Hull City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 7

They scored seven (7).

Coulda been more.

We scored one.

Woo.

Make no mistake, this was dreadful stuff, and even though it was the heaviest home defeat in the history of our club, overtaking the 1-6 Cup reverse against Chelsea when at least we could field the excuse that three Divisions separated the two sides at the time, it was a small mercy that Spurs didn’t add more. They strolled through our set up at will for most of the first half and for all of the final quarter of an hour or so, and we really could have shipped ten or a dozen goals here. It was ghastly, though some ‘fans’ in amber and black still felt able to applaud the visitors’ centre-forward as he was subbed off after crashing a hat-trick past us. What do you think this is, a teddy bears’ picnic?

I draw a veil over the footballing bloodshed. Spurs are very good. This was a grotesque mis-match, like putting Dave ‘Boy’ Green in against Antony Joshua, though I fancy the Fen Tiger might have shown a bit more mobility and resilience than did the Hull City Tigers [sic] yesterday.

Who to blame? Relatively few of the players. Elmo has been feckless, N’Diaye has squandered his chance to impress, while Elabdellaoui will fill in alongside Gary Gill in the “o yeah, I’d forgotten about him” hall of fame, but over the course of the season most of the rest did as much as could be expected until injury or superior opposition brought them up short, and at least two, Sam Clucas and Harry Maguire, deserve to progress to proper long-term top level careers plus international recognition. Neither of the managers should be hammered either. No one would dream of criticising Marco Silva of course, despite the collapse suffered across our final three fixtures, but Mike Phelan too deserves credit for creating a viable squad for at least a few weeks during the Autumn after the utterly ruinous summer he was forced to endure. So, who to blame? I think you know. Yes, the owners of the club.

And not only the Allams. We were promoted in 2008 in the company of West Brom and Stoke. Look at what proper management and ownership can do for a football club. Two football clubs with which we can fairly aspire to compete on level terms – two clubs that have left us far behind as they have consolidated the advantages of Premier League status while we have wasted every single morsel of success. It was only in 2011 that the Allams took over. It’s not all down to them. But last summer’s crimes are down to them, most of all to Ehab. To allow a Premier League club to approach a new season scarcely able to fill eleven shirts, never mind a subs’ bench, is inexcusable incompetence or pure malice. And we could never overcome that leaden handicap. But relegation is something that we can endure, it’s no stranger. What is intolerable, and immensely damaging to the long-term health of the club, is Ehab’s utter indifference to the interests of the fans, most of all the younger fans, the future of the club yet actively driven away from its stadium by a vindictive pricing scheme. He delights in alienating the local community, he sneers at the attachment we have to our club, he is accountable to no one. And he is not going away.

Valiant deeds and shrewd management provided us with much to treasure from January through April, but May has been catastrophic. Beginning with that inexplicably limp outing against Sunderland, our team has resembled the cartoon character that keeps running even after it has left the cliff edge until it suddenly looks down and realises there is no solid ground beneath its feet. Reality hits. And so begins the long, long fall to the bottom of the valley.

Question is, how deep is that valley, how long is that fall.

Crystal Palace 4 Hull City 0

Crystal Palace 4 Hull City (R) 0

Hard to know where to start, really. Today was, of course, not only about an (even by Hull City’s standards) inexplicably supine capitulation against a side whom we could, had we won the match, have placed in genuine peril of relegation. Today was a day on which chickens came home to roost, when we were finally exposed, when the cracks could be papered over no more, when it was finally rammed home to us, like a stake through the heart, that Marco Silva is an honest man who did his very best with the squad of misfits, slackers and great-hearted triers that he inherited but was not a flaming magician.

Generally speaking, it’s lazy to fill column space in match reports by simply quoting others at length, but there was this quote from Dave Burns on Twitter (which I’m not sure was actually a tweet), which sums up the state of things about as succinctly and eloquently as it’s possible to do:-

“Without taking anything away from Palace, Hull City have made it easy for them. If this game was a bank job, [City] would have left the front door wide open. They’ve been absolutely clueless. Marco Silva had the plates spinning but they’ve crashed to the ground. And who on earth would buy this club now? Dear oh dear”.

Some of this will be revisited shortly, but we’ll deal with the match facts first. it’s tempting just to list the scorers and recall that City failed to get a single shot on target during the entirety of a match upon which our very survival depended, but even the elongated, full-form version won’t trouble us much more massively .

On a fine (and, towards the end, knee-blisteringly warm if you were sat near the front) early afternoon, the condemned men lined up kind of as follows:-

Jakupovic

Maguire Dawson Ranocchia Robertson

Elmohamady N’Diaye Evandro Clucas Grosicki

Niasse

Subs: Bowen (for Ranocchia, 45 min), Maloney (for Robertson, 45 min) Davies (for Maguire, 50 min).

A challenging task became well-nigh impossible as early as the third minute, when Ranocchia allowed a simple ball to roll under his foot and Zaha scampered away unchallenged to slide the leather past the exposed Jakupovic. A more abject start to the game could barely have been conceived: maybe, if such witlessness could have been avoided, things might have been different, but it wasn’t and they weren’t. The relief around all bar one corner of Selhurst Park was palpable. The City fans sang on stoically, bellowing “We’ve got Marco Silva” as a counter to “Glad All Over”, the adoption of which as a Palace anthem I have never understood, the DC5 (who recorded it) being from Tottenham, which last time I looked was in North London.

For a bit, we rally and get in behind them. On 7 our patient passing game gives sight of the goal to Clucas, who shoots narrowly wide. Shortly after we attack again and when a deep cross is not cleared and falls to Harry on the right side he wastefully fires high and wide. But even early in this game a pattern is developing. This was a day when we needed to be going out with all guns blazing, but instead we persisted throughout with a laboured, overly-patient approach which never really had Palace on the back foot and with which they coped comfortably on the whole.
They don’t actually threaten much after Tomkins flashes a header across goal from a Puncheon cross, until just after the half-hour, when Benteke rises unchallenged at the near post to head home. Zonal marking, y’see. More importantly it now feels as though we are being picked off at will.

Our top-flight status is now palpably seeping away from us, and the unspoken thought among the City support is that, if there is one final last chance for City, it lies in not conceding again before the break and, just possibly, regrouping. Well, we did indeed avoid falling further behind before the break, and we emerge for the second half with a couple of substitutions which might have been tactical but were more likely intended to prevent further punishment to both Ranocchia and Robertson, who took bad knocks in the first half.

The second period can be summarised even more briefly than the first. We continue in our earnest but predictable and unavailing fashion, and over the half create even less than we had managed in the first period: a match stat of no shots on goal in a game of such monumental importance is a telling testimony to our lack of quality which ultimately brought us crashing in the end, the heroics of the last four months notwithstanding. Grosicki and then Bowen fire wide either side of the hour mark, Clucas had one blocked and Grosicki wastefully tried to go for glory from the corner of the box when he had both Bowen and Clucas square and unmarked, but it was increasingly apparent that there was to be no comeback and that the curtain was about to fall. If anything, you felt that Palace would maybe turn the screw a little more, especially after Benteke fires one across the face of the goal on 79, and so it proved with five minutes to go. Schlupp is given far too much space on our right (this was a constant feature of the second half) and as he bears down on goal Dawson, who I am sorry to say has been a crashing disappointment since his return from injury, clatters him down from behind. As stonewall a penalty as you will see, and no St Mary’s-style heroics from the Jak this time, as Milivojevic strides confidently up and plants the leather into the corner.

