Leicester City 3 Hull City 2

Chaos at the turnstiles and things weren’t much better on the pitch as a disheveled City performance saw a second 2-3 reverse against very limited opposition in our first ever visit to Leicester’s Walkers Bowl.

I hated this game more than any game since Terry Dolan was in charge of our team.

Horrible. We were treated like vermin by Leicester City Football Club. I don’t have much desire to be treated like a ‘customer’ at football, still less to be integrated into happy-clappy family entertainment footie fun, but I do like to be allowed to pay into the ground to see the match. The home club were a disgrace, as were the local police, as vile and aggressive a bunch as anything that the late 1980s could have thrown up. And then we were treated like fools by our team, who set aside several weeks of promising performances that have been ill rewarded by poor results and instead served up a foppish self-indulgent ill-disciplined woeful display that got all the points that it deserved. None.

Parkin was wonderful.

No one else was worth their wages. It really is the Dolan era that I last found myself issuing such condemnation. But we played like a relegation team yesterday. Dismal. Inept.

I’m being a bit harsh, I suppose (on the lovely Leon Cort most of all, perhaps). But I’m not happy about yesterday. As you may have noticed.

I reached the ground at about quarter to 3, a bit earlier maybe. I saw that round thing that we call a football for the first time at quarter past 3, a bit later maybe. One turnstile – one! – was open to City fans wanting to pay. Two turnstiles were open for those with tickets, and they were almost completely unused, since we’d been advised we didn’t need to buy tix in advance, since this is a new stadium with copious capacity allied to all modern facilities. Ha! Prattish stewards wandered around asking if we had tickets, waving towards the unused pair of turnstiles. No, we said, politely at first, as the minutes ticked by and kick-off came and went, and our queue got longer.

There were plenty of employees of Leicester City around – none thought to re-designate the ticket turnstiles as pay turnstiles, none thought – imaginez! – to open another turnstile. They did however laugh in most jolly fashion when asked if kick-off might be delayed.

If this was a proper country like Romania or Syria, the officials in charge would have been hung until dead from lampposts, suspended by the gold braid on their epaulettes, while their children would have been slaughtered with piano wire. This being England, we inspected our fingernails and muttered to anyone willing to make eye contact that ‘it is all a bit unfortunate really, all things considered’.

But even the stiff upper lip trembles when jolted with sufficient force. Irritation mounted. All the while sneering police loitered, itching for a fight, treating our increasing protests as a public order issue rather then legitimate frustration at our treatment. Eventually, well after the game had kicked off, one more turnstile was opened. One! And eventually I got in. I expect other City fans are queuing still.

And then we lost.

And, unlike recent reverses, this one we deserved.

Myhill
Thelwell Cort Delaney Rogers
France Green Andrews Noble Elliott
Parkin.

Sort of like that, anyway. We were sloppy, lacking leadership and threw away an importance chance to keep – very ordinary – opposition beneath us in the table. Our goals – both equalisers – were Parkin products. Theirs were horror shows, from our perspective. The second was a freak punt from near the halfway line, but the other two arrived after flowing moves which sped around, past and beyond our stranded midfielders and defence. We looked gruesomely vulnerable.

Four flaws? One, Delaney at centre-back. This utterly admirable young man doesn’t seem quite sharp enough to cope with quick-witted and nimble-footed strikers in this Division. I think this too is Mr Taylor’s view – well, that’s what Andy Dalton told me – but injuries currently force his hand. Two, Andrews is not a bad holding midfielder player. We could do with a better – more engaged, more consistent, more authoritative – holding midfielder. Three, Mark Noble. A talented ballplayer whose ability to find space by roaming across the full width of the pitch could be the source of goalmaking creativity. But when we’re level away from home in a don’t-lose scrap I like to see sundry opponents getting booted up in the air from time to time, and I don’t think young Noble sees getting bloodied or carded in the Hull City cause as the best way to win the heart of Alan Pardew as the chirpy West Ham boss plans for next season. Four, lack of a leader. You can best grasp why Mr Taylor bought Sam Collins when we take to the pitch without him. Collins is a shouter, an organiser, a natural captain, and it’s a role that no one else in the squad can fill. We’re vocally lightweight and I suspect opposing teams draws strength from the impression that we just don’t much fancy getting stuck into it and them.

A summer of post-injury re-birth for Collins, Coles, Dawson, Ashbee (though I doubt he’ll ever be back) and McPhee will help us solve these problems, but I need not remind you that no one has ever been spared relegation on the basis that they’ve had a few men out hurt.

Meanwhile, abuse rained down on Mr Taylor like snow in July. Yes, they’re a fierce bunch these Leicester fans. My, I almost heard them once. I could have been mistaken. The Walker’s Bowl is a functional and unimaginative arena, of a type with So’ton and Reading though probably overall poorer than both, and it is home to a dour, dull and somnolent set of supporters.

