Hull City 1 Leyton Orient 1

At last!  A wonder strike from Dean Keates inspires the Tigers to show some much needed passion and guile.  Meanwhile, the opposition field a werepig.  Mike Scott reports on matters.
Those of us who have supported Hull City for a few decades know the score. The Tigers are generally crap, a total let-down, but about every 5 or so years they have a purple patch of perhaps only 4-6 weeks that somehow makes suffering all the dross worthwhile. The last of these purple spells was April 2001 when Big Kev was steering a course towards the Division Three play-offs. Prior to that we must go back to early in 1993-4 when Dolan’s Tigers topped Division Two, March 1989 (the run-up to the Liverpool cup tie) and the back end of the 1983-4 promotion season.Well the Tigers need another excellent spell now if their promotion aspirations are to come to anything. And while this game against a steady and well organised Leyton Orient side was not exactly top drawer stuff, it signified a move in the right direction after Monday’s Durham Coast debacle. “Well organised Leyton Orient”. “Well organised Hartlepool”. “Disorganised Hull City”. It is the way in which the Tigers started to throw off the latter tag, and therefore look more capable of living with more organised opposition, that was the key difference in this game. The disarray at Victoria Park was replaced by a more solid feel yesterday, Molby’s back-to-basics training ground theme has had some effect. It’s a fragile new beginning – the Tigers wobbled horribly after Orient opened the scoring against the run of play – but it’s there, and the collective effort of Ashbee, Anderson and Keates in talking up team confidence bore fruit on this warm and pleasant Saturday afternoon. Returning again to a 4-4-2 line-up that fits the personnel on show were:

Glennon Regan Anderson Whittle Smith Johnson Ashbee Keates Williams Alexander Bradshaw

