PREVIEW: City v Exeter

Now comes the backlash, right? I mean, when you’re pride is as wounded as ours, you go out and show the world just how good you are. Right?

Well, if we’re to get the season back on track, that’s what needs to happen. And the recovery must begin with the visit of Exeter City tomorrow. City are embarking upon their most hectic part of the season – by February 9th we’ll have played 10 games in 32 days. To have a bad spell at this stage could be disastrous. To recover and end this part of 2001/2 with a series of wins would be invaluable. Exeter at home isn’t the sternest test City will face this season, and it represents an ideal chance to rectify the events of the past week.

Not that Exeter should be underestimated. They’ve won their last four away games, emerging victorious from trips to Torquay, Shrewsbury, Mansfield and most recently Scunthorpe, a 95th minute winner from Roscoe stealing all three points from the Scunts. If their home form was as impressive as their away form, they’d be serious contenders for a top five finish. However, results at St James’ Park (the real one) have consistently let them down. Of course, their season started off in the worst possible way, with a 3-1 gubbing at home to the Tigers. Oh, for those heady days to be revisited. Nonetheless, the Grecians are a revitalised side, and will be scenting tigerish blood at the moment.

Happily for Little’s demoralised troops, the visitors are also pretty charitable in defence. They’ve leaked 42 goals this season, the same as Dolan’s pitiful York and bettered only by Orient’s remarkable 47-goal against tally. It’s a great chance for the struggling strikers to get a goal, and you fancy that if City can score once more will follow. On that point Little is correct – even a fluke will do, and the length of time it takes for City to score their next goal might have a huge bearing on the outcome of the this season.

The Tigers will need to beat their southern foes without the aid of Ian Goodison, sidelined with a leg injury. He is seemingly not long for this club, with he and compatriot Theodore Whitmore having rejected recent contract offers from City. Their current deals expire in summer but City are prepared to listen to any offers made for the pair, and we may be seeing the final acts of their Hull City careers. Whether Whitmore will even be given the opportunity to impress any other clubs watching on Saturday is doubtful – his shocking performance on Tuesday may see him dropped. Just what formation and team selection will be made is anyone’s guess, but several players will be fearing the worst. Matthews, Sneekes, Beresford, Rowe, Whitmore, Greaves and Johnsson’s places are all under severe threat. Hopefully, Little will restore Dudfield to the starting eleven, but not even the smallest of hints have been dropped in the build-up to the game.

The bookies have lost faith in City too, pricing them as high as 12/1 for the title. In the minds of all but the most optimistic of supporters any chance of the championship has now gone, with the chase for third place being our primary target. Fortunately, City’s recent form (eight points from a possible thirty) has not been capitalised upon by our promotion rivals. (BR)Mansfield have lost three of their last four, Rochdale have just one win in eight, Scunthorpe have taken seven points from a possible 18. The sudden collapse of so many teams has let in other contenders, notably Shrewsbury, Kidderminster, Cheltenham and now Exeter. Assuming Luton and Plymouth have already sewn up the top two, City face a fearsome battle for the third and final automatic promotion spot. If it’s any solace, City remain comfortable 9/4 favourites to emerge victorious from this impending scrap. They’re also 4/6 to take three points tomorrow.

Tough times lie ahead, and we’ll learn an awful lot about our expensive team in the next few months. Do they have the ability and determination to secure promotion? We can only hope they do. COME ON CITY!

PREVIEW: City v Carlisle

Needless to say, this preview takes the assumption that Boothferry Park will be passed as playable for the match on Friday night. The pitch is in perfect condition, as always, but a covering of snow on top of the covers and problems with ice and snow on the terraces and approaches to the ground mean the game remains in doubt. City are confident the game will go ahead. Should it not, the club will lose the £30,000 ITV are paying to show the match live on their Sport Channel. A pitch inspection will take place at 2.30pm on the afternoon of the match.

As for game itself, on paper, it looks like on of the easiest of the season. Carlisle’s form this season has been awful, and only Halifax are saving them from being bottom of the league. Without a single away win all season, they come into the game having lost 3-1 at Rushden. The freezing conditions over the Christmas period affected them more than most, as they haven’t played a game since that reversal at Nene Park, on December 22nd. At least the Cumbrians have no particular injury worries, and can welcome back McDonagh, Rogers, Hopper and Birch from suspension. The primary danger comes from Richie Foran, who has plundered 6 of Carlisle’s 19 goals this season. He is a robust forward with considerable pace and a impressive mean streak that makes him a handful for any defence.

