ParkinJon

NOSTALGIA: City 1 Leeds 0, 2005-06

TaylorPeter830

In readiness for tonight’s game, we look back at City’s first victory over Leeds United in 18 years, which took place on April Fool’s Day, 2006. It’s an apposite example of the fixture to remember, as a) City won; and b) the scorer of the winning goal was Jon Parkin, who is currently flogging a very well-received autobiography, and who mentions the game fondly in the chapter about his time with the Tigers. The match report pre-dates this version of the Amber Nectar website and appeared solely on the Tiger Chat mailing list. It was written by Stephen Weatherill.

So, 77 minutes into an absorbing and frequently thrilling game of football, and Craig Fagan picks up the ball and wheels into space, looking for a pass. Stuart Green has made a supremely intelligent run into space down the right and Fagan transfers the ball skilfully to the sunny Cumbrian. His touch is sure, and his cross is a delicious looping invitation to a man sliding into position at the back post with the predatory instincts of a panther and the physical presence of a tyrannosaurus rex: it is the Beast and he leaps high, hangs in the air as if borne on the wings of an angel and thuds a perfectly judged header into the sodden turf, whence it bounces past the exposed Sullivan in the visiting goal, and wins us the game.

Wins us the game! Wins us all the three points, and completely banishes relegation fears as our club’s dizzily progressive ascent up the league continues.

And sends evil Leeds whimpering homewards like a whipped cur.

There will be more on the richly well-deserved fate of the vile Wessies. Much more. But though the essence of football is usually that the joy of witnessing the opposition cowed, tamed and defeated exceeds the pleasure of victory – and never more so than on derby day – I will dwell for a moment on the excellence of our team. We have improved so much through the course of this season. From the team that began the season, fresh and lively but looking out of its depth against the stronger sides well established in this division, we have moved on and re-shaped into a team that is convincingly at home in this standard of football, solid at the back, awkward in midfield, and dangerous up front, and heading more-or-less for midtable. This victory was thoroughly deserved: we were the stronger, more effective side from start to finish, and Sullivan had to work a great deal harder than Myhill. And roll on 2006-2007: we haven’t stopped improving yet.

WEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

Myhill
Thelwell Cort Delaney Rogers
Green Welsh Andrews Ellison
Fagan Parkin

And on 2 minutes we were treated to a reminder of just what dark forces were ranged against us. Unpleasant bullboy Rob Hulse committed an outrageous shove, right in front of the linesman. This was ignored, but moments later, when Hulse himself was tripped, the whistle was promptly blown and we were facing a free-kick on the edge of the box, invitingly located for sly Leeds. A firm strike, a sprawling Myhill save. Game on: but it won’t be a fair one. It never is with wicked Leeds.

We scored on 8, a sumptuous left-foot Beast volley leaving an awestruck Sullivan clutching thin air as the ball whistled past him, but the linesman had flagged for offside early, and correctly. But the signs were already encouraging. The Leeds back four looked creaky. Butler and Gregan made a thuggish but one-paced pair of centre-backs. Fagan, fizzing with energy and ideas, was already showing speed enough to terrify them, while the pattern of play on New Year’s Eve, when we’d got outmuscled and ultimately grew
dispirited, had no chance of being repeated. Because now we’’ve got the Beast. Leeds had as much joy in taming Parkin as has everyone else since he joined us from Macc. No joy at all.

I wouldn’t know how you do stop the Beast. Try and climb all over him and he just absorbs the pressure and holds the ball. Stand off, and his first touch is so confident that he simply turns and passes. A superb player.

On 16 a defensive shambles allowed Ellison to turn and shoot. The ball was deflected but lost its pace and Sullivan had time to adjust and make the save. We are the better side.

Disgusting Leeds are playing some sort of a 3-4-3, with Hulse alone up front, the initially impressive Eddie Lewis, of the land of the free and the torturing, wide on the left and fatso Robbie Blake on the right. Lank-haired Sean Derry as the notional playmaker. And they look poor. They do create a serious moment of alarm on 25 when Lewis and the feeble Liam Miller combine down the left and a low cross lays on an inviting opportunity for Blake in the middle, but his effort is woeful and flies high and wide. It’s their best chance of the half.

On 35 Fagan touches the ball on to Parkin, who executes a breathtaking backheel into the path of Green surging into the box …. A powerful shot, a leaping save. This is seriously good football. On 38 the bustling Ellison feeds Fagan, whose cross reaches the Beast … he heads goalwards, but the ball is defected wide. We’re well on top. At the end of the half there are two added minutes and the closest call of the whole first 45 arrives right at the end of them. Cort, marauding forward, wins a throw-in in an advanced position. Fagan takes possession, turns deftly and fires in a powerful low cross which Parkin meets six yards out and, under despairing defensive pressure, he shoves the ball goalwards. It would be past Sullivan if it were not for the pure bad luck that it’s hit straight at him;– the ball cannons off Sullivan’’s knees and out to safety before the bemused Londoner realises what’s hit him.

Half-time. 0-0. Cracking stuff.

Gets better.

But not initially. Grey clouds and rain showers blow in from the west, and the second half begins with a degree of passivity from our team which offers a worrying reminder of how we surrendered so meekly at Elland Road in December. Happily it doesn’t last. On 52 Fagan does well down the right but his cross is mis-hit by Green. No danger to snide Leeds. Oo but it’s lively now. Derry shoots – just wide. Fagan races forward, tries to dribble through three of them. Can’t quite manage it.

The game is terrific now. On 63, Blake shoots – just over. 64, Fagan shreds grisly Leeds down the right but when the ball reaches the Beast in a crowded goalmouth he is momentarily nonplussed and the chance is gone. Immediately after, Cort soars and heads goalwards, only to suffer as Sullivan swoops on the ball down low by his own feet. Then, on 68, Ellison is clearly fouled in the box, but no penalty is given and smelly Leeds whisk the ball clear and upfield at high speed, deep inside our half and then our box, Blake sets up Miller, but he screw a dismal effort well wide of Boaz’’s goal.

Crikey, this is good. And we’re besting them without any help from referee Ilderton. Fussy, prancing, and inclined to prefer the away team in case of doubt. Gah. I like Mr Howard Webb but otherwise refereeing is a dying art. Graham Poll to the World Cup? Come on. Still, I’’m pleased to see that nice German dentist on the list. I like him too.

Back to Mr Ilderton. He booked the Beast for Being Tall, and at that moment I feared our talisman might be withdrawn. He was getting frustrated with the absence of refereeing protection from the increasingly desperate attempts of the thieving Leeds players to hound him, harry him and generally foul him. It looked as if Butler could have taken a machete to assault the Beast and Mr Ilderton would have smilingly waved play on.

Of course, the machete would have finished up hopelessly out of shape.

And the Beast stayed on. And he scored the winner. Talisman, genius, goal-maker, goal-scorer. Ours.

Elliott had replaced the doughty Ellison on 70, and now, one up, our job was to keep a grip on the game as the increasingly eager Leeds players threw everything into a desperate late surge designed to keep the flickers of their automatic promotion aspirations alive. Or so you would have thought. In fact, Leeds had looked poorly-led and lacking urgency all afternoon, and that didn’t change even after they’d found themselves a goal down. We remained the superior side in the time that remained. Cort, bloodied, had
been off for treatment, but he returned to dominate aerially and resist malicious but futile Leeds attacks. The visitors could do with a player of Cort’’s ability and honesty. But playing it straight has never been the Leeds way.

On 82, Sullivan tipped a chipped Andrews free-kick around the post. Paynter came on for Green, and we approached the 90th minute looking more in control than you would have expected. Ha! Not so easy, my friend, we are Hull City after all. And we dropped deep, and we wasted possession, and Andrews tripped one of theirs on the edge of the box.

Urgh. Don’t fancy this one. But David Healy, on as a sub, hit a useless shot wide, and we were into the final added-on 4 with our lead intact. C’’mon City! 4 became 6 as referee Ilderton adopted a strategy of giving resentful Leeds every opportunity to level the scores, but, aside from a Hulse shot on the turn that flew two feet too high, they were simply not good enough.

