Hull City 4 Kidderminster 1

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

Kidderminster 1 Hull City 0

Jan Molby’s return to Kidderminster was much talking about and awaited in this quaint part of Worcestershire.  The inevitable defeat for the Tigers, amid more tactical blundertude, is described by Ian Thomson.
As those of you who were unfortunate enough to be at Aggborough for the corresponding game last season will recall only too vividly, City’s showing on that grisly day would, despite the strength of the field, be a prime contender in any survey to find the all-time top ten nightmare Tiger performances. We’re now nine months on, and the regime which supplanted the previous one, the beginning of whose end was probably that sad display, has now had a third of a season more or less to rebuild, refresh and reinvigorate. So the return of the Tigers yesterday to that twee little enclosure next to the Severn Valley steam railway promised to provide a good opportunity to gauge the progress made in the interim. I have to tell those of you who were not there yesterday that the comparison, is, frankly, frightening for anyone possessing any concern or affection for our club. Granted, the effort and spirit on display yesterday were ? to a limited extent -a step up on the arrant gutlessness we witnessed last January (although it would have been virtually impossible for it be otherwise), but, in all other respects, far from progressing we are quite clearly going backwards. Kidderminster are a somewhat less than ordinary side; within five years or so they will be playing Conference football again, as the euphoria of promotion to the League and the consequent infusion of passion and self-belief is eroded year-on-year by the constant grind of keeping a League club going against a background of tiny gates and local public indifference, culminating in a gradual and ultimately fatal decline in performance on the field; this has already happened to Barnet, Scarborough and Halifax and will probably happen to Macclesfield before it catches up with Kiddy. Despite this, and despite a dogged performance throughout from our hosts masquerading as the frenzied tearing apart they had promised us ? or, rather, our manager, who they perceive did the dirty on them ? our expensively-assembled gaggle of higher-league cast-offs, complete with this week’s quick-fix panic loan signing and some curious inclusions and omissions, never looked like besting them or even knowing how to. Indeed, it’s hard to say what we did look like, or to seek to identify precisely what the game plan actually was, or what the specific role of individuals was meant to be. Just what were we trying to achieve? More pertinently, just what are we trying to achieve? Given the constant merry-go-round of signings, selections and droppings, formations and tactics, the only area of consistency being the declining quality of the football, have we actually got a plan for getting out of this wretched division in which we now seem to be so solidly incarcerated, and if so might Mr Molby like to try to explain what it is, instead of constantly looking for excuses and scapegoats? There was surprisingly little outward disaffection among the long-suffering 600 or so City fans (including, it was nice to see, TigChatter Adam Gurwitch, which I hope I’ve spelt correctly, here from the Antipodes via a lot of other places, it seems) at Aggborough yesterday ? perhaps they were relieved that we got off so lightly ? but relationships between the Club (or more particularly, the manager) and the fans can surely not now be far from total meltdown short of a rapid, sustained and above all substantial improvement in football and results. And I’m not talking here about the idiots who boast on the opposition’s message boards every Friday about the pasting City are going to administer only to be on the City message boards by 4.58p.m.on the Saturday calling for Molby’s head ? almost as irritating as those who dutifully chant the mantra “we’ll be there or thereabouts” without ever offering a scrap of justification for this increasingly-doubtful looking proposition – but rather the more reasonable, sensible, knowledgeable types who know that we badly need some stability and that Molby had to be given time, that a team and strategy have to be built which will not only get City out of the Fourth Division but will provide a springboard for continued achievement, but who are becoming bewildered, concerned, and increasingly angry that after what is now a fair amount of time there is not even a sign of any effective strategy starting to emerge or of any measurable improvement having been made. Once you lose them, Mr Molby, you won’t get them back. Should you doubt this, ask Terry Dolan. Anyway, let’s talk about the football, such as it was. Fixing the steel clamp of despair around the heads of the Tiger Nation yesterday were the following:-

Musselwhite Regan Whittle Anderson Edwards Keates Ashbee Green Branch Jevons Elliott

