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Archived News from December 2003

22nd December 2003 11:09

by Mark
Hull City O, Mansfield Town 1

With 5 minutes to go, having resigned ourselves that the perversity of football
in general and Hull City in particular has again condemned us to view a 0-0 draw
between two of the divisions most attack minded sides, we concede a free kick
in an attacking position. It's not immediately clear why, or whether there should
have been an offside, but that has been the way of a number of decisions from
unimpressive 'Premiership' referee Mark Halsey. Mansfield swing it in, the otherwise
excellent Ashbee loops a header nowhere near as far as he would like and it falls
to Manse sub MacKenzie 20 yards out who hits it superbly first time past Myhill.
And so we finally lose at home. Except that, perversely again, that isn't quite it.
We've struggled to make clear chances all afternoon, but suddenly we create 3
grand ones in the last 2 minutes. Green makes an all too rare foray forth down the right,
gets in a good cross and finds Allsopp who gets in a good glancing header that
skids j-u-u-u-s-t wide. Bother. But then Alsopp gets on the end of another through
ball and shapes himself to shoot, only to be robbed by a fine defensive tackle. Damn.
But we're still not done, Alsopp again is through, he shoots, keeper Pilkington palms
it away but towards Elliott who slides in and can't quite get there. Bugger. Alsopp,
entirely understandably was not at his sharpest, had he been he might have had a
hat trick, or if that is over egging it, you would normally have expected him to have
pouched at least one of those and got us a share of the points. But now we are done,
and we've lost, and we're down to fifth having played more games than all our rivals.

A strange day at the Circle, really. I'd looked forward to this game more than most,
expecting goals from 2 teams with flashing blades in attack and defences that are
string vest rather than chain mail, forgetting that this is no guarantee of excitement.
And so it proved. Mansfield came at us more than most away teams. but less than
I had been led to believe, we never got going properly in attack apart from at the end of
each half and so we got a game that sputtered like flaming brandy on a Christmas
pud, relished more in the anticipation than the execution. Ensuring that Tigerfolk
around the world will be grumpy under their paper hats as they prepare to massacre
a battery reared and steroid stuffed fowl were:


Hinds Joseph Delaney Dawson

Green Ashbee Keates

Price Elliott


So, a sort of 4-3-2-1, or 4-3-3, or, to be more accurate, a 4-5-1 as Elliott and Price
were too often isolated from Burgess so that our midfield and defence launched
long balls for Ben Burgess to fail to control or to be out jumped and out fought for
by Vaughan. Burgess had a poor game, as he often has recently, but he was poorly
supported. When we played 4-3-3 against Bury and played it well, Steve Weatherill
observed sagely that it would be interesting to see how it worked against less supine
opponents. Well, now we've seen it and it didn't work. Against a Mansfield team who
looked to get forward, predictably our widemen were pushed deeper and Burgess stood
and turned alone, high and isolated like a rusty weathervane.

Most of the good early work came from Mansfield, as the thermometer on the clock
showed that it was a crisp 7 degrees C. They have a lot of talent in midfield with Lawrence
earning rave reviews on the right and Craig Disley who chewed us up and spat us out 2
years ago at Field Mill now on the left. And up front they have serial loony and constant
terror of the Tigers Iyesden Christie, and Junior Mendes who is fast, strong and skilful.
Delaney and Joseph had to be strong and alert and they were. The visitors strikers linked
well and it took a fine Delaney tackle to rob Christie. Then Mendes raided down the right,
crossed from the byline and it squeezed across the goal line but away. On another
occasion Delaney miscued, Mendes charged on goal from the right but perhaps delayed
his shot too long and his effort was deflected into the side netting. Christie then found
himself standing suspiciously clear but couldn't take advantage as he hooked a volley wide.

The pressure wasn't as relentless as this summary makes it sound, but the Mansters
were generally more positive than us and we were creating little of note in response.
We had a couple of free kicks in promising positions wasted by Dawson and Joseph
respectively and a couple of absolutely dismal corners chipped in with nothing at all
on them by Keates straight at their keeper. On another occasion Price and Green for
once got the width needed to outflank Mansfield and they both went close, only to see
that we were victims of a very late linesman's flag.