Or we were too good. We are getting steadily better, I’’ve said that already, but it is so deeply, warmingly true. Rancid Leeds offer a reliable benchmark: we competed with them for 45 minutes three months ago, but then fell away. This time, we beat them and deserved to, and this at a time when you would suppose sneering Leeds had far greater incentives to tuck into the game aggressively than we did. There were excellent performances all over the pitch from the Tigs, but I think Stuart Green deserves special mention. Six or so weeks ago and you couldn’t imagine him ever looking worth a regular place in this Division and yet now he is an obvious pick: committed, skilful, determined. Young and getting better.

Final whistle, exultation on three sides of our ground, save only for those sad souls who scurried away head down in dismay, revealed as sporadic cancerous Leeds infiltrators by their failure to celebrate when City scored. Misery is your reward, and a righteous one. Leeds United Football Club is a vindictive pit of hate, but they haven’t got any more points tonight than they had at the start of the day. Cos we’’ve got ‘’em.

FEATmatch

REPORT: City 1 Middlesbrough 1

Hull City's Jarrod Bowen celebrates his goal

It was a poor game! We didn’t lose it! Break out the bunting, crack open the champagne, put on your dancing shoes! A point at home, the very summit of our haunted ambitions nowadays.

Mr Adkins once again shuffled both formation and personnel – he clearly has no sense of his preferred starting eleven, though, to be fair, none of the starting elevens he has chosen to field so far this season has made any sort of compelling case to be treated as the real and consistent deal – and so we lined up as a 5-3-2. Sort of.

Marshall
Kane Burke Elphick De Wijs Lichaj
Bowen Henriksen Irvine
Grosicki Martin

That looks dangerously stretched across midfield, but I think the idea was that Grosicki would play on the front foot when we are in possession but that he would drop back and help the midfield when Boro have the ball. Occasionally he did. But mostly he wandered around, once again looking like a man eager for his agent to call and say ‘I’ve landed a loan deal at Nantes/ Trabzonspor/ Vitesse Arnhem, pack your bags Kamil’. Chris Martin, by contrast, would never be accused of indolence, but would equally never be mistaken for a player with the extravagant gifts that Grosicki possesses (but largely hides). I always thought that if it had been possible to combine the power and athleticism of Jozy Altidore with the first touch, hold-up play and profound footballing nous of Jan Vennegor of Hesselink, then we’d’ve had a worldbeater. Similarly a meld of Martin’s willing attitude and Grosicki’s sublime touch would be a sight to relish, but as Jeff Goldblum in The Fly reminds us, we don’t yet quite have the perfect technology to achieve this metamorphosis. All of which is a roundabout way of telling you that, one, we didn’t offer much of a goal threat in this match and, two, I am in no rush to trouble you with any information about the actual football. Because it was dross, especially across a careworn first half.

But off we go, on a lovely bright sunny afternoon and Middlesbrough in all white, to avoid that always unfortunate amber versus red colour clash. We start well. Ball down the left, neat interplay and pressure, headed over by Bowen. On 9 a low shot by Henriksen, just past Randolph’s right hand post. Middlesbrough shape up and improve, and the game settles into a pattern of equality.

It’s pretty dull, to be honest. Not much happening. The stadium is largely silent, a few squeaks from the visiting fans in the northeast corner aside. But we’re used to that, aren’t we? The decline of our club is unavoidable reality, and any sense of anticipation or glee of a matchday has long since been crushed under the Allam boot. Well done, Ehab, you really have won.

De Wijs limps off, and is replaced by Kingsley. He goes to left back, so Lichaj is pulled inside to play as the left sided centre back. That, I think, means that Lichaj has played in both full back positions as well as centre back already this season. Impressive versatility. He is by far our best acquisition of the summer.
Three added minutes, half time. 0-0. A few people applaud. I can only imagine they had backed the winner of the Cambridgeshire or were perhaps celebrating a Rory McIlroy putt. That football deserved no applause.

Into the second half, and on 46 George Friend runs inside, cuts on to his right foot and shoots over our bar. The visiting fans celebrate with delirium and gusto, and I wonder if they, like so many before them at West Brom, Palace and Stoke, have learned that Tony Pulis sides don’t do joy, don’t do width, don’t do intricacy, in fact don’t do anything at all that a normal fan wants to watch, and so pleasure must be taken on the rare occasions it is glimpsed – here, a shot off target.

On 49 Lichaj’s run feeds Grosicki, but his cross is poor. And then Middlesbrough score.

It’s a Pulis kind of a goal. Ball lumped in from wide on the right by Howson, sails all the way to the back post, and it’s turned in by Assombalonga. Marshall could maybe have been quicker off his line, but it’s Burke who seems to lose Assambalonga. It probably looks worse defending than it actually is – it’s not so easy to defend these lofted crossfield balls when they travel right over central defence and all the way to the back post – but not for the first time I worry that Burke just doesn’t have the instincts of a proper defender. If that had been Peter Skipper, both football and Mr Britt Assombalonga would have been transported at high velocity in the general direction of Swanland. You’ve got to attack the ball and get there first. Burke didn’t, Burke doesn’t.

A minute later it’s almost two, as the ball is given away wastefully, but Marshall rescues the situation with a good save. Soon after, a monster throw by the impressive Ryan Shotton, a chance from a header, but Aden Flint’s effort sails just over the top, kissing the woodwork on its way.

Anyone who’s tuned in to this dismal Hull City season so far has at this point closed off their expectations with a resigned sigh and a dispirited shrug. We are losing. So we will lose.

And yet …  Middlesbrough impress not at all, and offer us a way back into the game. On 63 a Grosicki free-kick is saved low to Randolph’s right. Then on 67 a decent shout for a penalty is turned down only, a moment later, to be followed by a scarcely credible shout for a penalty, as Martin, shielding the ball well, then throws himself at the nearest defender and collapses to the turf. Referee England gives it. I wouldn’t have.

Randolph dives westwards, Bowen whisks his shot southeastwards, and the game is level.

It is quite a lot better than the dismal first half. Grosicki is removed in favour of Campbell, who runs on very fast in approved sub-making-an-entry manner, though he never quite manages to run as fast again and he has little impact on the game. For ten minutes or so Middlesbrough press forward, but with little guile, and it is not difficult for City, tucking in, to repel them. Then, as we enter the last ten, tide turns, we are slightly the better side. The game seems to be ticking down remorselessly to a draw, but on 89 a cross is stood up invitingly inside our box and a firm header looks likely to win for the visitors, only for Marshall to conjure up a quite superb save, diving full length and low to his right. Man of the season so far, by a distance, is Scottish internationalist David Marshall.

Three minutes added, and we are indebted to a sturdy block from Lichaj as Boro look for an undeserved winner. 1-1 it is.

So it finishes. There’s the Championship for you. A team skulking around the lower reaches brings an opponent aiming at automatic promotion to a standstill. It is, we are frequently told, such a competitive league, and therein lies its appeal. Well, it didn’t feel very appealing yesterday afternoon as two dour and limited sides plugged their way to a stalemate. Not a hint of joy or wit. But that really is the Championship. Just occasionally a side with flair and energy emerges, usually as a result of the availability of unfeasibly large injections of resources (Wolves last year), but most of the time there is not much to choose between the lot of them, and recent seasons have regularly seen limited but well drilled and effectively managed sides lurch unconvincingly to promotion (Cardiff last year, Huddersfield the year before and, err, Hull City the year before that). Middlesbrough may make it this year. We won’t, of course, but the frustration of yesterday was the reminder that all you need to make an impression on this Division is a modestly well organised club with stability and owners who do sensible things, not stupid things. If only …

Stephen Weatherill (via Tiger Chat)

FEATmatch

MATCH REPORT: Wigan 2-1 City

HenriksenM

The startling rise through the Divisions. The ascent to the Premier League and the surprisingly impressive ability to compete once in it. The journey to Wembley and the Cup Final. The European campaign. The slither back out of the Premier League and the stark prospect of decline. The revival, the heartening resurgence back to prosperity and to success.

