The talk in the understandably sparsely-populated pre-match pub circulated around the worst City game you’ve ever seen. It was a typical Hull City fan default gloomy convo rather than one suggesting hope of a swashbuckling afternoon’s display ahead. One wise old Tiger Chatter proffered Doncaster Rovers away, April 1998, lost 0-1 against a team that conceded 113 that season on the way to 34 defeats. That match which saw a disconsolate Donny fan chain himself to a goalpost. We agreed that today’s match surely couldn’t come close to that defeat; Sunderland were supposedly also a shambles – maybe even bigger than us – and today look to be carding a team half full of kids. And just look at the experienced names on our 2pm announced teamsheet. But such was the calamity surrounding both clubs if both teams could lose it they would.
We lined up:-
Tomori Dawson Hector Aina
Meyler Larsson Toral Evandro
So that’s Campbell in for Dicko and Evandro – making his first start for nine months – in for Irvine.
But. Still. Only. One. Up. Front.
Sunderland started with a team including four Academy graduates and only five league goals between them. You know what’s coming.
Unsurprisingly the Stadium of Light was sparsely populated at kick-off, in a situation mirroring our own.
However a very healthy 1,000 Tigers had made the trip further north, impressive given the both the league circumstances and wintry weather.
The scene was set early as the movement of Sunderland’s two kids up front (Asoro and Joel Maja having a combined eight league appearances between them) had Hector and Dawson all over the shop. Meanwhile at the other end 80 year old John O’Shea was blootering everything that entered his postcode into Row Z.
My notes record that the first 19 minutes was utter dross from The Tigers. In fact, as I was writing it Sunlan duly scored, 19:04 minutes, #TypicalCity.
Honeyman broke down the right to feed Sweden U21 international Asoro whose shot from 10 yards drilled into the bottom far corner past McGregor. If I can read my writing it says “Goal. Dawson, for f**k’s sake”.
Their kids understandably gained immense confidence from the lead. After all, like us, it’s not something they do that often. That first half an hour from City was probably the worst I’ve seen for a fair while, given the team’s experience and position we’re in. Sunderland are winning tackles, they’re winning all the second balls. The Wearsiders are up for this in exactly the way we’re not.
It’s been noted several times recently that Hull City have this curious tactic of hoofing the ball long and high up front towards a single forward, with inevitable failure if you’ve only Campbell or Dicko up there. It’s just not their game. City looked a far better team when working the ball on the deck – we have the quality of players that can do this – but it’s a measure of the lack of our confidence that we go long ball far too often.
As if to prove my point on the half hour Dawson pumps a long high free kick into the Sunderland area, whilst Hector stays back. It makes absolutely no sense to have free kicks into the opposing penalty areas without your two tall centre halves there. But this is Hull City 2018 – we’re a basket case club and nothing is making any sort of sense.
On 34 minutes and 50 seconds I write that Hector successfully passed to a player of his own side. It might have been his first of the game.
As a flock of seagulls circled menacingly above McGregor’s goal, we were all wishing for a leader figure. The sad sight of Dawson and Meyler’s careers petering out in front of us isn’t pretty. Ethan Robson dispossesses a dilly-dallying Meyler for the fourth time. Toral bottles a couple of challenges. Aina passes straight to an opponent when under no pressure. Larsson is putting in a decent shift against his old club – of course – but he was really the only one emerging from that first half with any sort of credit.
On the stroke of half-time a long boot forward from McGregor takes one bounce and as Campbell jumps for the ball with the keeper he appears to be slightly held back. It would have been a very generous penalty, but the first half was that bad it was the only positive note I could scribble.
Surely Adkins will give his team a mighty boot up the arse in the interval and we’d go 442 at the restart? But no. He obviously didn’t and he definitely doesn’t.
But the second half didn’t actually plumb the depths of the first, and at least City learned some lessons – keeping the ball down more to their strengths, but it was still well below acceptable for players of their experience and how good some of them think they are.
