When you’ve waited all season for a second away win, having raised far too many hopes on the opening day, you should perhaps not be too choosy about how it comes.
Pete Sixsmithoffers warm commiserations to Hull City, now doomed, and acknowledges our competence but finds plenty to moan about in the quality of refereeing, our lack of goalscoring power from midfield and the colour of political posters on Yorkshire farmland …
I’m really sorry that Hull City are about to exit the Premier League. It’s a proud city with a radical heritage personified not by William Wilberforce, but by Lil Bolocca, a true working class hero, who campaigned tirelessly against the rapacious trawler owners in the 60s, when the loss of a trawler was usually met with a shrug of the shoulders by the fat cats in charge.
The good citizens of Kingston-upon-Hull have never been fearful of speaking their minds. Like Sunderland, they took up the Parliamentarian cause in the Civil War. They have elected John Prescott and Alan Johnson as their MPs and never let it be said that a Hull man (or woman) is unbalanced: they can wear a chip on both of their shoulders.
Over the last two years they have brought a different experience to the top league. They are not fashionable, they are supported by the people of Hull and the East Riding and, for Sunderland fans at least, they offer a different route to getting there. Instead of the dreary A1 with its roadworks and its services, there is the delightful alternative of traversing the A19 and the A1079 to Beverley.
Believe me, this is a gem of an English town, with its Minster, its market and its myriad of fine pubs. It has been a pleasure stopping off there for the last two years and sampling Sam Smith’s OBB in the White Horse (Nellie’s) at £1.50 a pint, sitting under gas lamps and wandering the copious rooms, looking for the toilet or the bar.
Alas, no more. We effectively put the final nail in City’s coffin with a competent if unspectacular win, which was once again dominated by a referee who would not have looked out of place officiating in a public park on a Sunday morning.
Let’s deal with what little football there was, before we dissect Lee Probert’s performance. We opened well and should have been two up before we scored. Henderson and Malbranque had excellent chances that had been well created but both failed. This is a problem. Successful sides need goals from midfield. We don’t get any. Of the three midfielders on the pitch on Saturday (Campbell is a forward), we have had one league goal and two cup goals. Not good enough.
Once Bent scored for the 24th time this season, I did not see us losing, because I could not imagine that a team as utterly bereft of ideas like Hull could even get near our penalty box, let alone threaten our goal.
That they did was due to Lee Probert. I remember him in the Championship and he seemed a decent referee. He had a steady opening 25 minutes and then he lost it. He booked Meyler for a foul when the young Irishman had been fouled himself, and then awarded a ridiculous penalty after Hutton had been dragged to the ground by Altidore (oops – see Comments) and Geovanni had dived over Turner’s foot.
Some justice was done when Bullard’s spot kick hit the post and the more realistic Hull fans knew that that was the big opportunity gone.
Bullard appears to be seen by City fans as the main reason for their plight and he was jeered as a result of this. He’s a decent player, but injury prone and although he runs around a lot, he does not have a lot of quality. Amazing that he was being pushed by some hacks as an England player last year.
Then came the other decisive moment in the game. Hutton and Altidore tangled on the far touchline and as Hutton got up, he bounced the ball off the young American’s bonce. Not clever, a yellow card and that should have been that.
However, GI Jozy saw this as an attack on his masculinity and proceeded to head butt Hutton, who as a Glaswegian, saw it coming and pulled back far enough to avoid serious damage. Off went the Fighting Yank and then a red card was shown to the injured party. Amazing. The Brucester went ballistic as did the visiting end and that was the end of the game.
The second half was little better than a Wearside League encounter – scrappy, scratchy and seriously short of quality. We never looked in any trouble and Hull (who had withdrawn Bullard at half time) slung a couple of kids on to warm them up for the Championship.
Bruce was sent off for questioning yet another weird decision from the ref, which at least entertained the crowd. It must have been a sight for those in the main stand to have to look at the battle scarred features of both Bruce and Dowie.
All credit to the Hull fans, they stayed until the end and applauded their team off. They have probably enjoyed hosting the big teams for two years, but they go back to welcoming local rivals like Doncaster, Scunthorpe and Middlesbrough next season.
From our point of view, we kept a clean sheet and Matthew Kilgallon had a good game in the middle of the back four. I gather he has been chomping at the bit to play and I would certainly keep him in for the last two games. Henderson and Meyler once again showed promise and control. Both had been harshly booked in the first half and both had to get through the second without antagonising the eccentric Mr Probert. They did.
On the return journey, an accident on the A63 led to us being sent back the way we came, through the Yorkshire Wolds and The Vale of York. Villages like Bishop Burton and Thormanby shone in the evening sun and all appeared well with the world. The only drawback (apart from the guy on the coach who gave every impression of having a decomposing rat stuck in his large intestine) was the preponderance of Vote Conservative posters on field edges, which once again led me to deduce that the party of farmers and landowners is not the party of change – unless it is back to the days of serfdom and misery.
* NB: a recent deluge of spam means comments from people who have not been this way and posted before will have to await moderation. Sorry.