Barely had our computer screens displayed the news that Jan Molby had resigned as the Kidderminster manager on Friday before a number of the vacuous fools who support our Club were sending characteristically mis-spelt and syntactically-challenged postings to various Kidderminster boards gloating at the news. It was of course completely lost on these oafs that the Great Dane has not actually been appointed by City yet. What is certain is that, if Molbu was at the Ark yesterday (of which there was no sign, although rumour was rife in the Kempton pissoir of Mrs Molby having been sighted in the curtain department of Allders yesterday) he can only have been so appalled at the evidence of the magnitude of the task awaiting him delivered by yesterday's Tiger offering that he might well be forgiven for wondering whether a short trip down the M 5 to Whaddon Road might not be a better option for his next career move than heading into the lion's mouth awaitng him at the end of the M 62.
I don't want to usurp the role of Mike Scott (not Steve Weatherill), the official match reporter for yesterday, whose definitive match report will undoubtedly follow from his unnanounced Isle of Wight weekend retreat, but thought I would offer a few observations on yesterday. It pretty much followed the pattern of the weeks since Little's departure; a tidy-enough display for the most part in the middle of the field and at the back (although we conceded twice, this was as a result of the only two real errors the defence committed all afternoon) was far from enough to see off an opposition who, traumatised by the ignorance-fuelled blunderings of their chairman and the meddlesome pronouncements of his moll, must surely have been the ripest picking for three points City faced in their end-of season run-in, and the perfect chance to resurrect our challenge for a play-off berth. Yet again, although physical effort was not lacking, there was no real will to win, no inventiveness, no penetration, no confidence, but definitely an increasing sense of relief that the nightmare which has been the second half of the season was now drawing to a close, particularly in the latter stages, when all hope of recovery had gone and the unseasonably-warm afternoon sun, reflected dazzlingly in the shades sported by the well-groomed match reporter Keith Dean (not Steve Weatherill), pought an almost soporific air to the proceedings. In the end, it was City who looked the traumatised ones.
Carrying our hopes with them at the start were:-
Subs: Lightbourne (for Caceres, 52 mins), Beresford (for Philpott, 61 mins), Whitmore (for Williams, 82 mins).
As ever, the day began brightly enough, watching the White Shite despatched at home in a pub containing a contingent of the "Ah support Reeds, me, 'cuz you 'ave to be quite tuff to support Reeds, y'ner" - type of individual (well OK, agreed, pretty much everyone from East Yorkshire who follows the White Shite is like that). So we departed, chuckling, to the sun-kissed Ark to join an impressively-healthy throng of 8, 642, and settled down to see what was on offer. It started, as ever, brightly enough, with some neat football but little penetration in the face of what appeared to be limited defensive capability, a couple of long-range efforts wide of the Bunkers goal from Sneekes and Norris respectively, and an overhit cross from Norris after Williams and Alexander had combined well, being the sum total of our assault on the Darlington goal in the first quarter of an hour.
Then, on eighteen minutes, we were shown the way by our opponents, yesterday destined to win their first game in eleven. Referee Furnandiz, sporting a shock of Martin Fish-type of silver-grey hair and inspiring about as much confidence as our esteemed former chairman, missed a clear over-the-top challenge on Williams. The City players, lazily, amateurishly, stood waiting for the whistle which never came while Darlington played the ball into the City box. It should have been an easy clearance for Whittle, but the City skipper sliced his clearance high into the air. It should have been an easy ball for the Muss to collect, but he didn't commit himself until it was far too late, allowing Darlington stirker Conlon to reach the ball first and head it easily over the Muss and into the now-unguarded net. Believe me, it would have done justice to a Laurel and Hardy script.
We almost got one back straight away. Williams played the ball inside to Sneekes (one of the few City players to distinguish himslf yesterday, and far and away our best player), whose shot from outside the box was fubled by the erratic Darlington keeper, rolling under him but with sufficiently-reduced pace to allow him to turn and keep it out.
The fare got a bit meagre after that. Norris linked with Van Blerk on 23 and his shot was saved at the foot of the near-post, and Williams had one saved after he latched onto a poor clearance. We were unlucky on 37 when Norris was robbed by an apparent back-pass (twenty times more so than Goodison's at Shrewsbury ever was) with Mr Furnandiz uninterested. The hitherto-muted crowd bacame restless on 41 when Philpott, showing horrendously poor control and having a stinker generally, was booed when he ran the ball dead while trying to go outside his marker. A couple of minutes later Caceres was unlucky not to open his account when a corner was flicked on to him and he headed onto the bar.
Half -time. We had played the more competent football, but with nothing like the cutting edge we needed or which ought to have been expected of a team still in with a realistic shout of the play-offs before the game, against a team who had done little except firstly try to spoil and secondly knock the ball forward onto the head of the dangerous Conlon. Far too many players had been way below par, notably Musslewhite, whose kicking was dire and command of his box non-existent for much of the time, Philpott, Petty and Williams (although the latter bucked up appreciably in the second period, it must be said).