At the other end, Myhill showed himself to be a confident sort, catching crosses with
aplomb and twice bombing out beyond both his area and his defenders to clear from
the feet of their strikers. The interesting part was that he was playing at all. Depending
on your view of the manager, this was either a typically astute move as you'd expect
from a former England boss to give Musselwhite a jolt into producing his best performance
of the season before judging that he wouldn't be able to repeat it and giving his preferred
keeper a go, or a typically crass and insensitive move as you'd expect from a former
England boss designed to humiliate a player and remind him (and the fans, in case
they're still in any doubt) who is the guv'nor here. You all know what you think of Taylor,
so you'll know what you think. Suffice it to say that Myhill made a very good debut and
would have deserved the clean sheet that he didn't get, which makes no sense but then
so little does these days, although I must confess I found the final episode of 'Buffy the
Vampire Slayer' screened in Britain this week to be coherent, moving and destined to
be regarded as a feminist classic and not merely because of the attractive lesbians
snogging which you can never have too much of in my book, but I digress.

Just prior to half time we came very close to scoring, we got in a decent corner for
once which fizzed across goal and was deflected by, I think, Burgess, at high speed
on to the base of the post. That apart, the players trooped off with Mansfield having
had the best of it. They started the second half better as well, as Lawrence lined up a
shot that was stopped bravely and cleverly by Dawson diving to block with his body but
not with his hands despite the roars of the mining village folk.

We did get going better for a while after that, as the temperature dropped markedly to
a chilly 7 degrees C Elliott began to run at them from deep and began to fling himself
to earth once he had realised that the idiot Halsey was going to give him the lot, the
pick of them being one where he was behind the defender but still managed a tumble
as the defender sped away from him shielding the ball. Top work. Sadly, we weren't
able to make much of it, although Green got one freekick to land on the roof of the net
and their keeper Pilkington enlivened events by an attempt to seemingly dribble through
all of our side which ended in a predictable panic and him almost, but not quite, handling
outside the area. They too went close, a corner breaking to the edge of the area preceding
a chip landing on the roof of the net, as the temperature dropped to a freezing 7 degrees C.

The debut of Myhill apart, perhaps the most encouraging part of the afternoon for the Tigers
was the return of Alsopp. Undeniably ring rusty though he was, we were immediately more
threatening once he was on and given that our virtues are mainly attacking ones this can
bode only good. But on this day he couldn't quite make the most of his chances and
MacKenzie made the most of theirs and so they got the points.

Impressions of the game were that they brought the best away fans following we've seen this
season, a good 1500 plus, they out sang us and presumably had a good day out, although in
fairness any day out of Mansfield is probably pretty good. I certainly enjoy not living there and
will be making the effort not to visit it over Christmas I thought that a gate of 15000 was pretty
good on the last Saturday before Christmas, suggesting that Hull folk understand that shopping
has its place, but we know where it comes in the pecking order of our lives.
If only Rio Ferdinand had our clear sighted approach to these matters then we might not be
denied the site of his vastly overrated fannying-about 'defending' for the rest of the season,
a sad loss as I'm sure you agree. And speaking of defence, I thought ours had its
best game for a while. Hinds struggled, particularly after Christie went off and Mendes roamed
alone and targeted him with runs from their left, in truth the only reason Hinds has not drawn
the flak that has hit Joseph is the fact that with Thelwell injured there is really no credible
alternative. But Dawson was excellent and Delaney and Joseph were strong and effective.
I thought Joseph was over praised in some quarters last week, as good things in his game
were still undermined by silly errors. But yesterday his positioning was excellent,
his heading was assured, his tackling was crisp and when under pressure he was willing to
lump it up field or high into the crowd as the occasion demanded. In short, he played exactly
as you would have expected Justin Whittle, and from this keyboard there's really no higher
praise than that.


Latest | December 2003