Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Middlesbrough 2 Hull City 0

With the euphoria of Saturday's late winner against Ipswich fresh in the memory, The Tigers headed to Middlesbrough and, despite a rotten record on Teesside, should've been in confident mood. City haven't won in Middlesbrough since 1986. This was my fourth trip to the Riverside. Tonight makes it four losses!

Steve Bruce made three changes from the Ipswich game with the three players who appeared as substitutes on Saturday and changed the game getting starting roles. There was no argument for leaving Chester out again. However while McLean and Proschwitz both did well at the weekend, leaving out Aluko was a mistake.

Tigers: 4-4-2 [G] Amos [D] Rosenior, Dawson, Chester, McShane [M] McKenna, Olofinjana, Elmohamady, Quinn [F] Proschwitz, McLean

City started brightly enough and passed the ball well without really threatening to harm the hosts. However once Boro took control after 6-8 minutes, they made genuine opportunities. It was the pattern the entire game took. Boro weren't outstanding but showed plenty of endeavour without the ball, kept a solid shape and have young mobile players who get the ball wide quickly and make options for the man in possession. A poor Andy Dawson pass allowed Reach to cut inside and force the first of several saves from Amos, diving low to his left. From the resulting corner, a Boro centre half was gifted a free header 6 yards out but Amos got down well again and the ball was scrambled clear. Two further Boro corners were whipped superbly by Leadbitter towards the far post, the first tipped over by Amos, the second caught by the 'keeper who had to shift his feet quickly to avoid carrying it over the line.

City enjoyed spells of possession in the half but failed to trouble the Boro defence. Proschwitz didn't receive much in the way of quality service but his general play was poor. Like most of the Tigers midfield, he was ponderous on the ball. A Stephen Quinn shot a couple of feet wide was the only effort on goal. Olofinjana bundled his way through leading to a half chance that Proschwitz spurned before Elmo made a mess of the rebound and the keeper beat McLean to the loose ball. The best City move of the half saw McLean collect Quinn's pass and feed a ball in behind Leadbitter for Proschwitz. From our angle it looked like Leadbitter fouled Proschwitz on the edge of the box but those better placed and, more importantly, the referee saw it as a good tackle.

Leadbitter was the danger at the other end for Boro. Because they had worked the ball wide so often, City began to guard against it, allowing Leadbitter room to shoot from distance. His first effort moved in the air and Amos could only parry with McShane clearing up. A second, viscous effort was pushed out too and as Haroun pounced on the rebound, Amos spread himself and saved at point blank range with his right boot. City made it to half time level. Rarely had we looked like scoring ourselves. There was no dynamism in midfield, too many passes sideways. When we worked good wide positions we crossed poorly and we didn't have Aluko to run at them from deep.

The Tigers were let off big time at the start of the second half. Another great corner was headed back across goal and George Friend headed off the bar from close range. We settled after that and probably enjoyed our best spell of the game, again without particularly worrying their defence. Unfortunately the way things have gone in the last month, we can even concede on the break away from home! Dawson's corner evaded McShane and Boro cleared. Friend carried the ball a long way and slid in Haroun who rounded Amos and scored [1-0]. The Boro fans were so delighted that some of them even woke up! It was another soft goal and given our lack of goal threat, it looked decisive.

Steve Bruce replaced Proschwitz with Aluko before we'd even kicked off. It wasn't enough to spark us into life. We had most of the ball but Boro kept their defensive shape and threatened consistently on the counter. A second goal was always coming. Breaking again they cut in from the left, Amos stopped the shot and then saved Haroun's follow up before Miller tapped in [2-0]. More criminal defending. McLean almost responded immediately, getting across the front of the defence and hooking Rosenior's cross inches wide of the far post. Simpson and Evans replaced Rosenior and McKenna with McLean moving to the right of midfield and Elmohamady to right back. It was too little too late in truth.

Boro continued to cause trouble on the counter attack but a combination of Amos saves, decent challenges from Chester and McShane and poor finishing kept the score down. City created one chance that would've given the noisy traveling support a little hope. Simpson slid Evans in behind on the left and he shot left footed against the post. The rebound fell to McLean a few yards out in front of an empty goal but he fired wide. In his defence, the ball came off the post quickly. He should probably still have scored. That was just about it. Despite a good chunk of possession, City failed to produce an effort that troubled goalkeeper Steele.