City have no concerns on the injury front. New signing Jason Ven Blerk is likely to go straight into the squad, hopefully to replace Andy Holt at left-back. Justin Whittle’s suspension has been served, and he will probably take Mohan’s place in the defence. Sneekes should retain his place in the side after his one-man show at Kidderminster, while Dudfield is certain to return to the side following his puzzling relegation to the bench last week. It means Whitmore’s place is under threat, as Little is likely to favour Johnsson and Sneekes in midfield. Matthews and Beresford will play out wide, Alexander is undroppable up front, while Musselwhite will keep his place ahead of former Carlisle player Matt Glennon, who is still suffering with a thigh injury.

City have developed an annoying habit of not winning games like these of late. Carlisle are unlikely to be too adventurous coming forward, meaning City will have to break down yet another stubborn defence at home. The Tigers are 4/9 to overcome their TV jinx, and really need to win in order to keep in touch with Luton and Plymouth, who are starting to run away with it at the top of the table. With Mansfield playing in the FA Cup at Leicester on Saturday, a win will take the Tigers back into the top three. After the disgrace at Kidderminster, a massive improvement is required. Come on you Ull.
Recommended viewing: www.bruntonpark.com

PREVIEW: Kidderminster v City

A considerable test awaits City at Aggborough, home of Kidderminster Harriers. They have embarked upon an impressive sequence of results, winning five of their last six games. It’s a run that has taken them up to eleventh in the table, and firmly in contention to launch a New Years assault on the play-off places. It’s an assault on the top three that concerns Brian Little’s charges however – City are placed in third half-way through the season, and with room for improvement too.

City will need to win without three important players though. Justin Whittle serves a one-match ban for receiving five yellow cards, while Mike Edwards’ three-match ban for his red card at Scunthorpe begins tomorrow. Likely to deputise are any two from Mohan, Bloomer, Holt or Price. Paul Musselwhite is likely to replace Matt Glennon in goal. Glennon has been an ever-present this season, but is suffering with a groin strain and would not have played at York had the match gone ahead. Lawrie Dudfield has had extra time to shake off a injury sustained in the goalless draw against Southend last week, and should be fit to play. Not for the first time in recent weeks, Brian Little has hinted at changes in the wake of a disappointing performance, though whether any alterations other than those forced by injury or suspension will be made remains to be seen.

Kidderminster, not surprisingly, are optimistic of beating City. Porky Jan Molby has been speaking our of “inconsistency” away from home, a valid point. His side also have a good record at home, conceding just five goals and losing only once, 2-0 against Swansea in September. They also come into the game on the back of a remarkable 4-1 gubbing of fading Rochdale on Boxing Day. It means they may be a little battle-weary compared to the Tigers, but also with high confidence. One man who won’t be appearing on Saturday is Tony Bird, the halfwitted moron who thought it’d be amusing to bait the Kempton back in August, leading to missiles being hurled from the East Stand. He has dropped out of the picture at Aggborough, and is very unlikely to feature on Saturday.

Refereeing the game will be Bill Jordan of Hertfordshire. He hasn’t reffed the Tigers since the 3-0 defeat at Exeter in October 1998, in the bleak Hateley days. He’s dished out an average of three yellow cards per game this season, with only a handful of red cards in his entire career in the League.

A tough game awaits. City’s allocation of 1,900 tickets has not yet completely sold out, although none of the 200 seat tickets remain. Winning the final game of 2001 will be an difficult task, but not beyond the reach of our hugely talented squad. Come on you Ull.

PREVIEW: York v City

Crisis club York, beset by off-the-field woes and managed by the biggest arsehole in football. Promotion chasing Hull City, with a expensive squad, proven manager and the biggest support in the known universe. Does that not point to an away win for the Tigers?

It ought to. York are struggling hideously at the moment. Chairman Douglas Craig has put the Minstermen up for sale, with the added bonus that if a buyer is not found by the end of the season, the club “will cease to exist”. Charming. They are, of course, manager by one Terence Dolan, a man who does the term football manager a gross disservice. And their team is rubbish, their support depleted and demoralised. City need to be ruthless, they need to show a merciless killing instinct and return to the east of Yorkshire with three points.

We’ll need to do it without Justin Whittle though. He must serve a one-match suspension after collecting five yellow cards, and will probably be replaced by Nicky Mohan. The former Stoke player has a point to prove, after his earlier performances were rather reminiscient of an arthritic wildebeest, costing City goals all over the place. That aside, City will be unchanged from the side that laboured to a disappointing 0-0 draw with Southend on Friday. The home side have Richard Cooper ruled out with suspension and Peter Duffield unavailable with a thigh injury. Lee Nogan is fit again, and could also feature three ex-Tigers – Gary Hobson, Matt Hocking and Alan Fettis.