And it gets worse when, in injury time, sub Van Aanholt is given far too much room to slide the leather under Jakupovic. We might even concede more as we are totally spent now and Palace are looking up for it. but the whistle of referee Atkinson spares us any further humiliation and, unless you count next week (which you had all better enjoy because it could be quite a spell before we’re back, if indeed we ever are), we are a Championship side once again.

Silva and most of the team come through the L-shaped cordon of stewards to acknowledge the support, and even Elmo, at the back, manages grudgingly to place his hands in contact with each other a couple of times, showing about as much effort as he has done all season, and, after the current fashion, several hundred of the 2,000-strong City support stay put and sing, while the less resilient (or more seasoned) of us melt away into the streets of North Croydon in search of some much-needed sorrow-drowning.

So, a relegation that seemed nailed on before a ball was even kicked is eventually confirmed. That it took as long as until the penultimate game is quite remarkable, and testimony to the fine work undertaken by Silva with a fairly wretched (and that’s not meant as a dig at the players, or at least not most of them) collection of resources and a seemingly irretrievable League position. If there’s any criticism of Silva it’s that he didn’t creak a few out more points on the road, which in the end would have seen us safe (quiz question- which Hull City manager won more away points this season?) but of course that has to be offset against a string of quite remarkable home performances: it was especially gratifying to see West Ham and Liverpool slink out of the Circle with their tails between their legs. Ultimately, it seemed as if the efforts of manager and players since January had finally taken their toll, with the last couple of games creating the very distinct impression that we were simply running out of steam.

So where does it all leave us? Obviously, it would be marvellous if Silva could remain in charge next season, which is probably not as fanciful a notion as some of the national papers seem to assume, with reports abounding that the likes of Watford and Soton are waiting to pounce, for is there any real evidence that Silva will give either outfit more than they currently have in managerial terms? No, if Silva wants to realise his ambition of establishing himself as a Premier League manager, his best launching pad for that might well be to get City back up. It might be the best offer he will get, and the best hope for him as much as us.

But, whipping off the amber-tinted specs for a moment and contemplating the hard light of day, would he really want that himself? The answer is, as Patrick Moore might have said, “We just don’t know”. Silva has been commendably discreet regarding his views on the Allams, with only a hint in the last few days that a frank exchange of views might be forthcoming as he tells the son what is wrong and what needs to be done in order to correct it. Clearly, and even if he gets no offers from elsewhere that he would even consider taking, he is going to want some cast-iron assurances about the extent and the timing of the investment that will be available to him, because it’s clear that the Hull City team that kicks off the 2017/8 season will bear no resemblance to the one which was fielded at Selhurst yesterday. The vultures, cheered on by their media sycophants, are already circling around Maguire and Robertson, it’s eminently foreseeable that the likes of Jakupovic, Clucas and Huddlestone could be snapped up as squad players by bottom-half outfits and there’s a string of loan players who won’t be here. The return of Odubajo and (hopefully) Mason will be a bonus but the whole thing is going to need rebuilding almost from scratch. Are assurances of money going to be forthcoming? and if they are, can Silva trust Ehab to honour them? Breath-holding not advised.

In the end it all comes back to the Allams. For make no mistake: they are going nowhere. The line dutifully trotted out by the media (the generally-excellent Philip Buckingham was at it again yesterday, and the BBC are serial offenders) that the family has been trying to offload the Club for the last three years just does not wash. Whenever a deal looks to be in the offing it falls through for one reason or another, and word of these deals always seems to emerge when the family is under pressure. It’s likely now that that pressure will resurface as, after a truce while Silva sought to rescue the desperate situation created last summer, the Allams’ stewardship of the Club will once again come under scrutiny from supporters and media. That means that there will be talk of deals before too long, as sure as eggs is eggs, and it would be for the better of all concerned if, the next time some random Chinese bloke conveniently happens to be photographed getting off the London train at Brough or some Eastern European-looking cove is filmed on somebody’s phone stepping out of a Bentley and heading into the back of the West Stand, people could please, please, please restrain themselves from hyperventilating and just reflect on the fact that we’ve seen this all before multiple times.

My own prediction is that the Club will not be sold unless and until Ehab runs out of money, which given the family’s wealth is either never going to happen or is likely to be many years in the future. I sincerely hope that’s wrong, but I have yet to see any cast-iron evidence that they are genuinely serious about selling. Of course, confirmation of our relegation has just made a sizeable hole in the aforementioned wealth and it gives Ehab two choices: either make proper investment and do what it takes to keep Silva, because if both of those things happen I for one wouldn’t bet against our stay in the Championship being a brief one, or use the parachute money to pay off the loans and starve the playing side of funds. The former would make the most commercial sense by far and would put £100M back on the value of the Club at a stroke if we were to go straight back up, but that said it’s hard to escape the conclusion, based on past form, that doing what is best for City commercially is the very last thing on Ehab’s mind. So again, breath-holding not advised.

In the meantime, while we wait to see whether it’s bounce-back time or a Blackpoolesque freefall through the Leagues, there are going to be some tasty away fixtures to drool over when the fixtures come out in about five weeks. Be even better if we were in any fit state actually to win some of them.

La Nuvola Nera

Hull City 0 Sunderland 2

Marco Silva’s impressive unbeaten home record stretching back to March 2014 was shattered in ninety disappointingly tepid minutes at the KCOM – pressure on the players finally told as they bottled it and undid all the good work since Silva’s arrival.

City could have finished the day 5 points clear of Swansea but now find ourselves potentially four points (five, considering goal difference) behind by the time we kick off at Palace. The Swans have hit a patch of form at the right time, and we can’t win away. Selhurst could have been a party next week, but it now feels like a grim day out to a funeral. It’s a whole new magnitude of TypicalCity-ness.

But lest we forget our impending relegation can’t and should not be blamed on yesterday’s result alone, but squarely on the Allams’ incompetent, idiotic and downright vindictive refusal to sanction summer recruitment which ultimately saw Bruce walk in disgust.

In front of a nowhere near full KCOM (slow handclap, Ehab) for this crucial penultimate home saw Silva plump for two up-front:

Jakupovic

Elmohamady Ranocchia Maguire Robertson

Markovic N’Diaye Clucas Grosicki

Niasse Hernandez

It was a bold attacking selection – in truth one called for by many home supporters this season – and probably with an eye on the ponderous and porous nature of Sunderland’s back line. No doubt the pace and guile of both Niasse and Hernandez were sent out to give the beleaguered Wearsiders a thoroughly torrid afternoon.

