted in East Stand by the number of regulars either in the Upper West freebie seats, holidaying elsewhere, staying at home or suffering from laryngitis – burst into joyful cheering as a spell of power play saw the home side take a deserved lead. There was nearly more – Fettis’s quick throw got Elliott surging down the left again and Delaney, whose lung busting run matched Elliott’s stride for stride, saw his cross blocked as the Bournemouth defence parted alarmingly. Then Whittle headed a cross wide when under pressure after a corner. Bournemouth offered little in an attacking sense and Fettis remained largely unworked as half time came and went. And crikey, what’s this? After 63 attempts at the City kick-off routine – whereby all the big blokes line up on the left wing, Keates swings the ball to Regan on the right wing and a goal scoring opportunity ensues – the preceding 62 opposition throw-ins were replaced by Regan bringing the ball down, playing a one-two, hoisting up a tasty cross that the unchallenged Elliott rammed home with his bonce from around the penalty spot. 17 seconds on the clock, and it’s 3-1. Game over. We hoped. But we suspected it wouldn’t be. But it was. Bournemouth’s lack of attacking threat even when playing for their footballing lives was surprising. They chose to feed the ball regularly to the pacey Wade Elliott and the guitar wielding Neil Young on their right wing, but Smith – aided occasionally by the retreating Elliott and the covering Delaney – kept the threat quelled by ensuring Elliott couldn’t get any dangerous crosses in, then watch Young spanner a series of attempted crosses into the stand. When Elliott broke free on a couple of occasions the threat was ended firstly by a shot that flew just over, and then by a fine low save by Fettis. The Tigers also had chances, the best of which came when Elliott raced through the centre of midfield and advanced directly to goal before thumping a fizzing 20 yard shot into Moss’s midriff. The spilled save dropped to Burgess who curled a delightful effort inches wide of the far post as Moss gasped for breath after the winding dealt out by our Elliott. The fourth quarter of the game was the least eventful as a series of substitutions by both sides disrupted any flow. Otsemobor came on for Smith – the left back’s legs are presumably being saved for Monday’s frolic in the Feethams quagmire – while Melton relieved Walters and Reeves swapped with Keates. With 17 left on the clock Cherry Elliott produced his most dangerous moment as his delicious cross was headed powerfully goalwards by Stock, bringing a spectacular sprawling reaction save from Fettis who clawed the ball Seaman-style off the goalline then smothered the loose ball as Fletcher lurked dangerously. This super save took the final puffs of wind out of Bournemouth’s sails and they carried little threat there on in. Burgess nearly opened his City account with ten left after another dangerous Regan cross, but the connection was not sweet and the header looped into the goalie’s arms. But apart from that and a muffed Keates chip from a cleared corner, the game petered out and City took all three points in handsome fashion. Man of the match – Burgess. Close contenders – Delaney, Keates, Walters, Regan. Often quiet but ultimately deadly – Elliott. Surprisingly useful once more and perhaps not the lemon we thought he was last Autumn – Smith. Tidy – Joseph, Whittle and Anderson. Largely unused but delivered a top drawer save when required – Fettis. A manager who is giving real signs of finding his way at City, with tangible progress on the pitch to show for it – Taylor. Prediction – with three decent hardworking signings, this is a top three side come next April. Am I serious? – yes, I am.