But let me just turn the clock back a couple of minutes from the half-time whistle, to the incident, yet again, of coin throwing from the Kempton, this time at the linesman after he and the referee had contrived to miss a foul on Van Blerk. The ref had a warning put out onto the PA after this incidemnt, and is likely to mention it in his report as a result. After recent warnings, this may well result in points being docked (although that's a fairly toothles sanction given our current League position, but do FA rules allow them to be deducted next season, does anyone know?). It's clearly impossible to get through to these idiots, who haven't the intelligence to understand what they're being told, but what is of more concern is that many other law-abiding Kemptonites in the vicinity must have seen them and yet did nothing to shop them. I'm told by a friend standing a little way away from the culprits that one worthy individual, who sadly was too far away to identify anyone responsible, marched up to where the coins were thrown from and endeavoured to identify who was responsible. Reflect on this: if you know who is doing this and don't report them, you are as guilty as they are, and as much to blame for any punishment the Club may recieve. If you have names and/or addresses for those who who did it but don't want to get involved, provide them to Hull City Online and we'll shop them for you. I have much admiration for Adam Pearson and for what he will beyond any shadow of doubt ultimately achieve for our beloved Club, but I have to say one wonders about his commitment when only one female steward is posted in the area in question, and even when there are more they do nothing, most of them being clearly ill-equipped, both physically and intellectually, and having no aparent motivation, to deal with trouble and its perpetrators when it arrives. Mr Pearson's former club has proved itself most adept over the years at paying lip-service to the need to control misbehaviour among its support whilst doing nothing about it in practice, ostensibly on the grounds that intimidation of opposing players and fans as well as match officials can give their own team an advantage on the field. I do hope this is not a phiosophy we shall see espoused at Hull City.
Back to half-time, and the penalty shoot-out rolls on with no winners apart from the hastily-disqualified one at the first game. As my esteemed march reporter colleague Mark Gretton (not Steve Weatherill) remarked to me at half time even the participants' efforts in that contest have become lacklustre and inept. It was all rather reminiscent of the high-jumper in "Gregory's Girl".
The second half started uninspiringly, but almost depsite ourselves we assumed the ascendancy. Lightbourne, looking a good deal sprightlier than at Brisbane Road the previous week, beat two men down the right on 54 but opted to cross with his left foot and the keeper gathered easily. Norris stormed through the middle but as he was dispossessed opted to dive in search of a free-kick, earning a booking instead. On 60 Sneekes was upended outside the box. City took the resultant free quickly but, seemingly incapable of getting anything right, played a chip into the box rather than trying to catch the keeper out with an attempt at goal. This was cleared to Lightbourne who volleyed back spectacularly but sadly for him and us straight at the keeper. This promising vein of play continued on 64 minutes when Beresford skinned his man delightfully on the right, his cross being flicked back into the path of Williams whose volley flew across the face of the Darlington goal.
And then, suddenly on 68 minutes, came one of those occasions which reminds us of just how talented our players are, and how effective they could be if ever some consistency could be instilled into them. Almost out of nothing, Norris threaded a through ball into the inside-left channel into which Alexander had timed his run to perfection, leaving him yards clear of his markers and giving him all the time he needed to draw the Darlington keeper and slot the ball into the far corner. A wonderfully-executed strike, all the more impressive for having been created and finished off in the twinkling of an eye.
This could have been something we looked back on in May as the turning point of our promotion season. Our visitors looked ripe for culling, especially as the dangerous Conlon had by now gone off. But this is Hull City, and our current ills are far to deep-rooted to be assuaged by an equaliser against Darlington. So, instead of cutting loose and finishing them off we curled up in the foetal position and cowered, after, in fairness, a spell of some seven or eight minutes when Williams, not helped by a bobble, fired his shot just over the angle of post and bar after Alexander and Lightbourne had combined well, and a magnificent run by Sneekes and one-two with Van Blerk resulted in the former's cross from the by-line being cleared desperately with several for once-eager Tigers awaiting the tap-in. But, after the introduction of Phil Brumwell to the Darlington line-up (in much the same way we used to ping him on with 10 mins to go) the predictable duly happened.
It all began when Petty, having a Trevitt of a game, attempted a back-pass to Musselwhite when under no pressure to do so and only succeeded in giving away a corner, so bad was his execution of this little manoeuvre. The flag-kick was duly cleared, but knocked back by a Darlington defender to the Number 8, Clark, standing yards offside...............had it not been for Petty loitering in total dreamland on the right touchline, totally unnoticed by any of the other members of the City back four. The Darlington player trundled gratefully forward and despite hitting his shot far to close to Musselwhite, saw it roll under the City netman and into the net.
The introduction of Whitmore yielded nothing except comments on the dangly bit of hair he had tied up at the back, and the Darlington fans, 200 plus, were loving and larging it. They could have had a third when the defence opened up to let one of theirs through but Musselwhite pulled off a fine one-handed save. The Kempton was silent save for the occasional pinging of a mobile phone, the booing of Petty (the latest target for the retards), the howls of dismay when it was announced that there would be three minutes' injury time, and the hurling of derision upon match reporter Phil Graham (not Steve Weatherill) for leaving before the whistle.
The 2002/3 season passes for my good lady and myself, which Listmeister Andy Medcalf had so kindly collected for me and others during the week, weighed very heavily in my trouser pocket as I trudged back to the motor.
Yet again I find myself asking: where do we go from here? We have been defied so many times in the second half of the season by teams not top-heavy with flair but whose strong suits are experience at this level, organisation, physical presence and hard graft, and therein perhaps lies the lesson that in order to get out of this Division you need to major on those qualities. This is amply demonstrated by Plymouth, one or two wise heads remarked yesterday, who have romped the Division without winning any prizes for technical merit. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but you can't help being left with the feeling that Little used the finances bestowed upon him to create a lower-league equivalent of the kind of footballing circus that was Middlesbrough under Robson.
It is to be hoped that his successor, be it Mr Molby or whoever, doesn't make the same mistake. The Boothferry crowd has been uncharacteristically magnanimous (and deservedly so) to Mr Pearson, but this magnanimity will probably not endure for another season of the type we have endured, new stadium or not.
At least the gloom was assuaged somewhat for the Midlands posse on its homeward journey by listening to the pitiful cant of the likes of self-syled "constitutional expert" Lord St John of Fawsley in response to the news from Windsor.
Finally, Steve Weatherill will not be writing a report on yesterday's game, witty or otherwise.
Report by: Ian Thomson
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