It's easy to be despondent after such a disappointing effort. However it's not a level of performance we've seen too often. Even the recent run of defeats came during some good performances, horrific defending apart. So the players deserve the chance to put things right before we write them off. Elmohamady crossed poorly tonight but had a fine game on Saturday. McKenna played a level below what we know he's capable of. Dawson and Rosenior are also well capable of better performances. Olofinjana frustrated with his lack of urgency on the ball. He passes well at times and his refusal to panic is admirable but with him and McKenna, it's a but pedestrian in the middle of the park. Only Amos, Quinn and Chester played well while McShane put in another good effort.

Proschwitz and McLean will have a hard time convincing Bruce that they deserve another start no matter how impressive they are off the bench. McLean was the better of the two and linked play well at times in the first half but offered little threat around the box. Proschwitz's performance resembled his early outings for us. He's not good enough outside the box, he doesn't help us to work attacking positions and when he does hold the ball up, he doesn't lay the ball off quickly or positively enough.

With Bristol City coming up on Saturday, the good news is that we surely can't be this bad again. The bad news is that we're notoriously bad on TV and our record at Ashton Gate makes Middlesbrough look like a happy hunting ground. We won't be unchanged. Of that I'm absolutely certain. There aren't many who can have too many complaints if they are benched for the trip. I won't mind at all if neither the Riverside Stadium or Ashton Gate are on next seasons fixture list!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Hull City 2 Ipswich Town 1

Is there a feeling greater than the mixture of joy and relief that sweeps over you as your team seals a deserved win against stubborn opposition with a winner in stoppage time from your expensive, and thus far massively disappointing, German striker? I can’t think of many.

The Tigers returned to Championship action after a two week looking to capitalise on the three points gained at Hillsborough with a win over lowly Ipswich. The Tractor Boys have a decent squad of players that they’ve added to recently with the temporary arrivals of goalkeeper Stephen Henderson (West Ham) and midfielders Richie Wellens (Leicester) and Nigel Reo-Coker (the ego-driven unemployment line). Despite their quality on paper, their useless manager Paul Jewell hasn’t got anything much out of the squad in two years. He’s on borrowed time in Suffolk and the negative approach they took showed his utter desperation to leave the KC Stadium with a point, any point, gained in any way whatsoever. Steve Bruce had a fit-again James Chester available after Hillsborough but chose not to include him. Bruce’s loyalty to the players who did so well a fortnight ago is admirable but not something I agree with.

Tigers: 4-4-2 [G] Amos [D] Rosenior, Dawson, Faye, McShane [M] McKenna, Olofinjana, Elmohamady, Quinn [F] Aluko, Simpson

City made a bright start to the game and completely dominated the opening half hour. They played some sumptuous football particularly around the box where Rosenior and Dawson joined in with attacks and Quinn and Elmohamady displayed excellent vision to get the roaming full-backs into the penalty area. Two early corners exposed Ipswich’s frailties. The first flew across the face of goal begging for a touch before McShane and Faye slashed at it and the visitors smuggled the ball behind. The second was driven low to Aluko, 12 yards out and all alone but he failed to connect properly. Our visitors then downgraded from frail to decrepit as the handed City two chances to open the scoring in the space of a few minutes.

Elmohamady flicked on Amos’ goal kick to Simpson who raced down the right before returning the ball to Elmo to cross. The delivery was poor but the defender sliced it across goal and Olofinjana arrived at the far post but with his out-stretched right foot could only fire over the bar. Chance. Then Simpson turned provider again, sliding the ball through their centre halves for Aluko who’d run in behind. His first touch took him away from Henderson but the goalie flung himself in front of Aluko’s shot, it caught his midriff and bounced up slowly where a recovering defender was able to boot it clear. Chance. Another loanee Tractor Boy Danny Higginbotham then slipped while attempting to clear Rosenior’s harmless looking cross, presenting the ball to Aluko 10 yards out. Aluko side stepped another defender and hit a rising right foot shot that flew over the bar. Chance.

With the Tigers having stared three gift horses right in the mush, the next act was inevitable. The ref awarded Ipswich a soft free-kick for Rosenior holding Emmanuel-Thomas. While the City defenders trudged slowly into position, still whining at the ref, Emmanuel-Thomas picked up the quickly taken free-kick, ran at Rosenior and Elmohamady who weren’t set at all, beat them both with a quick switch of the ball off his right foot and then left, strode towards the six yard box with McShane struggling to get close and finished neatly from a tight angle [0-1]. It was against the run of play, undeserved and downright frustrating but that’s the way things have gone in recent home games. If you don’t take chances, you invite a kick in the teeth in top level football. We’re turning it into an art-form.