|HULL CITY: Fettis, Joseph, Anderson, Whittle, Smith, Regan, Delaney, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Burgess. Subs: Otsemobor (for Smith, 64), Melton (for Walters, 77), Reeves (for Keates, 87), Jevons, Musselwhite. Goals: Walters 31; Elliott 35, 46 Booked: Delaney Sent Off: None BOURNEMOUTH: Moss, Young, C Fletcher, Gulliver, Cummings, Elliott, Purches, Browning, Thomas, Hayter, S Fletcher. Subs: Stock (for Cummings, 54), O’Connor (for Thomas, 71), McDonald (for Hayter, 71), Stewart, Holmes. Goals: S Fletcher 5 Booked: C Fletcher, Stock Sent Off: None ATTENDANCE: 15,816|
|Another performance of promise but in the end the promotion chasing visitors just wanted it a bit more, and had a quality striker in Morrell who helped them prove it. Steve Weatherill casts an eye over another Anglo-Welsh clash.|
|Wrexham scrapped, City were scrappy. That’s a shade harsh, because overall we didn’t really deserve to lose this game. But the visitors are playing for promotion, the home side are playing for nothing, and those essential ingredients of bite and spirit were just a bit more in evidence among the Wrexham team than among our own. The Welsh passed the ball around nicely at times too, and I don’t entertain any particular sense of injustice about the result this morning. It was, however, a largely formless game, and although in years to come the (again, astonishing) crowd of 15,002 may look back with fondness at having witnessed the promising debut of Big Ben Burgess, right now “Wrexham, home, lost” simply brings us 90 minutes closer to calling time on this wretched season of faded hopes and sloppy football. On duty:
Fettis Otsemobor Joseph Anderson Delaney Reeves Keates Melton Elliott Burgess Walters
With Ashbee absent injured and Whittle suspended, we were likely to look lightweight. And we did. But this cannot apply to Big Ben Burgess. He is Big. And also called Ben. Can I make it any more obvious? Anyway, our hoped-for new cult hero soon skated into the action, mis-controlling an astute pass from Elliott not once, but twice, before the ball squirted free to Walters, who shot wide. It was a dopey entrance by Burgess and soon after the whole team was shaken up by the early (but not premature) departure of Steve “Big Hits” Melton, who wandered off the pitch as if no one would notice, whereupon eagle-eyed Peter Taylor (a former England manager, remember) pounced and immediately decided to employ a substitute. Not much gets past our guv’nor, and no mistake. Steve Burton came on, and took over at left-back, while the ever-enthusiastic Damien Delaney stepped forward into central midfield. It strikes me that it is peculiar just how many footballing chums of Mr Taylor select his impressions of Norman Wisdom as his primary achievement in life. It was the doughty Geoff Barker, profiled in yesterday’s programme, who, in glancing back over highlights of his stalwart career, set aside recollection of an ex-Tigers vs Southern Supporters match from the mid-1980s when he was tormented by a tricky wingman with a turn of pace and an eye for goal name of Steve Weatherill, and instead waxed lyrical (how else can you wax?) about the teenager Taylor’s regular chorus of “Mr Grimsdale” Should Mr Taylor ever become widely popular among us Tigers fans, there is one day potential for some communal awry-flat-capped-related humour on a distant away terrace. But let us await that surge up the League before we dust off the (waxed) lyrics of “Don’t Laugh at Me Cause I’m a Fool”. Umm. Unfortunate title, I suppose. Maybe Mr Taylor could try and do Sid James instead, and we’ll just join in on the laugh. Back to the football! Ah yes! Not a moment too soon, for Walters may score. But he scuffs his shot badly and the keeper saves. Then Burgess, improving, wins the ball and shoots: straight into the keeper’s gut. Back in November Wrexham looked better than most teams we’ve faced this season, and they were once again proving tough opposition. Big and uncompromising in defence – Lawrence must be all of 6 foot 5, though his location at left-back rather than centre-back suggests he’s not much use in the air. And if you want an experienced netman, look no further than Andy Dibble. “No!” you cry, from Hong Kong to Cape Town via Jakarta and Perth, “the Officer? Surely he is retired, and has been for years?”. Nope. He’s in goals for Wrexham. And perfectly competent. In midfield Wrexham are occasionally slick and generally steady, with the mobile Jim Whitley, a lookalike for Sanath Jayasuriya (a man sadly without a catchphrase), the pick of the bunch, while in attack they sport the very good Lee Trundle and the excellent Andy Morrell. This pair are quick, thoughtful and too good for this Division. So the visitors had a good spell. We survived it and, as is ever the way in this Division, then proceeded to enjoy our own little glimpse of superiority. And it won us a penalty. Big Ben controlled the ball with great skill, turned confidently – a less burly chap might have been thought to have pirouetted, but let me tell you, Big Ben doesn’t do pirouetting, in fact I doubt he does French stuff at all – and swept a delightful ball out wide to Elliott. He sprinted into the box where he was crudely