Subs: Smith (for Edwards, 14 mins), Dudfield (for Elliott, 64 mins), Johnson (for Jevons, 80 mins) So, a strange selection in some respects. Where was Alexander, in particular, who hasn’t been any more inept than the rest of them? And was Elliott really match fit (no, as it soon became evident)? And back to our manager’s preferred 4-3-3. Conditions were beautiful for the time of year as the game kicked off with the Tigers attacking the home end. Barely had the fans torn themselves from their pre-match conversations and turned to face the pitch than the ball was in City’s net as the Dane Henriksson (the best player on view yesterday by a country mile) fed the lumbering centre-forward Broughton (the worst player on view yesterday by a country mile), who curled the ball home oblivious to the raised flag of the linesman on the right. City won a corner on 8 which came to nought, but five minutes later one of the few moves of quality in the entire match ended with Ashbee playing the ball out left to Elliott, who cut inside but didn’t connect as sweetly as he could have with the final shot, Kiddy custodian Brock saving easily. A minute after this Broughton cynically hacked Edwards down as the two of them chased an aimless long ball, forcing the latter’s replacement by Smith. The haranguing of the Kiddy striker turned to guffaws a little later as he rounded Muss with the City defence spectating, only to go too wide and scuff his shot harmlessly into the side netting. It was all becoming pretty wretched fare by this time, however with the home side running around like a pack of eager hounds and City by comparison resembling an aged and corpulent Labrador which has just polished off the Christmas dinner leftovers. The last thing of any real note attempted by City in the first period came on 25 mins when Branch ? no better or worse over the 90 minutes than any other member of the increasingly long list of City loan strikers in the Pearson regime – came in from the right and hooked one over the bar. The home side consequently enjoyed a comfortable and largely-unchallenged ascendancy in the last third or so of the first half, which ended in what the late Eddie Waring may have termed a grandstand finish for Kiddy as the Muss was called upon to make two fine saves from Henriksson and the number 5 Hinton, and one rather easier one from the unavailing Broughton, in the final seven minutes or so of the half. I had remarked during the first half to my fellow Tiger-Chat match reporter Mark Gretton, standing to my right, that Kiddy would be unable to maintain their headless-chicken approach for the entire game and that if we could see our way through to half-time without going behind we ought to fancy ourselves, and for a quarter of an hour or so after the restart it looked a though that might not be an inaccurate prophecy. This was our best spell of the game, during which, without ever actually dominating or even looking a coherent unit, we put our hosts under a fair amount of pressure and might easily have scored. First the rapidly-deteriorating Broughton inexplicably headed a cross a couple of inches over his own bar while under no pressure, to the huge amusement of the City support, while Branch went equally close on 52 from an Elliott cross, and then Brock did well to reach a dangerous-looking Keates free-kick. But then sadly, typically, City yet again fell for the sucker punch. A free-kick from the left just after the hour was only cleared as far as the right-back, whose cross back into the box was steered in by the impressive Henriksson. It was difficult to see it all very clearly from the far end , but one has to say that the pony-tailed Dane seemed to have rather a lot of time to finish given the amount of amber and black in the box. In the days before the game, the Kiddy fans, billing this as their game of the decade, had promised a torrent of hatred, in the guise of banners, t-shirts and general abuse for our manager, and menace for City supporters, to the point where, according to Fieldhouse anyway, the home club were to provide extra security measures. Well, my eyesight ain’t what it was, but I didn’t see any banners. Similarly, no anti-Molby T-shirts were to be seen, although in the case of most Kiddy fans whatever legend was borne on their clothing would have been obscured by a beard at the front and either a rucksack or anorak, or both, at the back. Extra security ? presumably this consisted of a perspex dome to protect the pies in the tea bar from spittle and dentures involuntarily ejected as the multitudes howled. As for the vocal onslaught itself, this seemed to consist only of a few mild taunts from the 50-strong home choir in the five or so minutes after their goal. Maybe that was as much excitement as they could cope with – who knows? It did beg the question of what they would have made of the way the City fans ? especially the moronic ones – would have behaved if the boot had been on the other foot. Anyway, City eventually decided that they had done enough for the day and that any attempt to get back on terms or even go one better could sit firmly on the “too difficult” pile. Certainly the midfield, their numerical inferiority being exacerbated by Regan’s propensity to go for a stroll when he should have been supporting them and Smith’s loss of any semblance of ball control, were never going to grab this one by the sphericals, especially as Ashbee had to spend so much time deep to cover for Regan. Despite this, and infuriatingly, there were still chances to win, as Branch was allowed a free header on 67 which he flashed just over, and then the best chance of the match was unforgivably scorned on 76, when a quick ball out of midfield gave us a two on one, with Branch in possession and a completely free Dude, who by this time had replaced the ailing Elliott, on his right. Instead of doing the obvious, the Wolf loanee opted to drive the ball hard against the calves of Scott Stamps as the Dude and the City faithful stood aghast. After that, the only talking points were a fine double save by the Muss from Henriksson (again), the City keeper denying Henriksson and Broughton when separately through in the space of about thirty seconds near the end, and an altercation in the Kiddy box which, while rookie ref Ilderton was sorting it out, gave the Kiddy wall the chance to move back to the very place from which they had just been moved by the ref., The latter’s party piece, incidentally seemed to be moving the offending side back for dissent and pacing out ten yards not only on those occasions but other free kicks as well. So another dismal, depressing, demoralising defeat, offering little in the way of signs of improvement and hope for the future. On the way home, I had to change trains at Birmingham New Street, where I purchased a Sporting Star, a good – old fashioned West Midlands Saturday sports paper on pink newsprint which still hits the streets within 45 mins of the final whistle. On the front page, below and to the left of “Kidder (sic) Maul Molby”, was the headline “Wolves in Crisis”. It’s hard to resist the conclusion that we are very far behind ? please prove us wrong, Mr Molby.

HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Edwards, Green, Ashbee, Keates, Branch, Jevons, Elliott.  Subs: Smith (for Edwards, 15), Dudfield (for Elliott, 64), Johnson (for Jevons, 80), Glennon, Williams Goals: None Booked: None Sent Off: None   KIDDERMINSTER HARRIERS: Brock, Ayres, Hinton, Clyde, Stamps, Flynn, Melligan, Williams, Shilton, Henriksen, Broughton.  Subs: Smith (for Hinton, 82), Bennett (for Melligan, 82), Danby, Foster, Joy. Goals: Henriksen 60 Booked: Ayres, Broughton, Flynn, Henriksen, Stamps, Williams Sent Off: none   ATTENDANCE: 3,787