The Tigers didn’t respond in the way the crowd wanted. If the goal was a sucker punch, the players spent twenty minutes either side of half-time shaking off the groggy feeling it left in their heads. We lost the pace in our attacks. Olofinjana’s languid style became frustrating. McKenna misplaced passes. Aluko still provided real energy and movement but attempted impossible passes that cost possession. Dawson and Rosenior weren’t getting into the right areas anymore. Only Elmohamady provided a threat but Ipswich gobbled up his crosses against a lonely looking Simpson. Added to Ipswich’s clear lack of ambition, evidenced by Henderson’s time wasting having started ten minutes in and it taking 42 minutes for anyone to notice that DJ Campbell was actually playing, it was another frustrating spell. Simpson gathered in Quinn’s centre from the right edge of the penalty area, turned and bent a shot beyond the far post before the break. After it Faye met a dinked cross from McKenna and Henderson touched his looping header onto the bar. That was the sum total of our efforts for 20 minutes. Something needed to change.

Steve Bruce, who normally prowls the touchline, sat down for 5 minutes in the second half. He looked like he was out of ideas but he was merely contemplating his next move. Ipswich were having their best spell of the game. A deep cross from Murphy was cleared by Dawson only as far as Martin whose shot from a tight angle forced Ben Amos’ only save of the afternoon. Then a rare corner for them saw Cresswell make a late run into acres of space in the penalty area only to find Stephen Quinn had seen him and arrived first. It showed excellent awareness from Quinn who had another terrific, tireless game. Bruce chucked on McLean for Rosenior with Aluko moving wide and Elmohamady to right-back. It put Elmo directly up against Emmanuel-Thomas. Ipswich never reacted to the change and it eventually proved crucial. Before the Tigers would kick into gear though, they were let off big-time by Campbell. The ball was given away in our half and Ipswich put Campbell, who’d just about stayed onside, through on goal. Faye chases back and gave him a crucial little nudge in the back causing him to poke the ball a foot or less wide of the post. Campbell appealed in vain for a penalty.

McLean made a nuisance of himself from the moment he stepped onto the pitch. He doesn’t have the nous of an instinctive striker nor is he a composed finisher but he’s a complete pest whose constant movement when we have the ball or are trying to win it back just drives defenders mad. McShane played the ball forward to Simpson who held it up, turned and played in McLean on the right, in a similar position to the one he got in to notch the winner at Hillsborough. He shot hard and low but straight at the ‘keeper. That’s his weakness. It was almost hit and hope. McLean got into a similar position moments later, this time fed by Aluko, and hit a shot-cum-cross that evaded a despairing slide from Simpson in the middle. Steve Bruce then threw on his two remaining subs. Nick Proschwitz replaced Olofinjana and went up front. Simpson moved onto the left and Quinn made up the midfield pairing. We had four forwards on and a winger at right-back, you couldn’t accuse Bruce of being defensive. James Chester also came on for Abdoulaye Faye. This change didn’t produce the effects as noticeable as the attacking switches but it was just as important. Any threat Ipswich had on the break was quashed by Chester’s arrival and his ability to carry the ball over the half-way line was important. Ipswich were defending in great numbers by this point so we had to move the ball quickly across the back.

It wasn’t long after the changes before City were level. Elmohamady squared up to Emmanuel-Thomas on the right, left him for dead, slammed the ball across the near post and Nick Proschwitz arrived to volley home from close range [1-1]. The delight was obvious in his celebration and it was shared equally by the vast majority of the 15,983 inside the stadium and his team-mates who mobbed him. If there was a time for him to make his first big contribution to the season, that was it. Ipswich realised that with 15 minutes or so left, they were still going to face an onslaught and they pulled everyone back and wasted as much time as they could. Aluko took Elmo’s lead and got himself into the box on the right. Ryan Cresswell got between him and the ball but Aluko didn’t give it up and nicked the ball off Cresswell before he was tripped. The ref immediately gave the “no way Jose” signal (that’s official FIFA lingo, honest) but I think if it was anywhere else on the pitch, he’d have given a foul.