Sunderland had an early chance as young Mackster Honeymen headed a Jones cross just wide following good work by Defoe.

Not for the first time this season City looked far more menacing down our left wing than our right; Robertson and Grosicki combined well and had a real understanding; their attacks largely had some sort of end product. But it’s hopelessly unbalanced on the right as Elmo (fuck off now) and Markovic fail to combine with any degree of fluency. Markovic undoubtedly has ability, but is sometimes undisciplined and goes hunting for the ball around the pitch leaving is oft exposed.

Sam Clucas was once again pivotal to City’s play, and on 19 mins he was unlucky to see his fine low volley being palmed away by Pickford at full stretch.

City had a penalty shout waved away by ref Swarbrick as Niasse’s overhead kick hit O’Shea’s arm, raised high above his head but hardly deliberate.

But a largely turgid first half was exactly what our visitors wanted. Our recently fluidity had completely drained as the dullest of first halves passed without many incidents of note. City had plenty of possession and obviously the first goal would be key – if we could net it, there was confidence we’d win – but the longer the game went on the more nervous the players, and the crowd, got. For the first time since Silva’s arrival the City players seemingly appeared aware of the enormity of their precarious league position – several froze or didn’t put in anywhere near an acceptable shift (Elmo, I’m looking at you mate).

Goalless at the break, and we reassured ourselves that City are a second-half team….

Jakupovic did well to block Defoe’s effort after a fast Sunderland breakaway, and Pickford saved N’Diaye’s header from a fine Grosicki cross.

Markovic saw his header saved acrobatically by Pickford (again) following Elmo’s cross. Jordan Pickford had a fine match as Sunlan leather custodian and surely one of the few visiting players to be still plying his trade in the Big League next season.

A turning-point as Markovic limped-off to be replaced by Huddlestone, switching Grosicki from left to right in a move that appeared to suit Sunderland more than it did El Tigres. Pickford was again the hero, superbly pushing the ball away one-handed as Hernandez shot sweetly from eight yards.

But on 69 minutes Sunderland score. O’Shea flicked on Honeyman’s corner, and Billy Jones powered a diving header in off the post. He was only six yards out, utterly weak defending from City. Zonal marking my arse, as Joe Royle used to say.

And if the players were nervous before, the goal increased arse twitching all round. Silva threw on M’Bokani in place of N’Diaye and the side increasingly had a whiff of desperation about it. Evandro came on for Elmo (to a chorus of boos from both sets of fans).

In added time Maguire gave away a soft foul wide on our left, and Larsson swung round a low free-kick and bundled home by Defoe, who looked at least a yard offside. Maguire’s positioning to defend the free kick was utterly odd – standing yards away from the potential flight on the ball, nearer to the touchline. Final twist of the knife, and the KCOM understandably empties.

So the math is now simple enough. If Swansea win at Sunderland (more than likely) and we fail at Selhurst (again, probable) we can all look forward to that tasty Burton Albion groundtick next season, and save Sky the trouble of having one of those tortuously-hyped “Relegation Showdown Sunday” shows the following week.

Sam Clucas put in another impressive shift (I suspect next week will be his last away match in a City shirt – and he won’t be the only one – final-whistle shirt-collectors note). Robertson and Grosicki generally looking connected and bright. But Elmo stank out the KCOM, and a fresh start with Odubajo next season is long yearned. The Niasse/Hernandez forward partnership wasn’t that – they appeared total strangers; forwards generally hunt in pairs, building a relationship, but yesterday ours looked miles apart – making totally the wrong runs, with virtually no-linkup between them during the entire ninety minutes.

The post-match news the Allams sacked the volunteer pitch divot-replacers (mid-shift!) after 20 years dedicated service gives Ehab another final negative PR pop on a season which was ultimately destroyed by him before it even began. The tit.

Andy Medcalf

Southampton 0 Hull City 0

The clouds were grey, flecks of blue streaked around the sky, the wind swirled around St Mary’s Stadium, but it wasn’t until 2.45pm that the sun finally broke through. My first ever visit to this ground, but momentous for the fact that it completed the set of all 92 Premier/Football League grounds for me, hence my wish to volunteer for writing this report.

Marco Silva decided continuity was the key and so no changes to the starting line up were made to the side that started against the Hornets last Saturday, the red card for Niasse rightfully being rescinded to keep the momentum going. Baffling that Mr Madley’s performance last week should earn him the Crystal Palace v Burnley battle later on….and yet more controversy!

Jakupovic
Elmohamady Ranocchia Maguire Robertson
Markovic N’Diaye Goebel Clucas Grosicki
Niasse

Subs:

Marshall Dawson Huddlestone Hernandez Henriksen Bowen Maloney

The first few minutes set the trend for most of the game and it was a joy to see as the relegation battlers took the game to Southampton. As early as the fourth minute, Niasse chased down a backpass to Forster leading to a hurried clearance, fed to Markovic, a free kick being drawn 25 yards out which Grosicki bent superbly over the wall leaving Forster admiring it, but the ball cannoned off the post. Very unlucky.

Our football at times was slick, fast, accurate, defence to attack, spreading play. It was a joy to watch. How is it we struggle for consistency away from home? The answer almost came when a moment’s lapse in concentration saw a ball played behind Ranocchia and Gabbiadini had a clear site of goal but screwed the ball embarrassingly wide when faced with Jakupovic.

Our first half performance was excellent, apart from being level at 0-0. The chief reason for that was the willingness for every player to battle and lay their bodies on the line and, with reference to Andy Dalton’s superb report from last week, having the class act on our team in Evandro Goebel. His performance in the first half was a masterclass of midfield supremacy. His calm control, clever movement and timing was exquisite to watch.

My one concern was that 0-0 scoreline because this season away from home has seen so many errors that have cost goals that the net normally needed to bulge at the other end for something to hold on to. Added to which, surely Southampton would come out with more purpose having been booed off by their own supporters.

The second half saw Southampton forcing us back more and a few hearts started pumping faster when Shane Long was introduced for the Saints after an hour. Not another former player to haunt us? Memories of Stoke two weeks ago flooded back when Crouch and Walters came on and changed the game.

We were made of sterner stuff today and Long never had a sniff, thanks yet again to the imperious Sir Harry. When will Mr Southgate finally recognise his talent? Only if/when he leaves the club? Like Livermore.

Anyway, the half meanders along. We’re comfortable, apart from a dodgy punch from the Jak, which he redeemed himself by saving the follow up shot. Substitutions are made. Henriksen for the excellent aforementioned Goebel (71 mins) and Huddlestone for Grosicki (82 mins). That substitution must have been interesting as the 4th official was Paul Tierney, who’d sent Huddlestone off only four weeks earlier! The final substitution was going to be Hernandez for Niasse. However, Clucas went down injured and after treatment, it was decided Dawson should appear instead, for Markovic.

