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Archive for October, 2012

It has now been confirmed from many sources that both Matty Fryatt and Joe Dudgeon will miss the remainder of this season.

Fryatt has failed to overcome his Achilles injury with a course of injections. The injections where a gamble in a way but it is now known he will need an operation and will not play any of the remaining games this season.

And in Joe Dudgeon’s case an old knee problem has reared it’s head and he also needs an operation.

Steve Bruce remarked  ‘It’s a horrible operation the kid’s having. It’s a shame, Fryatt is having one as well. I think it will be next summer before we see them again, if I’m honest. Dudge has damaged the bottom of his knee. It’s a chondral defect which is basically a hole at the back of his knee. It’s not a nice injury.’

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28th October 2012 Saturday. It’s the 13th league game of the season and Steve Bruce desperate that his team display more vim after a poor display on Tuesday, shuffles again. Koren back in the team after injury and Aluko and Simpson starting set the pace. The ensuing win allowed Tigers to move back into 6th place, and to cap a good day both Leeds and Leicester lost. Bad news though  is that the sidelined Joe Dudgeon will be missing for the remainder of this season.

This report from City Independent

Trepidation, apprehension and the weight of history were all things to concern the visitors this evening. Well for the fans at least. Steve Bruce insisted on a reaction from the wretched form demonstrated at Middlesbrough in midweek and returned to the road tested 3-5-2 formation that included a recall for Simpson and Aluko up top and captain Robert Koren back from his hamstring injury. Corry Evans and Alex Bruce also profited with a return to the side from the sickly performance up at the Riverside.

And boy, oh boy, did that change of formula put some fizz in to the visiting City for this match. The Tigers started double quick sharp with some dominant possession and spent the opening exchanges pretty much camped in red territory. The passing and movement was tying the hosts up in knots – and even at this early stage – you could sense a goal was imminent.

The travelling contingent and those watching on telly back home didn’t have too long to wait for it to come, either. Quinn instigated a sumptuous passing move to feed the recalled strike duo at the head of the field. One, two, one, two, goal! Simpson and Aluko combined sublimely to conjure up the first goal of the evening as Aluko breezed through the home defence and coolly posted the ball past a stranded Heaton.

The visitors continued in the ascendency with Elmohamady providing some exquisite crosses that were causing Bristol all sorts of problems. One eye catching centre from the right in particular saw Liam Rosenior advancing in at the back post, but his diving header – although headed downwards – flashed just the wrong side of the post.

Regrettably, the price was paid by the Tigers – and heavily – for not stretching their advantage when wholly on top of the game. With Bristol’s first real attack and move of the half, a raking ball was pulled back from the byline and Davies met the pass to stroke the ball in to Amos’ far corner to level up affairs.

A new confidence that had been bereft in the home side’s armoury saw the game now become a much more even encounter to the break. To be fair, the Tigers always looked the more dangerous going forward, but were reined in having to share the territory and possession with the hosts until the interval arrived.

More chances did follow, though, namely great play from Rosenior – who was enjoying his role in the 3-5-2 formation – which saw Aluko scuff wide from his pull back. Simpson then fired in from distance that had Heaton scrambling to save, before more patient build up play saw another Elmohamady cross met by the lively Jay Simpson, who poked a tentative shot goalwards.

A final Tigers chance of the half saw another Simpson strike acrobatically skyed over the bar with a bicycle kick, but it was a deflected home shot from Bristol City that forced two late first half corners, as the hosts came back in to the game before the curtain came down on the half.

No changes at the break, but the hosts had clearly received a rocket from manager Derek McInnes in the dressing room, as there was much more bite about Bristol’s play. A fizzing cross darted in to the heart of the Tigers’ box, but thankfully nobody could connect – much to the visitors’ relief.

Koren out of nowhere was first to offer a response to the resurgent Robins, with a shot from distance smacking the bar. But immediately, a break from the hosts saw Stead’s shot almost beat Amos at his near post, but somehow crashed the post and City were once more cashing their luck in to smuggle the ball away.

It proved to be a genuine turning point. A good reaction from the Tigers saw the side wake up and return to something like the impressive first half performance we’d all enjoyed. More good football was created from here on in. It commenced with a Corry Evans shot that was drilled just wide of the near post.

The pressure was cranked up further by the sky blue clad visitors as the Bristol City defence began to creak. First Koren’s free kick was punched away after a silly and needless foul on the mightily impressive Stephen Quinn, before another flying shot from the Tigers skipper flashed wide of the upright.

More super football was served up by the Tigers – who were now clearly hunting for the lead – and that intensity was soon to bear fruit. Elmohamady and Aluko combined well, with the latter forcing Tom Heaton in to a sprawling save. But the good work from the Bristol keeper was undone in an instant when Rosenior collected the rebound. The wide man pushed the ball back in to Quinn’s path and the Irishman’s shot was turned in to his own net by Cole Skuse to gift the Tigers a fortunate goal, but nonetheless a fully deserved lead.

Bristol were stung as they trailed for the second time in the evening and it took a splendid tackle from James Chester to snuff out a fleeting home attack and certain goal scoring chance. But the unfolding attacking impotence the hosts were suffering prompted two quick substitutions, as the Robins wheeled out Baldock and Adomah to pep up their goal scoring threat in a vain attempt to salvage something from the match.

Steve Bruce responded with the sensible option of taking off the recently returned Robert Koren from injury, who was understandably swapped for the defensively minded Paul McKenna. As a consequence, captain in waiting James Chester got the armband for the remainder of the game.

Yet, Koren’s removal from the field did little to stem the attacking tide Bristol were facing from their guests. Elmohamady once again linked up with the consistently threatening Aluko and the pair fashioned a simple but cutting move, to play Jay Simpson in behind the Bristol City defence… but the former Arsenal striker dragged his shot just wide of the far stick.

Aluko was menacing all game and proving too hot for Bristol to handle. For his next trick, the City no.24 cut inside and rifled a shot just beyond the far post like his strike partner had done moments before. The visitors pressed to kill the game off, rather than absorb the traditional and normally expected pressure from the losing home side. Nothing other than victory was the clear remit given to the visiting players after the break it seemed.

