Hull City AFC, known as The Tigers (separately for good reason), took on Real Betis in the final game of an eclectic pre-season in a game serving as a well-deserved testimonial for future Hull City Hall of Famer Andy Dawson.
Prior to the main game a small sided game featuring legends who’ve played alongside “Daws” took place. Wearing the City home strip were Daws, Dean Windass, Henrik Pedersen, Ian Ashbee, Jamie Forrester and Gav the coach driver. Opposing them, in last year’s blue third kit, were the slightly fitter bunch including Ben Burgess, Danny Allsopp, Jason Price, Steve Melton and Marc Joseph who, in contrast to some Danish pub landlords we won’t name, was still in peak physical condition. The football ability is also the same. Unfortunately.
The game finished 6-4 to the home legends due mainly to the away lot taking it steady and then stepping aside to allow Dawson’s kids to score a couple – a moment they won’t ever forget. The man of the moment also added a couple while Dean Windass showed his inability to volley a football goalwards. Has that man ever scored a volley? Hilariously Marc Joseph tried to kill a young Dawson with a two footed sliding tackle and the crowd booed the crap out of the goalkeeper for saving from the youngest Dawson.
The main game ebbed and flowed like most pre-season games. Between the opening two Tigers goals absolutely nothing happened but otherwise it was mostly entertaining and occasionally kicked off. David Meyler and Steinhofer were both lucky to avoid red cards. The German for an out of control tackle and Meyler for trying to throttle him in retribution.
Betis have a game with Everton on Sunday so they’d split their squad. While typically Spanish in their movement and passing, City showed more desire to win and better pace and strength. At times City also moved the ball slickly and gained confidence from an early goal. Danny Graham headed in Robbie Brady’s free-kick at the far post. That will hopefully fill him with confidence. There was no questioning his work rate up front though his touch let him down a time or two.
The other home debutants outfield were Curtis Davies, Maynor Figueroa and Yannick Sagbo. Davies looked very comfortable alongside James Chester and, while the two were generally untroubled, he showed his ability in the air and his turn of pace which attracted Steve Bruce to him. Sagbo had a quieter game but there was evidence of some quick feet, which led to him being clobbered a few times. He looks decent in the air, is quick and is more physically impressive than his measurements suggest. On a day designed to celebrate our greatest ever left back, it was fitting that Maynor Figueroa made a fine impression in the position. He’s a fine athlete and he shows great ambition down the left hand side. He’s going to be a big favourite. The other debutant was goalkeeper Allan McGregor but he had so little to do, he could have spent his time peeling oranges. He looks very comfortable with ball at feet.
The other player who felt like a new signing was Sone Aluko. I’m delighted to report that he looks as good as ever. He seemed to enjoy the fluid formation which allowed him to exchange positions with Sagbo and Graham when they saw fit. With Robbie Koren looking fitter and faster than ever in midfield alongside the versatile and ever-improving Robbie Brady, they played some nice stuff. Aluko doubled the lead with a beautiful curling shot from a short Brady free-kick though he’d never get this much space in a Premier league game for sure. We need midfield reinforcements but Brady and Koren showed great desire to work for the team which will stand us in good stead in the short term if new players don’t arrive.
The game was wrapped up with a cheeky goal from sub George Boyd. He spotted a poor back pass coming, latched on to it, rounded the keeper, let a defender slide past him and then dinked the ball over the grounded defender. Boyd arrived along with 5 others in one go in the second half. Liam Rosenior was laughing as he strode on to the pitch having been told he was playing midfield with Alex Bruce. With Dudgeon at right-back and Brady left it was an odd system but it was designed to allow Andy Dawson to make a late cameo so it was all fine. When McLean and Proschwitx became the 7th and 8th subs, Matty Fryatt dropped into midfield and had a great time picking out passes. He’s a good footballer our Matt. He’s just a bit lost in the shuffle unfortunately.
The only real negative from the new system is that it stunted Elmohamady who didn’t get forward anywhere near as often as he did last season. He may grow into the deeper role but he seemed keen not to get caught up front knowing there was no-one to cover for him.
All that was left was for us to give Andy Dawson a rousing reception as he replaced Brady, cheer his every touch and then stay to applaud him at the end. The crowd of 7,991 was a big disappointment but those who were there did a great job of reflecting the respect and adoration we’ll always have for Andy Dawson.
There’ll never be another.