Enter Mike Dean, a referee I can’t say I rate highly, or even lowly for that matter! He always seems to want the limelight. I have to say that today his performance had actually been very good, though it was a quite sociable game, with no nasty tackles. A shirt pull it seemed, against N’Diaye led to a penalty award for Southampton, with 90 minutes up and injury time being played. From our end it was hard to tell. Paul Clement must have been punching the air in delight. Step up Dusan Tadic, not Shane Long, thank goodness. A low shot towards the Jak’s left post, but our hero gets a strong left hand to it and puts it past the post. Pandemonium at our end and on the pitch. The corner comes to nothing, we break and win a corner ourselves. It’s played across, flicked on and Niasse, despite HIS shirt being held, has a stab at the ball but it is headed off the line. Mike Dean didn’t notice that though. Cue the final whistle and maybe a few thousand Welsh voices being muffled ahead of Swansea’s trip to Old Trafford tomorrow.

Overall, a great away performance, the team ethic and mindset perfect. Was this the day Hull City finally put the nail in Swansea’s coffin? We’ll know soon enough.

Final word is for our unassuming hero Eldin Jakupovic. He hasn’t had the greatest career at Hull City but has never moaned. He’s got on with his task of being substitute often enough and also being loaned out. Everyone remembers thec alamity against Sheffield Wednesday not many seasons ago and not all have forgiven him. He has had his good moments too, like last season keeping Arsenal at bay at the Emirates with a record breaking eleven saves there in a 0-0 draw in the FA Cup. However, under Marco Silva he is now our recognised No.1 keeper and he deserves all the plaudits he’s getting, even the recent transfer speculation, which shows he’s being noticed elsewhere too. I’m really pleased his perseverance has paid off and with Hull City and the penalty save today will lay the ghost of Sheffield Wednesday to rest, especially if Hull City do finally stay in the Premier League

Tim B

Hull City 0 Crystal Palace 1

Tuesday 17th March 1981. We lost 1-0 at home to Colchester. It’s a game I recall whenever I’m asked which was truly the most dismal ghastly Hull City performance I’ve ever witnessed. And given the natural sense of lugubriousness that pervades our city, albeit nowadays in a cultured sense of course, that is a question that doesn’t go long unasked when Tigers fans assemble. We revel in our despair. It’s in our genes. That Colchester game was quite horrible: thoroughly ordinary opposition against which we made scarcely a chance and duly tottered to inexcusably meek capitulation.   Fans of a more recent vintage might choose to go back to December 2002 when, for all the teary-eyed emotion generated by our departure from Boothferry Park, an afternoon of grindingly awful poverty-stricken football was on show. Lost. 1-0. To Darlington. We revel in the gloom. Ornate decoration, pretty promises, gift-wrapped treats – no thank you, that is not the Hull way. The freezing pinched-face wind ripping off the North Sea. That is where we belong, that is what defines us.   Palace at home in November 2013. Add it to the list.   I’m struggling to revel.   This was just dreadful.   Looking nothing remotely like a Premier League side were:  

                           McGregor
Elmohamady  Davies  McShane  Figeuroa
Koren    Huddlestone    Livermore  Boyd   Brady
                          Sagbo

    Or, as ever, something like that. Boyd, Brady and Koren attempted at different times and in different ways to push forward to support Sagbo and to provide the midfielders in behind with extra attacking options. But there was no difference in outcome. All were hopelessly haplessly ineffective as Palace resisted our limp forays with ease. Commendably honest toilers though Danny Gabbidon and Damien Delaney, the Lion of Cork, certainly are, they are no more than competent mid-table Championship centre backs and should have been given a more searching examination than we managed yesterday. Palace, to be clear, looked what they are – bottom of the table and spent of confidence.   I’m struggling to revel.   By far the most entertaining action during the first half involved the circulation of the ‘City Till [sic] We Die’ banner, which was paraded to general acclaim, in part because the football wasn’t worthy of attention but mainly because of a strong and (I think) increasing sense that our owner’s foolish name-changing stunt needs closing down before our club is seriously undermined from within. Well done to those who have given up time and money and directed their passion at preserving our club’s good name. As far as I could tell, the peaceful protest was brought to an end by some violent and grossly disproportionate interventions by stewards down near the corner between East and North Stands.   Football? Well, both McShane and Chamakh acquired complex bandages after an early clash of heads.   O, that’s not strictly football is it? Well ….   There wasn’t any.   Really. None.   Palace defended deep and stuffily, we lacked energy, vigour, invention, wit, and it was just miserable to watch.   Suddenly the team looks tentative and lacking in confidence. Not-so-suddenly we carry no goal threat.   Sagbo’s game has improved thrillingly as the season has progressed, but yesterday he looked forlorn, starved of service but worryingly incapable of coming even remotely close to upsetting the Palace defence with his undoubted physical power. Boyd too has looked a better player lately than we could ever have expected of a man previously unknown to the top flight, but he was half-paced, frail and ineffective yesterday. I hope Brady wasn’t fully fit, because, unless he has that excuse, he seems to be moving in the wrong direction – a player who looked full of ideas and shining self-belief at the beginning of the season but now hesitant and slow to find space. Koren too: off the pace and not a hint of the moments of bewitching skill that turned games as tight as this one our way last season.   Half time. Graham comes on for Brady.   Graham’s first few games revealed plenty of hard running but no goal threat. The second bit remains evident. The first bit, not so much. There seems to be nothing useful about Graham now at all.   The game’s astonishingly poor. On 51 Boyd manages to set up Sagbo but his effort is blocked and Palace break quickly, leading to a shot which McGregor saves to his left. Two sights on goal within a minute. Riches beyond price. It’s deception. The pattern resumes. Poor, poor, poor. Rotten first touches, worse second ones.   McShane off, Rosenoir on. Figueroa to centre back.   Palace, for whom Jedinak, a busy midfielder, performed as impressively as anyone, look briefly interested in netting three points rather than just the one, and on 67 Cameron Jerome, a talent wasted by lack of guts and application, wanders lazily though our inattentive defence before punting a shot over the bar. But when, on 78, Bolasie lunges clumsily at Livermore and is sent off, the assumption round the ground is that the visitors will tuck in, defend and hang on to the single point. There is, sad to report, no sense at all that Palace going down to ten men will invigorate our team. The sour dour tone is set too deep for that. The game deserves to end scoreless.   But the afternoon does have a winning goal in it and ten men Palace probably surprise themselves by getting it. Push down the left, low ball into our box, lack of urgency in our defending and weasel-impersonating Scottish midfielder Barry Bannan forces the ball home before fleeing in search of celebration with the jubilant knot of 500 or so travelling Palace fans.   Gedo is on for Koren. We’ve got lots of possession. We’ve got no imagination.   I’m not revelling in this.   The four added minutes spur glimpses of the attacking force we’ve failed to summon consistently. Livermore heads goalwards but the ball is scrambled away by a whirling combination of defensive arms and legs. Rosenoir – Rosenoir! – thumps a shot against Speroni’s left-hand post. Too little, too late. FAR too little.   On this evidence, and that which I’ve gathered second-hand over the course of the season, I’d expect Palace to go down. On the evidence of Hull City’s performances so far this season, I don’t expect us to go down. If I confine my assessment to our last two fixtures, though, I can only be deeply fearful. It’s an alarming dip.   I might revel in how outstandingly memorably atrocious this match truly was when I look back at it in twenty years time. Maybe even in May next year, after we’ve secured safety in this Division, I might raise a smile about how we have recovered from the depths plumbed at home to Palace on a cold winter’s day. Right now, I don’t revel. That was a horrible game

