Last season’s win by the odd goal in five at Portsmouth was not only a thrilling victory, but also something of a first for a generation of Hull City fans. Prior to that 2-3 success at Fratton Park over the New Year holiday weekend, the Tigers had gone more than 23 years without acquiring a maximum haul there.
The previous victory in that bit of coastal Hampshire had come in September 1988, when a brace of goals from Keith Edwards and a third from Alex Dyer gave Eddie Gray’s men a comprehensive win. Things eventually went awry for Gray that year and he was out by the season’s end. The next trip to Fratton Park came almost exactly a year later, with City struggling to buy a first win under returning gaffer Colin Appleton. The opening three matches had produced two 1-1 draws and an eccentric 5-4 defeat at Bournemouth, and so the Tigers travelled down to the south coast in a slightly baffled state.
The video comes from an unspecified local news programme; the voice isn’t familiar and the script is criminally lacking in detail, with the reporter in question choosing not to bother identifying Pompey’s two scorers (substitute Guy Whittingham and skipper Kevin Ball). Nonetheless, the two goals from Peter Swan were classics of his kind; the thumping header from a set-piece followed by the uncontrolled but wholly unsaveable shot on the bounce. Here goes…
These goals took City ahead from a goal down, only for Ball’s free header – after a mistake by City substitute Nicky Brown in trying to dribble out of defence – to bring Portsmouth level.
Brown, a right back who came through the ranks and established himself under Gray the previous season, had come on in place of the misfiring Edwards, whose appearance turned out to be his last for the Tigers. Until Brown’s introduction, City had no specialist right back on the pitch, with Richard Jobson playing in a position he’d only previously occupied in his very earliest days with the Tigers.
Gavin Kelly was in goal while Iain Hesford shook off an injury, and Swan was partnered in defence – before later shifting up front at 1-1 after Edwards’ withdrawal – by Steve Terry. Wayne Jacobs completed the back four, and then a midfield quartet comprising of Leigh Jenkinson (a left winger in the #2 shirt), Billy Askew, Steve Doyle and Garreth Roberts made the openings at the top for Edwards and Ian McParland. Playing on the wing for Portsmouth that day was the Tigers’ current first team coach Steve Wigley.
Infamously, Appleton couldn’t buy a win and the change of regime in the boardroom prompted new chairman Richard Chetham to get rid of the wild-haired carpenter after just 16 games back in charge and bring in Crystal Palace assistant manager Stan Ternent. Quickly the team took to the new manager and improved to the extent of a mid-table placing at the end of the campaign, two places behind Portsmouth, who beat the Tigers at Boothferry Park in the January return fixture. They too changed their gaffer mid-season, with the always unlikeable John Gregory replaced by his assistant Frank Burrows, under whom results noticeably improved.
Ternent’s brusque personality and insistence on bringing in aged players on daft salaries soon took root, and oddly enough, it was a 5-1 smashing at Portsmouth on New Years Day 1991 that prompted his sacking. We didn’t return to Fratton Park again until elevation to the Premier League.
One final observation on the video; look how deserted Fratton Park was at the end where Swan scored his goals. This was the designated away end – the presence of Manchester United fans during a League Cup tie a fortnight later proves that – but City took so few supporters on the day that they were housed in one small corner of the stand, totally out of camera shot (the cheering at Swan’s two goals sounds suspiciously dubbed). Tomorrow night’s game will, despite the horrid daypart and two straight defeats, hopefully still attract a few more fans than that.