York’s recent form is terrible. They lie 20th in the table, having collected just one point from their last five games. They’ve lost six games at home already this season, leaking fifteen goals in the process. Worst of all, when playing teams in the top half of the table they’ve gained a feeble two points from eleven games. Surely City won’t donate the third (and heaven forbid, the fourth and fifth)? Not according to those nice men at William Hills. They make City the clear 6/5 favourites to win.

3,700 City fans will be travelling, after our allocation of tickets was sold out in just a week. It’s possible the home supporters will be outnumbered, York’s average attendance is just 2,621. North Yorkshire Police are mounting the usual massive operation to keep the peace in York, and not for the first time in recent weeks City fans are being urged not to travel without tickets, as none will be sold on the day.

York in crisis. Dolan desperate to avoid a repeat of the 4-0 caning his charges suffered at Boothferry Park in September. Come on City, make it a bit worse for them.

PREVIEW: City v Southend

City play their final home match of 2001 looking to continue their extraordinary run of 20 league games without defeat at Boothferry Park. A couple of changes are possible in the wake of the disappointing 2-1 defeat at Scunthorpe. Following his red card at Scunthorpe, Mike Edwards may well be replaced by Andy Holt. Although Brian Little has spoken out in support of Edwards, it there is supposedly concern over his mental state, having inadvertently caused such a serious injury to Richard Kell at Glanford Park. Richard Sneekes is unavailable to play, as his wife has just given birth. On the whole, Little is likely to stick with the same team, which means no place for former Southend player David Lee. He is missed at Roots Hall but has made little impact at City, not even making the bench in recent weeks.

Southend come into the match with one of the worst records away from home in the Division. The Shrimpers have won just twice on their travels, at Rushden and Rochdale. However, they recorded an impressive midweek win over Second Division Chesterfield in the FA Cup and surprised Rochdale 1-0 last week, so confidence should be high. City are priced at a rather short 4/9 to win the game, and with successive away games at York and Kidderminster approaching, a home victory would be the ideal way to begin the Christmas period. Cliché or not, these are the type of games we need to win if we’re going to get promotion.

Scunthorpe v Tigers game preview

Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war! The Endtime is near, the cataclysmic apocalypse referred to in the scriptures of every holy book known to mankind is upon us. Ok, so perhaps part one of the 2001-02 Humber Derby isn’t that important, in fact it’s hard to think of any game involving Scunthorpe as big, but as far as the promotion pushes of both clubs are concerned, the result of this battle of good and evil could be significant come April 20th. The south bank inbreds are taking this all rather seriously, this IS their cup final after all, and rumour has it Brian Laws has taken to wearing Pampers as he pees himself perpetually in anticipation of Saturday’s ‘showdown’.

City have no new injuries concerns, Rodney Rowe and Mark Greaves are well on the road to recovery but are highly unlikely to feature in this one. Andy Holt is added to the squad after missing the cup tie against former club Oldham to attend the birth of his first child. Brian Little is loathe to break up a side playing well and will probably stick with the starting eleven who gave the Second Division Latics the run around in the first half at the Ark. Maned midfielder Richard Sneekes, who looks less than fully fit, is unlikely to dislodge the Johnsson-Whitmore axis in the middle of the park and should start on the bench once more. For Scunny, Carl Bradshaw is a major doubt, leave your groin alone son and it might heal. Stuart Thom, Wayne Graves and street fighter Matthew ‘jailbird’ Sparrow are all in contention after playing in the reserve win against Cleethorpes United in midweek.

Scunny currently fill the last play off berth, lying seventh in Division Three. Their league form is a little erratic at present, they thrashed Darlington 7-1 at home but the yellowbellied hoons soon had the inane grins knocked off their faces when they lost 3-0 at bottom placed Carlisle. A 0-0 draw is unlikely, as each sides 36 goals this season makes them the basement’s joint top scorers behind Luton. Former loan Tiger Martin Carruthers is the divisions fourth top scorer with ten goals, Steve Torpey (7) and cartwheeling carthorse Peter Beagrie (6) score their fair share too.