Hull City 1 Sunderland 0

There was always likely to be an extra frisson of rivalry on the KC turf this afternoon. Not being a betting man, I didn’t check the odds on 22 players remaining on the pitch at the game’s end, but they’ll no doubt have been shorter than usual. As we kicked off under the already darkening sky  of our first Greenwich Mean Time home game of this winter’s stirring schedule, Listmeister Andy leaned forward and offered me his long-acquired wisdom. A thing to be treasured of course, but when he suggested that Meyler would be heading for the proverbial early bath first, I reminded him that Lee Cattermole was lining up in the oppo’s red and white stripes. Cattermole thinks yellow is for wusses.   Bringing City’s game time to over 300 minutes in less than a week were:                                               Harper Rosenior              Davies   McShane             Figueroa Elmohamady      Meyler   Huddlestone     Livermore       Boyd                                                  Sagbo     Sone Aluko’s injury-disrupted Tigers’ career suffered yet another reverse in the warm-up. He was on the teamsheet at 2 p.m. only to be replaced by Meyler by the time the teams came out. Hardly like-for-like. Steve Bruce seems to be a manager who picks the player over the pattern, and Meyler’s inclusion meant that we carded three ex-Black Cats – a fact that was to prove not without significance in the match’s progress.   As ever, Sunderland fans packed out the away section in what seemed a near capacity crowd at the KC. It was a raucous but largely formless opening quarter. City looked like a team trying to find its shape. On Meyler watch, I tried to pin down his position, as he spent the first few minutes almost as an inside forward, before going back into midfield, and allowing the excellent Livermore to roam higher up the field. Sunderland looked disorganised. Ex-Tiger Altidore as guileless and lacking in touch as I remember from a few seasons back, but lacking the naïve enthusiasm of his spell in Hull. Altidore scored goals for fun in the Dutch league last season, and spent the summer smashing various US national team records – scoring 7 goals in all over 5 consecutive games including one against Germany. May be the Premier League just doesn’t suit. Or may be the chaos that has been Sunderland AFC of late has robbed him and his teammates of the necessary ease and endeavour.   As the game moved through its first half hour, City – attacking the north stand end – were getting the better of the exchanges and half-chances. Tom Huddlestone whipped in a dangerous free kick from our left which almost found McShane towards the far post, but the lunging Irishman couldn’t quite connect.   Shortly afterwards, Jake Livermore dispossed the unwary Altidore with apparent ease. We’re just about on top, but lacking in bite. Sagbo is a presence, as ever, but the supply line hasn’t been established. For Sunderland, Cattermole is getting tetchy. Though perhaps ‘getting’ is superfluous.   Then we score. A Huddlestone freekick from the half-way line, just in front of the benches, finds its way to the edge of the penalty area on our right, and eventually to Rosenior who dinks a dangerous ball towards the near post. Sagbo and a defender go for it together, and Sagbo appears to flick it across the goal and inside the far post, past the flailing Westwood.   1-0   The scoreboard later records it as a Cuellar own goal, so presumably someone saw a replay and deemed that it came off the Sunderland man last. Who cares. Well, may be Yannick Sagbo does, as it was his presence and attempt on goal that did the damage.   It’s the sort of forward play that Sunderland loanee Danny Graham has been unable to provide so far this season.   After we take the lead, the rest of this half is all City. Rosenior and Elmohamady work well as a combination down our right. Our five man midfield begins to large it with pass after pass after pass, each greeted with cheers from the home crowd.   Meyler, to Livermore, to Huddlestone, back to Livermore, to Boyd, to Figueroa, neat triangles leave an increasingly frustrated Sunderland flailing and chasing. 104 passes in total before finally the ball is given to Harper who clears it up to Huddlestone.   Obviously it might not have been 104. Just let that number stand for ‘a lot’. It was great to watch a City team playing this way. Sunderland’s frustration became more evident.   Just before half-time that frustration increased still further, when keeper Westwood and ex-Black Cat McShane collided going for a ball whipped in by Boyd. Westwood lies prone for a good few minutes, carries on playing for a couple more, but is then replaced by ex-Tiger Vito Mannone, who gets  warm applause from the City fans as he joins the fray.   It’s not all warmth and bonhomie on the pitch though. As the first half ticks over into 5 minutes added time, Lee Cattermole, in the middle of the pitch, right in front of the referee, launches himself into a two-footed tackle on his former teammate, Ahmed Elmohamady. With scarcely a pause to check the red of referee Marriner’s card, Cattermole walks off the pitch and down the tunnel. Whether he took a bath or not, I can’t tell you.   It’s all done with the insouciance of a professional mafia hitman, and immediately makes me wonder whether there’s some grudge held over from the days – only last season – when Elmohamady and Cattermole were playing and training colleagues.   That would be some end to the half in itself, but we’re not even half done with added time. Play briefly resumes before the fourth official alerts Marriner to something that Sunderland’s new don – sorry, manager – Poyet has said or done. Marriner ticks off Poyet, who stares down at the official silently. He doesn’t look happy.   