Ipswich sub Bilel Mohsni hit a wicked, dipping, curling shot from 35 yards that dropped just over Amos’ crossbar. That was their last thought of winning the game. It was all City in truth and it represented a siege at times. James Chester strode forward, didn’t realise he had a man on, and let an Ipswich midfielder get a foot in but he inadvertently put Andy Dawson in behind his full-back. With Proschwitz waiting in the middle, Daw fired it high across the box when it really needed sliding low. It was a poor cross. The ref gave us a free-kick for Wellens reckless dive at McKenna which Aluko then smashed into Wellens’ one-man wall. Elmohamady then sauntered passed Emmanuel-Thomas again, skinned Ryan Cresswell and clipped in a cross just before the ball ran out of play that Quinn headed poorly over the bar. Quinn then picked up the ball in midfield, strode forward, ignored the runners and hit a low, left-footed drive that bounced off the far post.

The ball was fed back into the box where Aaron McLean curled a cross or a shot towards the far post and Henderson had to dive full length to tip it around the post. From the corner McLean met the ball at the far post but saw his header headed off the line by the defender on the post. Another corner fell kindly for McLean whose shot looked like it might have gone in had Mohsni not blocked it bravely. The crowd noise by this point was immense. Everyone willing the Tigers forward, desperate for them to find the winner they so deserved. The board went up to indicate four minutes stoppage time and City’s last chance came and went. Jay Simpson decided to shoot from a free-kick on the left wing. His shot was heading into the ‘keeper’s arms when a defender decided to try and control it but succeeded only in presenting it to McLean 6 yards out. McLean was well off-balance, in his defence, and struck it over the bar. 2 minutes into stoppage time the ref finally realised that Henderson was deliberately wasting time and produce a futile yellow card. That’ll really show him, ref. I don’t blame Ipswich for time-wasting. If we were as crap as they are, I’d want us to waste time too but the ref should really have got hold of it earlier. Instead, punishment was to be issued by a gangly German striker. Elmohamady crossed half way with the ball, looked up, floated the ball in towards the penalty area where Proschwitz got across the front of his marker and flicked a header into the far corner, leaving Henderson grasping at thin air. I haven’t heard a reaction like this one at the KC since Robert Koren’s winner against Leicester last December. It was magic.

City haven’t always gotten what performances have deserved over the past 18 months, especially at home, so it was nice to pull this one out of the bag. As much as we only had ourselves to blame for not capitalising on the early dominance, a team as negative and desperate as Ipswich didn’t deserve anything out of the game and it would’ve been sickening to watch them take anything. The sponsor’s Man of the Match was Sone Aluko which was a bit of a joke decision, as unimportant as it is. Elmohamady was clearly the biggest threat throughout, even before he made the winner. Aluko had a disappointing afternoon by his standards and didn’t produce the end product to match his great approach work. Defensively we were OK but still gifted a couple of chances to a side with no ambition. Chester needs to come back in for Tuesday. We’ve also got a selection header up front where Steve Bruce has to choose between Simpson, who didn’t do a whole lot wrong, and McLean and Proschwitz who both affected the game positively. Both have scored winners off the bench in the last two games and will be desperate for a starting opportunity.

With Robert Koren due back soon and Corry Evans only on the bench at the moment, we’ve also got plenty of options in midfield. It’s all evidence of a squad that is very strong when everyone’s fit. We’ve got 18/19 really good quality players for this level. The only bit of bad news at the moment is Matt Fryatt requiring surgery on his Achilles. That’s a big blow. It’s a credit to the other strikers that we haven’t missed him as much as we would’ve last season. They’ve really stepped up.

After that frustrating winless run a few weeks ago, things are frighteningly optimistic again. We’ve got two away trips this week that while both tough, are also highly winnable if we play well. I’d be delighted with three points from the two though, that would keep us well in the promotion race. We are good enough to go up this season. I think 8 or 9 other teams probably feel the same, so it’s going to be a fantastic fight for the top six spots but we are definitely in with a shot.

In December, the Tigers celebrate 10 years at the KC Stadium. I've been blogging the best 10 games, goals and players for City in those 10 seasons. You can read them here:

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Ten Years At The KC Stadium - #7

In this series of blogs, I'll pick the Top 10 Players, Games and Goals from the 10 years at the KC Stadium and will throw in a variety of top 10 lists and boring facts! This is number four in the series and number seven in the countdown:

Top 10 Players - #7


Geovanni is a one-time Brazlian international who joined Barcelona for 20m in 2001, played over 100 games for Benfica, has played 30-odd games in European competition and turned out at the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney and scored a winning goal against Manchester United in his one and only season at Manchester City. It’s fair to say that his signing was something of a coup for Hull City in the summer of 2008. Aside from an aging Jay-Jay Okocha the year before and an aging Raich Carter in the late 40’s, it was the biggest signing the club had ever made.