tumbled to the turf, and a penalty was correctly awarded. Which we missed. Groan. Keates had buried one against Shrewsbury last time out, but this time a similarly low shot was too close to Dibble and he blocked it all too easily. Groan. We adjusted the shape of the team now, with Burgess operating as battering-ram, supported right-side by Walters and left-side by Elliott, with Reeves asked to do a lot of extra running in midfield. It sort-of worked, sort-of didn’t – the game deteriorated into the sort of stuffy midfield stalemate that is the worst feature of lower Division football. Neither team was able to provide any quality of service to players located near the opposition danger area. But in the footballing basement you take your pleasures where you can, and yesterday offered rich comedy in the guise of a fight among the stewards policing the pocket of Wrexham fans. At first it seemed as if they were intent on hauling out a visiting Welshman or two, but after a brief and inconsequential struggle, the mood of the stewards appeared to become more introspective. An orange-coated one biffed a yellow-coated one, who fell down the steps. Great stuff! What was going on? Such stewarding energy would have been welcome at Sunderland last Wednesday, but, hey, burberry-capped-freaks, if you want a closed-doors international, that’s just the dandiest way to go about getting one. In the added time at the end of the first half Fettis made an excellent diving save from a header, as our defence was carved open, but half time was reached and it was a bit shapeless and a lot scoreless. The second-half offered more goal-bound purpose- thankfully so. Walters slipped the ball to Burgess, but he mis-hit his shot and it trickled harmlessly through to the Officer. We were beginning to trouble the Wrexham defence through a combination of an energetic midfield and increasing success in using Burgess as a target-man. And we scored. A corner was flicked on by Burgess, headed against the bar by Walters and then rammed in from close range by the marauding Otsemobor, whose ability to slip forward unnoticed from right-back and score is currently on a par with the very early City days of Richard Jobson. The game had been just about lively enough for the fans to believe it unlikely to remain goalless, though it had been far from clear which of the two teams would break the deadlock, but now, a goal to the good, could we protect, even extend, our lead? Err, no. Shortly before our strike, a ghastly error by Burton, who simply fell over on receipt of a throw from Fettis, had almost handed the visitors the lead, only for Edwards to screw a shot badly wide, and then, at 1-0, Joseph fell over and allowed Trundle a free shot, which he belted too high. Messy, error-ridden stuff, but it was not a amber-and-black mistake that finally brought the equaliser. Anderson’s challenge in the box was admittedly less than perfectly judged, but the Wrexham tumble was deeply unconvincing. It was the softest of penalties, but it was given, and it was scored, and the game was level. Now the play was open and lively, the points up for grabs. We were sticking with our 4-3-3-ish, even though pushing Walters wide on the right doesn’t strike me as making the best use of his talents, and much depended on the reliable industry of Keates. Of his midfield chums, Reeves was tiring, while Delaney was, as ever, joyously puppy-like, never pausing for breath but equally never pausing to think. Elliott wasted possession twice, passing straight to an opponent, as we began to look a bit ragged. Time for a change. Elliott and Reeves off, and two men we might have thought we’d seen the back of, Williams and Jevons, came on. The formation was altered too, with Williams taking over left side and Walters right side, sandwiching Keates and Delaney in a four-man midfield, while the 2 bit of the 4-4-2 was populated by Jevons and Big Ben. But by now we were looking a bit sloppy, a bit half-hearted, and a lot hoofy (mainly directed – vaguely – at the willing Burgess). I suspect the several changes of formation introduced periodically through the afternoon by the manager didn’t help cohesion much, though I don’t complain – he’s experimenting, the season’s dead, we judge in the Autumn, I know, I know. Wrexham now took the points. A deft ball straight through the middle of our defence, one touch from Morrell to assert immediate and perfect control, and a second touch to slip the ball beyond the Fett’s reach and into the corner of the net. 2-1, they win. Our defending was flabby, but both the move and the finish were first-class, and the only flash of real footballing quality in the whole match. And so – given the fact that our season is already irretrievably entombed in sub-mid-table mediocrity – I don’t begrudge Wrexham their win. Still, they might not have held it tight had we enjoyed a shade more fortune in the few minutes that remained. Dibble saved well from Jevons, and then a silly but clear hand ball inside the box by a Wrexham defender went unaccountably unpunished. Had it mattered more, we’d’ve been cross. As it is… six games to go, all of them meaningless. Excepting only that tastiest of morsels – relegating Swansea (but not Boston).
