Hull City 1 Swansea 1

Bottom of the table Swansea come to Boothferry and benefit from another gutless Tigers performance.  According to the manager, it’s all the fans’ fault.  Steve Weatherill sets out the case for the defence.
O crikey, chums, another horror show. As bad as the Macclesfield debacle, except that yesterday we did at least tug a point clear of the mire – but at home to The Bottom Of The League, we won’t be hanging out the bunting for that modest triumph just yet. Our Chairmen filled his programme notes with a biliously daft rant against Radio Blunderside, alleging a negative attitude (fie! Whatever might that stem from?), while our Manager took to the airwaves after the game to blame the fans for getting on the players’ backs, to lament the trials of having to play home games at the Ark (yesterday once again bulging with a crowd in excess of 8,000) and to offer not a hint that he has a strategy for improving this curdling season, aside only from waiting for Stuart Elliott’s return. On the pitch, we were defensively unfocused on the rare occasions when Swansea threatened, the midfield was drab throughout and the attack mooched around grumpily. So here we are, a quarter of the way through the season, and if you have identified any signs of progress, sustained or even sporadic, under the Molby regime, then you have sharper eyes than me. And with legendary t/chat penman Mike “Mike” Scott lately offering up a schoolboy howler pertaining to Stuart Elliott’s nationality, it is hard to evade the conclusion that our whole club is blundering around like a rudderless ship lost without navigation somewhere out beyond the Dogger Bank. It looks THAT grim right now. I can only agree with the wise man on Bunkers whose succinct summary was “Fishcake!”.A bad game, this. Plugging away on a grey but clement afternoon:

Musselwhite Regan Whittle Anderson Smith Green Keates Ashbee Williams Alexander Jevons