He wasn’t the most stylish Brazlian footballer, he wasn’t a tricky dribbler or a brilliant passer, though he did do both on occasion. Around the box, he came to life and possessed a phenomenal shot. He didn’t wait long to prove it. Twenty-two minutes into his Tigers debut, with City trailing one-nil in our first ever top flight game, he collected Sam Ricketts pass, strode forward and unleashed a strike beyond Mark Schwarzer. His name will go down in the club’s history for that one. City suffered a 0-5 hammering at home to Wigan in our second Premier League game at the KC and Geo was left on the bench as Phil Brown looked for a more rigid 4-4-2 system that yielded a win at Newcastle and a draw at home to Everton. For the trip to Arsenal the following week, he recalled Geo and played him behind Marlon King and Daniel Cousin in a suicidal looking 4-3-1-2 system. City trailed Arsenal in the second half when Geo struck a contender for the best goal we’ve ever scored. He cut in from the right and from 30 yards on the diagonal, he hammered the ball into the far top corner. Live on TV, it sent shockwaves up and down the country. When Daniel Cousin headed a winner 4 minutes later, the aftershock was bigger than Arsene Wenger’s nose.

Geo scored a brilliant winner the following week at Tottenham direct from a free-kick and followed it up with a goal in 3-0 win at West Brom, a penalty strike in a brave 3-4 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford and a deflected strike in a 2-2 draw with his old team, Man City. The Tigers where riding high in the Premier League when Marlon King went off the rails, Phil Brown’s ego grew out of control, Paul Duffen attempted to conquer Europe and Geo went into hibernation for the winter. He eventually woke up around March and scored a couple of goals as City clung onto their Premier League life’s by the skin of their teeth.  Geo hit 6 goals in the opening 11 games that season and followed it up with 4 in the opening 9 of 2009/10. As with the previous season, he disappeared once it got cold but his season had been disrupted by a ludicrous sending off at Burnley. Geo picked up a booking for complaining that his perfectly good free-kick “goal” was disallowed. He would later be sent off for a slightly late challenge. This time there was no recovery in the spring and the Tigers fell out of the Premier League. Following relegation, Geo agreed to rip up his City contract, saving the club a fortune at a time when our finances where already stretched almost to tearing point.

As Hull City took on the biggest teams in the country for the first time, Geovanni ‘s contribution was exceptional. He scored goals out of nothing. He won games on his own. He lived up to every stereotype of the South American footballer, both the good and the bad. He provided moments of individual genius that most of us will ever forget and will likely never see again. He was City’s number ten during the only time in our history that we’ve been one of the best teams in the country. Na, na-na, na-na, na, na, Geo, Geo….

Top 10 Matches - #7

Hull City 2 Leicester City 1 - 03/12/2011

In the summer of 2010, Nigel Pearson left Leicester City for Hull City. The tigers were a club in turmoil but as the new year approached, the Allam family took over the club, underwrote the massive debts and gave Pearson their backing in the transfer market. Pearson used the money over the next six months to produce an exciting young side that improved by the week. In November 2011, following a 2-0 home defeat against West Ham that, regardless of the scoreline, was probably the best performance by Pearson's Tigers, he walked away. Back to Leicester. Leicester had hired Sven Goran Eriksson, wasted a bundle of money and, despite starting the season as promotion favourites, languished at the wrong end of the table. Pearson decided it was a job worth having. The Hull City fans still haven't forgiven or forgotten.

A month after the West Ham game, Leicester visited the KC Stadium. The atmosphere was unlike anything the KC had seen since the promotion run-in 30 months earlier. The desire for victory emanating from the stands was over-whelming. The players he'd let down also wanted to stick it to Pearson. Leicester went down to ten early in the game and Matt Fryatt, who'd followed Pearson from Leicester to Hull, scored a penalty. However, Leicester bravely battled back from this blow and Paul Konchesky equalised on half time in front of the large traveling support. The Leicester goal led a charmed life in the second half and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel had "one of those days". As stoppage time approached, the score remained 1-1 despite the visitors numerical disadvantage. Nigel's flat-top was glowing and the Leicester support were as smug as buggery. Enter Robert Koren. Liam Rosenior spotted a lovely pass on the edge of the box, Koren strode onto the ball and smashed home with his left foot from 18 yards. Deflation at one end, elation around the rest of the ground. The roar was incredible. The goal was epic. The win was vital. Nigel Who?