|HULL CITY: Fettis, Otsemobor, Joseph, Anderson, Delaney, Reeves, Melton, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Burgess. Subs: Burton (for Melton, 9), Williams (for Reeves, 79), Jevons (for Elliott, 79), Donaldson, Musselwhite. Goals: Otsemobor 55 Booked: Delaney, Joseph Sent Off: None WREXHAM: Dibble, C Edwards, Roberts, Carey, Lawrence, P Edwards, Whitley, Ferguson, Green, Trundle, Morrell. Subs: Morgan (for Carey, 45), Holmes (for P Edwards, 49), Jones (for Trundle, 89), Rogers, Barrett. Goals: Morrell 67 (pen), 80 Booked: Whitley Sent Off: None ATTENDANCE: 15,002|
|A low key performance ended in a City double strike and three points. Steve Weatherill describes how we rekindled those play-off hopes for one more week.|
|Winning’s everything – perhaps. Winning was the full extent of what we took from this thoroughly drab game, in which entertainment was meagre as an unmistakable end-of-season feel came early to the Circle. Shrewsbury, for whom the end of the season might yet deliver a grisly downfall, deserved to get beaten, for they played with a poverty of ambition during the second half that made no sense and earned them righteous defeat. We were worth a win secured by two strikes in the game’s concluding ten minutes. But whereas the last time we won 2-0 at home against a side that had held on grimly to a point until capitulating late on was one of the most satisfying games of recent seasons – I refer to the demolition of the Scunts back in November – this victory was pale and forgettable. Just doing enough on a gloriously sunny Spring afternoon were a 4-4-2:
Fettis Otsemobor Joseph Anderson Delaney Reeves Keates Melton Elliott Walters Forrester
If it had been a Formula One race the green light would have flicked on and the drivers would have calmly inspected their fingernails and checked the smoothness of their shave in the mirror before switching on their ignition. Had it been a horse race, the stalls would have been flung dramatically wide open, and the nags would have peered out and delivered a gallic equine shrug, as if they really did have better things to do than pound up hill and down dale with some skinny runt on their back, arse in the air and whip in hand. The early stages of this match were not formless. They were static. But it really was a beautiful afternoon. After a few minutes had drifted gently by, some football type things started to happen. Walters chipped the ball over the bar – a deft touch, but there was no serious danger for the visitors. Then Steve Melton was presented with possession just outside the box. A left-foot shot was inviting, but instead the twinkle-toed magician skipped to his left, away from the danger area, and executed a sublime pass straight on to the toe-end of a defender, who Kicked It Very Hard Into The Stand. Teams need players who can do this. The mighty Shrews built their defence around the giant Matt Redmile, who cannot be less than 25 stone nowadays and is able to win possession simply by allowing his immense gravitational force to draw the football towards him. This skill helpfully compensates for his own inability to move his bulking hulk anywhere other than at a snail’s pace. A big snail, mind. A really big snail. Jason van Blerk plays for them too. He looked much as he did when he wore amber and black. Sort of OK. Not too bad. Alright really. I’d forgotten about his existence totally, to be honest. Anyway, Shrewsbury had us tamed, and they nearly took the lead when a powerful low shot tested the Fett to his left. Our number one netman dived full-length and made an excellent save. We had a bit of fun claiming that their keeper had handled the ball outside his box, but he hadn’t done actually, and we were only teasing! The linesman and referee enjoyed the jape and waved play on. Soon it will be summer and we can enjoy watching some cricket. Our main tactic was to lump it long, from right to left, in the hope that the sprightly Elliott might leap and win some headers. Shrewsbury’s main tactic was to put a tall defender near Elliott and win the header whenever we crossed in Elliott’s general direction. Ooo, cut and thrust! it was like a chess match out there. One in which the players didn’t really know many moves. A cute free-kick by Keates seemed to have released Forrester inside the box. But he fell over. Then he was substituted for Jevons. And Reeves came off for Burton. And by now it was really, really quiet inside the ground. Half-time couldn’t come too soon, as I was eager to take in a televised concourse view of the whey-faced Englishmen, terrified and gaunt in their preparation for a wicked tawsing courtesy of Roy Laidlaw, John Rutherford and Roger Baird, but before you could say “Finlay Calder’s offside!” those tricky Shrews had created a shooting chance. And Fettis was alert to tip the effort over the bar. The dying moments of the half offered the best tiger moments so