So, what to expect? If the past is anything to go on a Tigers victory doesn’t look probable. City have a woeful record at the open roofed DIY warehouse that replaced the Old Show Ground, winning just once in the league there. That win, in case you forgot came last year when David Brightwell’s “naff” free-kick secured a 1-0 win. Prior encounters at Jamrag Park have seen City lose 2-3 and 2-0, and back in 1997 they tossed away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2. Not a happy hunting ground, but a lot of water has flowed under the Humber Bridge since those dark days. Scunthorpe have hardly turned Glanford into a fortress this season, gleaning a none too impressive eighteen points from ten home games. Then again, City’s away form is nothing to frap about. Three slovenly defeats have been inflicted on City on their travels, and a meagre haul of thirteen points from ten games the extent of our awayday plunderings. Our away form is improving though, convincing wins at Luton and Northwich attest to that.

The man in the middle is David Crick of Surrey. Not a familiar face, he last reffed a City game in August 1999 when he awarded Cheltenham a dubious looking penalty against Lee ‘Banzai’ Bracey on our first visit to Whaddon Road. He doesn’t appear to be a frantic card waver though, averaging just two bookings a game and brandishing the red card only once in eighteen games so far this season.

The Humber Bridge’s toll booths should be busy on Saturday as the Tiger Nation mobilises for an invasion of North Lincolnshire. City sold out of tickets for this game in just 25 trading hours, only a hundred or so briefs went on general sale after season ticket holders snaffled up the lions, err, tigers share. Officially, there will be 2100 City fans at Jamrag Park, though hundreds more are believed to have bought tickets for the home ends. More tickets were requested but Scunny declined, this despite poor ticket sales for the home stands. Brian Laws was heard on Radio Humberside pleading for locals to turn up, and considering Scunny’s recently announced lack of cash, would it not have made sense to let us have another 1000 tickets and them £13,000 in the till rather than have empty seats?

Remember how Scunts mocked us when our finances were parlous and future looked grim? Well, the shoe is on the other foot now. Scunt’s chairman Steve Wharton issued a statement this last week, allow us to quote and paraphrase…”Unfortunately our costs had been budgeted for a higher division and our revenue was substantially reduced by being in Division Three. We also had a very poor season after getting away to a good start…Financially the year was disastrous.” Or in other words, ‘oh no, we are shit, and subsequently are fucked’. Steve Wartsandall casts envious eyes across the River Humber when he adds “we have to be able to compete against clubs who have double our support base” Whoever do they mean?

A fifth of that support base will be at the game, let’s hope it’s a cracker. Silverback and chums, the Tiger Nation is coming…

PREVIEW: Leyton Orient v City

City are likely to be without the services of Ian Goodison when they take on Leyton Orient in the second leg of the play-off semi-final at Brisbane Road tomorrow. He sustained a knee injury late in the first leg and had to be substituted, the knock appears to be more serious than was initially thought. Brian Little is not ruling out his chances of a speedy recovery, but it looks more than likely that the Jamaican international will not be risked. In his place will come Mark Greaves or Mark Atkins, both perfectly proficient defenders.

Apart from Goodison’s injury, City will not need to make any changes from Sunday. Whether any are made depends on who Little chooses to partner Francis up front – Rowe was selected last time out, but Eyre scored the crucial goal. Both players would be unlucky to miss out; a pleasing indication of the sudden strength in depth we have.

For Orient, they have a largely unchanged team. Andy Harris is returning to fitness, but manager Tommy Taylor may opt to stay with Steve Castle, who played at Boothferry Park. Leading scorer Griffiths is serving the final game of a three-match ban and is again unavailable, meaning youngster Jabo Ihebre will likely play again. Big things are expected of him at Brisbane Road, and he appears to be a pacy, talented forward. Orient will need him – unless they score they’re out. City’s game plan is clear – keep a clean sheet. Doing so takes us to Cardiff and the play-off final, failing to do so, and it’s easy to see City struggling to score.

The game IS all-ticket. City’s 3,000 allocation is very nearly sold out, and Orient are approaching sell-out too, meaning 13,000 should be in attendance. It’s make or break time – come on City.

PREVIEW: City v Leyton Orient

Brian Little has an almost full squad to choose from as he leads City into their first ever play-off fixture today. The biggest doubts in midweek, Ian Goodison (back) and John Eyre (knee), are both available for selection having resumed training, the pair picked up knocks away to Southend and were rested for the trip to Carlisle last week. Mark Greaves required stitches after being on the receiving end of a nasty challenge late in the game at Brunton Park, but he has trained all week without problems.