(The Leicester game was top of the bill on the Football League show and their highlights have been uploaded on YouTube by some fine tiger)

Top 10 Goals - #7

Jon Parkin (Hull City 1 Leeds United 0 - 01/04/2006)

Technically, this goal isn't as good as Richard Garcia's brilliant strike at #8. However, it's one of my favourite goals from the Tigers' KC era. An entire generation of City fans hadn't seen a competitive game against Leeds United, let alone a win. Plenty of them had taken stick working with Leeds fans around Yorkshire or, even worse, working with those despicable "Hull Whites". City battered Leeds that day without reward. The crowd, nearly 23,500, were frustrated and starting to believe that jammy old Leeds would escape comeuppance again. Then Stuart Green lofted a ball to the far post and Jon Parkin climbed higher than it's physically possible for anyone to lift a frame as big as his and planted a textbook downward header inside the near post. It's a brilliant header. I love it.

10 most appearances at the KC Stadium without scoring (outfield players)

1. Mark Joseph (48)
2. Liam Rosenior (40)
3. Corry Evans (34)
=. Paul McShane (34)
5. John Welsh (25)
6. Paul McKenna (23)
7. Kevin Ellison (19)
8. Justin Whittle (19)
9. Joe Dudgeon 18
10. Danny Coles (16)
=. Tony Gardner (16)

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Ten Years At The KC Stadium - #8

In this series of blogs, I'll pick the Top 10 Players, Games and Goals from the 10 years at the KC Stadium and will throw in a variety of top 10 lists and boring facts! This is number three in the series and number eight in the countdown:

Top 10 Players - #8

Boaz Myhill

If, on the day Boaz Myhill signed for Hull City in December 2003, someone had told you that he’d take the club through three promotions, play at the biggest grounds in the country, produce the best goalkeeping display Match Of The Day has ever highlighted, go onto be sold for thirty times what we paid for him and become the only possible answer other than “Tony Norman” in answer to the question “Who is Hull City’s greatest ever goalkeeper?”, then you’d most probably have been sectioned. Or shot.

Bo spent the first half of the 2003/04 season on loan at Macclesfield, playing 16 times, and Stockport, where he played 3 games, from his parent club Aston Villa. Peter Taylor saw something in the 21 year-old and paid £50,000 to bring him to the KC Stadium. He was immediately installed as the Tigers number one and, despite a surprise home defeat against Mansfield on his debut, he held onto the position for the rest of the season and helped City to a first promotion in 19 years. A promotion which was immediately followed by a second. Myhill missed only 2 league games in the next 3 seasons and was named the club’s Player of the Season in 2005/06 as the Tigers stayed in the Championship. In a remarkable game at Stoke in January 2006, Myhill saved two Stoke penalties to help City to a 3-0 win.

Everyone knows what happened in 2007/08. Myhill cemented his place in Hull City history as the club clinched promotion in the play-off final at Wembley. Myhill’s save at Watford in the semi-final (see above) is one of the best I’ve ever seen. If any other goalkeeper has ever played for the same team through all four divisions in the English league, I’m not aware of it. Myhill, who made his international debut for Wales in 2008, had two solid seasons in the top flight. As The Tigers magnificent start to the 2008/09 season faded after Christmas, Myhill started to struggle for form and lost his place to Matt Duke for a few games.  Despite the following season ending in relegation from the top flight and the Tigers suffering a few hammerings along the way, Bo generally remained solid in goal. He found himself playing behind a collection of morons at centre-half. In January at White Hart Lane, Myhill had the sort of game most ‘keepers can only dream about repelling Spurs SIXTEEN shots on target, making several miraculous saves and rendering Match Of The Day commentator, and Spurs fan, John Motson near-speechless.

Following the Tigers relegation and the revelation that the club was in severe financial danger, Myhill was sold to West Brom for around a million and a half quid. It was a move he didn’t want but took because the club needed to sell him. Myhill is one of the best investments Hull City have ever made. In fact, he’s probably the best £50,000 anyone ever spent. Not only because of the financial return but because of the service he provided in six and a half brilliant seasons “in the middle of our goal”. Bo is a true immortal.