And just when it all looked to be in the Tigers’ pocket, a sharp reminder it wasn’t was served up when home striker Jon Stead fired just over from distance. Could the Tigers be about to pay for a hatful of missed chances late in the game – just like they were in the first half? Despite all the attacking intent the visitors demonstrated, the game was ruefully in the balance and far from out of sight – at least by the scoreboard benchmark anyway.

Another late Bristol corner saw Amos inexplicably wandering in to no man’s land in his own box, but the returning looped header back over him hit the full face of the bar and the City keeper gathered it in gratefully. It was heart stopping just for a second and another acute reminder that Hull City had still not done enough to wrap up all the points just yet.

Thankfully, from here, the Tigers recovered from the sporadic and rare flashes of defensive incompetence. Firstly the energetic Quinn saw his shot blocked as it speared towards goal – and this was quickly followed up by the silky skilled Aluko, who saw his effort follow the same fortune.

The visitors continued to draw the sting out of injury time with Olofinjana and McLean making late entries to the game. Moments later, Bristol’s toiling was compounded when the referee blew time on proceedings that heralded a fine victory in the red half of this West Country city for the Tigers – our first maximum points haul here for 47 years. Bloody 47 years!

A great performance warranted all the spoils and proved to be richly deserved. The Tigers are back up to 6th and clear of 7th by a point. Pleasingly, the Sky cameras picked up a positive reaction to our midweek misdemeanours and it would be an ardent and foolish Bristol City fan that could deny the visitors deserved all the points on this evidence. Well done Steve Bruce and the players. City – the black and amber version at least – proved they’re back. Great effort all concerned.

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23rd October 2012 Tuesday

Hull City travel north tonight to play Middlesbrough who are just one league place below them on goal difference. Steve Bruce has a few team selection decisions to make in attack and defence. From statements Bruce has made it seems Paul McShane will keep his place in central defence . In all he can select from McShane, Faye, Chester and Alex Bruce…all are fit and all are in good form. In attack it looks like the two goal hero from Saturdays game Nick Proschwitz will start the game and a decision needs to made on his partner (if there is one).

23rd October 2012 Tuesday night. Middlesbrough 2 – 1 Tigers

Tigers could not break a 25 year hoo-doo in a place they cannot win at.

Report from CI…

Steve  Bruce accepted his portion of the blame as Hull City produced their worst performance of the season to lose 2-0 at Middlesbrough.

City were second best in every department at the Riverside as second-half goals from Faris Haroun and Ishmael Miller sent Middlesbrough up to third in the Championship.

A first defeat in three saw the Tigers surrender their position in the play-off places with a fall down to eighth.

The flat nature of City’s defeat came as a surprise to Bruce and he admitted his team selection, with Nick Proschwitz and Aaron Mclean restored to the attack, was a contributory factor.

“I’ve got no complaints with the result, the better team won on the night,” the City boss admitted.

“It was arguably the worst we’ve played this season. It was a frustrating night because we were nowhere near it, especially given how we played on Saturday against Ipswich.

“I have to look at myself too. Did I not do enough?

“Aaron and Nick have come off the bench and done well in the last couple of games and I thought they would be full of enthusiasm.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think we did enough as a team.

“Not just them two, we didn’t do enough in general.”

City’s performance was uncharacteristically tepid after back-to-back wins had inspired a climb back into the Championship’s top six at the weekend.

Middlesbrough goalkeeper Jason Steele was largely untroubled and only substitute Corry Evans’ shot against the post truly worried the home side.

Drawing their first blank in front of goal since August 25, Bruce pinpointed a lack of energy in the side as the trigger for their demise.

“What I’ve learned is that we find it a struggle with two games in three days,” he added.

“In the middle of the park Seyi Olofinjana and Paul McKenna are 32 and 34 and the overall energy of the team was nowhere near where it should be.

“The two games in three days is a difficulty and maybe I should have looked at the centre of midfield instead of the front end.

“Nothing worked for us. It’s a disappointing performance, especially after Saturday. It was nowhere near the level we’ve come to expect and we never looked a threat, apart from the last 10 minutes when it was too late.

“We gave away bad goals as well which summed up our evening. We have to go again on Saturday at Bristol City now.”

A failure to win last night extended City’s miserable away record at Middlesbrough.

A 13th defeat in 15 games on Teesside always looked on the cards as Tony Mowbray’s in-form side made all the running in their third consecutive win.

Mowbray was delighted with his side’s performance but continues to believe City will be a promotion contender come next May.

“Hull are a good side who have found a way of winning games but I felt we were the better side,” said Mowbray. “It was a good win because they’ll be up there at the end of the year.”

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In a game in which City went behind in the first half, relief all round that Nick Proschwitz finally got off the mark as he was presented with two chances to find the net after coming on in the 70 minute. Tigers are now in 6th position in the Championship just 3 points behind Leicester who finished today in top spot. A very tight league this year which contains so many teams with aspirations of promotion.This report from Amber Nectar ….

Centre forwards called Nick. We’ve had the odd one down the years. There was that one that played for Wales. There was that really good one that had played for England and managed us. There was that one that signed because he was Phil Parkinson’s best pal. Now there’s one that inevitably is going to be the successor to Gerd Muller that Germany has been crying out for since Rudi Völler first dyed his hair.

Nick Proschwitz, then. The ‘Nick’ can’t be short for just Nicholas, surely? It must be something far more exotic than that – maybe his Mutter was a fan of Romanian dictators. Or heavy metal drummers. So far, his impact on Hull City has been a mixture of weak and bleak, displaying the mobility of a horse chestnut and the confidence of a housebound pensioner. But, with his new Mannschaft behind to a deeply cagey and limited Ipswich side, he became his manager’s final throw of the Würfel. On he wandered with 20 minutes remaining, and it took the remainder of the game for his worth, usefulness and ability to be noticed at last. Well done to him. Really, really, well done to him.

