Right at the death we pressed again, this time in numbers. Urgent East Lancashire shouts rent the air and this time, finally, as we surged towards them, success and a seemingly impossible goal were attained. Yes, the pies that were noisily flogged off for just a pound were acquired and scoffed against the hunger and cold. The best pie-related action since the never-to-be-forgotten League Cup night at Chester where they plonked the tray of unsold pies down on the away terrace in front of the 200 or so of the faithful, gratis. So I enjoyed my first ever potato and butter pie, and I kid you not, reader, it was rich and glorious. You take your pleasure where you can at my age.
I didn’t take much pleasure from the game. We lost again, we deserved to lose again, against a good but far from imposing side. We didn’t play terribly, but neither did we play terribly well. Not enjoying themselves in contractually required Lancastrian pissing rain conditions were:
Aina Hector MacDonald Clark
Bowen Meyler Larsson Irvine
So, newbie Angus MacDonald debuted in defence, other newbie Harry Wilson started on the bench. Equally noteworthy were the absences of Grosicki and Dawson from the squad. Grosicki, who knows why, Dawson, presumably a Soviet-style response to his wanting to go elsewhere.
Anyhoo, they set off attacking the far end with the faithful massed – at least a medium sized mass – directly behind McGregor’s goal. And, rather to my surprise, we did actually do a bit of attacking. Aina was always keen to get forward and his work led to a cross which begat some ping-pong heading between four players before the ball went behind, Aina then slung in a longish throw, Bowen crossed and MacDonald who had stolen forward headed wide.
After this first 15 of modest progress Preston got more control of the game and we saw more of MacDonald in defence. And he looked ok too. It’s a curious story, as related to me; a mysterious illness laid him low for months so he lost his place at Barnsley before his malaise was diagnosed as – anaemia! Oh. It doesn’t surprise me that his diet in Barnsley was so poor that this can happen – the lad’s lucky he avoided scurvy and rickets – but I hadn’t realised healthcare was so poor they couldn’t spot this. Frankly, he’s lucky to have made it to Hull, where we turn out top quality healthcare practitioners by the shovelful (nursing, ODP and paramedic places still available for September’18).. Anyway, he’s a big unit, his positional sense looked good and, whether this was coincidental or not, Hector had a far more assured game than I had previously seen.
After a spell of Preston pressing in which McGregor had to save sharply, we scored, on the break, unexpectedly and rather sweetly too. A nice passing move down the left, a ball that encouraged Bowen to run on and delay his shot as the ball ran into his stride to perfection and he slid it home succulently. I’ve since read it took a deflection, but I confess I didn’t notice that at the time. 1-0. To us!
it didn’t last long. We held the lead for seven minutes, 17 minutes after we scored we were behind and there was a self-inflicted element to both goals. Firstly MacDonald did well to win a header that was running over the deadball line. Did it get a touch off their striker? It was hard to tell. I thought not, more importantly, so did the referee and he gave a corner. This was to the huge disquiet of Campbell who had shepherded the ball out in the left back position, waving actual left back Clark away from the ball. The corner came over, curled outwards and their left back – as tall as left backs tend to be, which is not very – somehow out jumped David Meyler, despite him being the height David Meyler tends to be and headed home. 1-1.
There’s more. Sadly. Encouraged, they came onto us, and we wobbled. Striker Bodin is direct and he unsettled us. But happily the ball ran beyond him. But who’s this, arriving late on the scene into the left back position? Why, once again, it’s Fraizer Campbell! Of course it is! Bodin waits. Campbell bumps into him. Bodin falls over, the referee gives it. That decision is officially designated ‘soft.’ Bodin shrugged as he stood up in a ‘just doing my job, mate’ way. These shouldn’t be given, but they often are. The thing to do is not to allow the ref to make decision. What Campbell was doing – and doing there – I can’t imagine. The penalty is buried by Browne past a clearly furious McGregor and that is 2-1 and half-time. Cuh.
Second go and they came out determined to finish us off. At this point they looked a good side. They are very fast upfront and they disconcert us. Aina is skinned by Robinson, MacDonald is dispossessed by Browne. McGregor does well twice. He does even better a few minutes later, again from the predatory Browne, getting down really quickly to a sharp strike.
We aren’t doing anything at this point. Preston look quick and strong at the back too and they are bloody hard when they want to be and a few times we get crunched and look discouraged. More discouraging is how lacking in threat we are. Our strikers roles are mystifying to me. Dicko works hard, but drifts to the left most of the time. Campbell, when he’s not running his left back masterclass, plays as an old-fashioned centre forward getting no service at all. He and Dicko are seldom within 30 yards of each other. I was closer to my second wife. I’ve no more idea what they are suppose to be doing together than I understood that unhappy union. But that is how we play them throughout the game. It eludes me as much as it clearly eluded them.
With 20 to go Adkins seems to realise it isn’t working – astute work from a man who reads the game as acutely as you’d expect a physiotherapist would. Anyway, he takes off Campbell and Meyler, both of whom had been dreadful throughout. It’s a shame to have to write that; Campbell is part of the legend and Meyler is the last of Hull’s fighting Irish. They’re authentic heroes, but they looked lost yesterday and part of the problem rather than the solution.
And, eventually, as Preston failed to kill us off and they resolved to hold the hard won ground, we crept back into it. Harry Wilson came on and showed some nice touches. Bowen threatened. as he was twice free in the area but was foiled by a ball that wouldn’t quite run and a brave defender’s block. In truth, we never looked like we believed we could do it and, duly, we didn’t.
The gloom post-match in the pub was considerable, the view that we would be relegated was widespread. It’s not inevitable. We’ve only garnered one point this week but were the better team against Leeds and were never over run by Preston and both of these sides have authentic top six hopes. There is enough in this squad to compete and the new players made competent starts. If Dawson is gone, good. He’s been past his best as long as he’s been here and for the last year both his legs and his positional sense have let him down far too often, The Tricky Trees are welcome to him.
But we look woefully lacking in confidence. And tactics, too. Getting some of both of those would probably be a good idea. Over to The Physio, then.
I had an eventful journey home. The 9.05pm train from Leeds to Hull was pullulating with East Yorkshire’s finest female teenagers who had been on the batter all day and were not for finishing soon. One group of six sat adopted me, explained that two of them were daughters of notable Bransholme ‘faces’ and offered me a half drunk bottle of Italian rosé which they encouraged me to neck in one. To their evident delight I duly obliged and then I sat back and watched contentedly as they put to the verbal sword various drunken men two and three times their age. At my age, you take your pleasure where you can.
Mark Gretton (via Tiger Chat)