That’s Wigan Athletic.

And it’s Hull City too – excluding the last bit.

Wigan have halted their slide and are on the progressive march forward. Hull City? Ach, well you know the grim tale as well as I do. The slide’s greased, and we are hurtling recklessly down it. Last night’s match was a contest between two football clubs that are currently heading in very different directions. And that was visible too on the pitch, as the limited home side took a deserved win from even more limited visitors.

Off we go on a mild mizzly evening in front of the sparsely populated DW stadium, and we card:

Marshall
Lichaj Elphick De Wijs Kingsley
Bowen Henriksen Stewart Irvine
Martin
Dicko

Which has an expansive, ambitious feel to it. When we have the ball Bowen and Irvine are on the front foot, pushing high up the pitch; they tuck in when Wigan have possession. The opening minutes are highly promising. On 4 Dicko robs a defender and bursts clear down the right, crosses, the ball is shovelled away for a corner. On 6 Stewart sets up Dicko deftly, Dicko powers a shot over the crossbar. On 13 Bowen bustles through, and is blocked at the expense of a corner.

This is appealing slick football from our team. No prizes for guessing what happens next.

Wigan score.

Sam Morsy advances from midfield with the ball, gets to within sight of the goal and, from outside the box, blats a low shot into Marshall’s right hand corner. The absence of any mention of Hull City outfield players is no accident. Morsy was permitted far too much freedom as he brought the ball forward.

Morsy, an Egyptian internationalist, takes his team-mates congratulations and then carefully lines himself up in a southeasterly direction, kneels and kisses the turf. It is, I suppose, roughly the right alignment for Mecca. For heaven’s sake. Seriously? During a football match? Even the Rev Allen Bagshawe didn’t inflict religion on us during the game.

Shortly afterwards Dicko scoots free behind the Wigan defence, but his effort is saved.

Nouha Dicko. I like him. You can’t not. Puppy dog enthusiasm, pace, strength, an ability most of the time to make runs that disconcert a defence. What he lacks is coldly predatory finishing ability. It is not his fault. He is what he is – a Championship striker. If he could add regular goalscoring to his other gifts, he’d not be playing for Hull City at the lower end of the Championship, he’d be playing for a middle ranking Premier League club and he’d be priced at around £30 million. And he did at least get a couple of shots away last night, which is more than poor old Chris Martin managed.

Marshall is forced to make a fine save low to his left from Jacobs, and, as we move towards the later stages of the first half, it is Wigan that look the stronger, attacking with pace and intent. Runs in the channels, movement out wide, decent interplay. On this evidence they have the makings of a solid mid-table side, which is ambition enough for most newly promoted sides. A second goal looks imminent, but when it arrives, in the 37th minute, it’s a bit of a freak. Lee Evans shoots from wide right, just inside the box, the ball deflects off Kevin Stewart, attempting to intervene, and flies across the face of the goal towards the back post, where Josh Windass, unmarked, is able to crunch a firm header into the net. Windass looks wildly offside, but presumably the fact of that touch of the ball on Stewart spared him the flag. 2-0, sad to say, is not unfair overall, and we are in some danger of being overrun.

Within five minutes it’s 2-1. This is very much a goal of the ‘up the other end from us, hard to know what happened’ variety, but it seemed as if defensive howlers gifted Bowen on the right space to advance into the box with only keeper Christian Walton to beat, and he did so courtesy of a left foot shot and a touch of the glove in vain by Walton. This goal was totally unexpected, but it sets up for a decent second half fightback.

So to the second half.

The second half is a bit rubbish.

Not much happens, but – the story in short – Wigan are generally the better side, with the languid Nick Powell the pick of their team. Powell, like Dicko, is what he is – a Championship player. What Powell lacks, what separates him from the Premier League, is aggression and pace. But he’s got a proper old-fashioned lovely touch on the ball. Reminds me a little bit of the young Steve McClaren, maybe even Garry Parker, though that’s over-generous to Powell since Parker belonged squarely in the top flight.

On 59 Martin sets up Dicko with a very good header inside the box, but Dicko shoots straight at the goalkeeper. As above, predatory instinct (lack of). Dicko is promptly removed in favour of Fraizer Campbell.

Marshall then saves well from Powell before the rebound is thumped wastefully wide by Windass, and the game settles into a period of Wigan ascendancy. They look pretty steady and opt for a shape that will protect the lead, rather than one that will look to increase it. Our best chance – near enough only chance of the final half hour – arrives on 74, when Campbell rises to meet a cross at the back post, but his header, though downwards and powerful in the approved manner, cannons into a defender.

Stewart, who has not repaid his manager’s faith and has performed largely listlessly once again, is taken off in favour of Grosicki. The ‘exciting and lavishly talented Polish World Cup star’ (as he is described in the brochures Ehab is currently hawking round midtable top flight teams in Turkey, Portugal and Russia) takes up the left wing position, while Jackson Irvine moves inside to pair with Henriksen in central midfield. And soon after, with the pattern of play level but Wigan still leading 2-1, De Wijs is hooked for Evandro, and we punt on three at the back, with Grosicki (‘a real fans’ favourite, and available at a price to suit your pocket’) switching to right wing, Bowen to left.

The most notable incidents of the closing minutes feature Fraizer Campbell’s increasingly frantic attempts to get himself sent off for wild lunges. But Wigan finish the stronger side, and they see out the added five with little anxiety.

Backed by meagre resources, leading a thin team lacking real talent or insight, faced across the table by peers with far greater power to their elbow, promises broken by the barrowload, and answerable to a boss who appears increasingly deranged, Mr Adkins might as well be in charge of Britain’s Brexit negotiations.

He might prefer it. Hull City aren’t a lot of fun to watch just at the moment, and I doubt they’re much fun to manage either.

Steve Weatherill (first posted on the Tiger-Chat mailing list)

FEATmatch

REPORT: City 2 Ipswich 0

IrvineJ

Hurrah, a City home win! The Tigers bested feckless Ipswich after six successive home defeats in all comps going back to Sheffield Wednesday in April and ended our worst run at home since 1992.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way. The crowd was further evidence of the decimation of our football club. At just £9 (with a Match card) and £12 (without) in the North and South stands, there can be no suggestion that anything other than the hateful, hostile environment that has been deliberately fostered by our hideous owners is to “credit” for the lack of support. Officially the crowd was 11,650. Realistically, its going to be our first home league crowd under 10,000 since 9,460 saw Damien Delaney fluke a winner against Boston at Boothferry Park in November 2002.

On the pitch, the middle third of the game where City ceded control to a limited, naïve Ipswich team was a worry – as was the weekly gaffe as Kingsley chested down beautifully to set-up Jon Nolan in our box but, for once, we got away with it. Overall though, things looked brighter and, if nothing else, we’ve found another team who are worse than we are.

City: Marshall, Burke, Kingsley, De Wijs, Elphick, Batty, Henriksen, Bowen, Evandro, Kane, Campbell.

Despite the three centre halves, it was a flat back four for City with Burke at right back. The addition of Tommy Elphick was an excellent one (as Stevie Wonder could have told you three months ago to be fair) and his influence was obvious as he improved De Wijs dramatically and picked up the Dawson role of smashing diagonals towards the left wing admirably.

City came flying out of the blocks and the first half hour had much to admire. Batty and Henriksen were assured in midfield, won balls in their half and passed nicely. Kane was a bundle of energy on the left and Kingsley was unrecognisable as an attacking full-back. Campbell pressed high, they had no answer to Bowen’s pace and runs off the wing and Evandro showed off his outstanding touch and ability to hold the ball under any pressure.

An early goal settles most teams and it came on five mins as Campbell robbed Downes in midfield, slid through for Bowen and he dinked the ball over the advancing Gerken and beyond the attempts of the covering defender on the line. Campbell led the line admirably and his cushioned header should have put Kane through on goal but the ref saw a push while Fraizer’s attempted acrobatic volley turned into an air shot after Kingsley brilliantly wriggled free on the left and lofted up a nice cross.