This was as exhilarating a final period of football as a City fan will have seen. And all parties deserve praise for it; the manager for seeing that his mildly cautious way wasn’t working, and throwing on two strikers while taking none off; the players for reacting accordingly and proceeding to force Ipswich into the ground as mallet on tent-peg; and the supporters for upping the noise and getting behind the team, in a way that we’ve not heard at the KC for some time. Everybody got it right, and the reward was duly claimed. And Ipswich deserve a modicum of praise too, because they so bloody nearly got away with it.

Bruce, despite the return to fitness of a couple of key defenders, felt no need to change things from the win a fortnight before at Sheffield Wednesday. Odd as it was to see James Chester as a meagre substitute, it was perhaps odder that Joe Dudgeon didn’t make it even as far as the seven-strong bench, despite being talked up as fit all week. The teamsheet was read thus: Amos; Rosenior, Faye, McShane, Dawson; Elmohamady, McKenna, Olofinjana, Quinn; Simpson, Aluko.

Ipswich came to defend and City were told to attack. The first period of the game was consequently very one-sided indeed. The first corner seemed to give Paul McShane a shooting chance but he seemed to panic in front of the bouncing ball and sliced it wildly, prior to applying his aliceband to the nosebleed he’d just suffered. The excellent Ahmed Elmohamady then slid in a fine low cross that was miscued under pressure towards the sprinting Seyi Olofinjana, but he had to stretch a bit too much and could only poke the ball over the bar.

Paul McKenna, through whom everything good City did went, played one marvellously angled through ball to Sone Aluko who then fed Jay Simpson and took a wonderful return pass before rounding Stephen Henderson in the Ipswich goal. The keeper did well though, managing still to get half a glove on the ball as Aluko shot, slowing the ball down enough for Carlos Edwards to clear off the line.

On it went. Elmohamady played a nice through ball to Liam Rosenior whose cross was scuffed by Danny Higginbotham into the path of Aluko, who didn’t have much time to assess where the goal was and placed his rising shot just slightly too high.

All good. A goal was going to come, it seemed obvious. Ipswich weren’t enjoying spells of possession or pressure and their defence was already cracking up as City ran at it time and again. Then, some respite, and some typically careless play from City, and the visitors had a shock lead.

They won a free kick on the left touchline, took it quickly and Arsenal graduate Jay Emmanuel-Thomas zig-zagged neatly between McKenna and Rosenior, drew McShane inside the box and then fired a low shot through Ben Amos and into the goal. All four involved were culpable; the defending could be tighter and no goalkeeper would expect to be done by a shot from such an angle. But City were behind and Ipswich, already prone to timewasting at 0-0, now had something very real to protect.

And protect it they did, manfully at times. Edwards threw his entire life in front of a McKenna shot from the edge of the area, deflecting it wide, then graceful work from Rosenior allowed Stephen Quinn to play an inside pass to Simpson, but his first time effort slide inches wide. City then won a corner, from which Abdoulaye Faye’s goalbound header was blocked on the line, and his follow-up shot was again blocked, possibly by a hand. The East Stand howled with derision but the decision not to give a penalty was correct, just. Faye then got away with a similar act at the other end.

Half time arrived, and once again the conversation over the warm, expensive ale consisted of the basic question “How the hell are we losing this?”. The comparisons with the recent defeat by Peterborough United rang true; that team came to defend, having had a shambolic start to the season, and counter-attacked its way to three points while City got more and more flustered. Ipswich, with their one away win of the season at Watford proving so far their only win anywhere, and with a manager the fans have started to loathe, were winning without being any good. This was becoming a habit to concern all involved with City.

Bringing a smile to those supporters faces during the lubricated discussion, however, was the form of Paul McShane. A joke of a player to many, with the supporters of the clubs he had previously frequented all apparently heaving great sighs of relief on hearing of his sale, is having an Indian summer with the Tigers. Without wishing to deconstruct the chronology of this report, it would be noted that Bruce, in his efforts to win the game, took off two defenders but McShane wasn’t one of them. His future, long-term, will remain in great doubt (just because of his wages alone) but his short-term impact on the team can’t be faulted. His attitude has never been in question, something that can’t be said of much more gifted City players that have shared the same dressing room as he, and there is little doubt that as a defender, he is as good as any when it comes to doing the bare basic of winning the ball. He’s a tackler, a growling one at that, one who sees his role as a player to put his ankles and shins to the test every single time a 50/50 ball comes his way. And he wins most of them. Defending has become so much more than just winning the ball and getting rid of it in the modern game, and McShane’s grizzled style at the back and rather more limited abilities when not kicking through the feet of blokes in the other team makes him something of a throwback, and while it is easy to bemoan his lapses and oversights that have occasionally cost us dear, it should be just as easy for a grown-up, reasoned City fan to see the defender, in its truest sense, currently looking after the rest of our team. Also, playing at centre back gives him less responsibility on the ball compared to playing on the right of defence, though some would argue that while McShane might not supply penetrating overlaps like Rosenior or divine crosses like Elmohamady, he’s still a better winner of the ball than both of them put together. Long may this entertaining, admirable form of his continue – especially now Chester is fit to be the modern-day defending colossus alongside him.

The second half, and it continued in the same tenor as the first – City attacked, Ipswich soaked it up. Faye headed a McKenna cross on to the bar via a slightly untidy bit of fingerwork from Henderson, then Andy Dawson struck one from distance that swerved outwardly and agonisingly wide of the top corner. It wasn’t happening, and City’s players began to look around for something fresh.

As the manager contemplated what that fresh ingredient could be, Ipswich took the opportunity to use up the minutes. Lee Martin had a shot at the far post pushed over by Amos, then the keeper kept a long-distance drive from Nigel Reo-Coker (far too good for this team) out with some difficulty. Bruce made the first change, and the nature of it told everything. Off went a defender – Rosenior – and on came a centre forward in Aaron Mclean, whose last entry into the second half of a game had yielded the winning goal.

Elmohamady dropped to right back and the midfield three left over broadened itself, with Mclean playing alongside Simpson and Aluko essentially going wherever he wished. It had an effect, but only after a massive let-off for City when DJ Campbell broke the offside trap and seemed certain to score, only for him to tumble in the box as Faye got an arm across. No penalty. It probably should have been. And that would have been a red card for Faye too. The gods grinned, but we were still losing.