We attacked Bunkers, while Swansea aimed at their meagre travelling band dribbled over the North Stand terrace. There were only about 50 of them, the worst following I can ever remember my least-favourite opponents fetching across the border. They are plainly a club intent on descent, and I applaud that with glee, but as the game lurched into a formless muddle they seemed able to stifle us all too easily. We had most of the possession, but showed little wit when confronted by sturdy Swans determined to huddle behind the ball and allow us minimal space. Swansea broke down their right and slid a low cross into the six-yard box where a chance winked briefly, before a safety-first hoof preserved parity. Then, at the other end, a gorgeous flicked pass by Williams opened up the stolid visiting defence, offering a shooting opportunity to Green, who had made an intelligent dart from right to left. But the delicately struck shot slipped just wide of Roger Freestone’s far post. It was a bright moment, but embedded deep in shapeless dross. A moment of ungainly confusion between Musselwhite and Whittle on the edge of the penalty box saw the ball spin free to a Swan 25 yards out from goal, and, with the Muss stranded, we looked undone. The ball was struck firmly but Anderson had cantered back to guard the goal-line and he thumped a header clear. Alert defending … following ill-disciplined, indecisive defending. And then, for the third home game in succession, we conjured up a lead that our banal play didn’t merit, and for which no expectation had been generated. It began from a Swansea corner, but the ball was quickly cleared to Williams, who made rapid progress and released Green, inside the attacking half of the field. He demonstrated beautiful skill and vision to slide a glorious pass into the path of Jevons, who strode away from the defence and finished cleanly, low past Freestone’s left hand. A sparkling goal in a half speckled by drudgery. A trio of attacks brought us up the to the break. Keates darted gamely down the right, but crossed just behind Gary Alexander, whose attempt at an audacious backheel was pure comedy. Then a Swansea corner was sent soaring goalwards, but the Muss punched the header clear with confidence. And finally Jevons found some space down the left but saw his shot blocked easily by Freestone. No shape, no fluency – a poor 45. It’s half-time, it’s 1-0: would we do a Carlisle and now assume glittering superiority, or would we collapse grotesquely in the genial style served up to bemused Macclesfield? Neither. We let Swansea equalise, and the game petered out into a tame draw. It was a rotten second half. The Swansea goal, first of all. Throw-in wide on their right, deep inside our half. The ball sails high through the air, one of theirs heads it on, another of theirs loops another header up over the Muss who backpedals frantically, but he’s too late, and the ball tumbles gently into our net. Indecisive work from the Muss, who should have stayed put on his line or else come charging out to collect the ball with all the zeal of a rhinoceros fixed on the task of putting David Attenborough and his poncey voice and intrusive film crew into the middle of Madagascar. But though I put “being stuck in no-man’s land” on our keeper’s charge sheet, I wasn’t much taken with the lack of defensive intervention either. Swansea celebrated two free headers well inside our penalty box before the ball trundled into our ropework. Shoddy covering. Perhaps Mr Molby blamed Smith, because he hauled him off in favour of the divine Mike Edwards shortly afterwards. It was a triple substitution: Johnson came on for Williams and Dudfield replaced Alexander. As a tactical move, it smacked of desperation and it was not a success. Swansea fancied it now, and the Ark was unsettled. Fortunately the visitors carried little punch, with the spiky Watkin more intent on sly feuding than playing proper football. But this current Tiger pack is in no position to sneer at feeble opponents. We do feeble all too convincingly ourselves. Ashbee is at his least effective when playing at home against teams that are content to stifle midfield, because he simply adds to the ugly roadblock of turgid scrapping. Keates generally has a shade more imagination on the ball, but carried little threat yesterday, and so our plodding central midfield duo contributed almost nothing to our attacking vigour. Williams was patchy, while Johnson, when he arrived, mostly looked bored. Green, as ever, flashed brightly but briefly. Up front, Alexander rarely looked likely to trouble an obdurate defence, while the newly-shorn Jevons, though perkier than his partner and worth his goal, is still not fully convincing, and is certainly no target man. A brief aside pertaining to the referee. He was awful – a true exponent of the “rabbit caught in the headlights” school of whistle management. He hadn’t a clue. A rough midfield melee early in the second half fazed him completely and Swansea soon realised they simply had to crumple to the turf to induce him to halt play. He dithered, he wobbled, he was dreadful. But he made no difference to the result of the match. Dudfield, on as sub, looked our liveliest player as the half ticked onwards. The Dude, striding elegantly down the left, is stopped illegally, and, from Green’s lofted free-kick, Ashbee finds space at the back post but heads directly into Freestone’s ample gut. Then Swansea break down the left and a ball crossed low towards the six-yard box seems to offer a chance to Watkin, but it is whisked away from him at the crucial moment. Now it’s us, and Johnson sprints down the left before sliding a neat cross on to the Jevons forehead, but the flick bounces down into the ground and away beyond the far post. Dudfield crosses soon afterwards, but it is just two inches too high for Jevons, and the ball bounces away harmlessly. It almost sounds exciting when you write up these incidents all-in-a-row. But it wasn’t exciting. These were eccentric moments of interest spattered on a grey canvas. And the mood in the condemned old ground was part sullen, part resigned. Three added minutes brought nothing of note and a wretched game was gone and forgotten. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen plenty worse. But, as this season evolves, the combination of, on the one hand, an increasingly large pot of poor displays and, on the other, the sense that we as a club are frittering away the momentum on offer from acquisition of a shiny new ground is really getting me down.

HULL CITY: Musselwhite, Regan, Whittle, Anderson, Smith, Green, Ashbee, Keates, Williams, Alexander, Jevons.  Subs: Dudfield (for Alexander, 57), Johnson (for Williams, 57), Edwards (for Smith, 57), Glennon, BradshawGoals: Jevons 27 Booked: Johnson, Keates Sent Off: None   SWANSEA CITY: Freestone, Evans, O’Leary, Theobald, Howard, Lacey, Phillips, Jenkins, Williams, Thomas, Watkin.  Subs: Reid (for Williams, 86), Moss (for Lacey, 88), Marsh, Keaveny, Wood Goals: Thomas 52 Booked: Freestone, O’Leary Sent Off: none   ATTENDANCE: 8,070