The game started to swing after Batty tweaked his knee blocking a clearance and after he succumbed and was replaced by Stewart, Ipswich took control. They were camped in our half, moved the ball well from wing to wing and put in crosses that caused mild stress but City generally dealt with. The lively Graham on the left wing gave Burke a tough test and he did OK but no better. After his earlier cock-up, Kingsley blocked well Edwards goal-bound half-volley and City went into half-time ahead.

The first ten minutes of the second half were as dull as I’ve ever seen. It did help City regain some composure although all Ipswich threat came from our inability to keep the ball. Stewart’s 20-yard 5-yard passes weren’t what was needed. City were dangerous o the break though and Campbell headed wide from Burke’s cross and then forced a save from Gerken after Bowen turned down a better opportunity.

At the other end Graham’s shot was saved by Marshall after De Wijs had made a great tackle to dig out Kane who made a rare error. Kane looked like he was tiring but any chance of him taking a breather ended when Kingsley suffered a little knock and was replaced by Irvine with Kane going to left back and doing well against their sub Kayden Jackson.

There was definitely going to be another goal and it could have come at either end. Bowen went through on goal twice, found beautifully by Evandro and then Henriksen, but was denied by Gerken while a defender headed Evandro’s volley off the line. In front of the North Stand, Campbell met Graham’s corner at the near post and headed inches wide of the far post. Everybody breathe!

And breathe easier we did as Evandro chipped a pass through on the half-volley, Irvine raced on to it, held off Spence and slid home to clinch the game. The six fans in the East Stand ecstatically greet Jackson’s knee slide and there is pandemonium in the Upper West stand.

I’m jesting, of course. This was a good day. There were small positives all over the pitch and on the bench which looked well-stocked with options for the manager, for once. It wasn’t ground-breaking, it doesn’t mean we won’t be in a battle with the bottom six or eight in this division but while we wait these horrible bastards out – enjoyable afternoons at the KCOM are rare.

I said to the bloke next to me “HERE, DID YOU ENJOY THAT THEN? WHAT? SORRY? I CAN’T HEAR YOU, YOU’LL HAVE TO WALK CLOSER”…

Rick Skelton (via Tiger Chat)

FEATmatch

REPORT: City 1 Derby 2

AdkinsN2The sun shines beatifically out of an azure East Yorkshire sky.

‘Daddy, daddy, it’s Saturday, what shall we do today?’, ask Dean and Turgoose, clambering out of their pyjamas and bubbling with excitement and anticipation about the fun to be had on this late bloom of summer.

‘Well’, smiles the tots’ proud father, ‘what would you like to do?’

‘Flamingo Land!’ screams Dean eagerly, ‘Sewerby Park!’ counters Turgoose, ‘no, no, Withernsea, let’s go to the beach’ suggests Dean intrepidly, ‘or what about going to see Full Circle at the Freedom Festival” offers Turgoose, who even at the age of six is showing artistic inclinations.

‘Ho ho’ chuckles Daddy, his eyes bright as he surfs the waves of youthful glee. ‘I’ve got something even better!’  And he draws from his pocket tickets for the afternoon’s Championship fixture between Hull City and Derby County.

Lips tremble, eyes moisten. ‘D-d-daddy … what have we done wrong?’ asks Dean plaintively. Turgoose dissolves into helpless sobs, his fresh-faced enthusiasm now a crumpled mess of stolen dreams and greying misery.

It’s no fun watching City any more.

A generation, the Circle generation, has revelled in unprecedented triumph, as the club has played at Wembley, romped to promotion, competed in English football’s top tier, played in the Cup Final and participated in the Europa League. For the first time in my lifetime supporting Hull City had become the simple and natural choice of the youth of the city. All gone, all torn apart, all trashed, and wilfully so.

So, those of us eschewing the delights of Full Circle trudged towards the mostly empty Circle. The announced crowd was 12,285, but it was smaller than that in reality and, taking account of a decent away following, there were certainly a lot fewer than 10,000 Hull City fans in the ground. The sun was hot. The mood was chill.

We lined up in a 4-4-1-1:

Marshall
Lichaj Burke de Wijs Kingsley
Bowen Batty Henriksen Kane
Evandro
Campbell

A bit lightweight, especially down the spine of the team? O yes. No hindsight needed for that insight.

The game opens in orthodox largely formless fashion although, surprisingly, we are slightly the better side. The first moment of note arrives on 12 when a free-kick awarded to Derby is taken by Chelsea loanee Mason Mount, Peggy Mount’s grandson. You remember the terrifying way that Didier Drogba used to take free-kicks, running up without giving the ‘keeper any clue which side of the goal he’s going to aim at and then whipping an unstoppable shot into one corner or the other? He put one past Myhill in this style in the first game of the season in 2009 at Stamford Bridge. Mount has been working at this. But Drogba didn’t usually thump it miles over the bar and then look rueful. You gotta lot to learn, young Mount, a lot to learn!

Woo! Ha!

You take your pleasures where and when you can find them in this wintry ground zero of a Hull City season, and an opponent blootering the ball over the crossbar is as joyous as it gets. All the more so as ten minutes later Derby take the lead.

It’s comically poor defending. One of theirs runs at De Wijs just inside the box, out wide. De Wijs should be shepherding him away from danger, but he lunges in recklessly, and referee Brooks, well positioned, points to the spot. Simple as that. Clumsy as that.

The penalty is rolled past Marshall by Martyn Waghorn, who was so briefly a Tiger that he’s probably forgotten all about it. Don’t worry Martyn, we’ve forgotten about it too, that file of ‘ordinary journeyman’ has got better than you bulging its sides.

Graciousness and respect? From me? I think not.

On 37, a corner played in by Mount, and a header by David Nugent hits our bar.

There’s legitimate moaning to be done about referee Brooks and his unwillingness to show cards in the face of a calculated barrage of spiteful fouls by Derby players whenever there is even a slight hint of danger to their lines (which is admittedly not that often). Super (sic) Frankie Lampard has very much got his charges playing the Premier League way. But the honest truth is that Derby’s team is a huge amount better than ours.

I don’t really blame our players. We know that a stream of footballers who are far superior to the current lot has left our club lately and, in the case of those who contracts were coming to an end, it’s clear enough they’ve been offered new deals on vastly reduced terms by the Allams. Perfectly sensibly, they’ve gone and found another employer. I don’t know our current wage bill, but I have a strong sense it will look more like a Division One budget than a competitive Championship budget. Which is to say that we have a number of players who do not look good enough for the Championship to me, but I don’t think they are being paid as if they are Championship players. They aren’t Championship players, though they do happen, by footballing mischance, to be playing in the Championship. I like Lichaj, a solid and committed performer, but I see little merit in the rest. We’d have a decent centre-back if we could combine Burke’s athleticism and pace with De Wijs’s animal energy and aggression, but as it is we have one centre back, Burke, who isn’t tough enough and another, De Wijs, who clomps around clumsily like a Shire Horse asked to try dressage. Oh, and we used to have a promising young wide player called Jarrod Bowen. Does anyone know what happened to him?

Two added minutes to conclude a dispiriting half, but we finish on a high note, as a slick move from left to right culminates in a shooting opportunity for Henriksen, unmarked on the edge of the box. He thrashes the ball high over the bar. I can’t and don’t dislike Markus Henriksen. He is trying his best and, though I don’t suppose he particularly wants to be captain, he is doing all he can to lead by hard-working example. I just wish he was better at football.

Second half. More misery? Well, not quite. We play pretty well from here on in.

On 49 David Nugent, who, young people, once played for England (at football), sprints clear of our defence – yes, I’ll pause there, we do have a defence that allows David Nugent to sprint clear of it, that’s how grim things are at the back. Nugent has only Marshall to beat, but he punts the shot wastefully over the bar.

And within a few minutes we are level. Yes, level! That means we scored a goal. It really does. Not only that. It’s as peachily elegant goal as you could feasibly expect to witness.