Top 10 Matches - #8

Hull City 1 Swansea City 0 - 30/09/2003

It’s the final day of September, 2003. The Tigers sit second in the Division 3 table having played 10 games. The visitors, Swansea, are top; a single point better off. The KC Stadium is about to host it’s first classic encounter.

City had won 4 of 5 home games that season. The non-win was a thoroughly entertaining 3-3 draw against Cheltenham Town. Darlo were battered 4-1 on the opening day, Boston United beaten 2-1 courtesy of a late, late Stuart Green winner, Southend beaten 3-2 and, the previous Saturday, Kidderminster hammered 6-1. The average attendance for those 5 games was 13,000 and something. So it was something of a surprise when we walked over the bridge from Londesborough Street, saw the KC (still not yet a year old) beautifully lighting up the sky line and wondered who the hell all of hose people were.

The crowd of just short of 21,000 was the largest we’d drawn since the stadium opener against Hartlepool United on Boxing Day 2002. Given that the away end of around 4,000 seats had been allocated entirely to Swansea (who’d brought around 200) it was pretty much a sell out. The kick-off was delayed 15 minutes to get everyone inside and a rumoured 2,000 people were locked outside. The Hull Daily Mail certainly carried letters from super-fans who hadn’t missed a game for years but couldn’t get in.

Swansea were a good side. They had big fat Roger Freestone in goal, big fat Lee trundle up front, little fat Andy Robinson on the wing and Leon Britton in midfield alongside Mark Wilson, ex-Man United and future guest at her majesty’s pleasure if the race fixing allegations are proven. Wilson was on loan from Middlesbrough at the time and had a fine game. As did our own Ian Ashbee. The game was high in quality but with two good defences on display, low on chances. Damien Delaney, who was improving by the week, formed a great partnership with Justin Whittle. It’s a pity Peter Taylor broke it up. Swansea, who kicked us to death, hit the bar and the post while Roger Freestone defied gravity to make several splendid stops.

The previous meeting between the two teams came on the final day of the 2002/03 season at the Vetch Field, the Swans old ground. Swansea had to win to avoid relegation form the football league and prevailed 4-2 against a Tigers side who had nothing to play for and 11 desperate men and a bent referee to play against (Allegedly of course.) City exacted revenge for that defeat and took over at the top of Division Three courtesy of a thumping header from Stuart Elliott midway through the first half. Elliott arrived late in the box and met Andy Dawson’s left winger corner to beat Freestone and send the 20,000+ City fans into rapture. Swans built up a head of steam in the second half but the game ended as a contest when Richard Duffy, a contender for ugliest footballer alive, was sent off for a stupid foul on Elliott. The Tigers completed a league double of Swansea with a 3-2 away win in April and finished 2nd in Division 3. Swans fell away and ended up 10th.

Top 10 Goals - #8

Richard Garcia (Hull City 2 Burnley 0 - 04/03/2008)

The Tigers entered March 2008 on the cusp of a play-off place with a game in hand. Burnley, stting one place above City in the Championship table, visited the KC Stadium. With confidence growing throughout the team, City produced a vintage first half performance capped off by this wonder strike from Garcia. The seven goals I've got above this one will take some justifying!

Worst 10 Hull City players in the KC Stadium era

1. Steve Melton
2. Simon Walton
3. Mark Lynch
4. Danny Webb
5. Ibrahima Sonko
6. Mark Yeates
7. Rowan Vine
8. Dele Adebola
9. Robbie Stockdale
10. Manucho

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Ten Years At The KC Stadium - #9

In this series of blogs, I'll pick the Top 10 Players, Games and Goals from the 10 years at the KC Stadium and will throw in a variety of top 10 lists and boring facts! This is number two in the series and number nine in the countdown:

Top 10 Players - #9

Jay Jay Okocha

Augustin Azucha Okocha arrived at Hull City in September 2007 at the request of Phil Brown and with the blessing of God. If you asked Phil Brown, he'd tell you they are one and the same. As a result of niggling injuries, the form of the squad in the run-in and a dubious red card against Burnley, he only played 19 games for Hull City and only started 11. Even so, he's probably the most gifted footballer to ever wear the black and amber. Despite being 34 years of age and having spent the previous season "playing" in Qatar, his signing was something of a coup for The Tigers. Okocha had played at the top level in Europe for Frankfurt, Fenerbache and Paris St. Germain, had been to three World Cups with Nigeria and possessed an Olympic Gold Medal and had raised the profile of Bolton Wanderers in his four years with the club, where he worked alongside Phil Brown.

