A sterling Tigers performance sees an intermittently threatening Coventry side beaten 2-0 thanks to a John Welsh brace, despite losing a defender to a red card.
Splendid result. Splendid performance.
We were mugged ten days ago by a poor Stoke side, whereas last Saturday Luton produced an admirable example of how to play away from home – get organised, stifle the home side’s fizz, and then kill the game off ruthlessly. At the Rico Stadium on the outskirts of Coventry we were much more Luton than Stoke. We deserved to win. It was a treat of an afternoon.
The side that proved we can mix it with proper teams in this Division, injury plague notwithstanding, was:
Lynch Cort Delaney Edge
France Welsh Curtis Barmby
Dele Adebola’s the sort of forward whose presence on the teamsheet must make defenders sigh in resignation. He’s not a good footballer, he’s scarcely a footballer at all, but he’s big and strong and his business is handing out whacks. On 4 he battled clear and shot wide. Looked ominous. Wasn’t. Cort and Delaney played a fistful of matches last season when they looked as fine a pairing as we’ve had since Jobson and Skipper, but they offered up nothing last season that was as admirable as yesterday’s dominant display. They took on Adebola on his own terms and allowed him no superiority. They fought him to a standstill. Gary McSheffrey is a trickier sort but they allowed him little scope for invention. While James Scowcroft, also, I suppose, a striker, was comically useless. But it wasn’t just our teak-tough centre backs that won us this game. It was our overall well-balanced well-planned shape. Look back at that line–up. Barmby at left side midfield? Yes, and an excellent shift he put in too. The key to our win was organisation – play a secure 4-4-2 and ask Cov what they can do to hurt us. Not much. Barmby was asked to play a dour hand, and he did it manfully. Woodhouse Curtis was excellent, patrolling the area in front of our back four and challenging Cov to show invention. And the home side dismally failed.
We took the lead on 17 and I can’t tell you much about it. A glorious chipped pass from Welsh put Brown in the clear, but his effort was valiantly blocked by ex-Tig Stephen Bywater in the Cov goal. The ball spins out to the left, it’s knocked back across to the right and then a low cross flashes across the face of the goal and, what’s this, it’s slipped inside the side netting and we’ve scored.
Umm … pretty messy, but we have shoved men forward, we’ve shown ambition, we’ve deserved that. Did a deflection help us along the way? Wouldn’t be surprised.
And we’re distinctly the more convincing side. On 30 the ball is transferred from left to right, France turns it back into the middle and Brown, with his back to goal, turns a shot over the bar. Five minutes later Fagan powers through, dribbling aggressively from the left, and shoots too high.
But, on 40, the decisive moment of the afternoon occurs and it’s down our end, right in front of the 1500 travelling City fans. It’s Coventry’s best moment of the match, a surging run down the right patterned by the sparkling short passing that they generally failed to conjure up, and we’re shredded. A sharp shot from near the penalty spot and only an astonishing save can protect the lead. Boaz obliges. This is wonderful – an instinctive dive to his right, full-length, and he blocks the shot beneath him and then clutches the loose ball to his stomach.
We could have gone two up shortly afterwards as Brown stormed clear, ripping the centre of the opposition defence apart, but his well-struck shot sails past Bywater only to clip the outside of the post. Close call – close back up the other end too as Delaney makes his only error of the afternoon, gifting a chance to McSheffrey which Myhill prevents with his legs. Half-time, one up.
The Rico arena, named for a local plumber, is hugely impressive – it’s every bit as good as our Circle, I think. Steep-sided, tightly enclosed – it almost feels as if you’re in an indoor stadium. The acoustics are excellent. This wasn’t a game at which you’d expect noise to lift the roof, but when either side’s support did get cracking with singing, the racket was significantly boosted by the architecture. The Rico would be some stadium when full.
Today I saw something I cannot ever recall seeing before at a City match. A man wearing a Hull FC jersey. A grey-haired, slack-jawed toerag, who made a rapid exit across the concourse at the end of the match, denying me the opportunity to send him home with his ears ringing. The effrontery! The sheer effrontery.
To the second half. A minute in, Fagan tries to divert a firm Lynch shot into the untended corner of the net but manages only to concede a goal-kick. We start well enough, but soon have to commit to some defending.
On 52 a Cov corner is headed goalwards and there is an almighty melee up the far end. I have no idea how the ball stayed out. Watch it on telly. But if the rest of the match is any guide it stayed out because we’re a tough bloody-minded side that will not readily concede. Top Tigs.
On the hour the home side, hitherto seriously deficient in wit and width, tried a double substitution, bringing on winger Willo Flood and ex-Wrex striker Andrew Morrell. And they had a glimpse or two of success. A header hits the outside of a post from a cross. And the hapless Adebola plants a header straight at Myhill in the middle of our goal when he should have been able to target one corner or the other. Adebola’s ungainly style is easy to lampoon but he was the most honest of the Cov frontmen – shortly afterwards his well-judged square ball thoughtfully set up Scowcroft for a shot deep inside the penalty box. He slapped it horribly high over the bar. Credit Edge, who hurtled in to startle the dismal Scowcroft as he lined up the shot.
Barmby came off now, replaced by Elliott. God is busy judging Texas right now, rather than guiding our Ulsterman’s boot, and his contribution was more in the service of sturdy stifling organisation than inventive penetration. But that was just fine. We had the lead, we needed no flourishes. All the more so after Lynch got sent off. Poor lad. Injured on his debut, sent off on his second start. Lynch was a shade unlucky to walk yesterday, in that neither offence really involved an attempt to inflict serious injury. But both were just about bookable, I suppose. And so Lynch left us, and Brown was subbed for Mr Right Back Faute de Mieux for the year 2005, Marc Joseph.
Penned back into our own half, we really needed to break clear, push men forward into their half and perhaps have one of our midfielders seize possession, float around the retreating opposition and then chip a gloriously crafted effort above Bywater and into the back of the net from 20 or more yards out.
Which is precisely what Welsh did.
2-0, and really a gem of a goal: high quality, delicate skill, pure inspiration. We’re in the top half of the League foodchain nowadays and it sometimes shows. Magnificent football, and the travelling support capered around in glee and jubilation. Goals like that – they really make you feel good about investing your time and money watching a football team.
And that was pretty much the size of it. Cov were utterly dulled. Their team’s spirit vanished as did large sections of their dispirited support. We’d done to them what Luton did to us a week ago – taken the best they could put up, shrugged it off and then slid a dagger between their ribs.
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Lynch, Cort, Delaney, Edge; France, Welsh, Woodhouse, Barmby; Brown, Fagan. Subs: Elliott (for Barmby, 69), Joseph (for Brown, 73), Burgess, Green, Duke.
Goals: Welsh 17, 74
Booked: Barmby, Lynch
Sent Off: Lynch
COVENTRY CITY: Bywater, Impey, Duffy, Page, Watson, Jorgensen, Hughes, Doyle, McSheffrey, Adebola, Scowcroft. Subs: Flood (for Jorgensen, 63), Morrell (for Doyle, 63), David (for McSheffrey, 86), Ince, Osbourne.
Sent Off: None
REFEREE: I Williamson