Evandro spins a glorious through ball into space beyond the exposed Derby back-line, Todd Kane, making an intelligent run free of any defensive cover, receives the beautifully weighted pass and strokes a confident right-foot finish across and beyond Scott Carson. Miraculously we have scored, and even more miraculously we have done so with a flash of glorious improvisation. This was Football As It Is Meant To Be Played. For The First Time In A Long While.

Derby are rattled. This feisty comeback is not what they anticipated and, to be fair, they are not alone in their surprise at the shift in the pattern of play. The home support is, if not agog, then beaming with wholly unexpected glee. We are playing really decent stuff now. On 58, astute combination between Bowen and Campbell, a stramash, Evandro bundles the ball wide of the back post. A minute later, Kane flashes a ball across the box, but no one is able to apply a finishing toe-end. Derby repel the threats and enjoy a good spell themselves after the hour mark, but they create no chances, and on 70, after a lovely move, we come mightily close to taking the lead before we are finally crowded out by massed defence.

Will Keane for Campbell, and then Dicko for Evandro and Toral for Kane, but we are the better side during this second half. And, should you not yet have had every last smidgeon of hope malletted out of you by our owners, you might want to argue that this second half performance, by far our best of the season, combined with the acquisition of solid old pros Chris Martin and Tommy Elphick (o, how we need a proper commanding centre back), might be enough to let us squeak our way to 21st position come May. Well, I hope so. The gloomier among us will note that we did play pretty well against Derby, but we still lost, and in doing so recorded our sixth straight home defeat, stretching back to last April. That stinks of relegation. Sure, objectively, it’s been worse than this – six points adrift at the bottom of Division 2 worse than this, the crookery of the Sheffield Stealers worse than this. But it all feels so hopeless now, we are so powerless now. It seems more personal too. The Allams, Ehab in particular, give every vindictive indication of taking profound pleasure out of damaging the club and a spiteful glee in doing the precise opposite of what the fans want. They take targeted malice to a new level. I find it hard to truffle my way to any spark of optimism, or even hope.

Meanwhile, we give up a winner to Derby with just three minutes remaining. It’s rank poor defending. The ball is worked down the left, our defenders are pulled out of position and when the ball is pulled back towards the penalty spot absolutely no one has been alert enough to track Jozefzoon’s run. Under minimal pressure, he rams a low shot into the net, and Derby lead.

Five minutes are added and there is a moment after four of them where we create danger in the Derby box but a combination of resolute defending and uncommitted attacking leads to the move petering out.

Bah. Another loss.

I don’t know whether Dean and Turgoose enjoyed their day, but I fully appreciate that you are asking why their sister Woodmansey wasn’t also threatened with a trip to watch City. What’s she meant to do, stay at home with her dolls?

Yes. This Sunday morning little Woodmansey is sitting on her bedroom floor with her dolls. She picks up one made out of wax. It is a figurine which bears a precise resemblance to Ehab Allam. Woodmansey, freckled brow furrowed in rapt concentration, picks up a knitting needle. She slowly brings it into place, targeting a spot between the doll’s eyes.

Youth supplies the future of our club. Woodmansey, we need you to cast your spells wisely.

Stephen Weatherill (via Tiger Chat)

FEATmatch

REPORT: Rotherham 2 City 3

IrvineJ

Goal-line technology has been such a welcome innovation added to the English game of late. Not only does it guarantee correct decisions, and as we saw at the World Cup, being correct wins every time (!), but it has consequences pleasing on the eye – the eighth-of-an-inch graphics we see on our TV screens, the opportunity for a referee to point to the spot while flamboyantly holding his wrist high in the air, the way some lamebrain footballers still feel no compunction about protesting, after actual science has proved them wrong.

The split-second timing of the technology is also remarkable, just as similar programmes do their job within a hundredth of a second of a tennis ball landing on chalk or a cricket bat scraping its wielder’s pad. During Hull City’s latest instance of footballing slapstick, it was also very obviously in use in the away team goal net.

There could have been no other reason for the extraordinary sleight of hand demonstrated by the unfortunate, friendless individual charged with polluting more than 8,000 pairs of ears with the tedious, classless opening strains of Chelsea Dagger on each of the two occasions Rotherham United got the ball over the City line. Both times the ball literally hit the back of the net; on both occasions those dreaded opening drums were drowning out any natural celebration before leather had actually touched string. Maybe he’s a conjurer in his spare time.

You pity him for the time when a goal is disallowed. Those of us with a decade and more of this kind of nonsense behind us will remember Plymouth Argyle scoring a goal against Phil Brown’s City and the noisy strains of Good Thing by Fine Young Cannibals threatening to blow the ancient speakers to smithereens, only for the referee to disallow the goal, possibly because he never forgave Steele and Cox for disbanding the Beat. To the tune of the opening verse of Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, the City fans began singing “Where’s your music gone?”. It wasn’t heard, or required, again.

The issue of music after goals is one which should have been put to bed years ago, as soulless and as needless in a charged football stadium as it is. Like simulation, Jose Mourinho and waving imaginary yellow cards, it’s something football doesn’t want, nor ever did. Like Parisians superglueing wheel clamps and New Yorkers putting bullets into speed cameras, City fans issued a resounding negative response on that occasion Tiger Feet boomed from the Circle’s sound system when the ball went into the opposing bag, and it wasn’t heard again.

There’s also the vividly unanswerable question of the lack of goal music when the away team scores – again, nostalgists of nose-hair vintage will remember the game at Middlesbrough in the FA Cup which ended 4-3 and had the City fans doing their own version of the Pigbag instrumental because it wasn’t on the speakers each time we scored. And, mercifully, we had just cause to enjoy the speaker silence on one extra occasion compared to the Rotherham fans clapping in time to the beat – because City won.

It wasn’t a great performance, and the game as a whole was a low quality affair. Five goal thriller DVDs don’t include matches like this. There was plenty to enjoy, however. Team spirit was admirably high after the weekend’s utter no-show. Some individual performances were good, including from the subs. The support was outstanding. The new third kit was on show, with City wearing shorts that, under the floodlights, were of a similar colour to the urine of someone addicted to asparagus.

Nigel Adkins made two changes from Saturday. He had Shreddies instead of porridge, and covered them in doner meat instead of brambles.

Meanwhile, the team looked like this:-

Marshall
Kane Burke de Wijs Lichaj
Bowen Henriksen Batty Irvine
Evandro
Campbell

It was a fluid version of the above; positively saturated to the point of sogginess, actually. We evidently have a squad, and a collection of reasonably competent individuals, but we don’t yet properly have a team. There is much to work on, assuming our manager is given (or gives himself) the time to shape a team, not to mention the tools still required courtesy of our Instagram-loving, ladies’ shirt-wearing owner, who thinks the fans are crucial, apart from just two specific categories of such: those alive or, as we saw so horribly recently, those dead.

The New York Stadium (so-called, according to one clued-up soul in the pub, because the steel produced in this area of Rotherham was shipped straight to New York) is a pleasant place to watch football. So much nu-stadia built since the start of the 1990s is rendered anaemic by symmetry, among other things, but this place has a few flourishes in its design and, crucially, not a single vertical column of concrete blocking the view. Pleasant venues deserve pleasant football, however. This was not regularly on show, but there were some flashes.

City fans began well – the first Allam Out chant was five seconds in, then there was a rendition of “there’s only one Barry Chuckle”, delivered with heart, and the home fans rose to their feet to applaud it. How very cheering and humanitarian this all was, not necessarily befitting the memory of past Yorkshire derby occasions.

City players began well too. Henriksen’s impudence in shooting from 30 yards almost paid off as the ball arrowed for the top left, only for keeper Rodák to paw it over. From the corner, Batty had a shot blocked, then Burke aimed a second go far too high.

As a defender (witty inverted commas optional), Burke wasn’t going to lose sleep over skying a shot when up attacking a corner. However, at the other end, after he conceded one of the softest corners you’ll ever see when his foot and chest got confused for one another, you could almost hear his whimpering opening words to the nice lady on the graveyard shift at the Samaritans, especially when he and nobody else responded to the resulting kick that allowed defender Wood a free header that hit the back of the net (a split second after Chelsea Dagger started, of course).