Okocha could do things with a football we'd not seen at the KC Stadium before. Sone Aluko is probably the only player we've had since who even comes close. Okocha lacked the pace of old but still had an eye for a pass, superb set piece delivery and still possessed immense skill. His influence on the pitch probably wasn't as vital as the impression his signing gave out to potential signings and our opponents in the division. That said, there were some vintage performances from Okocha who started the season well and the Tigers lost just 3 of his first 11 appearances including a 1-0 win at Wolves and a 3-1 win at home to Ipswich in which he made goals for Henrik Pedersen and Wayne Brown. His appearances in the second half of the season were rare but he played a vital part in the 2-1 win at West Brom which was the springboard for our promotion push, brilliantly setting up Fraizer Campbell's wonderful opener. His best outing in a Tigers shirt was one of his last. The first 45 minutes against Burnley saw City playing some of the best football we'd seen in modern times, inspired by the magnificent Okocha. Unfortunately, he was sent off in a mad second half, along with Caleb Folan and two Burnley players, and with City charging towards promotion, failed to regain a place in the team.

Top 10 Matches - #9

Hull City 1 Chelsea 1 - 02/02/2010

In the midst of the 2009/10 season, The Tigers took on league leaders Chelsea in a rearranged fixture at the KC Stadium. The original game had been called off due to snow. City were on a run of 10 games without a win and the previous Saturday had drawn 2-2 at home to relegation rivals Wolves in a game they should have won. Dropping 2 points in such a fixture was indicative of a side who'd struggle to stay in the top flight so the Tigers fans didn’t hold out a lot of hope for the visit of the team who led Manchester United by 4 points at the Premier League summit.

Vintage Premier League performances were rare at the KC Stadium. Even in the golden autumn of 2008 when Hull City were setting the top flight on fire, our home form was patchy. This was one of the best. Tom Cairney, who’d made a surprise first league start in the Wolves game, continued in the Tigers midfield alongside the rejuvenated George Boateng who was the man of the match.  Cairney was unfazed by the occasion or the opposition and had a fine game, passing the ball beautifully. City started the game brightly and failed to make the best of numerous corners and set pieces our attacking play earned until the half hour mark.  Stephen Hunt delivered a near post corner onto the head of Steven Mouyokolo, who’d slipped his marker, and the Frenchman planted a header beyond Petr Cech. Chelsea had turned us over 4-0 (league cup) and 3-0 (league) in the previous two seasons so to bag a goal was a turn-up.

City approached half time nervously, unsure whether to try and defend the lead (which would have been fruitless given how poorly we defended all season) or whether to try and find another goal. Chelsea took advantage and breached our defence right on half time. Didier Drogba smashing a wicked free-kick low around the wall and beyond Myhill. If Chelsea expected to push on after the break, they were taken aback by City’s vibrant approach to the game. With Jozy Altidore giving John Terry (who picked up a popular yellow card while trying to stop Altidore; he’d recently been outed as a “love rat” in the red tops) and Ricardo Carvalho a hard time, City were on the front foot. The Tigers back four defended tremendously all night and as the game wore on and City tired, they were forced to work harder to keep Chelsea out. Bo Myhill had a few iffy moments in the game but did his bit to earn a vital point by making tremendous saves from Drogba and Daniel Sturridge.

This was arguably the most impressive home performance of the Tigers Premier League run. There were a few more impressive attacking outings but none featuring more impressive defensive performances. This was also one of only a couple of points City picked up at home against the genuine super-powers of English football at home. It was a great night and one that threatened to turn our season around but never quite managed it.

Top 10 Goals - #9

George Boateng (Hull City 2 Manchester City 1 - 06/02/2010)

Hot on heels of the aforementioned Chelsea game, big spending Manchester City visited the KC Stadium.They were given a spanking by a temporarily rejuvenated Hull City and Phil Brown's last ever win as the Tigers boss was effectively clinched by this beautiful volley from the left boot of George Boateng.

Top 10 Hull City Goalscorers at the KC Stadium

1. Stuart Elliott (33)
2. Nick Barmby (16)
3. Ben Burgess (15)
= Craig Fagan (15)
= Matty Fryatt (15)
6. Danny Allsopp (14)
= Stuart Green (14)
8. Dean Windass (13)
9. Robert Koren (12)
10. Fraizer Campbell (10)

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