Well City's form had to dip some time - but another three point was nonetheless claimed in front of mammoth crowd as hapless Carlisle make it three opponents in a row finishing a man short. Mark Gretton describes the scene.
We had the odd experience after the game of leaving the ground via Hull Fair. It seemed strange to walk between the rides in daylight. Without the night and the lights and the music that builds each patch of ground into its own psychotic experience it all looked ordinary and even slightly tacky. Without the smoke and mirrors there were just lumps of metal, contrapted rather than constructed, and painted to look like something other than they are.
We had that sort of afternoon. The insane magic that started at the second half of the Rochdale game and transformed and transported us through Kiddy and Swansea and Northampton had gone and we stumbled blearily into the light, slightly resentful and a bit subdued. But considering the time we've had, the hangover was nowhere near as bad as it might have been. For we got the win. Carlisle, like Wile.E.Coyote have been over the edge of the cliff and running frantically in mid air for a long time now and will I suspect, finally make the plunge down and out this season, but they were unfortunate not to get a point today. Briefly we thought they had. With the seconds ticking away and with the visitors having long been reduced to ten men we cleared poorly and the ball sat up at the edge of the area for a Carlster to wrap his foot round it and hit it unerringly towards goal. Musselwhite, having had a poor afternoon, watched transfixed as did we all, waiting for the net to bulge. But glory be it didn't, the ball went outside, it wasn't quite clear how, but it did, the Cumbrians held their heads and we held the points.
Mixing brandy, alka-seltzer and a raw egg were:
So a straight swap of Holt for the banned and on international duty Elliott the only change from the line up that began the evisceration of Northants. And with the temperature a balmy 16 degrees we attacked the North Stand containing a few hundred west Cumbrians, braced for us to do them harm. It didn't take long. On 7 minutes we won a corner and Green went over to take it and got a predictable storm of abuse from his former fans. Sensible Stu ignored it and swung over a very fine cross straight on to the head of Ben Burgess who calmly headed it loopily past the now slimmed down fat bastard Matt Glennon for his sixth in six. 1-0, a lot of laughter and a very clear lesson to the visiting fans of the dangers of larging it when you are shite.
The rest of the half was pretty much party time without us quite being able to put them away. Almost immediately after the goal Allsopp got onto the end of a long clearance, skirted their defence, set himself and thwacked a shot against the base of the post with Glennon stranded like a fairly slim whale. In another picture postcard move Burgess flicked on for Allsopp who put in Price whose run and cross found the rapidly advancing Burgess who sadly headed just the wrong side of the post to allow another eye-catching addition to our recent portfolio.
We were playing with complete confidence, the defence solid and Ashbee gluing the whole thing together in midfield. Twice Allsopp went close without being able to get the telling finish. The temperature dropped to 15 degrees on 37 minutes but our spirits were not dampened. Carlisle were unable to get anything going, but they signalled that they were not giving this one up by going in very heavily as the half drew to a close, serial unpleasant bastard Richie Foran picking up his customary booking. Just before the interval we looked to have sealed it. Hinds crossed usefully from the right, the ball rebounded kindly to Burgess who shinned it woefully wide from close range.
It didn't look likely to matter as we carried on in the second as we'd ended the first. A swift break by Allsopp was aided by a good run by Holt who drew the cover and allowed the Aussie to shoot, it took a big loopy deflection and spun past the rooted small lump Glennon but sadly past the upright as well. With getting on for an hour on the clock we seemed to be in total control and then, quite unaccountably, reality bit and we suddenly became the team that we can be if we're not careful. First Price, who had an industrious afternoon despite being well watched, lost possession and Foran was through on goal. Muss went down very early and must have been grateful for Foran's poor strike, perhaps an attempted chip, straight into his arms. Worse was to follow as Holt, increasingly labouring, lost the ball on the left, they raided forwards, crossed well and McDonagh got in a good strike that seemed to be going goalwards even before a deflection took it past Musselwhite.
Almost immediately we seemed to regain the advantage. Burgess broke clear and got to the edge of their area before Andrews sliced him down from behind. The red card was duly brandished. From the free kick Green struck it sweetly but against the bar and, as the ball came back to him, spannered the second effort wide.
Our old weaknesses against 10 men seemed to be surfacing, as we witlessly hit long crosses from the flanks into an increasing populous Carly box. Taylor too had clearly seen this and freshened us up accordingly, Thelwell replacing Hinds and Forrester coming in for Holt. And it acted like lemon scented napkins on along haul flight, as we got a cross in from the right that was deflected up and partially away to fall for Forrester who swivelled like a baseball power hitter onto a hanging curve ball and hammered it home. 2-1 and yet another succulent strike.
Having shown considerable character to get back ahead, we seemed determined to try and give it away. Having praised Taylor for the substitutions, I think we can bury him for the constant crass way we pulled back and defended far too deep, dropping off them and allowing them too much time at set plays, throw ins and, of course, corners, where like a punch drunk fighter we constantly beckoned them on to us. Musselwhite's handling was poor, twice he pawed at crosses with a John Inmanesque bent wrist and the ball flopped around the 6 yard box as our defence flapped unhappily around it, Justin both times getting the vital toed clearance. We gave the ball away and struggled against what was, happily, a very limited team. This was a mirror image of our imperious shutting down of the impressive Swansea.
We still could have made it safe. Good work from Allsopp set up Burgess, his cross bounced kindly for Big Ben as Glennon galumphed light-footedly in no mans land. Burgess set himself for the header and then didn't get enough on it as it screwed away. Ben was a constant handful for the vistors, but this was a day when a hat trick went begging.
But we held on. They swarmed over us keen to land a the killer punch but they just couldn't find it. As described earlier they came mighty close, but we rode our look, got the touches in when they counted and, frankly, they had such a dearth of quality that they weren't quite up to it. They might even have been reduced to nine, too, as Foran seemed to give the referee a gobful as he was substituted for which he received a second yellow, but oddly enough the substitution stood and they stayed at 10 men. Their fans applauded wildly, a tribute to how we are regarded and how low are their expectations. We sagged in relief and savoured the points.
There are always going to be days like these. Not long ago we dropped points to poor sides. At the moment we don't. Carlisle, after the mauling we gave them last season as a mid table side must have wondered what they might get today and are perhaps trudging back to their beautiful but primitive county wondering how we've gone off so badly since we spanked them twice last time. But results are everything, the table doesn't lie and both of these teams might leave this division at the end of the season, albeit travelling rapidly in opposite directions.
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Musselwhite; Hinds, Whittle, Delaney, Dawson; Price, Green, Ashbee, Holt; Burgess, Allsopp. Subs: Thelwell (for Hinds, 71), Forrester (for Holt, 71), France (for Price, 84), Keates, Fettis.
Goals: Burgess 13; Forrester 75
Sent Off: None
CARLISLE UNITED: Glennon, Shelley, Kelly, Murphy, Andrews, Byrne, McGill, Billy, McDonagh, Molloy, Foran, Subs: Rundle (for Molloy, 68), Henderson (for Foran, 77), Farrell, Livingstone, Keen.
Goals: McDonagh 59
Booked: Billy, Byrne, Foran, McDonagh, Murphy
Sent Off: Andrews
Last revised: October 13, 2003