Let’s try again, there’s still time on the clock. No sooner does play restart than Sunderland are down to 9 men. This time it’s one of Paulo Di Canio’s signings, Italian internationalist Dossena, who takes the two footed approach, scything down Meyler with a vicious challenge in front of the East Stand. Once more it’s a recent Sunderland player who is the victim. But Meyler never played alongside Dossena so it’s less likely to be personal. Still, if I was McShane at this point, I might be watching my back in case the capo and his crew are out to whack me too.   So at half-time it’s all looking rosy for City. One goal up, Sunderland down to 9 men, Meyler and Elmohamady emerged amazingly unscathed from two dangerous tackles, and the only player forced off by injury being the opposition keeper. If there were any vendettas being played out, our mob has got the upper hand.   John Hawley – one of many players to have turned out for both clubs in recent decades – makes the half-time draw. Micky Horswill, Roy Greenwood, Tony Norman, Billy Whitehurst, Steve Doyle, Kevin Kilbane, Michael Turner. They all would have done a decent job of pulling out the numbered ticket. Chris Brown wouldn’t. Iain Hesford would have got his hand stuck. John Moore would have made a late lunge and missed.     As the teams came out for the second half, there was a feeling that the match was won and now we would put Sunderland to the sword. After all – it’s 11 versus 9. Poyet takes off Altidore and Borini and replaces them with Adam Johnson and Wes Brown, two players with plenty of England caps between them. I’ve long admired Johnson. He’s a fine player and would seem to be well suited to playing on the break, which is Sunderland’s only hope now.   The more the second half goes on though, the more the problems of playing against 9 men become apparent. Sunderland really have no other option but to defend en masse and – very occasionally – to try and nick an equaliser on the break.   It reminds me of those internationals where a decent team comes up against San Marino, and San Marino just pack the defence and concede possession. There’s so many players in the final third that it’s really hard to break through. There’s so much time on the ball for the attacking team in midfield that their normal pattern of play breaks down. The crowd gets frustrated because they see their team with all the possession but unable to do much with it.   That’s basically how the half shakes down. George Boyd in particular sees more of the ball and has more time than he’s ever likely to again at this level. Repeatedly he passes back and forth with Figueroa down the left, getting into the Sunderland box and then either shooting or crossing to no one in particular. Likewise Elmohamady down the right crosses several times, but with no real effect.   No one seems very sure what to do. A little experience and guile is needed. Perhaps this is Bruce’s thinking when he brings on Robert Koren for Meyler after 10 minutes of the second half. Koren does nothing wrong, but not much changes.   The real guile and skill comes from our Tottenham loanee, the excellent Jake Livermore, who comes nearest to extending our lead with a couple of long-range shots. One forces a fine save from Mannone, another – towards the end of the match – smashes against the post and rebounds to Proschwitz, on for Rosenior, who can’t control it in front of the open goal.   Of course, just packing the defence and keeping us out won’t get the Mackems any points, and so as the half progresses they increasingly try to hit us on the break. With quarter an hour to go one such break leads to Boyd fouling Bardsley about 25 yards out, just to our left. A perfect position for Johnson to hit one. Happily Larson takes it. Badly. The ball trickles wide of Harper’s left hand post.   Boyd may have played well in recent games, but he’s no left winger and he’s not having much impact today. With 15 minutes to go he’s replaced by Robbie Brady – in theory a far more natural winger, but in practice today he doesn’t play down the left much at all and looks as bemused as his teammates when it comes to finding a way through the Black Cats’ rearguard.   The nearer we get to the end of the match, the more likely it seems that Sunderland will snatch a goal. Never more likely than when a clearance upfield beats McShane, bounces over the impeccable Davies, and puts Adam Johnson one-on-one with Steve Harper.   Johnson’s a fine player and well suited to playing on the break. Hah! Harper rushes out to meet him, denying the forward both time and a space to shoot into. Johnson’s shot sees the ball hit Harper and rebound to safety. Not that spectacular, but a fantastic points-clinching save all the same.   City’s worries aren’t completely over as Sunderland have two more freekicks from around the halfway line either side of the 90 minute mark. Mannone takes the first and every other player on the pitch is in our penalty area. It’s cleared to Bardsley who shoots poorly wide. Then in added time Larsen takes a similar kick, with Mannone going up for it to no great effect.   And that’s it. The ref blows for full-time and we’ve got another 3 Premier League points and remain unbeaten at home.   We’re a quarter of the way through the season now – 10 games gone, 10thplace in the Premier League. May be it’s because we’ve been in the top division before. May be it’s because we’ve got a manager of immense top flight experience. May be it’s because of the way the team’s playing. Whatever combination of these it is, there’s no doubt that we’re being patronised a little less than last time round. That all makes me happy.   Most of all though, it’s the 3 points that makes me happy tonight. For all the plaudits, we had just lost 3 in a row before today’s game. We needed to win, and we did so. And given that 3 of our next 4 games are against clubs in the top 5, wins like this are likely to seem all the more important as we head into the winter months.