As we looked around the pitch this team of City players should be doing so much better than the sum of their parts. Aina, for instance, is an interesting case study. He has bags of ability when haring forward down the wing, but once he reaches the final third his sack immediate fills with brown stinky stuff.
Absolutely no end product from someone who fancies himself as a more attacking player. Toral – who I’ve previously called out – had another anonymous game, and should be kept a mile away from any relegation threatened team. No bottle for the fight.
The home side could have gone two-up when Honeyman easily shrugged off Larsson deep inside our box to get on the end of Bryan Oviedo’s pass, but his shot from a ridiculously tight angle rolled along the goal-line.
On the hour Campbell wins a free kick 25 yards out, and the players spend an anxious few seconds looking over to Adkins for advice. What? Why? Eventually Larsson slides it wide of the post. Five minutes later Dawson looks to be screaming something across to the bench from 40 yards away. We look a disorganised shambles. No leader out there.
But – lo – a chance! On 67 minutes a corner is cleared to Evandro whose fine strike from 25 yards is deflected for a corner. A fantastic hit which deserved more than another weak corner.
Irvine enters the pitch for the criminally ineffective Toral. This substitution sparks City a little as twice within three minutes our scampering Aussie races into the left side of the box before drilling into the arms of the keeper. But the pace of our play was certainly better. Meyler even thuds into a crunching – but fair – tackle which holds up play for several minutes whilst Sunderland limbs are counted.
A Sunlan kid’s pace and trickiness embarrasses Dawson on the edge of our area; a clear free kick and yellow card as he’s desperately brought down.
Fifteen minutes to go and City have at last realised the magnitude of potential defeat. Aina breaks clear down the left wing then…..well, you know the rest.
Will Keane then comes on for Campbell and the fans’ dream of two up front is once again dashed.
Dawson is again embarrassed by a debutant teenager, and clearly brings him down right in front of the City support. It’s a penalty all day long, and most likely a red card. But inexplicably the ref books the Black Catter for diving. We laugh! Dawson escapes the scene of the crime whilst berated by much angry homester finger-jabbing.
With five to go, Aina races clear down the left wing….
Four minutes added time are played which include a goalmouth scramble, Hector’s shot being blocked, and Torami pulling off a fantastic tackle when Sunderland break two-on-two.
Cattermole clatters Larsson, settling an old training ground score no doubt, and our Swede finishes the game with worrying limp with all three subs already used.
The final action sees a Meyler thunderbastard being blocked by keeper Ruiter.
It finishes 1-0 to the home side and “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” rains down from the high away end.
Given the magnitude of our situation it’s once again an abysmal performance, and one which nails us on for relegation. I have little sympathy for Adkins – he was obviously hovering around like a smell in the final weeks of Slutsky’s tenure so he knows what a basketcase club we are – and he fully knew what he was taking on.
In his hilariously bizarre post-match presser with Radio Humberside our manager picked out the positives from the day. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it was the best warm-up he’s seen in his time in East Yorkshire. I’d hate to see what happens if we have a bad one. And he repeatedly pointed out that Will Keane getting game time is like a new signing. When pushed about possible transfer targets and available budget he very obviously steered the conversation back to getting players like Keane back from injury. In other words, he has nothing to spend. Ehab Allam, you couldn’t give a toss about this club.
That Doncaster match all those years ago was memorable for the number of records surrounding Donny of the Ken Richardson era. Here’s a few from today:
· Sunderland were ahead here for longer than in their last 25 home league matches put together
· This is first time Sunderland have been ahead at half-time in a home league game in 14 months….in fact since the last time they played Hull City at home.
· Sunderland have won once at home all season before yesterday
· No wins in seven for City, scored in only one of them. One win in 15.
· Hull City have had three “six pointers” already in 2018 and taken only one point
If the Chairman will not sanction spend in this current transfer window – and hearing that Adkins has no plan to turn this around – this team are going down in bottom place. Let Division 3 be your legacy to the city of Kingston-upon-Hull, Assem Allam. I hope you’re proud.
Andy Medcalf (via Tiger Chat)