Boxing Day arrived and the part of my Christmas break in Hull that I was most looking forward to was upon me – a trip to watch my previously beloved Hull City. Or perhaps, my parents dragged me along in the name of family entertainment.
Don’t expect too much in the way of substantial critique, not only am I not an expert on football, but this was the first time that I was watching Hull City this season. I’ve even not managed any of the Sky TV games. Sometimes I don’t even know we are playing until afterwards. There is only so long I can use the “but I was there in the 3-1 victory against Chester in 1996” card.
I’ve documented before that I have fallen out of love with Hull City – I live in London which makes attending most matches tricky. Time spent working on a career change and the low wages in the subsequent first couple of years as a software engineer meant both time and money were short. And there are lots of other things I enjoy doing. I go to art galleries and bullshit like that nowadays.
All that said, I’m still a Hull City fan. I pay more interest when we are doing well – but also when we are in danger of relegation, perhaps even more so. Mid-table unpredictability doesn’t help my interest – but a few good results of late, and watching the highlights against Birmingham in particular, encouraged me to not only go to the Boxing Day game (not that I had a choice), but also to book tickets to QPR away this coming Sunday.
We nearly didn’t make it. My mother tripped and fell in the car park – I had visions of an afternoon in A&E instead of an exciting couple of hours of football. We stumbled to the nearest steward so we could get some first aid – thanks to both the stewards and particularly St Johns Ambulance for patching my mother up. We headed towards our seats, accompanied by ice pack. At least I know who my charity of the month are next pay-day.
After having our eardrums perforated by the “come on, come on!” screamed at the lowest possible audio fidelity, my trauma was over and the joy was about to start. Either microphone, amp or speakers, or a combination, need to be upgraded as a priority this January.
We started brightly, a couple of decent corners that could have been productive, before Irvine put a golden opportunity over the bar from a cracking free-kick. I was unwittingly confident of victory before the match, and now I was certain.
I was also looking for my own victory in my battle against the man-spreader next to me, invading my leg room. He was going against someone that regularly has to defend personal space every day on the tube, and occasionally when actually sat down on the tube – so there was only going to be one winner in this battle of wits, as I continued to attach my left leg to his right, hoping he’d tire of man-to-man touching.
Then on 9 minutes, Forest had a penalty. I couldn’t see clearly from the other end, but it looked like a penalty – and the lack of protest was enough to convince me. Calmly dispatched by Grabban. 0-1.
We were pretty quiet for a while after – Bowen had a decent shot, but otherwise it was fairly unremarkable.
However on 17 minutes, I won my battle against the manspreader to my left – with his moving of his leg back out of my seating area.
Speaking of dubious actions, Forest then decided to spend as much time on the ground as possible – breaking up any possible momentum that we could try to create. Cheered on by their fanbase, creating the atmosphere behind the goal due to what was hopefully the final dick move from Ehab, given the new era of peace and relative reconciliation, of moving our vocal fans back into the corner.
I still thought that we were the better team and were playing some promising football at times, despite believing that possession was a Christmas present to be offered repeatedly.
Just before half-time, Elder was substituted for Kingsley – a player who has never failed to fail to make a good impression on the increasingly rare occasions that I’ve watched him. On the flip side, Elder was emblematic of the more promising aspects of our first-half – some good runs, some decent balls – though by no means a perfect performance. Embarrassingly I had never even heard of him.
A quick scroll through Twitter at half-time made me believe that perhaps I was over-burdened with Christmas joy. Or were my expectations too low in the first place?
15 minutes later we were back out for another round of Forest rolling around the floor and City giving the ball away. I was still confident of victory at half-time, though the substitution of Batty for the unconvincing Bowler (unconvincing at least from what I read) chipped away at my confidence a little. Oh and my manspreading neighbour was back to his tricks again.
We weren’t without promise but time after time we delivered disappointment, with Bowler’s bizarre pass out of play when in the box, typifying our afternoon.
On 60 minutes my sister asked me if I still thought we’d win. I said “no – if anything Forest will score next”.
65 minutes saw a break and a tame shot creep past the other side of the post – phew.
72 minutes I concluded that this was totally shite. Yeah, sometimes I’m slow, OK? Leo Da Silva Lopes who had a half-decent game, was booked and subsequently substituted.
Then on 81 minutes, a classic counter attack saw Grabban get his second, and confirm our defeat. The fans started piddling out. We stayed. The manspreader stayed, though for most of the second half, I had possession of my territory.
The only other thing to note was Bowen was booked for a slightly fractious tangle with a Forest player – don’t ask me who, I barely know our own players. And our defeat, which had been inevitable to me for most of the second half, and inevitable to most people for most of the first half too, arrived.
Time for a 30 minute walk in the appropriately heavy drizzle, rain dribbling down my face. There was no other weather that performance deserved.
Irvine I thought particularly poor. Eaves I want to like. We seem to miss Stewart. I’m yet to be convinced that Long should be our first-team keeper – though he is young. We’d be fucked without Bowen and Grosicki.
It should be pointed out that Forest did a job on us. They kept breaking up our play, they pressed efficiently and effectively, they wasted time to frustrate us. It was a classic away victory – one I’d be very happy with if I were a Forest fan. The defeat was as much to do with our shiteness as their tactics. Fair play to them. Well, maybe fair isn’t the right word, but you know what I mean.
So 33 points and 13th in the league. We should do marginally better than the 15th place that I predicted before the season, assuming we keep Bowen. Play-offs look ambitious for such an unpredictable side, but it would take a major calamity to drop into League One.
Oh well, it was a very appreciated glass of red once we got home. Fuck, did I really buy tickets for QPR?