By the way, I agree with everything Richard Herman has contributed to this list lately. I understand perfectly well that offering a price in April for next season’s pass, when we don’t know which division we’ll be playing in, gives the punter a chance to gamble. Buy early, buy cheap – and maybe buy Boston not Birmingham. That’s fine, it’s your free choice. But stipulating – as our club currently does – that unless you buy at the earliest date, and no later, you lose you chosen seat at the Circle, is completely unfair, a new departure and simply an attack on the flexibility of the hardest core fans. By all means tell passholders they can buy in April at price x while if they wait until June it will be x plus y. But let them keep their seat in either case.

I’m off topic. ‘Cos I’m fed up. Parkin. Let me lighten the mood. He is fantastic. It was his beautifully crafted crossfield ball that allowed Elliott, arriving at the back post much as he had done – but fruitlessly – in stoppage time at Cardiff, to plant a meaty header past Henderson to provide our first equaliser. His astonishingly deft touch set up Green for a firmly rifled shot from just outside the box to bring us back to 2-2. This man Parkin is a genius. You know, I like him better than Aaron Wilbraham, I really do.

Actually, I like him as much as Colin Stein and Derek Johnstone, and now we really are getting serious. And – seriously – will we keep him? He’s scoring goals, even when (as at Cardiff) the linesman fails to spot it, he’s forcing heroics from goalkeepers (Henderson produced one astonishing save from a point-blank effort during yesterday’s second half), he’s leading the line, he’s winning penalties, he’s making goals for others, he’s turning decent defenders into gibbering wrecks (will Lescott ever recover from his beasting last week?). Parkin is a very seriously gifted footballer and when you look at the silly money thrown in recent years after folk like Adi Akimbiyi, James Scowcroft, Blakes Robbie and Nathan, and assorted feckless Poles and Croats you find yourself wondering what size of cheque may be brandished in front of Mr Pearson over the summer (and not only by whoever is misguided enough to employ Harry Redknapp).

Well, with ten or so minutes to go, I was happy with a point, though not much enamoured of my afternoon’s fun. Then Leicester broke clear down their left, the ball was transferred across the field with the minimum of fuss and an alarming absence of intervention from any of our players, and Gudjonsson, twenty yards out, got his head over the ball to clout a firm low shot into the net via the fingertips of the sprawling Boaz. 3-2. Paynter promptly arrived to bustle, Duffy had been doing the same since his arrival on the hour (and the Scot looked perkier this week than last), but the task was beyond us. In stoppage time the best scoring opportunity fell to Leicester when Boaz found himself marooned upfield in support of a fading attack, and a sliced hoof simply left their sub Welsh in space, homing in on an empty net. He slapped his shot wastefully high over the bar as our defence scurried back, to the dismay of team-mates advancing in support both to his right and his left. But, for us, the game was lost, and the fell murmur ‘Millwall have won’ spread among the City support.

Commendably astute pub selection by a reliable china o’mine ensured this was a splendid day up until about quarter to three. After that, it was vile. I don’t think I’ll be bothering with the away game at Leicester next season. Assuming there is one.

HULL CITY (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Thelwell, Cort, Delaney, Rogers; Andrews, Noble; France, Green, Elliott; Parkin. Subs: Welsh (for Noble, 60), Duffy (for Thelwell, 65), Paynter (for Andrews, 87), Ellison, Duke.

Goals: Elliott 35; Green 73

Booked: Elliott

Sent Off: None

 

LEICESTER CITY: Henderson, Stearman, Gerrbrand, Kisnorbo, Johansson, Maybury, Gudjonsson, Williams, Hughes, Hume, Fryatt. Subs: Welsh (for Hughes, 71), Brevett (for Fryatt, 88), Logan, O’Grady, Hammond.

Goals: Hume 30; Gudjonsson 64, 84

Booked: None

Sent Off: None

 

REFEREE: N Miller

ATTENDANCE: 22,835

Hull City 2 Leicester City 4

Steve Weatherill reports on another rousing Tigers performance, albeit one that ended ultimately in defeat against lofty opposition.
Ah, cynicism, be a stranger. I’m no admirer of the tired old League Cup, but the crowd of just over 7,000 that watched this tie last night will not be forgetting what they witnessed in a hurry. This was terrific entertainment, as vibrant a 90 minutes as we’ve seen at the Ark in a while. I do mean 90 minutes, and not a minute longer, because once extra time began with the scores locked at 1-1 it took Leicester just twelve seconds to claim the lead and less than five more minutes to skate into a 4-1 canter, but over the fluctuations of normal time our team performed with a zest and zeal that wholly eliminated any hint that there might be two Divisions and more stretching between the current status of these two clubs. In the extraordinary course of a dynamic interlude of play between 85 and 90 we simply battered the visitors’ defence with a sustained surge of attacking verve that had us agonisingly close to victory more than once. And we would have deserved that success. On roastingly lively form:

