Rejoice! Let the church bells ring out their torrential melodies from Howden to Hedon in celebration of this great East Yorkshire sporting triumph, let the risen sun dance across the chiselled features of our monumental magus of a manager Sir Michael Phelan!
For we have 12 points and Derby County, you are staying in the record books.
Onwards and upwards soars Hull City, agile as a linnet, merciless as the falcon. And on this grey December morning officially NOT the worst team ever in the history of the English Premier League.
Ah, small mercies, I take them where I can. I know – believe me, I know – that if we are to have even a hint of a chance of surviving this season, then we need to win games like this. But I am not falling into the old ‘it’s not the despair, it’s the hope that kills me’ trap. I hope for nothing this season. It’s dead. The club is a festering rotting corpse. But this was a truly entertaining afternoon’s football, a minor classic of a game even, and right now that is about as it good as it can get for a miserable Hull City fan, betrayed by our vindictive owners.
A softly mild day, and a welcome reversion to a back three:
Elmohamady Maguire Dawson Davies Robertson
Livermore Huddlestone Clucas
Menace as early as the 4th minute as a ball pings across our box, and is hustled out for a corner, after which Robert Snodgrass takes a bang and play is halted. The pause allows some focused ‘Allam Out’ chanting, the rancour stepped up a notch or two when compared with recent levels of protest. Part of that is thanks to a genius of a man who, in the tawdry pre-match meet and greet line-up, unfurls an ALLAM OUT banner, brandishing it with gleeful defiance until a bone-headed security goon camp guard snatches it away. Excellent brio, that man. But the gruesome twosome are not in attendance, and they really don’t care in the slightest what we say or think or do.
The half develops in pleasing fashion. We’re the better side here, and that’s not something we’ve had the luxury of claiming much since August.
The goal when it comes is therefore perfectly deserved, and so too is the detailed manner of its grant. Snodgrass expresses justified frustration at the pillage of centuries to which his homeland has been subject by falling over. Scott Dann doesn’t exactly foul Snoddy as our boy tries to find space in the box, but clumsy Scouser Dann has dared to inhabit the same parish as the gallus Scottish frontman and so referee Mike Jones was quite right to translate this into the award of a penalty. A form of preventive justice, in that Dann would probably have fouled Snoddy at some stage during the afternoon, and also a form of retributive justice in the light of the coal, steel, fish and latterly oil that has been pilfered from the people of Scotland in order to feed the preening maw of the unproductive den of larceny that is southern England in general and London in particular. Snodgrass, a man hewn from the grievance of history, strikes the ball confidently past Hennessey, and Nicola Sturgeon tweets with urgency ‘c’moan City, intae ’em!!’.
Palace are cross. But they don’t convert that into any positive energy on the pitch.
Half time. We lead 1-0. We are worth it too. It’s been pretty decent watchable football, and that’s not something we’ve had the luxury of claiming much since August.
Palace bring on Fryers in place of Andros Townsend, whose presence on the pitch I freely admit had completely escaped me over the opening 45 minutes. A charlatan of a footballer. The second half begins elegantly as City spray the ball around with confidence, and that’s not something we’ve had the luxury of claiming much since August, but on 51 it turns sour. Snodgrass intervenes as Zaha showponies his way around unthreateningly: ach it’s a soft one, but Snoddy is clumsy and, like Wallace brought low at Smithfield, he finds himself penalised. Benteke, pausing confidently in his run up to induce David Marshall’s commitment to go one way, rolls the penalty calmly into the opposite and unguarded corner of the net.
On 55 Jake Livermore turns sharply but shoots straight at ‘keeper Hennessey, on 58 Adama Diomandé, fed by a lovely pass from Tom Huddlestone, shoots over the bar. Lively stuff, breathless stuff. A proper game of football, this. We are the better side, and that’s not something we’ve had the luxury of claiming much since August, but we are lightweight up front, which is something we’ve had the luxury of claiming every flippin’ minute since August.
But on 69 Palace score again, and the game looks up. Zaha is allowed a bit too much freedom down our left side inside the box, fast feet elude Sam Clucas, and Zaha surges forward and rips a powerful shot high into the roof of the net.
I have no idea what Ahmed Elmohamady thought he was doing standing around ineffectually in the left back position, by the way. That is, I don’t know why our right back was at left back and I don’t know why he didn’t hurl his body in the way of Zaha’s shot instead of shying away like a spotty kid wearing glasses in the playground. Clucas was undone by Zaha’s trickery but Clucas is entitled to ask why Elmo didn’t back him up.
And yet, don’t despair (I was despairing, I admit it, it’s my natural state of mind) here’s Diomandé with a tremendous equaliser, as, in receipt of a rolled pass by Big Harry The Playmaker, he shows unexpected delicacy just inside inside the box to outwit the lumpen Palace defence, scoot free of attention and plonk the ball coolly past Hennessey. This was magical: the sort of unfeasibly glorious goal that gets a twenty million price tag attached to a striker. Diomandé looks a better player game by game just lately, and let me ask you when’s the last time we actually had a forward who seemed to be on the up thanks to the club’s coaching staff? Answers involving Stephen McPhee, Andy Mason and Paul Hunter not required, thank you. Billy Whitehurst when tutored by Chris Chilton perhaps? Mind you, I don’t remember Big Billy pirouetting past defenders the way Dio did yesterday, Billy was more mallet than ballet.
Palace hang back now, presumably eager to lose and thereby secure the dismissal of their hothead meatbrain of a manager (and who wouldn’t be), and this generous passivity allows us to take the lead. It’s a lovely flowing move, Dio to Elmo, Snodgrass heavily involved as he is in almost all of our direct attacking play, culminating in Livermore striding into the box, cutting inside past flat-footed defence on to his left foot and sliding a shot inside Hennessey’s near post. First goal for Jake since we horsed Rotherham 5-1 at the back end of last season, paltry defending by Palace but superbly positive endeavour from City.
Cracking stuff, City. Just the twelve minutes to see out now for a precious victory.
Fraizer Campbell comes on as sub for Palace with nine minutes to go.
He gets the reception of a pantomime villain. What’s this man Campbell ever done for Hull City, except score the goals and provide the glittering moments of genius that got us promoted to the top flight for the first time in the club’s history?
We know how this ends.
A cross from the right by Zaha, Campbell glides clear of his marker, a haplessly ill-positioned Curtis Davies, and guides a decisively firm header just inside Marshall’s left hand post.
Three apiece, and time enough yet for the match to be won, but Palace look the more likely to achieve that, so there’s a sense of relief when referee Jones finally toots for termination.
That, then, concludes our run of eight fixtures which commenced with Bournemouth away in which the plan was to salt away plenty of points to see us through a lean winter. We got five of them. And we are second bottom. December’s fixtures look tricky now. January awaits. Elmo and Dieumerci Mbokani are heading south, to play in the African Nations Cup in Gabon, Abel Hernández is heading south to play for Aston Villa, and our hopes of playing in front of crowds above 4,000 come August are heading south unless the ghastly Allams sell up pronto. Which I do not believe is going to happen.
But, small mercies. City 3 Palace 3, a genuinely exciting and properly enjoyable game of football. That’s not something we’ve had the luxury of claiming much since August. And, on current evidence, that’s not something we’ll have the luxury of claiming much before next August.
Still, happy Christmas.
Steve Weatherill (report first appeared on the Tiger Chat mailing list)