Hull City 1 West Ham United 0

I’ve seen better performances before. I’ve seen us sneak a few wins with a smidgen of luck before. I’ve seen plenty of scrappy games which have left us calling for the final whistle before.   But in 3 decades of regular City watching, I’ve never before known such a match take us 7th in the top division, level with Liverpool and Man City, 3 points and 5 places above the other Manchester club. So far so very good in our Premier League return season – it might lack those feelings of starry-eyed glamour and incredulous novelty that we experienced in season 2008-09’s first few months, but it all feels a lot more solid and well constructed this time round.   Grabbing 3 precious Premier League points, stuffing them in the bag, and zipping it up quickly before anyone could take them back, were:                            McGregor         Rosenior Davies  Faye   Figueroa   Elmohamady  Huddlestone  Livermore   Brady                      Graham      Aluko    The big call in that line-up was Abdoulaye Faye replacing the injured Chester. Faye was the right choice, and he was given a warm welcome by City fans and the impressive turn-out of West Ham fans alike, having been a key player in the Hammers’ promotion season in 2011-12.   It’s not really possible to dislike Abdoulaye Faye. The same can’t be said of chicken-dancing, referee-baiting, fading force at this level, Kevin Nolan, who introduces himself to a sun-drenched East Stand early doors by launching a dreadful tackle on Liam Rosenior.   Rosenior writhes. The ref brandishes a yellow card. Nolan has shot his tetchy bolt too soon and is a subdued bit-part player for much of the rest of the afternoon.   If there is any strutting around to be done in the early exchanges, then it’s City doing it. Sone Aluko in particular seems to be walking tall, boosted by last week’s tremendous 3-point-grabbing, side-foot-volleyed winner at St James Park. Aluko demands the ball tirelessly, and today he is the central element of most City attacks, keeping the ball under close control, at speed, turning this way and that. Aluko is class – and this week’s news that he’s confident of signing a new contract soon is reassuring.   For all Aluko’s star is shining at the moment, it’s our other speedy and skilful young forward – Robbie Brady – who ensures that City take an early, and ultimately decisive, lead. On 11 minutes, Elmohamady, released from his usual defensive duties today by Rosenior being picked at right-back, swings one of his trademark crosses from deep into the box. Brady jumps for it with O’Brien, appears to be pushed from behind during the challenge, and referee Kevin Friend points to the spot. It’s a soft one. Thank you very much, Friend.   Knowing of old how Hammers’ keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen can keep the Tigers at bay, I am not counting any chickens yet. But the bearded Brady is walking as tall as Aluko. A short run-up by Brady, facing the West Ham fans in the north stand, Jaaskelainen dives to his right and watches helplessly as the ball goes hard and low to his left.   1-0 to City.   At this stage of the game, City seem dominant, West Ham lethargic and unable to cope with some of our play. Ex-City loanee and life-long Hammer, Mark Noble, can only try to stop Aluko by fouling him, and is given a lecture by the ref after he’d let play go on to City’s advantage.   For all his qualities – and he seems to be pretty much the fulcrum of West Ham’s team today – Noble’s play looks churlish set against that of the best Londoner on the pitch, Jake Livermore. Livermore plays some really sweet football. Overshadowed a little, literally and figuratively, by the immense Tom Huddlestone, nonetheless Livermore is fast becoming a key figure for City this season.   West Ham’s contribution to the game has so far consisted of obvious fouls, balls hoofed forward for big men, and central defenders trooping upfield for long throws wound up and unleashed by Razvan Rat. Yes, now that things at the Britannia Stadium have been transformed by urbane Mark Hughes replacing old-school Tony Pulis, West Ham United are the Stoke City de nos jours. I don’t know the mood amongst West Ham fans well enough, but it wouldn’t surprise me one iota if distaste for Sam Allardyce’s preferred style of football has only been held back by the relative success of promotion last year. The days of Ron Greenwood and John Lyall are decades behind us, but fans brought up on players like Peters, Brooking, and Devonshire must surely mutter discontent at the less cultured stuff served up now.   Incidentally West Ham’s long-throw specialist has ‘R. Rat’ on the back of his shirt. Players usually use their initial to distinguish them from teammates with the same surname. But, help me here, there aren’t any other Rats playing for West Ham are there?   Right, back to the action. Don’t let me get too cocky, and don’t let me give the impression that silky City ran rings around lumbering Hammers all afternoon. There are shades of that for the first 20 minutes or so, but after that West Ham get far more of a grip on the game. The Allardyce method might not be attractive, but it can be effective.   On 21 minutes West Ham get a free-kick, central, 30 yards out. City clear it for a corner, from which one of theirs heads it goalwards, only for Elmohamady to chest it off the line. They get another corner a few minutes later, and then on 30 minutes West Ham build a good move down the left, feeding the ball in to Diame on the edge of our box, who contrives an air-shot.   It’s a let-off for City. A couple of minutes later a more messy West Ham attack sees the ball fall to Noble who shoots low and hard and just wide. We could do with another goal.   City respond to this West Ham pressure by reviving the attacking threat. An Aluko free-kick goes over the wall, dips impressively, but is pouched by Jaaskelainen. Then another Elmohamady cross finds Brady, who heads it back across the box where Davies tries a brave diving header, only to the see the ball bundled over the West Ham bar.   Half-time. City 1-0 up in the Premier League, and if it doesn’t quite feel comfortable in terms of getting the result yet, it seems entirely normal. We’ve got a decent squad with the odd weak link. So far, and it’s emphasised today, the weakest is Danny Graham. He doesn’t look good enough for our team at the moment. Just on half-time Graham has been booked. Rightly so. A chipped pass to him in the right inside forward position saw him look startled as he failed to control the ball, and then hurl the ball at the linesman when he didn’t get the decision he wanted. Petulance, brought on perhaps by frustration at not playing to the level required.    In the second half the West Ham way shapes the game more and more. Scrappy, not pretty. Effective in terms of getting the Hammers more possession and creating the odd chance, but not threatening in the way a quality passing side can be. Until, that is, the introduction of Stuart Downing mid-way through the second half. I’m very glad that Allardyce decided – inexplicably on today’s evidence – not to start with the intelligent and skilful sometime England man.   Even before Downing came on, at the 70 minute mark, West Ham are increasingly forcing City into defensive errors and tactical fouls. Rosenior looks to be suffering a bit from second-game syndrome, having impressed on his return at Newcastle last week, he is less secure today. His potentially strong combination with Elmohamady down City’s right doesn’t really catch fire, though there is the odd spark.   There’s a burst of hectic end-to-end stuff. An Aluko attack down the right is repelled. United stream up our end and get a shot away, well saved by McGregor. They continue to press, and City give away a number of free-kicks around 30-40 yards out. Each one is delivered into the box by Noble, each one is dealt with without too much danger by our defence. Faced with this sort of assault, I’m preferring Faye to Chester.   City get chances too. On 61 Graham meets a cross by volleying it over the bar. On 67 Graham is involved again, entering the area, he checks back instead of pressing on, and lays the ball into the path of Livermore, whose low shot from outside the box beats Jaaskelainen and bounces back off the post.   On 70 United bring on Downing and Vaz Te (another ex-City loanee). Steve Bruce sends Sagbo on in place of Graham. So for the last quarter West Ham are boosted by the pace and skill of their two substitutes – Downing in particular. He’s starting off deep, almost reprising the full-back role he tried out at Liverpool, but repeatedly raids down our left. City are defending deep too, and leaving only Aluko up top so that when we do get the ball there are few options and West Ham regain possession.   On 74 comes the second contentious penalty decision – this one not given, as West Ham players appeal loud and long for a handball. Not one that could be spotted from my East Stand vantage, though the strength of appeals suggest at the time that we are lucky to concede only a corner rather than a spot-kick. Definitely one that could be spotted from the North Stand where the Hammers fans show their anger by getting behind their team still more.   Later on, TV pictures show a clear handball and an unsighted ref. Bad luck West Ham.   Although that’s the last real scare, United continue to have the upper hand for the rest of the match. City are holding on, and – with 4 minutes added time extended still further for treatment to Rosenior after a clash of heads – eventually that’s that.   So, we’re doing well. Back-to-back Premier League wins are not easy to come by. We’ve won 2 out of 3 home games, but both of those wins are by disputed Brady penalties.   Last week’s goal fest aside, it’s fair to say that Bruce has still not solved the forward problem which he tried to address on deadline day. Long sits on the bench at West Brom. There’s a time limit on how long we can say of Danny Graham, ‘he just needs a goal’. Sagbo’s sending-off against Norwich stopped his progress before he had time to get into his not inconsiderable stride. Proschwitz’s reward for scoring mid-week against Huddersfield was to lose his place on the bench today. And I assume that Gedo when fit will be higher in the pecking order than our enigmatic German.   It’ll be interesting to see how we line up next week, when the vagaries of the fixture list mean we do it all again at the KC against a team in claret and blue. In the meantime, if you find yourself having a bad week for whatever reason, take a glance at the league table. It’ll raise a smile.