Glennon Regan Whittle Anderson Smith Appleby Keates Ashbee Williams Alexander Jevons

A standard 4-4-2, and off we went on a still soft September evening attacking North Stand under a gibbous moon sinking slowly behind the Main Stand. The pattern was sketched quickly; lively and committed football, with both teams getting forward at pace. Leicester threatened first as a long cross reached Trevor Benjamin in an alarming amount of space deep inside our box. The former Cambridge man confounded those critics who doubt the quality of his first touch by flapping haplessly at the ball and failing to make any contact at all. A career in freefall, no doubt. Meanwhile, at the other end, Alexander was leading the line well and pressing the visiting defence into a cheering number of hastily booted clearances directly into Kempton. The discomfort of Matt Elliott, who used to be a good player in his Scunthorpe days, had me chuckling. The game was shaping up nicely as a contest when, sickeningly, Leicester scored. Rogers ran with pace and power from very deep in the midfield and, with no one able to track such a hurtling burst, we could only look on aghast as a pass was whipped into his path and duly thumped under Glennon into our net. It was the sort of goal that just doesn’t get scored in our Division – doesn’t even get dreamed about, for that matter. And Leicester smiled knowingly, patted City on the head and offered us some sweeties, and began to stroll around as if enjoying a half-paced training-ground kickabout. Glennon-Hyde fubled a corner, and was rescued by desperate defence. Callum Davidson repeated the trick that had brought the opening goal and, running from deep, surged clear to receive an astute pass, only to discover Dr Jekyll had taken over between the posts and Glennon nudged a vicious shot over the bar with brilliant nonchalance. The game suddenly lacked bite, and it was all too easy. Ha! Don’t patronise us, matey! A free-kick was awarded to us 30 yards from their goal and Ashbee didn’t hesitate. He slid a pass towards Jevons in the box and, with the Leicester defence utterly bemused and tumbling like blossom in May, the ball pinged around before landing at the feet of Alexander, 12 yards from goal. He steadied himself and rammed a firm shot past Ian Walker. Joy at the equaliser, joy at Alexander getting on target for the first time this season … GAME ON! And it really did all change now. Leicester were rattled. Their fluency was gone – or, at least, we could now match it. Their evening stroll was abruptly terminated and they bared their teeth. Both teams did. It was red-blooded stuff, and from here on in there spiralled an exhilarating helter-skelter of fast-paced attacking football. Williams dribbled spectacularly down the left before rolling a shot just inches wide of the far post with Walker scrambling across his line in a vain attempt to intercept. The Tigers were forcing the pace now, and it was splendid stuff. Appleby had staked a claim for the Frankie Bunn Memorial Award by falling over his own feet when he first touched the ball, but he had quickly regained the favour of the Kempton. He looks an exciting acquisition; strong, sensible on the ball, and confident. He also managed to entertain us royally by fouling Dennis Wise’s victim, Callum Davidson, right on the touch-line, while succeeding in winning the free-kick. A bemused Davidson sat dejectedly on the grass, off the pitch, having the cold spray directed at his ankle as a mist of what looked like dry ice enveloped him, in the manner of the odd bird who sat at the front of the stage when Hawkwind did “Silver Machine” on Top of the Pops. But Davidson, even if still feeling mean, had no chance to prove it, for he was subbed shortly afterwards in favour of the lively Jordan Stewart. For international-spattered Leicester, Mussy Izzet made it two home games in a row in which we have been treated to the sight of a young man pining nervily for his expected big-money move, and Izzet, like Matt Lockwood of Orient before him, showed why he is moderately highly-rated without ever suggesting he is truly worth a place at the top table. Izzet, more than most of the visitors, was growling increasingly fractiously at the turn of events and his frustration earned him a yellow card, and he could have suffered further after stupidly engaging Ashbee in frank debate directly after his caution. The break was reached at 1-1, with the alert Regan concluding the half by heading clear at the back post, and it had been lots of fun. It got better. The second half was terrific, rising to a vibrant crescendo. Williams darted fully 60 yards down the left before feeding Smith, sensibly providing support, and his cross, bound for Jevons racing in at the near post, was hastily beaten behind for a corner. Up at the other end Glennon stretched his full length to stop a low shot. Then a corner to Leicester was blocked on the line by a combination of Glennon’s hand and a defensive boot, and the ball bounced clear via a graze of the crossbar. Johnson now came on for Appleby and we continued to look every bit as likely to win this game as (giants of the world game) Leicester City. A raking Johnson cross from the right was met by Alexander, making