The chances continued to pile up as Mclean’s enthusiasm re-lit the City spark. He forced a corner which, when half-cleared, was slung back in by Elmohamady for Simpson’s forehead, but it went just wide. McKenna and Simpson then switched passes beautifully to set Mclean clear but, despite the chance being pretty much a carbon copy of the one that won the match at Hillsborough, his shot this time was parried by Henderson. Mclean then turned sweetly in the box to aim another shot at Henderson, but it went right across goal with Simpson diving in, unable to contact.

Bruce, aware that more power was needed, introduced Proschwitz for the off-pace Olofinjana, while also cannily replacing Faye with Chester in order to add more guile to a defence that was now going to be prone to counter attacks as City put more bodies forward in what was essentially a 4-2-4. McShane shifted to the right and Elmohamady reverted to his place on the wing. The Tiger Nation, aware of what the manager was doing, responded with some serious noise, and the final 15 minutes pretty much encapsulated why we’re prepared to pay good money to watch football. It was just explosive.

Elmohamady, back where he belonged and zipping in tremendous crosses for fun, took a dash for the byline and succeeded, leaving his marker for dead and pulling the ball back where Proschwitz, instinctively, stabbed it into the net. At last, with 15 minutes to go, City had parity. As deserved as an equaliser could ever be, and that it came from our verleumdet German striker made it even better. He was up and running for the season, City were up and running for the game, and ample time remained for the three points to be secured.

What a siege the Tigers then laid to Ipswich’s goal – and, to be fair, what a job Ipswich did for so long of repelling it. The attacks were constant, rough-house, intimidating, savage, incessant. For all their limitations, the Ipswich players would have felt heroic had they emerged with a point from this. And, for almost all of it, it looked like they would.

Dawson overlapped inside the box but wasn’t sure whether to cross or shoot and managed to do both while achieving neither end product; his ball had the trajectory of a cross but the power of a shot, meaning nobody had a prayer of getting on the end of it (though Mclean’s attempt to do so with his right foot above his shoulders was a corking try). Elmohamady got to the line again, pulled back, Quinn headed over. Quinn then, with nobody’s recommendation, hit a potshot from 25 yards that smacked the post and bounced out, and nobody could get near the rebound. Mclean went for an angled chip that Henderson superbly tipped away while putting himself at risk of a spinal curvature. Mclean headed Quinn’s corner straight at the keeper. Simpson smacked a free kick into a two-man wall, and Mclean’s rebound went over. All this in 15 minutes. And, almost to cap it all, McShane nutmegged an Ipswich player in his own half when the one possible counter attack to emerge from this ceaseless one-team show emerged. It was almost the biggest cheer of the day. And he’d earned it.

Four minutes were added and, with Chester and McShane staying back, everyone else set up camp on the edge of the Ipswich box. City were playing a 2-4-4, and not even losing the game. It needed one more chance, and in the third of those supplementary minutes, it came. Again it was Elmohamady, this time choosing not to asphyxiate his full back by curling in a peach of a cross from deep, and Proschwitz’s head did the rest, placing the ball beautifully. The striker’s Feiern was, perhaps, stereotypical of his roots in that he didn’t go utterly bonkers but just spread his arms, unsmilingly, while Mclean leapt on to his back. The Tiger Nation made up for it, mind. Injury time winners are always good fun in supporters’ corner.

Simultaneous to the celebrations was the unfurling at one quiet end of the KC of a banner that said JEWELL OUT. It’s always worth remembering on a sporting basis that the losers in such situations are going through hell at this point; heaven only knows that we are too aware indeed of how it feels to lose in injury time. And, given that games against Ipswich are invariably eventful, and as a club they are not unlikeable, it’s not hard to wish their supporters well as they seek a change of regime.

But in football, you look towards your own, and this was as good a spectacle of entertainment as we’ll see all season, probably. You’d like to win games more comfortably, you’d like to see justification of your dominant possession and creativity, but ultimately, sometimes, you need to win in stupidly dramatic circumstances just to make you feel really damn good. And if you can kickstart the English career of your German centre forward in the process, well, umso besser.

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A patched up City team stuttered and played well only in bits in 4 – 4 – 2. Aaron McLean came on in the second half for an injured Jay Simpson and got a precious goal 32 mins into the half. Tigers where without Koren, Dudgeon, Chester, Bruce etc. and the side took almost the whole game to get the act together. This was a poor Sheffield team who would have been blown away if City could have fielded the team of a few weeks ago who played such exciting football. City 10th in the league after 10 games and on 16 points. This report from Amber Nectar

Sometimes, you feel as though it’s coming. With fifteen minutes remaining at Hillsborough and City having enjoyed a second half of domination, a breakthrough felt imminent. Most of the time, the naturally pessimistic nature of the City fans refuses to allow any rays of hope permeate the cloak of gloom. It didn’t feel like that yesterday. It didn’t turn out like that yesterday. A goal was going to arrive, somehow, at some point – and we were right.

When it arrived, it was the reward for a display rather unlike recent ones, but no less impressive for it. Hard work and organisation won the day, as opposed to the thrilling, high-risk all-out-attack we’d grown accustomed to throughout September. That was as much through necessity than design. An unwelcome rash of injuries meant that a switch to 4-4-2 was inevitable. Chester, Dudgeon and Bruce were all out, to be joined on the day by Robert Koren.

It meant that Steve Bruce reorganised thus: Amos; Rosenior, Faye, McShane, Dawson; Elmohamady, McKenna, Olofinjana, Quinn; Aluko, Simpson. City only had enough fit bodies to name six substitutes, with Conor Townsend named among them.

Since returning to the Championship with a bang – seven points from their first three games – things have rather dropped off for Sheffield Wednesday. Their midweek draw at Burnley ended a sequence of five successive League defeats. They had ex-Tiger Anthony Gardner in defence and one-time City loanee Stephen Bywater on the bench, with Jay Bothroyd the likeliest attacking threat.

