Archive for February, 2010

Hull City Reserves 3 Wigan Athletic Reserves 0

I didn’t go to this match, but hundreds of City fans did to see Jimmy Bullard’s goalscoring return to action in the reserves match at North Ferriby.

And fortunately one of them, DaveHullCityFan, filmed Bullard’s control, flick and volley into the corner of the Latics keeper’s goal.

It’s recorded nearly 70,000 views so far, while my similarly shaky video of Amr Zaki’s reserve team goal a few weeks back notched up similar traffic.

With the rise of good quality videos on mobile phones, hopefully we’ll get to see more of these. So if you’re going to a reserve or junior game, keep your camera handy as you never know if you’ll catch something interesting.

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West Ham United 3 Hull City 0

A thoroughly miserable afternoon where I can only think of one bright spot – out-of-his-depth winger Craig Fagan has hopefully made his last appearance for Hull City.

Let’s rattle through this game quickly as no one wants to dwell on it. The first 15 minutes saw City in a woeful mess with barely anyone managing to put a foot right.

This included the move which saw a terrible throw by Boaz Myhill eclipsed by a much worse ball by Andy Dawson to Tom Cairney, who was dispossessed and within seconds the ball was in the net in front of the City travelling support. Three minutes in and we’d already managed to shoot ourselves in the foot.

However, despite their early domination West Ham failed to score a second, thwarted by some wayward shooting and a superb Myhill parry on the goal-line, and City gradually settled into the game, finishing the half the better side. City went closest when a neat interception and sidestep from George Boateng on the edge of the box saw him lash a left-foot shot that their keeper did well to stop.

The second half began with City looking in control, keeping possession for long periods and stroking the ball round. And just as an equaliser looked likely, Fagan, already on a yellow card, lost out in a tussle and decided to drag his opponent to the ground. The action happened on the touchline near the half-way line so there was no imminent danger – Fagan just lost his cool and deserved his second caution.

And, with 10 v 11, the game passed firmly back into West Ham’s control. The points were sealed when a fabulous slide pass from midfield evaded Antony Gardner and was slotted home by Carlton Cole.

By the time of their late third goal, three substitutes had been made, Gardner had been stretchered off with a worrying leg injury putting us down to nine men.

So, any positives? Once he’d tried two dives which failed to kid the referee, full debutant Amr Zaki started to look lively and a goal threat. He wasn’t as effective as Jozy Altidore, however, who replaced him in the second half. George Boateng and Stephen Muoyokolo can be content with solid performances.

Several other players – Stephen Hunt, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Gardner immediately pop into my mind – were well off their best. Meanwhile Fagan, Dawson and Paul McShane did nothing to appease those detractors who think they’re not good enough for the Premier League.

Though our home form is good and the league is tight, realistically we won’t stay up this season if we don’t pick up some points away from home. We now have 15 days to plan a first away win in a year at Everton. Not having to carry a passenger in Fagan will do us no harm at all on this score.

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Bolton Wanderers Reserves 1 Hull City Reserves 2

Bolton Wanderers Reserves v Hull City Reserves at Leyland

Standing behind a 'No Standing' sign watching the Tigers' stiffs

Amr Zaki scored the winner tonight as a vastly experienced Hull City reserves line-up edged out youthful Wanderers opponents in Leyland.

Zaki ghosted in at the back post to head home from a teasing right-wing cross with just a few minutes left on the clock. The Egyptian seemed to take a kick to the stomach as he dived in, as he took a minute to recover once the ball had gone in, but was soon fine.

Kamel Ghilas had opened the scoring from close range late in the first half after good work down the left flank. but within 30 seconds of the restart Zoltan Harsanyi equalised for the Trotters.

City, with missing man Dean Marney playing alongside presumably-back-from-Grimsby Nicky Featherstone in midfield, enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, without creating many gilt-edged chances.

However, in the first half we spurned a virtual open goal from a few yards (I think it was Featherstone who blasted it over), while Mark Cullen did well to go through for a one-on-one but his firm shot was saved.

At the other end, the Trotters conspired to miss a few easy chances, particularly in a spell after their goal, while Liam Cooper deflected one goalbound shot over and Matt Duke did well to get down and keep out a low drive among other good saves.