Swansea City 4 Hull City 2

Needing a win to retain their League status, struggling Swansea and their chum in the black shirt with the whistle took care of business.  Steve Weatherill admonishes the Swans’ twelfth man for his many misdemeanours.
Most times in life expectation wins out over hope. And so it was yesterday at the Vetch Field.I had hoped to witness us relegate football’s most evil club, preferably in the most viciously painful fashion – a disputed last-minute winner, perhaps. But I’ve had realism beaten into me over long and crushing years of watching Hull City, and in truth I had expected the occasion to overwhelm even the most valiant, and it was hard to avoid the logical conclusion that by hook or more probably by crook Swansea would survive. And so it came to pass. But the men overwhelmed were not our players, who in the main showed a commendable fighting spirit in the most hostile of environments and who for much of the first half held out the promise of winning nationwide gratitude by severing Swansea from the Football League. The cowering gibbering apologies for human beings that officiated at this game were directly responsible for Swansea’s salvation. Bad refereeing I can tolerate – we get it most weeks. Biased refereeing stinks. We suffered it at home to Hednesford a few years ago and we suffered it again yesterday. Mr Mathieson was his name. It was shameful stuff. It didn’t take him long to put his cards on the table. A clumsy challenge from Ben Burgess ten seconds into the game merited a brief cautionary word at most but with the home fans baying for blood and clambering over the seats as if to swarm on to the turf referee Mathieson hastily whipped out his yellow card. He couldn’t have made his intentions clearer if he had commandeered the tannoy and announced “Don’t worry Swansea fans, I’ll see you right, just don’t hurt me, please, I want to get home for my tea tonight”. Our players were understandably cautious and began feebly – and got feebler. Swansea pumped the ball forward artlessly, we defended far too deep, and cracks were obvious. A ball down their left, in behind Otsemobor, found one of theirs offside, but normal service will be resumed only once Swansea are safe, and in the meantime the linesman whistled tunelessly, pointed to the “Wife and two kids back home, don’t hurt me please” notice pinned to his back and allowed play to continue. A cross was met firmly and a shot thudded against the post before spinning behind for a goal kick. The referee gave a corner. It was already plain that our team would be facing an arduous task without the commission of any individual errors, but that proviso wasn’t long in being shattered. Big-Hits Melton attempted a reckless and dreadfully-judged tackle out wide, just inside the penalty area, over went his immediate opponent, and referee Mathieson gleefully pointed to the spot. “O terrific, we’re really going to show some guts this afternoon, aren’t we City?” mused a morose travelling support of 192, as Thomas stroked an unstoppable penalty past Fettis and a roar of relief burst from the three sides of the Vetch crammed with the usual gang of mutants and thugs. Five or six of humanity’s detritus raced on to the pitch, one of whom joined the players in their celebratory cuddles. All the invaders were allowed to take their time in strolling back to the terraces and picking their spot to resume enjoyment of the game. No attempt at all was made to apprehend these criminals, though it would have been perfectly easy so to do. No doubt Swansea, on their regular visits to football’s governing authorities, tell tales about how they are committed to stamping out misconduct in their ground. All lies. We had lined up 4-4-2:

Fettis Otsemobor Joseph Whittle Smith Reeves Keates Delaney Melton Burgess Elliott