One player who won’t be taking part is Theo Whitmore, scorer of both goals in our 2-2 draw at Brisbane Road. Early in the season we seemed dependent on him to get results but nowadays he appears not to feature in Brian Little’s plans, evidenced by his allowing the Jamaican FA to call him up for the Copa Caribe tournament, while demanding City’s other Reggae Boy Ian Goodison stays put. For the O’s, boss Tommy Taylor looks certain to throw 18 year old Jabo Ibehre into the fray once more, he made his full debut last week in the absence of 19-goal striker Carl Griffiths who is serving a four game suspension and scored twice against Macclesfield. Former Halifax and Scarborough striker and alleged a one time City target Chris Tate is likely to begin on the bench.

All 13500 tickets for this semi-final first leg have been sold, it promises to be a game to remember. Every man and his dog appears to have installed City as favourites going into this double header, and in truth it’s hard to see us coming a cropper against the Londoners. Nevertheless it’s still hard to come to terms with people in the media lavishing praise on the Tigers, listening to TalkSport’s 505 show on the way back from Carlisle last week was all very surreal, host Gary Newbon was dismissing the challenges from the other three sides involved, insisting it would be us that achieve promotion to the second division via the Nationwide Lottery. City playing the role of media darlings…we are charting undiscovered country indeed.

PREVIEW: Carlisle v City

City travel to Cumbria and their final league game of the season safe in the knowledge that their play-off berth is secure no matter what the result. The point at Southend guaranteed City’s place in the top seven, and now it is merely a case of finishing as high as possible. Should the Tigers finish fourth or fifth, they will get home advantage in the second leg. As for their likely opponents, it could be anyone out of Hartlepool, Orient, Rochdale or Blackpool. As for the match which will decide it, it has no crucial bearing on promotion, nor relegation – Carlisle hauled themselves out of relegation trouble with a draw at Lincoln in midweek. They are planning to make a few changes for the game – Steve Soley will not play, and Scott Dobie looks very doubtful. Mick Galloway is recovering from injury and should be included in the squad, while Tony Hopper returns from suspension. Darren Carr and Mark Birch are banned, paving the way for several youngsters to play – Jonny Allen and Paul Anthony are in contention.

As for the Tigers, they will be largely unchanged. Gary Fletcher and Theodore Whitmore will probably play some part, if only to keep the match-fitness up ahead of the play-offs. Ian Goodison may be rested after his recent endeavours, but that aside it is hard to see Brian Little making too many changes. With two massive games looming, he cannot afford his side to relax now.
Recommended viewing www.94thminute.com

PREVIEW: Southend v City

City travel to Southend for the penultimate game of the regular season knowing that just a single point will mathematically guarantee them (at least) a play-off place. The 3-1 win over deposed leaders Chesterfield all but ensured a top-seven finish as only Rochdale can catch the Tigers, but one point means City can travel to struggling Carlisle on Saturday without any pressure. However, Rochdale must win both games to have any chance of overhauling us – it is virtually impossible to conceive us throwing it away now. The task of gaining a point at Southend has been made considerably easier by the Shrimpers dropping out of the play-off race at the weekend with a disappointing draw at home to Carlisle. It leaves them with nothing to play for but pride, which will work to City’s advantage. In theory anyway.

Brian Little may yet again be able to field an unchanged side, a remarkable luxury that has surely contributed considerably to our recent charge up the table. The only injury doubts are Kevin Francis, who has a strained muscle and Mark Atkins, struggling with a rib injury. Francis is expected to be fit enough to play, though Atkins may not be. That would likely see Greaves brought into the team, with Whitmore regaining his place on the bench. Little cited concerns over Tappa’s fitness as the reason he was left out of the 16 who faced Chesterfield on Saturday, as both he and compatriot Ian Goodison had played for Jamaica during the week.

For Southend, they have no injury worries and can field an unchanged side if they want, but with nothing to play for they may mix it up a bit. It’s a great relief that they sold Martin Carruthers to Scunthorpe on transfer deadline day. He posed major problems to City’s defence in the 1-1 draw between the sides at Boothferry Park back in October, and of course possesses the “returning strikers” curse all players are instantly gifted once they leave the Ark. Since his departure, Southend have looked far less threatening up front, and it is their goalscoring abilities that effectively ended their play-off bid. Like City, their top scorer is yet to break into double figures (David Lee, eight goals), but they lack the outstanding defence Brian Little is fortunate enough to have. They have no major injury or suspension worries, but are not in particularly good form and there is no reason we can’t record our third successive win at Roots Hall. With another absurdly large away support preparing to descend upon Southend-on-Sea, this match could be party time for the black and amber. We need a point, and the promised land is ours to explore. Come on you ‘Ull.