If you’re wondering why I’m sketchy on most of the details above, it’s mainly because I was stood at pitch level behind the goal so the view made the game hard to follow at times. It’s also that even some of the players find it hard to properly concentrate during a reserve match so forgive me for chatting and letting my mind wander.

The torrential rain abated in the second half long enough for me to whip my Flip video camera out and after about 30 deleted clips as attacking moves fizzled out, I finally managed to capture the Zaki goal.

Hull City line-up: Matt Duke, John Leonard, Ibrahima Sonko, Liam Cooper, Kevin Kilbane, Richard Garcia, Nicky Featherstone, Dean Marney, Kamel Ghilas, Amr Zaki, Mark Cullen. Subs: Mark Oxley, Darragh Satelle, Jamie Devitt, Ryan Kendall, Daniel Wilkinson.

Bolton Wanderers line-up: Rob Lainton, Joe Riley, Adam Blakeman, Chris Stokes, Rhys Bennett, Sam Sheridan, Javlon Campbell, Stuart McDonald, Zoltan Harsanyi, Aaron Mooy, Michael O’Halloran. Subs: Maison McGeechan, Jay Lynch, Tom Eckersley, Nathan Battersby, Liam Irwin.

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Blackburn Rovers 1 Hull City 0

The storming performances against Manchester City and Chelsea over the previous seven days showed us how gloriously exciting being in the Premier League can be. Two clashes pitting the Tigers against teams stuffed with multi-millionaire players with world-class reputations – it was a double reminder as to why we spent 104 years coveting a place in the top tier.

However, many more games in this league are just a slog between teams too frightened to play expansive, attacking football in case they make a mistake. After all, concede a goal in a critical game and you can lose points, followed by your Premier League status and with it tens of millions of pounds in revenue.

This night in Lancashire was a particularly brutal war of attrition and the biggest, strongest and most organised side prevailed, without being forced to show much quality or adventure.

We set out with unchanged personnel and 4-4-2 formation for the fourth game in a row, yet the manner of play was starkly different to the trio of home games which had produced five points.

Where at The Circle we try to seize the initiative and play a fast-paced, pressing game, away from home we can’t replicate it, even when the line-up is the same.

We struggled to offer any sort of attacking threat beyond an early shot from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink that was well-struck and low but barely troubled Paul Robinson in the Rovers goal.

Of course, if George Boateng had not been ridiculously sent off for a clash of heads in the first half, the game might have panned out differently. However, that’s probably wishful thinking as we’d been second best up to then and there was no sign of breaking the stranglehold that Sam Allardyce’s team had on the game.

A final word for Phil Brown. His team didn’t perform but at least he made a positive change in the second half, subbing both full-backs and switching to 3-4-2 to try and sneak a point. If we’d showed more attacking intent in some other away games – dor instance Bolton and Manchester United – we could have snaffled a win.

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Hull City 2 Manchester City 1

It’s now indisputable: the present Hull City are a totally different proposition to the team that couldn’t beg, borrow or steal a win for such a long stretch at the back end of last season. More steely at the back, even without Michael Turner; a midfield that has some ball-playing craft as well as graft; and two strikers up front that even top teams struggle to keep a lid on.

It’s important not to overstate our mini-revival, or jinx it, as this was our first win for months, we’re winless away from The Circle and we’re just a few points above the drop zone. But there is a real feeling we’ve turned a corner, particularly as a very tricky set of games are behind us and Phil Brown is wisely sticking with a formation and a line-up that seems to be working well, rather than just working hard.

And just as we fully deserved to take a point off moneybags Chelsea on Tuesday, no one connected to even more megabucks Manchester City could argue they were unlucky to go home pointless today.

From the off, the Tigers were more aggressive and dictated the pace of the game. At times Citeh’s centre-back pairing just could not handle Jozy Altidore, who is becoming ever sharper now he’s a settled part of the team rather than a bit-part player, and both of them picked up bookings for hauling our American boy down on the edge of the box.

He looked emotional as he celebrated his first Premier League goal in the first half – slotting home from the edge of the penalty area after being teed up by Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink – and the relief of finally getting off the mark should lead to a few more goals before the season ends.

Teenage sensation Tom Cairney impressed once more with his awareness and composure on the ball. Suddenly we don’t seem quite so desperate for Jimmy Bullard’s return to the midfield, as hugely important as that will be, though it may be ambitious to expect too much of Cairney yet.

