One of the best things as a football fan about this season in division 4 has been being watching exciting attack-minded youngsters, such as the aforementioned Disley, Townson at Rochdale and Rodgers at Shrewsbury. And one of the nicest things for a Hull City fan is that in Gary Bradshaw we have a starlet of our own. Carrying on from Swansea he showed a delightful touch and awareness and a notable ability to see and take advantage of an opportunity. He was immediately in the action and in the seventh minute, as we attacked the North stand end, produced a brilliant shimmy following a delectable touch and a shot that the Mansfield custodian of the leather did well to save at the cost of a corner, which he then grasped well following a flick on. We were in immediate control, the midfield 4 linking well and the defence holding its shape, even as Mike Edwards was briefly discomfited by the pace of the tasty-looking left wing back Pemberton.
We were already sensing that this was going to be OK and the promise of goals, like that of indiscretion at a ball in pre-revolutionary France, hung tantalisingly in the air. Alexander flicked first time at a cross when he had time to control, but on the quarter hour we got the reward our approach play had deserved. Whittle tackled well to break up a rare foray from the Townsfolk and found Jonsson who's sumptuous flick put it into the path of Williams. Ryan scorched down the flank exactly as he has never done for most of the season and put in a searching cross. Alexander searched for it in vain, swinging widely and missing and in the process wrong footing the Staggering defence. On hand was Philpott, sticking it away with the insouciant air of a man who could signal for you to be brought a brandy and babycham with one hand whilst removing your knickers with the other. 1-0 and we were flying. Minutes later a free kick was floated in by Williams and Alexander was free on goal before a flag spoiled his fun and ours. Bradshaw was still catching the eye. His ability to have the ball exactly where he wanted it immediately on receipt was creating constant gaps for Alexander and the Mansfield defence looked like it was no fun at all.
On 27 Sneekes won the ball and floated it over to perfection for Alexander to flick on just so to Bradshaw who, due to the economy of the move and his own innate wit and pace was now well clear. He took one touch and shot too close to the keeper and not with the power we expected, his only disappointing touch of the night. But when you're hot you're hot and the shot somehow squirmed from the grasp of ex Manu keeper Pilkington in the manner popularised by current Manu keeper Barthez. In the net and 2-0 and we were delighted for Bradshaw and had a good laugh at the keeper as well. Marvellous!
Mansfield were desperately poor at this stage and almost in sympathy we eased off for a couple of minutes and let them knock it around as their keeper, with the air of a man who doesn't want to know what is being said about him, stood well out of his area and out of ear shot of the well occupied North Stand. But we shot back into it again as Bradshaw robbed one of theirs with a fine tackle to put Alex away and couldn't quite get up to get on the end of the return. Alexander, again working hard, set up the advancing Edwards for a shot well-saved. Mansfield then had their only serious chance of the half, goal glutton Greenacre got free and on to a bouncing ball in front of Musselwhite, wisely he went for the lob, unwisely he put it past the relieved Muzzters left post. This was really about as good as it got for the visitors all night and we celebrated half-time with delight.
Second go and loan signing Chuck Norris made his debut for Sneekes who'd done very well. The new bug looked capable and compact and precise in his use of the ball. And Norris soon blew away the Mansfield defence much as he used to overpower enemies of the US of A so that all the citizens of that great country could sleep more safely in their cinemas. Alexander invited Williams to do well and Williams, presumably no relation to the disappointing and timid wide man who we've all come to moan at this season, bombed down the right once again. Norris yomped up in support and when the cross came it was low and precise and without breaking stride Norris knocked it in. 3-0, super, super tigers! The difference in resources showed at this stage as we withdrew Bradshaw who'd taken a first half knock for Dudfield and they took of Greenacre for no-one much. It was probably a sound decision on their part, we're told he was carrying an injury, he's probably going to have to do a lot more work and score a lot more goals if the Mansters are to go up and this game was clearly beyond his team. But it didn't half look like running up the white flag and can only have served to put City morale, already sky high, through the stratosphere.
Williams kept running at them, Mansfield signalled they'd given up by kicking our midfield players from behind. They weren't very good at this and a more alert referee might have asked a couple of them to walk. I don't really mind leniency from the official, but when it provokes retaliation so that Greaves gets a card and when he then chooses to caution Norris for not retreating at a free kick you do wonder a bit about his priorities. And whether he's been a tosser all his life. No matter, a free kick of ours from Williams was headed just wide by the persevering Alexander and louche roué Philpott was substituted having done very well and presumably still recovering from the work he had put in on Valentine's day. Beresford was the beneficiary and was immediately in the action, whipping in a free kick for Greaves to head narrowly wide. On 82 minutes he got wide and hit in a rather steepling cross. Mansfield fancied this like James Foster under a skier and all looked for someone else to deal with it. That someone was Jonsson who rose ahead of the not fancying it defenders and keeper and that was 4-0 and that was that for the night and the scoring.
Oh, alright, irritatingly they did get one, a comedy number. A cross was bobbled over from their left a minute later, one of theirs kicked and missed, another kicked and scuffed it over the line for 4-1 and a no-consolation-at-all goal.
Hugely impressive and hugely enjoyable and a definite feeling from the players and in the crowd of 'game on' after the disappointing water-treading of the past few months. We were organised and we wanted it and if that is the result of Russell's coaching then he deserves all praise. Before getting too carried away we need to remember that we've done this sort of thing at home before and then crashed when we've had to go away and that this win lifts the managers victory ratio this season right up to 50%. So there's lots still to be done. But this was all in the right direction and for that I was truly grateful and, dear reader, I was SMILING as I left the ground! How good is that? One swallow may not make a summer, but it's better than if it makes you spit. As I'm sure Lee Philpott would be the first to remind us all.
Report by: Mark Gretton