The verve and skill demonstrated by the Tiger Chat FC XI in the morning, who annihilated their Lincoln counterparts 6-2 under sunny conditions at Brough's Blackburns Club, was not replicated by the senior XI who started off in 4-4-2 formation (although Molby confided afterwards that this was the last we'd see of this shape, as he favours an adventurous 4-3-3):
An experimental side for sure, with full-time reserve Ken Morley given a last run-out before not being offered a contract on Monday (if Molby's thinly veiled response on Radio Humbs was anything to go by) and the squad's only genuine paceman Beresford given an advanced role so that, err, we could lump high balls for him to head with his back to goal. Lee Philpott, a man with a reputation for pleasuring the ladies, was inserted in the moist central position in Sneekes' absence while Justin took a seat on the bench to let Greaves organise the defence and captain the side.
With the ground looking well stocked - the Well had a rare opening and was populated by 3-400 souls - City opened brightly, Morley setting Beresford free to chase onto a through ball and hurry centre back Morgan into hoofing off for a corner. Matthews also broke through from left midfield to surge into the box and after a one-two with Alexander he brought a sprawling save out of Marriott. But soon the message of Molby's pre-match talk - play the ball out wide the Williams and Matthews, or in the channel for Beresford to latch onto - faded from City's collective memory and the game lost its shape and, in the memory of absent match reporter Steve Fuckuprill, became largely formless.
After ten minutes of Tigery bluster Lincoln took a hold of the game and through the simple tactic of passing to each other carved out several good openings. They scored with the first, a straight forward movement from left wing to right which failed to distract City's defence from an earnest discussion on whether they'd prefer to knob Ulrika or Nancy and led to right back Barnett bursting through and smashing a 15 yard shot into the net via Glennon's far post. As matters turned away from Sven's roving eye to more weighty issues regarding the economy ("for six quid a week extra I expect a NHS that'll keep me alive till I'm 200" asserted a strident JJ) big lumbering but willing frontman Cameron turned away from the statuesque Mohan and advance on the exposed Glennon, only to spanner his finish horribly wide to his left. Then Cameron repeated the trick on Greaves and drew a free-kick 22 yards out that came to nought - and all amid the hubbub of debate over who has the biggest tits, Jordan or Cathy. Not even the sight of Mayo, an assertive and condiment young man, clattering through the Kempton advertising hoardings and causing much amusement amongst Kemptonites and Lincoln players alike, could divert the City player's attention.
Tiring of all this nonsense Jan Molby lent over from his director's box seat alongside Adam Pearson and instructed Billy Russell to "change it". And so after 25 minutes the limping Matthews and the totally ineffectual, disappointing and about-to-have-his-name-circulated-to-other-clubs Williams were withdrawn. Friend of the fillies Philpott fingered the left midfield berth adeptly (not really a winger, just left side) and Beresford fulfilled a similar role on the right. Ben "Heart of a Lion" Petty came into the engine room and Lawrie Dudfield continued his rehabilitation with the professional game - after a three month falling out of epic proportions - up front.
And it got better. Gary Alexander surged through and drew an indirect free kick 25 yards from goal. Philpott, showing the deft touch of a man highly skilled in tootling a lady's love trumpet, tipped to Petty whose powerful drive struck a solid wall and caused damage to the wrist of floppy-haired, soft-as-shite midfield wastrel Justin Walker. Then a mistake on Lincoln's right saw Dudfield set free to fly down the inside left channel. He reached the by-line at full pace and span an exquisite pull-back to the unmarked Alexander whose carefully drilled shot was rather spawnily/expertly (* delete according to which team you support) blocked to Marriott's right by a stray outstretched leg as he dived left. It wasn't a spell of Tiger football that was unblemished - City's left side of defence opened up once more as if commanded by the instruction of Moses and Glennon made a good stop after the ball had enjoyed some pinball wizardry in the six yard box - but it was a pleasing spell that culminated in injury time with a goal. Beresford received the ball down the right in front of Kempton and fed the overlapping Morley - resembling a footballer with passion and desire for the game and a modicum of personal fitness and pride - who advanced on the quaking Impish left back. Ken's presence of mind was such that he cut back onto his left foot when a challenge approached and drifted a succulent cross to the far post where the unattended Dudfield nodded home for a most pleasing-on-the-eye equaliser.