Newcastle United 2 Hull City 3

1662 days. That seems a long time. 1662 days is how long we Hull City fans have had to wait since Manucho poked home a Garcia cross in our last away win in top flight. Maybe that’s a little unfair, we have spent three seasons in the second tier, so maybe 26 away league games without a win is a better comparison. Steve Bruce brought his Tigers side back to his native North East. With Figueroa missing on compassionate leave and Koren out of the side due to a broken foot, the team was shuffled to face a Newcastle side who had won 2 and drawn 1 of their last three games. McGregor Elmohamady Chester Davies Rosenior Quinn Huddlestone Livermore Brady Aluko Graham The early exchanges of the game set the pattern for much of the first half. The impressive Cabaye frequently combined with Santon and Remy on their left wing, as they appeared to target the defensive weakness of Elmohamady. On the whole, the City back line proved a formidable foe to these Newcastle attacks, giving the home team plenty of possession, but adopting a ‘thou shall not pass’ attitude once they reached the edge of the Tigers area. At the other end, chances were few and far between. In our last games against Newcastle, I was struck by how Coloccini struggled with the physical battles with Cousin. Whilst he’s a composed defender, he still struggles with the physical side of the game, this time it was the much less physically imposing Aluko who brushed aside the Argentinian, but was unable to direct his shot goal wards. However within a minute, City were trailing. Sissoko works some space in the right hand channel before crossing over to the left. Elmohamady misjudged the flight of the ball, allowing it to loop over his head and onto the foot of Santon. His central cross is met by the meaty head of Remy, putting his header beyond the reach of McGregor. In the previous match against Cardiff, Graham was singled out for his missing of easy chances. This week he seemed to be playing a different role. He may now have broken his goal-scoring duck, but was proving a strong and effective target man against the Newcastle back-line, bringing other players into the game. That said, when a chance did fall his way, he managed to scuff his shot giving Krul an easy ball to pick up. Despite Graham not scoring, it’s not proving too much of an issue as City are finding other players to carry that job out. Again Newcastle had been given plenty of possession, whilst rarely being given the opportunity to threaten McGregor’s goal. City were starting to get better chances up to the equaliser. A Krul ball out finds it was to Quinn on the right side. The Irish midfielder passes to Aluko at the top of the Newcastle D, before the ball is played over to Brady finding space down the left channel. Whilst the shot seemed to head straight at Krul, it sneaked under the netman’s body and into the back of the net. The Newcastle trio of Santon, Cabaye and Remy continue to be a thorn in the side of the City defence. At that point, I thought a reshuffle of the City wide players may have helped the situation. Elmohamady to right wing, Rosenior to right back, Brady to left back and Quinn to the left wing. But City kept their shape and held on for the most part. However, just as we were preparing for the half-time break, Newcastle put themselves back in front. Santon again attacks the left wing, before passing back to Cabaye. His shot is blocked by Chester, but falls nicely to Remy, who’s got plenty of space to pick his spot and put the Geordies 2-1 up. Much is said about the 7 levels the away fans have to ascent of the Leazes stand. To my immediate left, a large screen is constructed to keep out the weather – providing an effective greenhouse to those in the stand. This does however provide some great views over the Tyne valley past the youth clubs of Byker, the football pitches of Glipton and over the water to Gateshead. The Leazes and Milburn stands provides half of a massive stadium, although the Gallowgate and East stand, being somewhat lower gives the ground a feeling of being somewhat unfinished. That may well be down to being unable to expand on those sides, due to the nearby residential areas. Soon after the half-time break, City are once again back on level terms. After Aluko is knocked down, having received the ball from a throw-in, a free kick is awarded about 30 yards out to the left of the field. Brady’s kick is met by the head of Elmohamady, who’d glided beyond his marker, to loop a header off the far post and into the goal. Slight confusion did reign after the announcer suggested it was Chester who had scored, but no matter, the score line was 2-2. That early goal spurred City to be more adventurous than the first half. Quinn in particular seemed to be finding more space to attack his wing. However whilst Graham was still proving to be an effective target up front, his goal scoring eye was still proving less than effective. This was by no means one way traffic. Newcastle still seemed to be attacking through the trio of Santon, Cabaye and Remy, but they were getting less luck out of the stubborn centre-back pairing of Chester with his well timed interceptions and Davies with a more physical approach to getting the ball clear. On the other side of the pitch Ben Arfa had largely been kept quiet by the busy efficiency of Rosenior, so the French winger found himself having to drop deeper and deeper to get any time on the ball. A rare opportunity did seem to be hit out of play by Ben Arfa, before the referee Atkinson awarded a corner. Fortunately Yanga-Mbiwa put his shot over. The sight of Atkinson in the referee’s shirt had filled me with dread before the game. I was convinced he was one of those referees that we never got any decisions from. However I was proven wrong. From my high vantage point, we appeared to be getting the majority of the decisions. Many of which I thought should have gone the other way. So perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much about Ben Arfa being awarded that corner. The next Newcastle attacks end Cabaye’s day. He once again attacks down the City right, but is met by a strong but fair challenge from Davies. Initially it seemed that he went down far too easy, as Newcastle put the ball out of play when they had a very promising attack on the cards. He did however limp off to be replaced by Gouffran. After Quinn fells Sissoko, Ben Arfa is given a chance on the free-kick, whilst Rosenior is restricted to remain 10 yards away, but perhaps his continues presence put the Frenchman off, meaning he could only put it wide. After Boyd replaces Quinn, City appear to be trying to take all three points from the game. A few set pieces fall City’s way, yet we are less than efficient with these, firstly with a Huddlestone free-kick finding Elmohamady before Krul punches clear, then a Brady corner which Sissoko heads away. With the game becoming more open, Newcastle’s chances are blocked by City’s men at the back. Chester is having a great game, forever getting his toe to the ball and constantly stopping the Black and White attacks. When they do find a way past Chester, then there’s Davies. Is it too much to suggest these could be one of the best City centre-back pairings? I’m not sure Turner & Zayette would compare and as for Sonko… A substitution for both sides sees Cisse replaced by Marveaux for Newcastle and Meyler on for Brady. Within a few minutes, Aluko gives City the lead. Huddlestone plays the ball wide to Rosenior, who passes up the line to Boyd. Boyd easily goes past his full-back, before crossing to the edge of the area, where Aluko’s lurking to hit a volley past Krul and into the net. After the match, many comments were comparing this to Windass’s volley at Wembley. Whilst I don’t believe it’s as good, it was a fantastic finish from an equally good move. With the lead gained, City again drop back to hold on to the three points, inviting more Newcastle possession. Ben Arfa drops deeper to try and gain possession, before being felled by Meyler. His free-kick is however passed short to Santon, who can only blast the ball at the City wall. Whilst Grahams goal scoring touch had deserted him, the Tiger support gave him a standing ovation when he was replaced by Sagbo, due to his strong target man play. Sagbo offered a bit more energy running up front, but with Newcastle penning City back he was an occasional outlet. Newcastle keep probing for an opening but every time, there’s Chester nicking the ball away. In the final minute of normal time, Davies breaks forward before passing to Huddlestone in an off-side position. Huddlestone decides to shoot after the whistle goes, thus seeing Atkinson book him for kicking the ball away. As the clock reaches 90, Newcastle find themselves a very good chance to get level. A cross from the right finds Sissoko free at the back post. Surely there can only be one outcome. But no, there’s another as he directs his shot wide of the post and off the advertising hoardings. Before McGregor can take his goal kick, Chester goes down, holding the top of his leg. After treatment, Huddlestone fills in at centre-back with Chester returning to run about up front. This however proves useless with Chester then having to hobble off with a hamstring injury. By now, McGregor is obviously taking his time over every kick, to the frustration of the remaining home support. A great break by Meyler relieves the pressure on the defence, before winning a free kick by the corner flag. Sissoko’s frustration gets the better of him as he pushes out at Sagbo, to also find his name taken. A final chance comes after a long Newcastle ball into the box, which is held by McGregor, and congratulated by Davies, much like Brown on Myhill at the end of the Playoff game. The final whistle is then greeted in the away end by Total Tiger Mayhem, whilst on the pitch we once again get to see Elmohamady’s ‘Uncle at a wedding’ dance. The match was therefore a great win for City, whilst walking away from the ground, the home fans didn’t seem too despondent, having heard of Sunderland’s latest defeat. So from a run of 26 away games in top flight without a win, to a run of a 1 game winning run. Things keep looking up on the pitch