Lots of people think we’ll be relegated this season. Were this to happen, the inquest can hear submissions forever about the appalling practices and policies of an increasingly hostile, ham-fisted hierarchy, and rightly so; but it will also need evidence of our ineptitude at defending set pieces. We are presently rotten at it. We were highly fortunate not to concede similarly twice, maybe three times more in this manner.

Chelsea Dagger is such a terrible record, it really is.

City slumped and crumbled, familiarity breeding contempt. Rotherham, however, are just as bad as us and so had neither the ability nor the courage nor the gumption to take more of an initiative. Manning, deliverer of the corner earlier, flashed one shot over the bar, but the goal mainly turned the game into a muddy, vague, directionless non-event.

And then, a beautiful City goal. Out of nowhere, and created as if it were Nicky Barmby and Geovanni themselves with the delicate, intricate, worshipful approach play. Their former team-mate Campbell was involved, mind; cleverly laying the ball back around the edge of the box for Evandro to chip a first timer on to the volleying left boot of Jackson Irvine at the far post. He finished with real style. Perhaps we won’t get many goals this season; we certainly won’t get many better goals than that one.

Confidence is such an unappreciated commodity. As soon as that ball went in, shoulders were raised, chests puffed out. Songs got louder and the manager gave a thumbs-up in appreciation. Although our centre backs still looked scared of anything spherical and leather, the rest of the team began spreading the ball, passing and moving, playing the game that when done simply can still look as breathtaking as it ever has. Maybe we do have the makings of a good team after all.

As the board for added minutes was about to be raised, City got a lovely second. The pressure had been on for a while, but even so we were prepared for a half time stalemate when Lichaj clipped a near-post ball in from the left and Campbell tucked it past the keeper with barely a glance or thought. Whatever limitations we feel Campbell has to deal with today thanks to age and past injury, this was the type of goal the sassy kid learning from Windass would have scored a decade ago. And from not playing well, from defending so shockingly, again, from Chelsea Dagger, to an unexpected and yet not undeserved half time advantage for City. The interval was a nice thing to experience.

City’s third kit is an all-white affair with a fluorescent greenish-yellow Umbro band on the bottom of the sleeves. Newly-launched, it seemed an odd choice for playing at Rotherham, who have not an inconsiderable amount of white on their pleasingly traditional strip. Of course, selling it to fans is a priority and so putting the players in it at the first available opportunity makes marketing sense while it’s fresh in the mind’s eye. The shorts did seem to divide opinion though. Under the lights they resembled the colour of the hi-viz gilets sported by New York Stadium stewards; anyone who thought luminous socks were just the coolest thing ever to wear at primary school in 1982 will have managed a knowing smirk on seeing these rather busy shorts for the first time. Third kits are worn sparingly, usually; now that City have won on this one’s debut, mind, you can imagine someone like Nigel Adkins demanding its earlier than expected return for a suitable away game. And it isn’t pink, or cactus purple, which is a blessing on its own.

City were roared on to the pitch for the second half and any concerns that the break may water down their momentum were quickly shelved when we had the temerity to get a third just two minutes in. It was a splendid break down the right hand side and the hard-working Bowen got his head up at the right time to slide a ball across the area for Irvine, free yet again, to guide a shot into the exposed net as the keeper did one of those thankless scrambling acts around his six yard box.

So, a two-goal advantage, away from home, having not previously won, while in urine-coloured shorts. What a time to be alive.

The next spell of the second half was spent bemoaning the number of occasions Rotherham again and again found themselves with opportunities to head the ball freely in our penalty area. Fortunately, they weren’t very good at it; they’d clearly shot their bolt with the one chance early on that went through the Chelsea Dagger air pocket behind David Marshall. But, again, Adkins will know that tighter marking, better positioning and some proper communication (not easy with a brand new back four) is a must, and an urgent one at that. Let’s remember that Stoke will have Ryan Shawcross and Peter Crouch charging on to high balls on Saturday.

Still, we were grateful to escape the worst of it, but then Rotherham made a tactical substitution which involved striker Jamie Proctor’s introduction. Showing the attributes of a proper finisher, within a couple of minutes he had directed a header tidily past Marshall, with again the defence asking who was where and how, while those wretched drums kicked in again just as the ball approached the netting.

There were 15 minutes to go.

City had already made a change by this stage, with Keane replacing Campbell. There is something heroic about Will Keane, really. His 25 minutes on the pitch were spent unselfishly running into channels, taking defenders away, shielding the ball, being a nuisance, and generally not being required to do much with a football when in possession of it. His was, genuinely, a brilliant cameo and it slowed the game right down, frustrating Rotherham considerably. He, Bowen and Irvine all did have a chance each to seal it, but the keeper did his job at the near post for the first two, while Irvine’s dreams of a hat-trick were dashed by a rash far post finish in a similar position to his second goal.

Of course, numerous injury time chances were be created by the home side. It’s what City do. All were kept on their toes as corners were conceded and headers won, but second balls fell to City boots and the odd attempt on goal that was managed was not aimed with any degree of accuracy. In the end, even though the game wasn’t a comforting experience, City saw it out comfortably.

So, a win, at last. Despite lustrous shorts and Chelsea Dagger. Heaven only knows if this win will act as any kind of jump lead for City’s flattened battery of a season thus far, or whether we only won because it was Rotherham, the League One play-off winners, by definition relegation favourites and renowned for not sticking around in the second tier for any great duration, irrespective of how they got there. Harsher tests await on the pitch, ever harder battles continue off it. Still, we ought to celebrate while we can, so we’ll see you and little Steven and Joanna round the back of our hotel. Oh yeah.

FEATmatch

MATCH REPORT: City 0-1 Blackburn

AdkinsN2

You’re probably expecting a “W passed to X, who laid it off to Y, who crossed for Z to head home “ kind of report. Well, although some of the more mundane stuff will be ticked off in due course, that’s not what you are going to get today, I fear. The reasons for that are twofold: firstly, despite 90 plus minutes of what might generously be described as honest endeavour from the men in amber and black, one would honestly be struggling badly to find much incident of note about which to write; secondly, and in the scheme of things more importantly, it is a very long time indeed since there was so much cause to fear for the future of our beloved Club as there is now. And that is more important at this juncture than the matter of who passed to whom.

The loan window may change things (although we all know it won’t) but otherwise the expression “long, hard season” comes very much to mind.

The indisputable fact is that, quite simply, there’s nothing there, or at least not enough in terms of quality, to enable us to come anywhere near holding our own. This situation is exacerbated by the Club’s owners having no objective or ambition other than to amass enough bodies to ensure that we fulfil our fixtures for the season and keep the Club functioning, and specifically to spend no more money than is necessary to achieve that, despite receiving considerable wealth in the form of parachute payments.

Now, of course, the gruesome twosome will doubtless aver that they are simply trousering the money in order to offset the loans that they say that they made to the Club. Whether a forensic accountant with access to the books would disagree with that proposition I do not know.  But what is beyond doubt is that our football club is being wilfully, systematically and ruthlessly sabotaged. And for what?

Should you still, after all that has happened in the last four or so years, doubt that, then it’s a damn bloody shame that you weren’t at the Circle yesterday, because that would have convinced you.

The manager and team were roundly booed at the end of yesterday’s woeful display. Whilst the frustration of the long-suffering City support (official attendance 12.233, reports on social media say a shade over 10,000, with probably just over 1,000 Lancashire folk inside the ground: up to you which you believe, but check out photos and footage of the game if you weren’t there and then decide) is entirely understandable and justified, the ire of the Tiger Nation actually attached itself to the wrong target. One can try to identify the positives – young, fit enthusiastic squad, still time to coalesce (“gel” has become too hackneyed to use, and is even more irritating when spelled, “gell”), will probably improve as the season goes on if they don’t have the spirit thrashed out of them first – and you immediately have to concede that this is a blend of wishful thinking and straw-clutching. It is, sadly, an inescapable truism that we have a squad of players who, through no fault of their own or, once suspects, that of the manager, look completely ill–prepared for a Championship season.