far, as a Delaney free-kick was met by Anderson and a looping header escaped only inches beyond the far post. Then Otsemobor charged forward eagerly before lamely punting a shot wide. And it was time to pause. We switched to 4-3-3 for the second half. Burton dropped back to left-back, while Delaney-Keates-Melton ranged across midfield. Elliott took up an advanced role as a left-sided attacker, supporting Jevons and Walters. The visitors won two corners early on, but gradually retreated, while we began to play the game more often in their half than our own. It was poor fare. It was dull. But we did now have more of the possession. Walters sliced a hasty shot wide of the near post, and then Delaney blasted a left-foot shot well over the top. It was Walters again as we pushed down the right, but his final shot slipped weakly past the keeper’s left hand and wide of the near post. We now look the better side, and there was gratifying determination from the midfield trio. Keates played as the deepest-lying of the three, and got through plenty of scampering about designed to hold our ambitious formation together. Delaney, of course, was brimming with enthusiasm and effort, though his passing is, to be charitable, no more than modestly proficient in its accuracy. As for Melton, well he drifts out of the game more than he drifts in, but he was just about worth his place yesterday. However, the game was going nowhere in the sunshine, and if, like me, you had invested a score in a scoreless draw at 8/1, you were by now feeling perfectly serene. So City spoiled it, as they always do. A ball whisks in from the right, and Jevons clambers among defenders to shove a shot goalwards – it cannons into the crossbar and rebounds to a defender, who nods it back into the clutches of a relieved keeper. The impression that we are now seriously intent on breaking the dull deadlock is temporarily put on hold, first as a bashful streaker is allowed far too much room to play by standoffish stewards and then as Melton bursts into the box only to be firmly tackled by a stray plastic bag which does enough to propel the shot wide. “Well in son!” remarks Redmile, encouraging his youthful but promising partner. Melton picks himself up sorrowfully, and vows to work in training on improving his one-on-ones when confronted with this upcoming new breed of defensive fruit-and-veg carriers. Now we score. Keates pops a corner from the left on to Otsemobor’s forehead and the young full-back, criminally unmarked, gleefully thumps the ball into the net. So, so easy – all of a sudden. Shrewsbury look deflated, but have only themselves to blame for a craven second half display. They have a superb attacker in Rogers and a canny one in Jemson, and neither has received a shred of decent service since the opening seconds of the second period. Ha! Right on 90, we got another one. Walters had infuriated the Shrews with a splendid display of stubborn ball retention and, off the back of his strength, we constructed a neat move which culminated in Jevons taking a tumble inside the box. It didn’t look like a penalty to me. But it was awarded. And, after a tetchy dispute about who should take it, Keates stepped up to send a low left-foot shot under the keeper and into the back of the net. There was still time enough for us to squander the best opportunity of the game. Elliott surged forwards, lost the ball, won it back, passed wide to Jevons and when his cross flew unerringly on to the forehead of Keates, completely unmarked in front of goal, the absurdity of winning a poor game by all of 3-0 loomed large. But Keates doesn’t do a lot of heading and he directed his effort wastefully wide. Still, he had a decent game. So did Walters, and Elliott was handy from time to time too. Jevons was first-rate after he came on. He’s playing for a contract though. I suggest we don’t give him one. Too many limp displays earlier on this season. Oh, and a word for the manager. I’d say he got the half-time rearrangement just about right. Regan for Walters, two goals for us and none for them, game over, and we look nailed on for that all-important 13th place. Shrewsbury? I’d be sorry to lose them, for Gay Meadow is high on my list of “places I’d like to take those lovely sugarbabe girls to for a hot threesome (but not the brassy scouser)”, but on this evidence they are heading for relegation.
|HULL CITY: Fettis, Otsemobor, Joseph, Anderson, Delaney, Reeves, Melton, Keates, Elliott, Walters, Forrester. Subs: Jevons (for Forrester, 29), Burton (for Reeves, 41), Regan (for Walters, 89), Donaldson, Musselwhite. Goals: Otsemobor 81, Keates 90 (pen) Booked: None Sent Off: None SHREWSBURY TOWN: Cartwright, Redmile, Artell, Atkins, Moss, Murray, Jagielka, Woan, van Blerk, Rodgers, Jemson. Subs: Aiston (for Woan, 86), Drysdale (for van Blerk, 87), Lowe, Dunbavin, Packer. Goals: None Booked: Murray Sent Off: None ATTENDANCE: 13,253|