A brilliantly sunny day had yielded to light cloud by the time kick-off arrived, with City clad in all-amber and attacking the far end to us, marooned as we were in the upper tier of the Leppings Lane End. The Tigers had the first chance of the game, with Sone Aluko flashing a shot narrowly wide of Chris Kirkland’s near post. Wednesday came straight back, with a Ross Barkley shot flying harmlessly wide of Amos’ goal.

It was a slow-paced opening, but opportunities were occasionally arriving. Faye headed straight after Kirkland after Dawson sent a cross over from a half-cleared corner, while the nearest any side came to scoring was when Michail Antonio shot about a foot wide of Amos’ left hand post with the City keeper beaten – it’d looked in from our vantage point.

This enthused the home support and their players, and they had another chance when a corner on the City right was met by Miguel Llera under pressure from Olofinjana – it beat Amos but was cleared off the line by Elmohamady amid deeply unconvincing appeals that it’d actually crossed the line. A let-off for City.

The dangerous Antonio had another chance after a smart piece of control and a neat turn saw him with a sight of goal, though thankfully his shot was the weakest part of a sinuous piece of play and it bobbled safely wide.

Paul McKenna picked up the afternoon’s first caution for a deliberate trip on Semedo that cynically halted a promising burst forward from the Wednesday man, and with half-time approaching Wednesday’s squall of pressure began to blow itself out and City reasserted themselves. A couple of corners were forced, one of which was cleared to McKenna – he sent a blistering volley goalwards which had Kirkland haring across his goal, and doubtless relieved to see the ball scream a yard or so wide.

Still, a satisfactory opening half. Wednesday looked spirited but ordinary, while City looked a more composed outfit than in recent times. The attacking threat was somewhat blunted, which may have owed as much to Koren’s absence as a change in formation. Nonetheless, as we entered the cramped concourses in search of refreshment, there was a general mood of optimism.

So, back to the game. Except…no, we can’t really get back to the football just yet. There were to be no refreshments. The staff on the concourse who ordinarily dispense food and drink to away fans, who are stood inside actual cages (I’m not making this up), had been instructed not to sell alcohol. I don’t blame them – the 0956 train was absolutely teeming with perhaps as many as 200 people whose sullen outlook, identikit hoolie-wear and cheap lager hinted that football wasn’t their only reason for travelling to Sheffield.

There’d been a massive police presence in the city centre all day and a helicopter buzzed about – it was obvious that more than a few were there for reasons of mischief. So deciding not to sell alcohol to those excitable youths wasn’t an especially contentious decision, annoying as we civilians found it. Whether the alcohol restrictions explain what happened next is unknowable, but suddenly a smoke bomb was let off, missiles were hurled (pies, mainly – an unforgiveable waste) and the police were repeatedly charged by City fans amid shouts of “scum”, “murderers” and, err, “Justice for the 96”. “City fans” is a term used mainly for expediency rather than accuracy, by the way – they’re conspicuous by their absence on Tuesday nights on the South Coast, for example.

Now, we are no fans of South Yorkshire Police, whose dreadful past will forever stain their reputation. Even your humble, even-tempered match reporter was punched wholly without provocation outside Bramall Lane by one of these goons a few years ago, allegedly for stubbing a cigarette out on a police horse – an imaginative charge to level at a non-smoker. Supplementary examples of their malice and ineptitude are not difficult to uncover. However, their decision to tactically scarper down a stairwell and out of the away end instead of drawing batons and wading in may have prevented an extremely unhappy situation becoming one of the lead stories on the news today, galling though it must have been for them to cede “victory” to their noisome assailants.

Of course, most people who regularly attend away games know that the occasional outbreak of anti-sociable conduct is possible, especially during Yorkshire derbies. It’s annoying, but it is at least rare, and nowhere near as prevalent as with many other football clubs or either of the two eggchasing franchises currently in the city. Nonetheless, kids looked on frightened, old folk were intimidated, pies were wasted and I didn’t get a drink.

Right, football. Because it gets good from here. Most of those in the stands were blissfully unaware of the extracurricular activities below them during the break, and the vibe remained positive. In stark contrast to the insipid way the second half of our last away game began, City opened brightly, assumed control and rarely let it slip.

The first chance came when Stephen Quinn – harangued throughout for his Sheff Utd affinity – sent a low shot/cross through the goal area from the left hand side after being intelligently supplied by Dawson. Jay Simpson had read his intentions but couldn’t quite make it there in time at the far post.

Dawson was the next to try when the ball broke to him – sadly it was on his right foot, and he awkwardly spooned the ball well over. The City left-back had chugged away productively on his return to the side, getting forward only occasionally, but he was involved in the day’s most contentious decision. It came when he failed to read a ball that seemed to swirl awkwardly in the gathering breeze, allowed Antonio to challenge him on the second bounce. The City captain lost out and Antonio appeared to have the ball on the right hand side of the area, Dawson charged him into and Antonio went down…and referee Mr Moss waved play on. We won’t quarrel with a professional official a hundred yards closer than us, but it felt very much as though we’d got away with one. The appeals from both crowd and Antonio were authentic, as was the dismay as their dismissal.

On the hour Sone Aluko acquired a maddeningly childish caution for refusing to retreat quickly enough at a free-kick on the edge of Wednesday’s own area, but he was a threat throughout and minutes later narrowly missed when McKenna teed him up. He bent his shot past Kirkland, but also past the post. There were 62 minutes on the clock, and with the home side looking ragged and City scenting blood, that oddly positive mood was hardening into greater certainty about a happy outcome…

With the match three-quarters through Aluko was messily chopped down 25 yards from goal, and in an encouragingly central position. Perhaps Andy Dawson ought to have taken it, with Chris Kirkland leaving open the right-hand side of his goal, sweetly inviting a left-footer. However, Ahmed Elmohamady won the battle of wills, and promptly deposited the ball into the empty seats beneath us.

Back came City, completely on top now. Tormentor-in-chief Aluko attracted two bedraggled Owls to him before cutely slipping the ball into Simpson’s path on the right about ten yards from goal. An instant shot was his only chance with a brace of defenders converging upon him – however he needed a touch to steady himself and the eventual shot was smothered.

