For some City fans today’s penultimate home game of the season was a stark choice in terms of who they would rather go up automatically: Leeds or Sheffield United. A punch in the face or a kick in the balls. But for most fans today was primarily about City and how they would perform with enforced changes now there was little to play for. Beat what is in front of you and let others worry about short term alliances, going easy or score permutations.
This is Hull City though. The gift that keeps on giving to teams that need something when we are over the line and on the beach. We lined up:
Kane McKenzie JDW Lichaj
Bowen Pugh Grosicki
Marshall has been told by Adkins that he is unlikely to play again this season so this back five may have a look of the next season about it. Oh dear! Still going back to three o’clock, things were reasonably optimistic.. The teams came out onto a lush green pitch, despite the recent RL derby, in sunny weather conditions that you would find at the Camp Nou – without the £110 ticket price (There’s an idea for next season, Ehab). Both teams were backed by a vociferous following. City in the four home stands. Blunts in the away end and in the home ends. And City start brightly. Pugh spins Fleck and gets pulled down for a free kick. The resultant kick just fails to meet Irvine’s head. On three minutes, Pugh again dribbles through and finds Bowen who releases a shot that can be termed as tame. But we are on top with a smattering of corners and blocked shots in this purple patch. In a rare Blunts attack the ball is smothered by Long who kicks long to Campbell. The future Terrier is pulled down for another free kick which is fired at Henderson to punch wide.
I wrote in my notebook at this point that both Batty and McKenzie are ‘doing well’. To be fair they did OK for 93 minutes. It’s said that successful youngsters learn from bad experiences more than good experiences. I’m hoping that this is true for these two academy products as the pendulum swings towards Sheffield United. On nine minutes Lichaj puts out for a corner under pressure with a hint of fowling which is let off by referee Scott. In swings the corner and there rises an unchallenged McGoldrick to head in. Cue Blunt celebrations in the away end and cue aggro in the North Stand. For the rest of the first half the Blades seem to be everywhere they should be and City appear to be everywhere they shouldn’t. On 21 the ball finds McGoldrick on our left who cuts inside McKenzie to curl a shot in past Long. It was a goal similar to Neves last season. The Irish captain should not score from there but there you go. 0-2 and the Tigers are looking ragged. Still we soldier bravely on. Whilst the quick, incisive passing we are capable of has deserted us, City slowly work the ball upfield through Pugh, Grosicki and Irvine. The Polish captain even manages a shot into Row Z after a couple of corners.
But it is the Blunts who still look more likely to score and they nearly do when Baldock’s goal bound shot hits McKenzie’s back – well defended lad! But then City decide to shoot themselves in the bollocks once again when Baldock floats a hopeful ball to where Kane is covering. Kane decides to wait for the ball to land on his head rather than going to meet it. In nips a thankful Stevens who powers another header past Long. 0-3.
Could there be a more welcoming place for a visiting team with playoff ambitions than the KCOM? Sunshine, wonder goals and playing a team that makes you look like Ajax. For Blunts like Chris Wilder – a man so Sheffield United if you cut him with a blade he would bleed red – games like this send you up and live long in the memory. Not great when you’re on the other side of it though.
Perhaps realising this contest was over Adkins told the players to ‘go out and win the second half’. At least we drew it. Still we do a bit of attacking, occasionally getting the ball into the Blunts box. On 46 Lichaj throws long to Irvine who controls well but shoots badly. On 53 Bowen shoots well as we observe a collectors item of a genuine Henderson save. Adkins decides to bring on some fresh legs so on come the perma crocked Toral and perma useless Dicko for Pugh and Campbell. Toral does well for the remainder I thought. On 76 a cross finds the Frenchman’s head but unlike McGoldrick this one sails over the bar. On 80 Toral bombs down the right to cross to Dicko who then directs the ball to Bowen. The Hertfordshire Robben strikes first time but straight at Henderson. On 88 Batty smashes the ball over after some good work by Grosicki. But the overall feeling is that City could be playing now as you read this and not have scored.
So that’s that for the Easter games. I never make predictions and I never will. But if City get anything from the last two games it will be a minor miracle. And then it is onto the tricky business of rebuilding a squad for the next campaign and potentially looking for another manager. This, coupled with the news that Siobhan has left Bananarama for the second time, means that City fans are shaping up for a cruel summer indeed.
Dominic Fellowes (via Tiger Chat)