City's first ever League visit to Yeovil, and what a match! Led by the giant Ian Ashbee, who capped a captain's performance with a superb winning goal, City secured promotion for the first time in 19 years. Euphoria on and off the pitch is detailed by Steve Weatherill.
There is Ian Ashbee, jigging a gloriously unrhythmic rhumba, Elliott simply beaming with contentment and Myhill holding his safe hands aloft; Green grinning, Price preening and Delaney belting about the pitch like a teenager cider-drunk with delight, showing off his home-made t-shirt that pays tribute to Ben Burgess. There is Peter Taylor, striding around in the style of a man who knows his is a job well done and growling with glee for the cameras, and then there are the fans, a thousand and more cavorting in jubilant relish on the open terraces behind the goal and another couple of hundred tucked away in the stand in the corner, all wreathed in smiles mixed with relief and exultation, and already turning their thoughts to just where and how the serious celebrations of an end to long-suffering would continue.
Ah promotion! The most fun you can have without the assistance of a pair of marigold gloves and a bottle of baby oil.
This was a cracking game of football – another cracking game in the series of explosively superb encounters that we’ve had the pleasure of participating in over recent weeks. We deserved to win it too, though only just, for Yeovil are a fine side, heavily loaded with fighting spirit and ability. And we’ve deserved promotion this season.
I mean, we really have deserved promotion. Leaving aside Chesterfield chicanery, the league table never lies and a team that ends up in 2nd place – as we will – is worth precisely that. But that’s just the numbers. This season has brought Hull City exhilarating football. A stack of goals, many of them of intensely memorable quality. Several truly superb matches and a whole bagful of really good ones – and just a tiny sprinkling of dross. The very reverse of normal service over the last decade and a half. Stir in improving individual performances throughout the squad and a financially secure base, and we can gaze in awe at our club's rich promise for the near future.
Showing the boisterously full but architecturally uninspired New Huish just why we’re going up, and just why no one has any right to doubt our credentials, were
So thoughts that the unavailability of Burgess might induce our manager to prefer a stiflingly defensive 4-5-1 were promptly squashed. We come to attack.
The game hurtled off to a lively start, with neither side able to impose authority on the surge. France, marauding down the right, was our most prominent player early on. Mr Taylor’s done a good job here. France looked lightweight on arrival from his non-League netherworld, but he looks a great deal more powerful and incisive now, and he’s a valuable squad member. However breaking the deadlock was left to someone who in recent weeks has looked only sporadically powerful and even less frequently incisive. Danny Allsop (for it is he) splits the space between two hulking defenders and skips nimbly to the by-line, where he chooses to fall over as if shot. As if to emphasise to the referee the stern message that no way is this a penalty Danny adds a dose of theatrical arm-waving and graceful fishtail flounderings as he topples comically to earth. O dear. Even I am almost tempted to try to persuade the ref that he is wrong to be pointing to the penalty spot. Almost. But he is so pointing, and Stuart Green strikes a firm low shot into the back of the disgruntled homesters’ net.
Alsop was back in a much less murky limelight only a minute afterwards as he surged clear of a dazed defence and found himself with only keeper Collis to beat. He chipped the ball above and across his adversary and it looked a certain goal, only for the ball to tease its way off line and strike the base of the far post, before rolling to safety.
Alsop was wriggling clear of the Yeovil defence in the manner of a particularly skilful teleost, and his next trick sent him sweeping menacingly to the by-line before whipping in a low cross that 6 foot 8 inch Portuguese man mountain Hugo “Bristow” Rodrigues made a prattish mess of, by allowing the ball to ricochet around between his ankles like a man who’s dropped his castanets before finally clearing the danger with relief.
We were the better side, and deserved our lead despite the ungainly circumstances in which we’d acquired it, but we know about this Yeovil team. They were impressively poised on the ball on their visit to the Circle back in November – perhaps only Torquay have looked their superior in Hull this campaign – and they looked every bit as able yesterday. A free-kick whistled over our bar, having taken a deflection of one of our defenders, and by mid-half the game was evenly balanced. Elliott responded with a break down the left, culminating in a sturdy block by the keeper, and a little later the Northern Ireland international took advantage of some sloppy defending to incite a clumsy challenge from one of theirs just inside the box. That was a penalty. It wasn’t given. These errors even themselves out – though rarely within such a short time period.
We were creating chances but Yeovil were taking the fight right back to us, pushing us deep into our own half. The ref helped. He gave them an extra ten yards on awarding a free-kick and a yellow card against Dawson in midfield, presumably punishing perceived dissent by our left-back, and thereby converted a harmless position into a dangerous shooting opportunity. One of theirs smacked it left-footed and the shot thundered against the underside of the bar with Myhill beaten.