Fifteen minutes left. It’s on – as was Aaron Mclean, replacing the tiring Simpson. Two minutes later, we scored. Mclean, a footballing pocket battleship, tussled for a long ball sent forward by Amos, and succeeded in flicking it to Aluko. Mclean’s power in winning the ball had knocked his would-be marker to the ground, and he rapidly hared forward even as the ball arrived at Aluko. The Nigerian international took one touch and executed a perfect left-footed backheel to the darting Mclean, who dummied and cracked a low right-footed shot past Kirkland and in.

Cue total Tiger mayhem. The players rushed forward to celebrate as bodies writhed, tumbled and exulted madly. Another flare/smokebomb was set off – what IS it with these at City at the moment? They’re cool, of course, and it thickened the air as mad celebrations filled the ground.

That was about it for City as an attacking force as they settled down to acquire the type of doughty 1-0 away win that teams at the top need to repeatedly amass throughout the season. Wednesday, in truth, made it fairly straightforward. They’d looked a side short of confidence and ideas in the second half. Jermaine Johnson rather typified this with what was to be their only attempt at salvaging a point, when he dimly belted a shot at Amos from an impossibly tight angle – it required a strong save, but the ball ought to have been crossed instead of blasted.

Nick Proschwitz came on for Aluko with five minutes remaining. His height was to prove useful, both as a means of relieving pressure and also once very useful when terminating a threatening Sheffield move on their left.

Four minutes of injury time were signalled by Mr Moss, but in truth they served only to extend the party, not spoil it. They were easily navigated, and at full-time the players piled over to tumultuous acclaim.

What to make of it all? City were a far tighter side than of late, with a clear determination to remain organised. Against a poor Sheffield Wednesday side, that made a clean sheet likely. Happily it didn’t detract too much from the attacking – and what deficiencies there are can be explained as much through missing personnel (Dudgeon, Koren) than how they were arranged.

And what’s more, it suggests that Steve Bruce has a real ace up his sleeve: if City can win with both 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 and look comfortable with either, we’ll have greater flexibility than most our adversaries. That ability to swap formations could prove priceless.

That’s for the future, however. For now we’ll enjoy the international break knowing that a troubling sequence of results was halted with the impressive and hugely enjoyable victory. Well done City.

 

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2nd October 2012 Tuesday City played Blackpool at the KC and lost 2-3 after the lead changed hands, and leaves Tigers in 10th place in the league. Again it seemed to be poor defending the main problem. Amber Nectar report

Oh for some middle ground. Last year we marvelled at a resolute defence and bemoaned an attack that lacked real punch. Currently, we’re marvelling at our attacking prowess, but bemoaning shoddy defending. For the second time in four days, individual mistakes have cost us dear and we’ve taken nothing from a game we should have won and a game we could have won. Both games were entertaining for the neutral, but we’re not neutral round here so we filed out of The Circle not edified by a thrilling spectacle but once again in head-shaking near silence, trying to make sense out of what we had just witnessed.

Those who sang “We’re not boring anymore” at Leicester must be feeling a little dyspeptic today as those words repeat on them. There’s no entertainment column on the league table, just wins, draws, losses, goals scored, goals conceded and points accumulated. A slight decrease in entertainment value would be an acceptable trade-off for the proper execution of footballing fundamentals, had we done that, we’d still be crowing about the best start to a season since Playstations were made out of wood or something.

Both City and Blackpool had lost back to back games coming into this fixture, and both were shorn of top drawer talent. City were without defensive Über-mensch James Chester (and it’s fair to point out while we’re tearing our hair out over defensive lapses that we are without Jack Hobbs too, that central pairing was the buttress of our rearguard awesomeness last year) while Blackpool were deprived of Tom Ince, the attacking midfielder who is having an annus mirabilis.

The Tigers lined up so: Amos; Bruce, Faye, McShane; Dudgeon, Quinn, Olofinjana, Koren, Elmohamady; Aluko and Simpson.

The visitors kicked off a game that begun rather stodgily. Blackpool were playing in a manner contrary to their reputation for swashbuckling and adventurous play and seemed content to just aimlessly whack the ball forwards, each time they did so McShane McShepherded the ball to Amos. City played some neat stuff and pleasingly didn’t look as if the Peterborough defeat had knocked their confidence, but weren’t doing anything incisive. Elmohamady chipped the ball into the box for Simpson but there was too much on it and ‘keeper Gilks watched it bounce out of play.

Then came the first of three instances of damning defencive dumbarsery. Faye went to control and cut out a through ball but somehow spannered it to a man in an indigo and tangerine kit, it was played out wide were Delfouneso crossed it in with Dudgeon looking both out of position and merely trotting back rather than sprinting to block the cross, inside the box Matt Phillips took advantage of dithering by Faye and Olofinjana, gleefully lashing the ball past Amos. 0-1 Blackpool with 11 minutes gone.

City began probing for an equaliser, Elmohamady delivered a dangerous waist high cross but it was bundled behind for a corner by a defender as Simpson loitered menacingly behind him. Simpson then missed a good opportunity, rushing a shot that was swiped over after a neat step over by Aluko allowed Koren to feed Simpson in the box. At the other end more shoddy defending shredded Tiger National nerves as Faye elected not to put his rinky-dink pink boots through the ball to clear, was caught out by Delfouneso and had Bruce to thank for a last ditch challenge that prevented us going further behind. City were living dangerously.

They were also threatening to be dangerous themselves going forwards, but were just lacking a bit of understanding. An errant refereeing decision, though, would change the momentum of the half. Elmohamady drove the ball into the box, and as Aluko shaped to head it, he was forcibly shoved to the floor. Not a foul in the eyes of referee Mathieson, to the astonishment of those in the stands, and howls of protest reverberated around the stadium.

The ball striking a defender’s hand soon after added to the sense of injustice, though it was ball to hand rather than deliberate, but when hackles are raised, any chance to vent indignation is seized upon. The outpouring of outrage worked in City’s favour, the atmosphere dial had been turned up a few notches, the pulse of the game quickened and our put upon heroes sought to right a perceived wrong.