At the other end of the age scale, two old warhorses proved they still have the legs for three games in seven days, with Vennegoor of Hesselink dominating the aerial battle and George Boateng the best player on the park even if you ignore his winning goal, lashed home from outside the box. ‘Feed the Boat and he will score’.

What of the other City on display? Well, they finally took the upper hand for a 15-minute spell after their goal, Emmanuel Adebayor bundling in during a goalmouth scramble, and spurned a couple of good openings as the ball was lumped towards our goal in the dying stages. But for the most part their players put in the type of moody, lethargic shrug of a performance you’d more readily associate with Dmitar Berbatov at their cross-city rivals.

Just as the officials didn’t spot Rio Ferdinand’s elbow to Craig Fagan’s face off the ball against Manchester United, today they missed Stephen Ireland slapping the same player in the face which could have warranted a straight red. There may be some retrospective disciplinary action, as in the Ferdinand case, but having Ireland banned when Man City play our relegation rivals won’t help us in any way. Though judging on his performance today, his replacement couldn’t possibly be any worse.

You can buy the most expensive players in the world, you can fire managers, but you can’t shake the feeling that Manchester City are still years away from being a team to challenge for trophies.

As for Hull City, things seem to be clicking nicely thank you very much.

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Hull City 1 Chelsea 1

If our Premier League stay is to end in three months’ time, then I’m especially thankful for this night.

For while those of us who trek to away games have seen a triumph at Arsenal and draws at Chelsea and Liverpool, this was the first time our home crowd had seen us take a point off a Big Four side.

It was something joyous for 23,000, not just 3,000, City fans to share in, unmatched since our Premier League bow against Fulham 18 months ago.

OK, we didn’t pouch a much-needed three points to haul ourselves out of the bottom three, but at times we threatened to rip the guts out of the Premier League leaders.

It was all led by the dogged, strong and pacy Jozy Altidore and intelligently conducted by not-Wolves-bound Stephen Hunt with assured, ball-hungry youngster Tom Cairney in the midfield playmaker role.

Of course, there were several other spells when Chelsea splayed the ball round at a cracking lick and we looked vulnerable to a sucker punch goal.

But we never stopped closing the Cockneys down or putting bodies in the way, from George Boateng blocking and mopping up in midfield, through the unflustered back four, to on-form Boaz Myhill palming out several cracking goal-bound efforts.

Cheating Chelsea captain john Terry received a predictable jeer every time he touched the ball and sparked some rousing choruses from the East Stand to boot.

All fantastic, bawdy fun but needless to say it did not affect the loverat’s concentration as he continued to play it simple and assured. Even so, Altidore had a dynamite 20-minute spell where he had the full measure of his upcoming World Cup opponent and Terry received a booking for hauling him down.

Our goal came as Hunt delivered an inch-perfect dead ball from a corner following several disappointing efforts earlier in the game. His teasing delivery was met by Stephen Mouyokolo, who’d ducked away from his marker around ten yards out, and a firm header on target gave Petr Cech little chance.

Chelsea’s reply came in confusing style, with referee Mark Clattenberg awarding them a free-kick for an unknown infringement on the edge of the box when the action had already switched to a tangle of bodies well inside our penalty area.

Relief that we’d not conceded a spot-kick was short-lived, however, as Didier Drogba’s free-kick was effortlessly slotted it into the bottom corner through a crumbling wall.
City’s players appealed that a) it was supposed to be indirect but went straight in and b) the ref had not whistled for Drog to take it.

Whether there was truth in either of those protests I’m not sure, but had the nearest two players in the wall not jumped out of the ball’s way the shot would have bounced harmlessly out.

Outside of the goals, there were gilt-edged chances at either end. Antony Gardner squirmed free from a floated Cairney free-kick but from his location inside the six-yard box could not direct his header on target.

Then late on, Chelsea sub Daniel Sturridge latched onto a flick and stroked a shot towards the bottom corner before it was somehow batted out by Myhill.

That shot sneaking in would have been par for the course in our clashes with the Big Four, usually typified by a cruel twist of luck at the end of a spirited performance.

Fortunately, this night proved to be exceptional in every sense of the word.

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