That escape arrived shortly before the half-time whistle. Yeovil had enjoyed a decent slice of the possession but had created relatively little to alarm Myhill. Thanks to whom? Well, thanks to most, if not all, of our hard-working side, but a special mention goes to Marc Joseph. His strength in an aerial challenge is, umm, not his strength. But no complaints yesterday. His forehead provided several thumping clearances and there was no shirking of the physical challenge at any stage. It was a commanding display by the maligned centre back, and though I would dearly like to see Justin Whittle allowed a place on the team-sheet next Saturday, I believe it should not be as partner for Delaney but rather as the razor-sharp cutting-edge preferred up front alongside Danny Alssop. Hinds too had a sound game yesterday: it gives me no pleasure to report it, but we truly did look a more formidable defensive unit with Thelwell excluded. Ashbee was terrific – again – and drove the team forward with a vigorous input of bawling captaincy, while his ally in midfield Junior was more than adequate. (Though I still don’t think we should sign him).
Into the second half, and a rather untidy opening, but Yeovil had evidently decided to test the already booked Dawson down their right. On 53, Dawson conceded a free-kick, which was whipped dangerously into the box, but first France, with his body, and then Junior, with his head, intervened powerfully to prevent Myhill having to get his gloves dirty. Lots of commitment from lots of Tigers – you can be as silky as you like, but you won’t go up unless you’re committed. We are.
We eased our way beyond Yeovil’s lively spell. Elliott fought his way through a couple of tackles to unleash a wicked shot which was well saved by Collis to his left. We’re in control. Whereupon we let slip an equaliser.
But it was a pretty rotten call by the officials. Dawson was penalised for a foul, and I can assure you I was much better placed to judge the incident than either ref or linesman. Never mind that they had possibly not slipped as much ale down their throat at lunchtime as me, everyone knows a few pints helps you focus, ask any driving instructor. No way was that 55 miles an hour in a 30 area, and even if it was there weren’t that many people around apart from the five I knocked off their bicycles … umm, hang on … no way was that a foul, is what I mean. Dawson should not have been pulled up. But Yeovil took advantage of their good fortune. Impressive wee midfielder Johnson delivered his cross directly onto Rodrigues’s lofty forehead and he smacked the ball past Myhill and into the net off the underside of the bar.
1-1, and, of course, a draw is a perfectly good result for us. Not for Yeovil though, and they took control of possession and began to look seriously threatening.
Not to worry. We defended as a unit in this game better than we have for a good while. The back four held their positions – Myhill howled them into them if any slippage showed. Ashbee and Lewis sat in front of the back four, and prevented Yeovil enjoying any space in midfield. Green’s notoriously wayward, but not yesterday. He kept it tight. So did France. And, when we did get hold of the ball, Elliott offered a regular outlet up front (though Alssop was visibly tiring).
This team has spirit and will not subside even when subjected to pressure, and it didn’t look likely that we’d lose this game. But winning it seemed an increasingly remote prospect too. Until ….
Well, until Ashbee strolled into the inside left channel, picked up the ball, shrewdly weighed up his options and confidently struck a swerving, dipping shot across Collis and just inside the far angle of the crossbar and the post.
Simple as that. Another brilliant goal in this brilliant season. And it truly was brilliant, sparkling, majestic, and a fitting reward for an honest player who has contributed a great deal to this successful season.
That left just quarter of an hour separating us from promotion. Yeovil weren’t done. A towering header by Joseph cleared the lines, and once again we relied on keeping a solid 4-4-2 to minimise the space available to the home side. They’re a physically odd bunch, with the massive Rodrigues soaring high above the majority of their players who are much shorter than the average. The adjective “nippy” could have been minted specially for Lee Johnson and he was their main source of threatening potential as they kept trying to exploit our left side. They could’ve equalised and, on the balance of play, we might not have much basis for objection. But we worked hard for this win, and we did, after all, create the better scoring opportunities.
Walters comes on for Elliott; Price for Green. Top Tigers all over the Huish. Robust defence and plenty of confidence further up the pitch. We’re getting there.
3 extra minutes.
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Hinds, Joseph, Delaney, Dawson; France, Ashbee, Lewis, Green; Elliott, Allsopp. Subs: Walters (for Elliott, 79), Price (for Green, 87), Thelwell, Forrester, Musselwhite.
Goals: Green 11 (pen); Ashbee 76
Sent Off: None
YEOVIL TOWN: Collis, Lindegaard, Lockwood, H Rodrigues, Pluck, Gall, Way, Johnson, Williams, Edwards, D Rodrigues. Subs: Skiverton (for Pluck, 45), Terry (for Edwards, 56), Weatherstone (for D Rodrigues, 67), Crittenden, Northmore.
Goals: H Rodrigues 64
Booked: Johnson, Skiverton, Way
Sent Off: None
REFEREE: L Cable
Last revised: May 09, 2004