And ten minutes in they were all rubbish, we were losing 1-0, and this looked likely to yet another in the long procession of scoreless, pointless surrenders by Hull City teams visiting Swansea. And then Elliott equalised. Burgess set it up, the home defence was shredded, and Elliott struck a confident left-foot shot past Cutler in the Swansea goal. And then Reeves put us 2-1 ahead. This was shocking defence – dithering, confused and wonderful to watch. Reeves strode clear with the ball and lifted a cute chip up over Cutler, and three sides of the ground now went very quiet. The fourth side erupted in joy, delight, and, my o my, it felt good, it felt so very good. The whole mood had altered. We had arrived under the billing of sacrificial victim and suddenly we were running the show. Swansea looked empty and confused, the home crowd was eerily quiet, and that long-odds bet, that we might really make a fight of it and send Swansea tumbling out of the League, was suddenly available at a rapidly shortening price. Elliott was mobile and full of ideas: his partnership with Burgess could develop into something very interesting indeed. The midfield (except Melton) was competing vigorously, and, on an afternoon where delicate ball skills were never likely to be on the menu, Delaney’s energy and enthusiasm were offering just what was required. Swansea had a half-chance, but put it over the bar; we whipped in a free-kick from the left, just too high. Then more sloppy defending from the lamentable Swans presented Elliott with a shooting opportunity which brought out the best in Cutler. Swansea looked most dangerous when they tried to bring the ball from deep and run at us from midfield, but they really aren’t good enough to piece together moves of the necessary quality, and as we approach half-time 2-1 up the entertainment value on the away terrace is increasing in direct proportion to the growing and palpable sense of anxiety among the seething home fans. Whereupon Mr Mathieson steps in. Justin Whittle sweeps imperiously across the box, removes the ball from the possession of a doleful attacker and clears the danger. It is superb defending, in the excellent unflustered professional style we have come to associate with Justin. The Swansea players’ heads drop a little further, the home crowd sigh in despair. And Mr Mathieson awards a penalty. Apparently for hand-ball. Madness. Absurdity. Cheating. No one can quite believe it. Certainly no one appealed for a penalty, not even the most rabid Swansea fan (and that’s rabid): even though the incident occurred right in front of the tightest, maddest knot of home supporters. It was quite ludicrous. But what can you do? Nothing, except give thanks that we hadn’t needed anything from this fixture. It was pure injustice, but had it been injustice that really affected our club’s fate for the season it would have been a great deal harder to stomach. The penalty was tucked away for 2-2, and then it was half-time. And soon after half-time they scored again. A free-kick by Martinez from wide on the left was headed back across the face of our goal and bundled in from close range by Johnrose. A few minutes later Otsemobor received a pass in space, but refused to transfer the ball to waiting team-mates and instead cut infield. He promptly lost possession, the ball fell kindly for Thomas and he chipped the ball over Fettis from 25 yards out. It was an undeniably fine finish, but Otsemobor’s play was witless and criminally unprofessional. I will secure pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix before this guy ever plays a game in the Premiership. We released Mike Edwards to make room for this can’t-defend, won’t-defend dummy? It is obvious that both sides recognise that a two-goal advantage is to be treated as decisive, and at 4-2 the heat vanishes from the game. Roberto Martinez, television pundit and occasional footballer, is controlling midfield with a display of assured passing and thoughtful movement of the ball that would have graced the CV of Bobby Doyle himself. Swansea are safe. We’ve done our best by Exeter with a spirited first half display, but if the plucky Grecians want to know why they’ve gone down despite their superb finishing spurt, then they can look to referee Mathieson and his ridiculous penalty award in Swansea’s favour just before half-time. That is the incident on which this game turned, and it may kill off Exeter. Sleep easy, Mr Mathieson. Only Stuart Elliott was unwilling to sleepwalk his way to the final whistle and the promise of a beach holiday (but not in Wales). A low shot forced Cutler to concede a corner and a short while later a cross-shot brought a good diving stop from Cutler to his left. It is a shame to see the avuncular Roger Freestone ousted from the home side’s net but they seem to have discovered an able replacement. Meanwhile another atrocious piece of defending from Otsemobor gifted possession to Swansea, though the error fortunately went unpunished. Burgess was replaced by Webb; Otsemobor by Burton, who went to left-side midfield while Melton moved across to right-back. It was all a bit tame now. We’ve given up. Keates and Delaney have worked industriously, Elliott has played an uncommonly fine game. Burgess began well, but faded. Collectively our defence was too often shaky, but special mention is reserved for Smith, Otsemobor and Melton. All three were scandalously poor. There are three minutes to be added and in the first of them O’Leary shoves his arm firmly across Webb’s throat as the young striker rushes past him inside the Swansea box. It is as clear a penalty as you could wish to see. Of course it is not given. And so 4-2, an enormous pitch invasion, and I hope the players reached the sanctuary of the dressing rooms safely. I didn’t hang around. I was off and away, but only after being wished a safe journey by a smiling and genuinely pleasant member of the local Heddlu. A smile in Swansea? As unexpected as seeing City score in Swansea. And so we will be back to Wales again next season. With what sort of a team? The improving imaginative and potent outfit that has put Carlisle, Bournemouth and Kidderminster to the sword in the last couple of months? The bloody-minded, hard-working bunch that ground out wins at Macclesfield and Boston? The ragged, rudderless rabble that turned in such dismally insipid displays at Darlington and Rochdale? O blimey, I dunno. Season 2002/03. 49 games. Most of them pretty poor. It’s over now.

HULL CITY: Fettis, Otsemobor, Joseph, Whittle, Smith, Reeves, Delaney, Keates, Melton, Elliott, Burgess.  Subs: Webb (for Burgess, 62), Burton (for Otsemobor, 66), Anderson, Regan, Musselwhite.Goals: Elliott 9, Reeves 25 Booked: Burgess Sent Off: None   SWANSEA CITY: Cutler, Jenkins, O’Leary, Tate, Howard, Coates, Britton, Martinez, Johnrose, Nugent, Thomas.  Subs: Freestone, Hylton, Smith, Richards, Williams. Goals: Thomas 8 (pen), 45 (pen), 57; Johnrose 48 Booked: None Sent Off: None   ATTENDANCE: 9,585