Justice wasn’t long in coming, arriving somewhat karmically via the left boot of Sone Aluko. He received the ball just inside the Blackpool box with back to goal, he span, advancing goalwards and shaking off a marker, as he cut left to tee up a shot, Quinn’s run ahead of Aluko occupied two defenders and might have just obscured Gilks view of the ex-Rangers man. Unsighted or not, he couldn’t get to Aluko’s shot, which bent inwards as it passed the flailing netman. 1-1, anger turned to joy as heavy rain swirled around the stadium quite beautifully under the glare of the floodlights.

The Tigers wanted more, and could have gotten their way had Simpson’s first touch not been errant when he raced onto Aluko’s dinked, delicious pass, Gilks raced out to form a blockade betwixt Simpson and goal denying Simpson a further touch.

Just before the break, Alex Bruce sat up on the turf after trying in vain to shake off a knock, the pouring rain now analogous to City’s luck with defensive personnel. The boss’ son was withdrawn with Rosenior taking to the field and we reshuffled to form a 4-4-2 grouping. The half ended with scores level.

The impetus and determination that City ended the first half with was not dulled any by the 15 minute rest, and they powered into the lead shortly after the restart. Dudgeon won a 50-50 challenge about 10 yards into Blackpool’s half and the ball bounced favourably for Sone Aluko on the left wing, his low cross found Quinn who had ghosted in between two defenders in the box and the nippy ginge confidently swept the ball across goal and in at the far post. 2-1 City and three points looked on the cards.

Speaking of gingers, our two Irish redheads were having brilliant games. Quinn was having a superb game and is rapidly forging a productive attacking partnership with Joe Dudgeon on the left flank. As for McShane, many groaned when they heard of his inclusion in the first eleven, but he was outstanding in this game. In a game littered with defensive errors, none were made by ‘the Golden Child’ (as one East Stander brands him). McShane was McSuperb, a McShining light.

At this stage of the second half, defensive lapses seemed to have been eliminated, the entire rearguard formed like Voltron at one point to collectively quell a Blackpool foray into our box. We had every right to confident we had our assault on the top 6 back on track. Aluko netted again but the linesman’s flag had been up for some time when he did so.

After a Koren cross from a corner eluded everyone waiting for it, Olofinjana slung the ball back in from the right and Faye headed narrowly over. Then Blackpool, who looked quite lacklustre and not the fearsome challenge anticipated, made a player swap that changed the game. Off trotted Gomes, and on came wily old poacher Kevin Phillips. The Tigers’ defence, relatively resolute in the second half so far, went to pieces at this point, and the team as a whole approached the game totally differently after Phillips introduction. We seemed content to try to contain the Seasiders, therefore letting them have a prolonged spell of possession that to this point they had not enjoyed.

The change in our mindset was disastrous. A Crainey free kick was aimed towards the far (right) post, there was one time Tiger Gary Taylor-Fletcher who had slipped by the line of City defenders now tracking back running at our goal, he scuffed the ball across goal and beyond Amos to…yes, Kevin Phillips, who simply stroked it in while two pursuing defenders looked to playing Twister on the goal line. We effectively just watched them do this, no one rose to repel the original delivery, no one cut out the weak pass across goal, and no one picked up Phillips, the only English winner of the European Golden Boot. Ridiculous.

At this point a draw seemed a fair reflection on events, and a fairly typical way for two teams coming off successive defeats to right the listing ship, but Ian Holloway had more than just a point in his sights. He made another game changing substitution, replacing Matt Phillips with Nouha Dicko.

Dicko, abetted by more abject defending from our lot, spectacularly broke our hearts with 7 minutes of regulation time remaining. Kevin Phillips chased a nodded on hoof from Blackpool’s keeper to the edge of the penalty box, and Amos chose to leave his area and close him down, when this should have been done by an outfield defender. Amos thought about breaking off his tracking of Phillips, but changed his mind and tried to jockey Phillips, who remained outside of the area Amos could gather the ball with his hands in.

Phillips chipped the ball over the head (and outstretched hand) of Amos, stranding our keeper, and surrounded by defenders, first Taylor-Fletcher flailed at in and missed, second Dicko used his chest to bring the ball under control, before executing an overhead kick to finish, despite there being three defenders between him and the goal line. 2-3 Blackpool, and as against Peterborough, foolish decision making had consigned us to defeat. A third consecutive defeat, having conceded 9 goals in those games. Not boring anymore? A boring close-out of a game we were leading in would have been pretty riveting really.

Simpson came nearest to pulling us level in the remaining time, but couldn’t quite stretch as much as was needed to convert Rosenior’s and Gilks claimed it. McLean was given a few minutes to buzz around, but didn’t get chance to make an impact.

That left us to do that mournful, slow shuffle out of Walton Street trying to fathom what had happened. There isn’t a fundamental problem with the team, who are a collection of handy players, but there is a problem with fundamentals. We’ve made a series of foolish errors and mental lapses in the last few games, and those things can be cut out, when we do that, we’ll be comfortably ensconced in middle ground.

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29th September 2012 Saturday Tigers played Peterborough at the KC and lost 1-3 this report from Amber  Nectar

Look, we know the brief. City play well, look good, raise hopes and then contrive to produce exactly the opposite result that the form and circumstances dictate. We’ve been through it a number of times so vast we’d need an abacus the size of Kirk Ella to find the figure.

And so it came to pass that Peterborough United, without a solitary point all season, took the lot away from this trip to the KC. Those who gloomily predicted this outcome did so with experience behind them but merely knew it was possible. They didn’t think for a moment it would actually happen.

And not only did Peterborough win the match, they did so precisely via the one available route to them – the counter attack. City aided them in this by committing some grotesque defensive abherrations that suggested a brand of arrogance not attractive in football teams. All three of the visitors’ goals were on the break, owed much to lousy defending and were scored by the new nemesis of the Tigers.