This was made even more stark when you looked at our visitors yesterday. They’ve had as rough a ride as pretty much anyone in recent years but you would scarcely have known it. Maybe that’s a reflection on us as much as anything because these things are all relative, but whilst not looking likely to pull up any trees they were organised, enterprising and did the simple things well. And that was enough to see us off at a canter.

It’s often the case that, after a Saturday defeat, the mood of gloom still lingers on Sunday and then, to use an expression beloved of a former manager, we “dust worsels doon and go again”. We can usually all sympathise with that, too. But this all feels very, very different. In my 52nd year of Tigerwatching I am genuinely struggling to remember a time that ever felt so bleak. Even in the darkest days of the Dolan/Fish era, or during the travails of the malign, kleptocratic stewardship of the Sheffield Stealers, there was always that feeling, buried deep in some remote recess of the mind, that things would not always be that bad, that there would be some kind of modest recovery (far more modest than it actually turned out to be, of course) from the dire straits in which we found ourselves.

Not now, though.. For whilst you always thought that Needler would eventually see sense, or that Buchliffe would sling their hooks once they had stripped the Club of everything they could lay their hands on, there is no such prospect where the Allams are concerned. Some City fans still exclaim. “they’ve got to sell”, as though they have had some kind of Eureka moment, and we needn’t concern ourselves here with such naivety. Other more thoughtful types opine that the Allams will be off once the parachute payments have all been milked. Whilst this is a credible scenario, ask yourself two things. Firstly, where is the evidence that the Allams are actually capable of seeing a sale through, or that a buyer will be found with the energy and persistence to withstand the strain of dealing with them and the inevitable hardballing.. re-valuations, renegotiations and endgames? Secondly, if that’s what you think will happen, have you factored in their now well-documented petulance and malevolence? They could string this along for the next ten years and more if they wanted, just because they can, and there’s no evidence that they are minded to do anything but exactly that, assuming that you are not taken in by the press stories about movement on the sale front that appear every few months, Groundhog Day-style.

And then, something new came into the mix post-match, in the guise of Adkins’ extraordinary interview with David Burns. Our manager has acquired a reputation for positivity so unrelenting as to be profoundly irritating, and to hear him so downbeat after the game was certainly a new and unexpected development. Adkins in fairness to him was at pains to point out that he was speaking in the heat of the moment. but nevertheless the comments he made were startling. Time will tell whether he becomes the second City manager in succession to have his positive spirit broken by the Allams, but this is not sounding good. Some fans are unsympathetic towards Adkins because of his allegedly naked coveting of the job while Slutsky was still in post, but, whatever the truth of that, nobody can fairly say that he has not given the job his all and, whilst he was clearly naive in thinking that he could make the Club prosper on the field in spite of the constraints under which he would be expected to work, he deserves better. A failure by the Club to fund any decent loan signings might well push Adkins over the edge, but far from this bringing the chickens home to roost, there’ll be a queue of sufficiently desperate, over-confident or irrepressibly-optimistic candidates outside Ehab’s office bursting to step into his shoes.

Casting the slough of despond yesterday at the Circle were the following:-

                                                     Marshall
Lichaj                            MacDonald                        De Wijs                    Kingsley
Bowen                           Henriksen                        Irvine                        Kane
Evandro
Campbell

Subs: Toral (for Kingsley, 29 min), Dicko (for Campbell, 72 min), Milinkovic (for Bowen 72 min)

 As already promised, I’m not going to dwell on the detail of the match: it’s of secondary importance.. Blackburn had the better of the first half, with a succession of efforts on Marshall’s goal. The warning bells were starting to ring as early as a quarter of an hour in, when Armstrong, who had already forced Marshall into one save and headed over, missed an absolute sitter. Marshall was called into further action to defy Armstrong again and then Dack, before Kingsley had to leave the field following a nasty-looking clash of heads with Palmer.

We had threatened only sporadically, with MacDonald’s angled effort being pouched by Raya early on, a Bowen (what on earth has happened to him?) effort being blocked and Henriksen firing wide just after the half-hour.

The first half seemed to be drifting towards a goalless conclusion when we duly conceded. Rovers worked the ball quickly out to the right and Bennett’s pinpoint cross was swept home by Dack from close range with the City defence looking on in admiration.

After half time we passed the ball around nicely for spells, but without conviction, intensity or putting the visitors under any kind of pressure. We actually managed a shot on target about ten minutes in when Irvine (about the only City man who deserved to be exempted from criticism) saw his effort saved by Raya.

Dack went off after an hour to be replaced by Danny Graham, and the fact that he looked quite a handful while he was on is very telling. Rovers – and Bennett in particular – ought to have made the game safe with twenty to go when he pokes wide with the goal at his mercy after Marshall spilled an Armstrong effort.

We press, after a fashion. Evandro (twice) and Dicko have efforts blocked, and then the inevitable one good chance to rescue the game comes in the 87th minute, but Raya’s flying save keeps out De Wijs’ header from an Evandro cross.

That same curious lack of urgency persists into injury time (six minutes flagged, seven played) and the away side, who had had chances themselves to make the game safe in the last fifteen minutes (maybe I was too generous about Graham) , see the game out with apparent ease.

And that’s it. An afternoon of going through the motions, aptly reflective of the management of Hull City off the field. One really does wonder where this is going to end, and absent a significant improvement at Rotherham on Tuesday we might well be a significant step nearer to having that question answered, for this season at least.

Ian Thomson (via Tiger-Chat)

FEATmatch

MATCH REPORT: City 1 Aston Villa 3

AdkinsN2Was it nice to be back at the KCOM Stadium for one of the warmest nights of football I’ve ever seen in this country? To welcome Aston Villa to our 2/3 empty mausoleum? Eh, no.

Villa have had a torrid few months since their play-off final loss but already have new owners, a squad full of very good footballers and an experienced manager and are making plans to spend big money on new arrivals. Meanwhile City are 4 years into the Allam nightmare and showing no signs of waking up.

This game was never going to define our season but unfortunately did expose many of the weaknesses that everyone already knew we had. It’s going to be a tough old campaign until those weaknesses are overcome by the players learning and learning quickly. I wouldn’t say that the bubble of optimism has burst because, honestly, I don’t think there was any in the first place.

The City players started the game well and lead early on when the Villa keeper, Steer, could only punch a free kick to Evandro and he somehow lobbed it into the corner with Villa defenders looking up into the bright sky accusingly [1-0]. It was lovely that the goal came during a minute’s applause for Stanley Metcalf, the young fan sadly killed recently at just seven years old.

Unfortunately, the lead didn’t last long as Tommy Elphick headed in unchallenged by Jordy De Wijs at the far post – exposing the city back line and not for the only time in the game [1-1].

That back four contained three new signings and you could almost make that four with Stephen Kingsley, who played so little football last season. Burke and De Wijs did work hard together to try and build understanding and some of the basics were there in their positioning and work off the ball to manage Kodjia but De Wijs is a big clumsy oaf with the finesse of a bulldozer who is far less capable a footballer than he thinks he is. Lichaj had a very solid game right back but Kingsley made Elmo look like the sprightly flying wing he was about 5 years ago. Some City fans weren’t fussed by Max Clark’s departure. Idiots.

Despite Villa shading possession for the rest of the hald, City created the best chance when Campbell slid Bowen in behind but Steer was quick off his line and smothered. That was about as good as it got at either end. City went into the break having looked comfortable and having played some neat football particularly through the classy Evandro, Batty and Todd Kane. Kane was a very lively although neutered by playing on the left. Evandro is just head and shoulders above the rest of ours. He’ll take possession of the ball anywhere, under any pressure and look after it. The others need to follow his lead, particularly Henriksen who disappointed.