At half-time I reflected on the notion that the corner has just about been turned by this squad, their confidence and pride has been at rock bottom (reaching its lowest point in injury time against Luton the other week), but now one can see the smallest green shoots of recovery. The team demonstrated that while a new pride and spirit is starting to emerge it is fragile like a new born baby, and apt to puke down the back of your shoulder when you're least expecting it. Metaphorically.
And so the players re-emerged for the second half - the rude Lincoln eleven came out while the half-time tombola was still being drawn - and a second half of rarely seen crapness was served up for an undeserving public. The Lincoln eleven featured that portly troll (and today's goalscorer) Jason Barnett, a round shouldered, pot bellied, stumpy legged right back with the scuttling run of a woman with bosoms so large that she daren't jog properly and allow them to bounce for fear of eye injury. He is the very embodiment of a pub team footballer, but despite his appearance he is an effective and committed performer. He is also one to take the odd jibe in good part, as evidenced when Kempton invited him to "get his tits out for the lads" and in toying with his collar he gave the genuine impression of someone who, if he could've guaranteed that the manager wasn't watching, would've obliged.
Early on Dudfield drew a smart save out of Marriott after Petty had sliced a shot from the edge of the box, but that was about it for at least 20 minutes as City withdrew into their shell. Ten minutes in Mohan was clattered in a challenge with Battersby in front of Kempton and left clutching his face. After a lengthy spell of treatment, including some rather unnecessary ire from the East Stand gobshites, Mohan returned to the fray but was clearly not the full ticket and treated us to a ten minute masterclass in misplaced passes, positional uncertainty and poorly conceived tackles while he recovered his marbles. After one heavy defensive tackle Mohan was ticked off by the smiling referee - SuperLeague's fresh-faced Russell Smith if I wasn't mistaken - amid a rather unkind volley of "off, off"'s from Kempton. This clearly upset Mohan and he spent the rest of the game sulking in the centre of defence, never venturing closer than 30 yards from the Kempton touchline. While I don't think such chanting is particularly big or clever, I suppose it did rather hamfistedly make a point that needed making - in this game Mohan stank.
While both teams posed an occasional threat to the other - Cameron exposed our left again to draw a smart cover tackle from Edwards, Philpott drew a save from Marriott then screwed the rebound wide, Morley rampaged forward and saw a shot blocked after a neat Alexander pass - the game drifted away into the ether like a noxious beer-fuelled fart - it drew howls of derision from those who experienced it and no one missed it when it was over. Holt replaced Philpott for the last fifteen and once again looked lively in a "I'd rather play here than chuffing Scarborough" kind of way that I find frankly pleasing - Holt is a player with genuine ability, it's just a matter of whether he can be convinced to be arsed to use it. In the closing minutes Holt tricked two weary Imps by the corner flag and fired a low cross that was met by the expectant Alexander. He moulded his body into a pleasing contortion and swung a firm boot that caused the ball to thud against the Lincoln crossbar and bounce just over the line before being cleared. Without the chance to gesture dramatically for the video referee (and hear those immortal words from Stevo "I'm going G-O-A-L!") referee Smith was unable to decide whether it was a goal or not. So he decided it wasn't a goal. Alexander was booked for the fury of his protest. Smith implored the City tacklers to line up the full ten yards back.
The last hurrah was left to Lincoln's Cameron. After Lincoln found space down - yep you guessed it - City's left the skilful Gain swept a low cross to the back post where the unmarked Cameron lurked. The big fella capped off a display of contrasts - useful with back to goal, dreadful facing goal - by air-shotting a routine finish with Glennon stranded.
And so the season faded to nought. The Boothferry Park pitch was stood down from its first team duties in readiness for today's annual skill-fest that is Ex-Tigers XI versus Hull City Southern Supporters XI - a big thank you to chairman Pearson for allowing this dream-come-true to happen for the aging HCSSers amongst us, even though Adam's man with the spreadsheet "Mel" (Mal Brannigan?), carded by HCSS as a ringer, was blowing big style after two modest sojourns down the BP left wing. The Ex's won 5-1, a lean Andy Saville stowing a hattrick in his postbag.
Thank God that season is over. All Molby has to do now is inject motivation, desire, passion, pride and fitness into our squad, sign six players of undoubted but hitherto unseen Div1 quality and convince eight or nine potless teams that our lengthy list of players available on a free transfer is actually populated by very capable and well-worth-signing-up-as-soon-as-is-humanly-possible players, then we'll get promoted. Sorted.
Report by: Mike Scott