As just about everybody else has said it, I might as well. Too little, too late, although if we thought the Boro game was contested between the two worst teams in the division, the toothless tigers laid claim to the third spot. A 2-0 win was no more than we deserved on the day, and it restored a little bit of pride in a season when good days have been heavily outnumbered by bad ones.
The fact that we got lost in Ferrybridge services should have acted as a warning, and sure enough we managed to find ourselves on the east side of Hull and in need of a swift trip round a roundabout and back to the ground. Or we would have, had the car-park been open. Never mind, it left plenty of time to find the Hole in the Wall, where The Penny Arcade boomed from the jukebox - the place was full of folks from Bishop and West. The Polar Bear, just up the road, saw us fall in with a bunch of unnecessarily cheerful Hull folks who walked us to the ground, wished us all the best, and hoped that they wouldn't be meeting us next season.
As usual, injuries made a mess of the selection process, so we lined up
Jones O'Shea Kone Manquillo
Honeyman Denayer Ndong
Borini Defoe Anichebe
Again, a fairly attacking line-up, even if there was no sign of fans' favourite Khazri, and we kicked off away from the sold out away corner, wearing our Embassy Regal away kit. Apparently, their manager hadn't lost a home game since Bishop Auckland was a choirboy, and his side had the best of the opening exchanges. Luckily for us, Kone had decided this was to be a game he looked like he cared about, and he got in several vital blocks as he played with the sort of guts that we've needed, but not got, every week. In front of him, Denayer had been pushed forward to anchor the midfield and was kept busy as he found his opponents working hard.
As befits a game between two sides at the wrong end of the table, moments of real quality were few and far between as the game settled down. Hull looked keen but surprisingly nervous considering their home record under the new manager, and consequently didn't create much in dangerous areas. As half time approached, the home side shouted for a penalty when a shot hit O'Shea's elbow, and TV replays only extended the debate on what is a unnatural angle for an arm to be. We've seen them given for far more natural arm positions than that, we've seen them not given for far more unnatural positions, but the important thing was that Mr Swarbrick didn't think it deliberate, so no penalty. That'll do nicely for me, and it allowed us to go into the break on level terms.
The interval was unusually quiet in the concourse, thanks to the club, polis, or both deciding not to serve us any alcohol because all we'd seemed to do with it before kick-off was to hoy it in air. Which is fair enough, so if you are one of those people who's happy to spend three or four quid on a drink only to chuck it over people, then give your head a shake and pack it in.
No changes for the second half, and we should have gone ahead with the first chance. Pickford produced the ball of the game, sixty yards onto Defoe's toe, and the little feller ran goalwards and had us expecting the inevitable outcome of a one-on-one with the keeper. To be honest, you'd have backed Altidore to score in that situation, but with only the keeper between him and glory, Jermain seemed to lose complete control and the shot was tickled at Jakopovic rather than placed past him. Oh well, another disappointing day looked likely with the passing up of that sort of chance. Anichebe probably had his size to thank as the ref again ignored Hull's shout for a pen when the big feller bumped Markovic in the box - again, we've seen them given for less. We then had Pickers to thank for doing his normal job, tipping a header over the bar and making a couple of routine saves. Down in front of us, Big Vic produced a determined bit of play to set up Defoe, but the shot cleared the bar by some distance. One of those days.
Alfie N'Diaye (remember him?) had a half-decent chance to score but made a mess of it, giving us something to have a laugh at, as Hull became increasingly fraught in their play. Thankfully, we seemed to calm down a bit and won some corners, the key one of which came in from the right with 20 minutes or so to go. O'Shea got up at the front post to make a mockery of the Hull marking, and his flicked-on was met in dramatic style as Billy Jones flung himself into a huge gap in the middle of the six yard box to head home. Not only did it send us into raptures in the stands, but it drew Billy level in the goalscoring charts with Jon Stead, and ahead of Altidore and Graham.
Hull responded by upping their game, and we actually lifted ours to match, resulting is spells of decent football breaking out. Pickford protected our lead by keeping out a close-range shot, and replays have shown that young Jordan can bend like no other. Reflexes are one thing - we all have them - but moving your limbs as quickly as he does is something else, and it had us singing about getting a rave on. Please don't go, lad.
With about ten to go, Seb replaced Honeyman to presumably use his experience to keep things calm and hold on to our lead. He rolled back the years to get a free-kick on target, and generally did what we expected of him. We looked pretty safe in holding on to the ball and heading for a rare win, but as the added time was being played out we crossed from the right and Defoe knocked it in at the near post with some part of his upper leg. Not the prettiest of goals, but his first since Palace away, and they all count. Well, this one looked like it might have been offside, but nobody flagged and Hull's appeals were those of a side who knew they were beaten anyway. A great way to finish the game, and while reading the above might give the impression that we got lucky on three occasions, we took our chances when they came, and were probably no luckier than any side in any given game - we're just used to the decisions going the other way. For the first time since Palace, we could spill out of the ground in high sprits, head home wearing daft smiles, and actually look forward to MOTD.
Oh, and a PS to the Hull player who wasn't worried about them winning, but about how many they'd score in the process - as Lord Flashheart would have said "Ah-hahahahahaha!"
Man of the Match? Well, Kone, as described, played like he wanted to be a footballer, and Ndong was his usual lively self, but for those saves and those sniper passes, it'll have to be Pickford.
Keep the Faith
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