The second half followed a very similar pattern for the opening quarter of an hour with Villa dominating the ball but City offering occasional threat on the counter attack. Sadly mistakes began to creep into our performance with De Wijs failing to control the ball on a couple of occasions- presenting it to them – and then Henriksen racing towards his own goal in a flutter and being very lucky to avoid gifting them a goal.

Just after City made changes to try and take the game to Villa with the arrival of another debutant in David Milinkovic and Nouha Dicko for Todd Kane and Fraizer Campbell, Villa were gifted a lead. David Marshall chipped a goal kick straight to Elmo and he slotted the ball into the bottom corner [1-2].

It gets harder and harder to defend Marshall whose City career has been a disaster since day one and this was another calamitous episode. The guy is absolutely cursed, I’m  convinced. It’s hard to see how he can possibly turn around such a faltering career here. It’s sad because the guy has been a fantastic goalkeeper at times in his career but we’ve never seen it. It’s also extra frustrating because City matched Villa, for all their “names”, to that point with some comfort. Individual errors have crippled us for the best part of three years now. Something has to change.

However, conceding 2 abysmal goals was not enough for City so of course the defence stood and watched as Alan Hutton of all people ran through our defence like Maradona breaking apart Reid, Butcher and Co in Mexico and slipped the ball beyond Marshall (who was present in body but not mind after his gaffe) [1-3].

There was no coming back from that. You cannot concede such pathetic goals at this level and expect to get anything out of games. Milinkovic put in a spirited performance but the game had long gone.

Positives: Evandro is our brightest hope. Batty was assured. Kane is lively. Lichaj had a very solid game. Burke shows promise. Campbell was better than he’s been all pre-season. Milinkovic was bright. Not every team has individuals the quality of Villa.

Negatives: We already look like we need to make changes when chopping and changing killed us last season. Marshall already. Kingsley has never shown anything. De Wijs is nowhere near. There is no sign of the 2/3 more signings we clearly need.

We should have stayed in the Gemmell.

Rick Skelton (via Tiger Chat)

FEAT-BALL2

REPORT: Brentford 1 City 1

AdkinsN2And so a season that seems to have lasted for several years finally comes to an end. It’s been a forgettable one littered with unforgettable matches. More players from this squad will be heading to a World Cup than any other since we stopped being rubbish. Yet the squad remains lacking in heart, cohesion and, in some places, effort, even if the ability is there. The Hull City vintage of 2017/18 looks good on the supermarket shelf, but when you get it home it tastes like chip shop vinegar.

The XI announced was a disappointing one. We were denied to opportunity to say a fond farewell to triers such as David Meyler, Allan McGregor, Michael Dawson and maybe Max Clark, along with the only player on our books (permanently) likely to scare Championship defences in Abel Hernandez. There was no Moses Odubajo, either. Worryingly, given the ridiculous Allam-induced turnover we’ve had over the past two seasons, there’s probably no one left at the club to tell Nigel just how good Moses was before his injury. A Wayne Jacobs for the new millennium? Let’s not make that mistake again. This left a line-up of:

Marshall

Tomori Hector Mazuch Kingsley
Batty Larsson
Wilson Toral Bowen
Campbell

Things started out pretty much how you’d expect a post-season friendly to go. Brentford – a skilful, energetic side – quickly gained the ascendancy. City looked like strangers randomly strewn together. And it was the home side who should have gone one up after eight minutes when Marcondes goes one on one with Marshall but puts it wide when he really should have scored.

That attack marked the end of Mazuch’s afternoon. The big defender tweaked a hamstring and was replaced by Aina, with Tomori going to centre-back to partner Hector. This led to our ‘Chelsea defence’ being aired. Now I’m not much of a chess player, but if there is a manoeuvre called ‘the Chelsea defence’ in the game, I’d imagine it involves recklessly thrusting your Queen at the mercy of a pawn while leaving your King hopelessly exposed to being checkmated. And sure enough, minutes later hesitancy among our Chelsea trinity, combined with an inability to clear the ball, leads to Canos glancing a header past a blameless Marshall. It all looked far too inevitable.

City barely threaten, save for a long shot that goes miles over from a strangely muted Harry Wilson. Indeed it looks like Brentford will be the ones to score the next goal. Macleod forces an excellent save out of Marshall while Egan heads over. Wilson hits a tame shot at the opposition keeper, while Tomori does well to stop Marcondes scoring and a tepid game shows no sign of anything happening. Then something happens. Harry Wilson sends a deep cross over to Jon Toral, who heads the ball into the path of Jarrod Bowen. Bowen doesn’t miss them and duly scores his 15th goals of the season – a terrific effort given how kack we’ve been. Half-time comes and a vociferous away end wonders how the hell that happened.

City start the second half with a bit more urgency and penetration to their play. Larsson is at the centre of all the good things coming from our midfield and Bowen has shown that if we create the chances, he’ll take them. So Adkins takes off Bowen for the lesser spotted Evandro, and Larsson makes way for Kevin Stewart, a standout disappointment in a season of disappointments.

It shouldn’t work, but it kind of does. Brentford fanny about in their defence and gift the ball to Campbell. Fraizer runs at Daniels in the Brentford goal and wins a clear penalty. Wilson steps up to take the spot kick, mullers it and brings out a decent save from Daniels. Bah.

City are largely on top now. Evandro gives us another frustrating glimpse of how good he is, and Campbell’s intelligent probing, along with debutant Batty’s rather impressive possession retention, affords us a few decent breaks. Sadly, they keep ending up with Aina, who is utterly clueless as to what to do with the ball on the rare occasions he manages to get it under control. City have a decent shout for another penalty turned down for handball, while Daniels saves very well at Campbell’s feet. What chances Brentford do carve out they either spanner comically over the bar, or Marshall – composed and calming on Sunday – deals with matters effectively. In truth neither side looks much like breaking the deadlock and the 1-1 draw – which is how it finishes – is a fair reflection of the .
balance of play.

There were some promising signs for City. If Marshall is to be our number one next season, this was a display to build on. Batty looked good in central midfield. I look forward to us making him an insulting contract offer next summer and essentially forcing him to look for a club other than the one that’s nurtured him. Campbell tired towards the end but played up front on his own for 90 minutes and gave the Brentford defence plenty to think about. We’ll be a better team next season for not having to accommodate Hector, Aina and – to a lesser extent as he was OK on Sunday – Tomori. Keeping Larsson would be a good bit of business too.

However, the most pleasing aspect of Sunday was the Hull City fans. On the way to the ground, I got chatting to a couple of Brentford fans. Brentford fans are terrific – every last one of them is knowledgable, magnanimous and passionate without being a nob – and they kept talking about the 2-0 win in the Great Escape. They said – and I believe them – that it was the loudest away following they’d ever heard at Griffin Park. I loved that game. In spite of everything that’s happened since, it’s still in my top five City games. But their mentioning that game was bittersweet for me. Walking to the ground with my five-year-old son, attending his first ever game, I couldn’t help but feel a level of annoyance that he wouldn’t be getting to experience that togetherness within the club that we had back then, that ribald passion, that sheer wall of noise. The Allams, I thought, had killed that with their crass mismanagement of the club. And yet the volume that emanated from the City fans was incredible. To have gone through what we have been through of late, to turn up in those numbers and make that much noise was brilliant. When I asked my son if he’s enjoyed his first game, he told me that he had, that his favourite bit was all the singing, and he asked when he could come back to his second game. So thank you. As long as Hull City fans keep on behaving in the manner in which we have been doing for a long time now, the club will be enjoyable to support. The Allams can’t kill that off, as much as they’d probably love to. You gave a wide-eyed five-year-old the best possible introduction to watching football. Though if you could keep the swearing to a minimum over the next five or six seasons, I’d appreciate it.

See you all in August, anyway, when England will have a new manager, Yorkshire will have the County Championship wrapped up, Andy Murray will be Scottish again, and the Allams will still have a festering grip on what’s left of our club. The 2018/19 season promises only to be a shitter version of the 2017/18 effort. And yet, because of atmospheres like the one created on Sunday, I’ll be there (in away matches at least). As will you. Because we can’t let those bastards win.

Richard Gardham (via Tiger Chat)