The main surprise was Dudfield’s banishment to the bench alongside Price, Muss, Edwards (hoorah!) and Morrison. Keates kept his place and, despite going absent for a while after Orient’s goal, played much better than at Pools, capping his performance with a thunderous equaliser. Williams gave flashes of his true worth on the left, inspired in the second half by an upbeat Bunkers. Alexander looked a new man and led the line superbly without getting any luck in front of goal. Molby’s tactics, oft explained by the Dane, rely on a high tempo game that takes play to the opposition and forces mistakes and fatigue. Take away the high tempo, as happened at Hartlepool, and there’s not much left. But today City did, for a good 80 of the ninety minutes, maintain a fast pace through quickly taken free-kicks, pressing play all across the pitch and getting the ball forward quickly, either directly or through midfield, when in possession. The opening stages of the game saw this harum-scarum philosophy work to good effect and a useful Leyton XI, with highly rated Lockwood looking ever more like a were-pig at left-back, were rocked onto their collective heels. Three times in the opening 15 minutes City carved through the O’s backline and made good chances in the six yard box (one for Johnson, two for Alexander) that were blocked by committed but last-second defending. The one scare was when a straight punt clearance by Orient saw Whittle chase back with the useful Watts in attendance, Justin looking to usher the ball back to Glennon. Glennon was slow to react however, and in the end Whittle headed clear for a corner just as he made full-on and painful contact with Glennon’s considerable midriff. After some panic amongst the City support Justin returned gingerly to his feet and resumed his masterclass in Division Three defending. With three or four good chances made but no goals as reward, one wondered as to the mood of the footballing gods. They haven’t smiled on the Tigers for some time now, but were they feeling that the East Coast team were worthy of some TLC, or were they grimacing and plotting another body blow? It was the latter. Whittle hit a bobbling backpass to Glennon, who did well to spoon the ball up and out 35 yards in the face of the onrushing ex-Imp Thorpe. Orient’s Brazier was then allowed to comfortably control the high ball on his D-cup chest as “Jack” Regan looked on – I like Regan a lot, but his failing is an unwillingness to challenge the high ball. As Regan put his trousers back on, Brazier fed the advancing dreadlock-bedecked Hutchings in the box and his low cross was met by an unattended Toner in the inside right position who thumped home from 20 yards. The whereabouts of left back Smith were not recorded in my notes – suffice it to say he wasn’t challenging the goalscorer as he should have been. City then “did a Hartlepool” for ten minutes. The team spirit faded away, passes went astray, little effort was expended in the important areas of the pitch. Orient won 2-3 corners, all of which saw alarm bells ringing, beacons flashing and small children running about screaming, such was the panic in the City 6-yard box. But all were somehow repelled, the home side began to recover. Excellent work by Alexander set up a Regan cross that was dealt with in some haste by the O’s defence, and the clearance dropped invitingly to Ashbee whose volley skidded pleasingly towards goal only for the keeper Evans to save adeptly low down near his left post. Evans is on-loan at Orient this season, his first name is Rhys. Thankfully for the East Londoners, he is not as poor as the last netminding Rhys they had on loan, the much-reviled Rhys Wilmot who, when borrowed from Arsenal, was widely attributed with full blame for their 1985 relegation season. Ashbee’s shot was well saved but with 37 minutes gone a repeat Regan cross saw a repeat clearance fall to Keates 25 yards out. The diminutive Midlander steadied himself and drove a rasping shot into the net past a flapping Evans, and then proceeded to celebrate wildly in front of a bubbling Kempton. It was a fine strike and was executed just as I was confiding in a colleague that “that fookin Keates has gone missing again”. Good on yer, little man! Within seconds Watts burst through the City defence and a back post cross found another Orient player unencumbered by the attentions of Smith, but this time Glennon saved. City restored the high tempo and an even half finished even, at 1-1. Half time gave the opportunity to peruse the “End of An Era” merchandise catalogue handed to City fans on their entry to the soon-to-close Boothferry Park. And some fine items are on show there. I would recommend buying the calendar and twelve cheap picture frames from Ikea – then you’ll have a wall-full of BP memories for your favourite room, all for a fraction of the cost of the dreadful £60 daub on offer than makes all the players on the pitch looks 14 feet eleven inches tall. And so to the second half. O’s right back Joseph was clattered by Williams within the first minute and was withdrawn for a young chap called Donny Barnard, who looked rather intimidated by the vociferous Kempton support that he patrolled in front of. More good work on the right from the overlapping Regan saw a cross find Alexander, whose skilful shot was well pouched by the keeper. Then a superb move that began on the left with Williams, switched to the right with Johnson and ended up on the penalty spot with Bradshaw saw the aggressive young striker fluff his shot as the Bunkers goal beckoned invitingly. Young Bradshaw played well today and showed a pleasing willingness to mix it with the opposition in a manner that his fresh face wouldn’t necessarily suggest. Orient made a few half chances, the best of which fell to Thorpe, whose scuffed shot trickled across the face of Glennon’s goal, and Watts whose free header was straight at the grateful netman. But the great majority of the openings were the home side’s – Bradshaw slipped when 1-on-1 with the keeper after a thrilling surging run from Johnson, Alexander was twice more released in the box with shooting opportunities, Johnson shot straight at the O’s keeper after a penalty box melee – and only the final touch was missing from a tidy Tigers performance. As both teams tired in the final quarter several subs were introduced – Dudfield for Bradshaw, Morrison for Johnson – and a few late challenges were penalised by the very efficient Premiership referee Cathy Barry. In the end a 1-1 draw was perhaps just reward for both sides, but I suspect Orient manager Paul “Bog” Brush will feel that his side could not have complained if a City winner hadn’t have flown in, such was the sheer number of chances created by the home side over the ninety minutes. Overall then, this was a heartening performance after the abject shite of Hartlepool. If we can sustain this for a goodly run of 8-10 games then real momentum can be attained and the points will surely follow. That elusive first victory for Molby has still to arrive, but I feel it’s a lot closer after this performance. Time for the Tigers to maul some poncy university types? Oh yes!

HULL CITY: Glennon, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Smith, Johnson, Ashbee, Keates, Williams, Alexander, Bradshaw.  Subs: Dudfield (for Bradshaw, 65), Morrison (for Johnson, 89), Musselwhite, Edwards, PriceGoals: Keates 38 Booked: Smith Sent Off: None   LEYTON ORIENT: Evans, Joseph, Smith, McGhee, Lockwood, Toner, Harris, Hutchings, Brazier, Thorpe, Watts.  Subs: Barnard (for Joseph, 52), Campbell-Ryce (for Watts, 76), Barrett, Martin, Nugent Goals: Toner 19 Booked: Harris, Hutchings, Toner Sent Off: none   ATTENDANCE: 7,684

Leyton Orient 2 Hull City 0

A poor show in the smoke sees the Tigers slump to a meek defeat, capped by fractious players brawling in the tunnel.  Mark Gretton explains the worst of it.
When I saw that Peter Taylor was on a short list, along with David Platt and Brian Kidd, to work alongside the current England manager as coach of our national team, I was immediately worried. And who wouldn’t be, assuming you have any concern at all for the future of our national team? Brian Kidd stuffed up embarrassingly at Blackburn once he didn’t have Alex Ferguson telling him what to do, Platt failed briefly and abjectly in Italy before completing his coaching certificates and proving that education is not necessarily the answer by repeating the trick at Nottingham Forrest. And Peter Taylor? Well, let’s just say that were he to get the call, he could hardly look proudly at what he has wrought here, look the Chairman in the eye and say ‘my work here is done.’ We were abject on Saturday, against a very ordinary side and were deservedly beaten comfortably. Doing far less than was needed were:

