1. Sometimes in a game led by one side, a comeback can feel possible – particularly if the lead is a solitary goal and plenty of time remains. And other times, it’s City trailing 0-1 at home to Southampton, where it felt as likely as Donald Trump becoming Pres…oh. Well, it felt decidedly improbable, anyway. In fact, it may be the single unlikeliest comeback we can recall when the deficit was just one. The gulf in class was embarrassing, the one-third-empty stadium was sullen and quiet and the only question was when Southampton were finally going to do the decent thing and put us out of our abject misery.
2. And within two crazy minutes, we levelled and then led, a lead we held until the end. We’ll come to the good bit shortly, but we cannot let that comeback mask a rotten first half. Southampton, a very capable side but not one of the division’s élite, commanded the game with a frankly humiliating ease. Brickbats to anyone who says you can ever score too early, but the comical simplicity with which the lead was presented to them probably made them think it was all over in after five minutes. Not a verdict we hurried to challenge at the time, but we’ll never understand why they chose not to exert themselves to get a truly decisive second goal; as it was, we were barely managing to be second best. It was a ugly, rotten first half.
3. And it didn’t rapidly improve either. Whatever Mike Phelan said at half-time did nothing to alter the pattern of play, which mostly involved City feebly scuffing about and Southampton knocking the ball about with relaxed comfort. With an hour gone, we were pining for the warmth of the pub.
4. Football, eh? Bloody hell. We do want to praise City for beating a side that’ll finish in the top half this season, so we’ll jubilantly note that when we did move into that unfathomably implausible lead, it was defended with the guts and tenacity we all so adored in the opening weeks of the season. From operating an open-door policy, our defence thrillingly resolved to repel all boarders, and in the end Southampton looked a little unsure about how to break us down.
5. Best of all, this enthralling finale re-engaged the crowd, who’d suffered in morose silence until that point. We needed this as much as the players and our league table predicament needed it. Too many weeks have passed since we’ve enjoyed mutual acclaim with the players at full-time.
6. David Marshall has had an unbearably tough start to his City career, and the jury remains out on his overall worth – however, he was excellent yesterday. Obviously blameless for the Saints’ penalty, he made several impressive saves to keep us in the game and then ensure we retained the lead. Confidence is key for any player, but doubly so for a keeper – he needed that.
7. What Sam Clucas didn’t need was another afternoon getting the run around at left back, and when the team sheet was announced it felt cruel of Mike Phelan to persist with him in that position. However Southampton didn’t follow Watford’s example of persistently attacking on the right wing, instead their attacks were largely through the middle. As a result Clucas faired okay, and even got to make some forays upfield. It was only in the last 20 minutes when Southampton targeted the right wing, and with Mason providing assistance to Clucas, we were able to weather that storm and hold on to the win.
8. The official crowd was announced as a little under 18,000, though in truth there cannot have been more than 16,000 souls in attendance. Every week, the swathes of empty seats stand as a rebuke to the disgusting Allam family and their policy of punishing Hull City supporters. How we long for their departure from this club.
9. Ehab, knowing less than nothing about football, recently crowed about the reduction in injured players, implicitly blaming Steve Bruce for them. With two more now on the sidelines, we wonder what this achingly dense individual has to say about them now?
10. One of them, Will Keane, has struggled to make a positive impact as a Hull City player, and it may be some time before he gets the chance again. It easy to forget, given his less than stellar start, that he was once considered one of the brightest prospects in the nation. The insta-judgement nature of a Twitter enabled world means he has been written off by some as ‘not Premier League quality’ after just 372 minutes of football in a City shirt. The club are unlikely to make such a rash decision after making a significant investment in the lad, and we wish him well during his recovery.
10a. Abel H. too, Get well soon.