Emile Sinclair took each of his goals well, making it five in total against the Tigers in two seasons, having stuck a brace away in a Macclesfield kit when ensuring City’s traditional yearly humiliation against lower-ranked opponents in the League Cup last season. His first two strikes this time round were one-on-ones afforded to him by City players trying to be clever and falling flat on their faces. The third was his best and proved crucial in puncturing the hopes of a Tiger Nation who had seen their side claw their way back in.

Kudos to Peterborough. They defended heartily and deserved their haul. But oh, how careless and wasteful City were. Shocking.

Steve Bruce made one alteration from the side that lost at Leicester six days earlier, restoring Seyi Olofinjana to the midfield in place of Corry Evans. Otherwise, it was the now familiar 3-5-2 of Amos; Chester, Faye, Bruce; Elmohamady, Koren, Olofinjana, Quinn, Dudgeon; Simpson, Aluko. Peterborough’s starting XI was remarkable for its absolute lack of big names, though we were treated to a Premier League referee in Michael Oliver.

Sunny and autumnal, it felt like perfect conditions for football and before a crowd as blase as befitting the occasion, City took total control. Any number of chances were created in the opening 20 minutes and it felt like a question of when, and then when that was answered, how many.

Sone Aluko, comfortably City’s best player, was in complete command of the game and the opposing defence, who relied on their own luck and some unsightly finishing from their hosts to remain in it, couldn’t deal with him at all. Early on, he exchanged passes with Jay Simpson in a gorgeous one-two that left heads spinning before the shot had its power annulled by a deflection that allowed keeper Robert Olejnik to catch above his head.

Aluko then headed over under heavy pressure from a wonderfully half-volleyed cross from Robert Koren as City maintained absolute, unmitigating control of the ball. Peterborough had only one chance during this period, created for Sinclair by James Chester uncharacteristically losing possession. Abdoulaye Faye deflected the eventual shot and Ben Amos saved with his knees, before Faye managed to clear while sitting on the turf. But City were unperturbed. Aluko had one fabulous venture to the byline during which he beat the same defender twice before cutting in and hammering a shot that was foiled by a combination of post and glove, then Elmohamady headed Koren’s corner straight at Olejnik.

The passing was crisp, the movement was trenchant, the outcome obvious. Peterborough seemed untroubled by the prospect of creating anything for themselves, though one assumes they hadn’t the foresight to believe City would do that for them. But, on 24 minutes and as against the run of play as it was possible to be, that’s what happened.

Alex Bruce tried to clear but Sinclair, hunting him down near halfway, managed a block. Fortunately for City, Stephen Quinn had raced back to cover, overtook the more cumbersome Sinclair and got to the ball first. A back pass to Amos was obvious and safe. A boot into row Z less aesthetic but effective. He tried neither, however; instead choosing to execute a foolhardy sliding pass behind Sinclair to a team-mate in support and the big striker intercepted, ran clear, rounded Amos with ease and tucked into an empty net.

Quinn’s decision-making was truly dire on this occasion. The decision made five minutes later by Chester, normally so unflappable and astute, was just as boneheaded. Flying in to intercept an innocuous ball, he missed his contact altogether and allowed a two-on-one breakaway led by George Boyd and finished with composure by Sinclair with a shot to the corner.

Two down, half an hour gone. This having shown the visitors their own backsides for 24 minutes and shown all in attendance exactly why Peterborough are where they are. Yet for the rest of the half, City were disorganised and jittery and Peterborough were solid and stoic, unsurprisingly moving men even further back to defend for their lives. Absolutely nobody could blame them or criticise them for this.

City’s panache and confidence evaporated, and only an unconvincing cross shot from Aluko and a header straight at the keeper from Faye were produced in the last 15 minutes of the half. Two adrift at the break to the bottom team, devoid of points up to this point, and while the cynics who could sigh for Yorkshire knew it was possible to come back, it didn’t actually feel likely. A most odd sensation.

The second half produced only one good chance before Bruce senior decided to switch formation – Aluko battering a good chance over the bar from a killer Koren cross along the deck. On came Nick Proschwitz for Olofinjana, and a 3-4-3 was set up. Immediately, Sinclair nearly completed his hat-trick when again he was allowed too much room on the counter but Amos flung up a hand to block his attempted chip.

Then, a breakthrough. Just after the hour, Elmohamady was given room on the right by Aluko’s pass and his low ball along the grass was clattered in spectacularly by Simpson, though Olejnik was unlucky not to keep it out. Sheer pace got the ball past his glove and City were in it again.

Chester took a knock and was replaced by Liam Rosenior, who along with Elmohamady spent the rest of the game putting balls in along the floor, thereby pretty much removing any hope for Proschwitz to have an influence on the game. When the balls were high, mind, the German wasn’t of much use, getting next to no purchase on a free header from a Koren free kick which dropped well wide and then flicking one just past the post from Quinn’s corner on the other side.

If there was going to be another goal, it did seem likely that City would score it. But we’ve been here before, both with City’s lack of scriptreading prior to home bankers over the years, as well as within this contest as Peterborough scored twice while barely looking interested in the game. And, as if to show that none of us ever learn, they put in a third when Sinclair, breaking from midfield, weighed up the possibilities on the edge of the box before placing a shot through Faye’s legs that left Amos unsighted, and the ball trundled over the line.

For the second game in a row, City were 3-1 down courtesy of one player’s hat-trick. And though the Tigers had a lot more time to respond here than they did when David Nugent stuck away his third for Leicester last week, it barely seemed worthwhile. Rosenior and Koren both struck long shots along the ground that Olejnik held competently, and Aluko nearly pulled one back in the four added minutes with a fine shot, but the Peterborough custodian fingertipped it over. That was pretty much it.

These things happen, we know that better than anyone. Peterborough may still be the worst team in the division but their way of soaking up pressure can have an effect if it frustrates the opposition and gives Sinclair the chance to show his finishing prowess. He is evidently talented.

Blackpool, possibly the best side in the division but not in form right now, come to the Circle on Tuesday night and it’d be just as typical of City to respond to a loss to the alleged whipping boys by then beating the royalty. But City wouldn’t be City if they didn’t occasionally do something barmy. It’s why we love them. No, it really is.

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