a classic striker’s diagonal run, and his flick header flashed just wide of the far post with Walker a flat-footed spectator. Williams powered down the left once again and attempted to release Johnson with a cross-field pass which he struck just too close to a defender, who gratefully intercepted. And then we had a decent shout for a penalty as Impey wrestled Williams off the ball as he plunged into the penalty box. It was a game played with an unusually fast tempo (by the standards of our Division at least) and it was end-to-end. Terrific! Williams was stampeding down the left like a herd of buffalo. Well, like one buffalo. Quite a small buffalo. In fact, his was the most thrillingly assertive display of hard direct running by a wide man seen at the Ark since Oleg Blokhin paraded his shimmering majesty twenty years ago. It was a truly magnificent sight as time and time again Williams raced 40, 50, 60 yards with the ball under close control, picking it up deep inside our half and instantaneously converting defence into attack as he carried the ball unerringly deep into Leicester territory. Of course, the ringing plea sounds – “Do this in League games, and do it more than once every two seasons!”. Fair enough, though League opponents at the Ark will never emulate Leicester’s attacking ambition and Williams will never again enjoy such vast savannah in which to cavort at will. But let’s enjoy the moments while we can – last night’s performance from Williams was simply glorious. At no stage did Leicester dominate midfield, which confers credit on the hard-working Ashbee and Keates. Izzett had been seen off – subbed on 70. When Leicester threatened – and, of course, they did, particularly courtesy of some dangerous crosses whipped in with savage pace – both central defenders once again validated the claim that they are a top team. Anderson won header after header, while Whittle, as ever, supplied a demonstration of the art of proper sensible defending. By all means, stride clear of the penalty box with the ball at your twinkling toes and distribute the ball forward as if you are Gaetano Scirea if that’s your defensive bag. It isn’t Justin’s. He just gets in the way. It’s very worthy. The fast-improving Smith did little wrong and plenty right and Regan who, like Whittle, believes in positionally sound, unflashy defensive rigour, also deserves credit, and all of a sudden we have a distinctly capable back four taking shape. And while I’m in positive mood, a word for the ref, Mr H Webb. He didn’t look much like Cliff Richard, but then again he didn’t look much like a typical ref either. He was fit, alert and quite excellent. Always up with play, eager to play the advantage, and can we have him again regularly, please? Last five minutes. Fantastic stuff. City rampant. Flowing, incessant, super-confident attacking football. A slick move places the ball at Johnson’s feet 12 yards out. He has more time than he realises, for the weary Elliott is backing off, but he hooks a right-foot shot over the bar. A corner, more corners. A long cross from Johnson flies across the danger area and Jevons strains, but cannot quite get a decisive toe-end to the ball. The net gapes. It’s wonderful; it’s not quite enough, and in the final seconds of normal time Leicester break and we are in Smith’s debt as he thumpingly blocks a dangerous link between Dickov and the languid Reeves. It’s 1-1, it’s extra time, it’s been great. I abbreviate the remainder, for extra time went horribly flat. Straight from the kick-off a through ball reached Dickov. He seemed to have dithered and lost the shooting opportunity but then he curled a well-judged shot beyond Glennon and just inside the post. Moments later Jevons appeared in a tidy attacking position of his own but blinked and pushed his shot well wide, and we were duly signed off. Rogers powered through and was doubtless surprised to see his shot, hit straight at Glennon, squirm lamentably under our keeper’s body and apologetically into the net. Then Glennon made a feeble attempt to leap for a hopeful cross and it was headed past him and, bang bang bang, it was 4-1. The game was utterly dead now and was concluded with pointless passing triangles. Mad Scot Billy McKinlay succeeded in getting himself booked for a foul in these passionless surroundings, as his victim, Ryan, did just enough pleading with the ref to appear to be Mr Sportsman but not enough to deter the card being brandished. And, at the end, Ashbee bulged the net with a header from a corner to lift the scoreline to 2-4. A disappointing end – a tremendous evening’s football.

HULL CITY: Glennon, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Smith, Appleby, Ashbee, Keates, Williams, Alexander, Jevons.  Subs: Johnson (for Appleby, 67), Price (for Keates, 98), Musselwhite, Edwards, Bradshaw Goals: Alexander 31, Ashbee 118 Booked: Appleby, Ashbee Sent Off: None   LEICESTER CITY: Walker, Lewis, Sinclair, Elliott, Rogers, Impey, Izzet, Davidson, Benjamin, Scowcroft, Dickov.  Subs: Stewart (for Davidson, 42), McKinlay (for Benjamin, 59), Reeves (for Izzet, 74), Stevenson, Heath Goals: Rogers 18 97, Dickov 91, Scowcroft 99 Booked: Izzet, McKinlay, Sinclair Sent Off: none   ATTENDANCE: 7,061