Musselwhite Joseph Anderson Delaney Holt Green Ashbee Melton Elliott Alexander Webb

So 4-4-2 and an immediate difference, in that our traditionally weak left flank was left alone in favour of an unusually weak right side, with Joseph, not a central defender (put there to allow Delaney to continue alongside Anderson) to be ‘protected’ by Green, whom those without the benefit of FA coaching badges can see is a splendid attacking force with no defensive ability whatsoever. It looked fragile before a ball was kicked, sadly it fell away from this. After 12 minutes Leyton won a free kick as they moved down our right but swung it over Musselwhite’s bar. It proved to be the first of many similar attacks, none of them particularly subtle, based upon their left back finding their left sider in space vacated by our players doing a job they are not best suited for. A further consequence of this was that Green was a subdued attacking force and for the first quarter we relied on long Ashbee passes as the basis of any attacking intent. One of these found Alexander but his shot was turned away for a corner. Minutes later Alex got clear of their defence, rounded the cockney custodian of the leather and shot true, but one off theirs rescued them with a fine defensive clearance. And that was as good as it got. They continued to prod our right flank. like Smithfield stocksmen weighing up the merits of a prize heifer and on 25 minutes we were slaughtered by their preferred method. We had got away with it on previous forays by a combination of sensible defending from Anderson and Delaney and tigerish protection across the midfield from Ashbee. It looked high risk and it was. Green had wandered inside as their left back advanced, Ashbee rumbled over to cover and missed the tackle, their man advanced and Joseph, caught in two minds, lost his man who on receipt of the ball curved it over waspishly. Musselwhite chose to stay on his line, Delaney chose to fall over and Thorpe, rather sensibly in my view, chose to tap it in. 1-0 and the locals behind the goals cheered and waved their jellied eels in delight. At least we didn’t have time to brood over this disappointment. 2 minutes later we were further behind and could do our brooding in a bit of peace. By way of variation they opened us up down the middle this time and the Muss mustered a fine diving clawing effort to turn it behind. We pulled everyone back for the corner as the manager likes and the ball fell in the box to Green. He controlled it and, as all his footballing instincts are creative, looked for someone to pass it to. Our defenders watched in interest, as did our goalkeeper, as they all pondered the best option. Sadly, our concentration was broken by Iboah, who rather unsportingly nipped in and clipped it sweetly from seven yards out into the roof of the net. Pie and mash was thrown high into the air behind the goals and Green stood with his face in his hands, a gesture that said more eloquently than words ever could why the policy of pulling everyone back to defend, including those who can’t, is complete bollocks. For the next 15 minutes we dropped to bits and they continued to raid down the left and win more corners. Only towards half time did we start to make any headway. A long ball to Green looked as though the lad might get to make amends, but he was blocked off. A free kick was kicked, freely, at their wall, as we do. Then we did find a rather good move, as Ashbee and Elliott combined to produce a cross which Joseph struck sweetly but it rose just over. This was Elliott’s only real cross of distinction although he had a lot of the ball wide and was doing a lot of hard work on the left wing. I’ve just read that last sentence back and realised that it might be misconstrued by the paranoid. I don’t mean that the young man is a firebrand agitator fomenting revolution in the tiger ranks and marching against a war with Iraq, on the contrary the lad was seen to be carrying coal in for a number of old people after clearing snow off the paths to their privies and making a rather nice soup for the homeless and please let me have my usual seat next week, Mr Pearson, sir. Just to make my position crystal clear, I will state, on record, that I do not think Elliott is a left winger. He works hard and has the pace, but he needs to have the freedom to cut inside as wide crosses are not really his metier. We ended the half with a piece of defending as inept as you will see anywhere, anytime. Terrified of their attacks down our right, the entire defence scampered over to try and close them down. The Leyster, looking surprised, switched play to the other flank to one of theirs who stood in splendid isolation. The defence skidded to a halt, turned and ran as one man to the other side. The O’s were getting the hang of this now and, sportingly giving us time to get close, their man switched it back to their left where their left sider was all alone and watched as our defence scurried back over to him. We were clearly recreating, in deference to the locals, the celebrated scene from The Two Ronnies sketch ‘The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town’, where the hapless policeman rushes from side to side squealing ‘Ere, I want a word with you,’ as the Phantom mysteriously flits back and forth, always tantalisingly out of reach. Leyton did eventually stop laughing long enough to get in 2 crosses, the first headed clear, the second headed wide. The teams departed soon after to the approbation of the crowd, the Londoners hurling their Pearly Kings to the skies whilst we gave a fine rendition of the traditional ‘Booing the rubbish we’ve had to endure this half.’ I didn’t take part in this as I don’t really like to, but seldom has it been more richly deserved. It scarecely seemed 45 minutes since we had taken our seats. In fact, it wasn’t. Disgracefully, through Leyton’s staggering and continuing ineptitude, a substantial portion of the tiger faithful including your reporter arrived at the turnstiles at ten to three but didn’t get in until ten past. Some people were still coming in 20 minutes later. The queues were not long, but half the available turnstiles were unmanned. The stewards came in for some fearful piss-taking from the fans, but must have been grateful that they weren’t lynched. I thought people behaved incredibly well given that they were paying £16 pounds for the privilege of not even seeing a full game. Now I don’t like to criticise when I travel, I don’t expect things to be as good as they are at home. Our meal in China Town later was rubbish, but then I’m used to Mr Chu’s and Garden Palace, Londoners are deeply unpleasant, but I’m used to northern friendliness so I make allowances, everything costs loads and you struggle to get a decent pint, you come to accept this as the price of seeing how the less privileged live. And we know the Snookerroom stadium organisation is expensive and ineffective, we’ve been kept outside before and then been let in to watch pigeons shit on Steve Weatherill’s head. Yes, Leyton have got previous, but this was appalling. I can’t think of any other form of entertainment where the paying through the nose customer would be treated so badly and expected to put up with it without complaint. Unacceptable. Second half and we’d changed things around. Alexander, no worse than anyone else, better than some, was off. So was Melton. This was a major surprise. Melton had put in the usual passionless and ineffective display that has seen him repeatedly grace the full game so he must have been surprised that the manager had finally felt this was not good enough. Williams and Regan came into the midfield as did Holt, moving forward to leave Joseph, Anderson and Delaney to watch our backs, Elliott joining Webb upfront to give us the 3-5-2 that the manager tells us is mistrusted by the players and himself. Did it work? Well, it was no worse, anyway. We seemed to remember that Holt has a considerable long throw and from his more advanced position he chucked on some good ones. We had a lot more of the ball and Williams in particular used it very well. He attacked on either flank, got behind their defence and produced several telling crosses. He looked rather like that bloke who used to do the same job for Chesterfield, can’t remember his name. After being rightly derided for his performance last week he was excellent and deserves a start at home against York where, if past form is any guide, he will be totally ineffective. This must make the manager want to hit his head against something hard. Sadly none of Williams’ crosses or Holt’s throws produced much to trouble the keeper, probably because Alexander, the one most likely to benefit from this service, was by now showered and changed. This makes the supporter want to hit his head against something hard. Leyton clearly felt they had done enough and they were right. They sat back, let us come at them and hit us on the break.We could have gone further behind. We defended differently, but no better. There was now more space in the middle and they exploited this by beating Musselwhite with a honey of a curler. It looked a cert, hit the inside of the post and still looked a cert, but somehow ran along the whitewash to safety. Minutes later they were free again and only a desperate block saved us. Twice more they filleted our middle and right side and Musselwhite was alert and brave and cleared. Delaney played some good long balls but was skinned, wretchedly, twice. Anderson went off for Dudfield, Holt dropped back and Elliott went back wide on the left. Sometimes you change the players but you don’t change the playing. We got caught offside a lot. All of them were tight, at least it gave us something else to moan about. Like we needed it. In injury time Musselwhite again did well in a one on one and we swept up field. Elliott and Williams linked cleverly, Elliott’s space making the room for Williams to get in another potent cross. Webb got on the end of it, was unattended, had time to pick his spot and carefully guided it wide. Ah, well. And that was that. I had a very nice weekend with friends. You can put the football out of your mind and, thanks to Barry Hearn’s lack of organisation, we only had to sit through 80 minutes of it anyway. If I had looked forward to the game all week and travelled there and back on the day I don’t think I would have been happy. We were easily beaten by a team that no-one thinks is a contender (though look at the table and you’ll see that they will over take us if they win their games in hand). This was desperately disappointing and at the moment Taylor looks no closer to knowing who are his most effective players, how they can be best deployed and what is his best side. It’s not good enough.

HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Jospeh, Anderson, Delaney, Holt, Green, Ashbee, Melton, Elliott, Webb, Alexander.  Subs: Regan (for Melton, 45), Williams (for Alexander, 45), Dudfield (for Anderson, 75), Jevons, Harvey. Goals: None Booked: Ashbee, Anderson Sent Off: None   LEYTON ORIENT: Barrett, Joseph, Smith, Barnard, Lockwood, Harris, Brazier, Jones, Martin, Ibehre, Thorpe.  Subs: Hutchings (for Martin, 74), McLean (for Ibehre, 81), Toner, Canham, Morris. Goals: Thorpe 24, Ibehre 27 Booked: None Sent Off: None   ATTENDANCE: 5,125