Friday, 20 August 2010

Quick off the blocks

Saturday 7th August - Hull City 2 Swansea City 0
Saturday 14th August - Bulwell Town (home) Won 3-1

"Eh up, here we go again..."

It's always nice to start the season with a home win.  And thanks to the conflicting start dates of the two competitions I take a particular interest in, I got to witness two of my favourite teams do just that.  I'd like to think that come the season's end both  will also be challenging at the top end of their respective divisions.  But I'm not altogether confident on that one.
I know it's easy for fans of teams relegated from the Premier League to say, "I'm quite relieved really, I didn't really like the Premier League" but, well, I'm quite relieved really, I didn't really like the Premier League!
However, in my case it's not so much to do with the fact that I could quite easily tire of "my" team having to endure season after season without a whiff of success (such as, say, perennial top-flight strugglers Wigan) but more to do with not being able to get into see "my" team on a match day.

  The Tiger Nation has a new hero

And that's perhaps why I really enjoyed the experience of taking the Elder Slushette to her first ever game in the NPower Championship.  Despite an excellent opening day crowd of over 21,000 there was a relaxed air about the whole experience.
Avid readers of this blog (if there is such a thing) will know that my eldest is already a fairly frequent attendee at Hull KR matches.  However, until this season her Tiger Trekking exploits had  been limited to just one game in the (supposedly) best league in the world.  Admittedly it was a good one - City's late comeback to gain a 2-1 win over Stoke on Remembrance Sunday 2009.
And so with one good luck omen by my side and another on my back (by virtue of the limited-edition 2003/04 Promotion Winners home shirt which, I'll have you know, has never witnessed a Hull City defeat) I entered the KC Stadium at just after 1.30pm ready to see the new look Tiggers cull some Swans.

A winning combination
After the Elder Slushette had chosen the latest addition to her baseball cap collection from the club shop and I'd seen the best part of a tenner disappear on a pint, bottle of coke and two bags of crisps, we made our way to our seats with just under an hour to go to kick-off.
Positioned on the penultimate row of the grandiosely-titled Forest Pines Hotel & Golf Resort West Stand Upper; just to the right of the gathered Press throng (which, thankfully, now does not include some patronising commentator from Match of the Day) it was a spectacular if slightly vertigo-inducing experience for a seven-year-old.

 The Something or Other West Stand at the home of football
For the Elder Slushette the recent trip to a different part of the same stand for Rovers' derby defeat by the Dullers had seen us about halfway as high and she'd found that daunting enough.  But this was in a different league; indeed a different ball game altogether.
And at least she'll have something to take from her first Saturday spent watching the Tigers.  Namely, an absolute belter of a debut goal from loan signing John Bostock that lit up an otherwise pretty uneventful first half.
"Captain Marvel" Ian Ashbee's return to the side after another career-threatening injury was capped by the killer second goal early in the second half and despite being far from spectacular, the 2-0 win constituted a solid start to proceedings "back where we belong" (as some would have you believe).
Having been impressed by what I'd seen and heard of new manager Nigel Pearson previously at Leicester, I must admit I have a good feeling about him as the man to help steady the ship in the historic port of Hull.  But then I think I had a similar feeling about Stan Ternent once upon a time!
As for the Elder Slushette she was soon asking "when can we come again?"  Always a good sign, even if the main reason is for the accompanying treats that such trips bring with them.

Build it and they will come

Two days after my daughter's Championship opener it was back to grassroots level (i.e. the day job) and our final pre-season friendly, against the County Juniors (see previous post).
That completed, it was time to put the finishing touches to the programme for the first league game of the season - at home to Bulwell Town.

Goalkeeper Charlie finds team photos soooo interesting!
In my last post I've already mentioned the potential baggage that could have accompanied our opening day fixture.  And I must admit to feeling a touch of trepidation in the final hours before kick-off, especially as the minibus bringing our opponents finally pulled into Low Farm. 
I needn't have.  From the onset, both sets of players and officials were determined that nothing would happen that would excite either the official "observers" from the League and the East Riding County FA or - and how surreal is this - the watching officers from the Ministry of Defence Police, normally employed to guard the nearby North Sea Gas Terminals from potential terrorist attack!
Somebody whose defences could have done with improved security on a baking hot day at The Farm was visiting keeper Alex Smith.  Twice in the first half he was beaten by speculative efforts; first on just 5mins by Frosty's left-wing cross that dropped in at the far post, then just before the break by Smalley's left foot swinger which somehow looped over the hapless netminder for 3-1.

Mozzer's free-kick (top) Farny's flick...that'll be 2-0 then!

In-between Smith may also feel he should have prevented Farny's deftest of touches that diverted Mozzer's 15th minute free-kick past him for 2-0.
At that stage we looked as if we may run amok.  However, to their credit, Bulwell hung in there and started to force the pace a little towards half-time.  Their reward came via James Duffy's 36th minute free-kick and they may well have fancied their chances of completing the comeback in the second half had Smalls' goal just two minutes before the break not knocked the stuffing out of them.

 Smalley's swinger comes good at last!

The second half proved less of a spectacle and despite plenty of huffing and puffing Bulwell rarely threatened a goal.
Meanwhile at the other end Smith partially redeemed himself with two fine saves from Jamie C while The Brettster sent a 30-yarder fizzing just wide of his right-hand upright.
The final whistle signalled a pleasing start to 'Life after Nige' for manager Mack (assistant Rutter having departed in midweek due to other commitments) and an encouraging introduction to the side for his new Number 2, Ian Taylor.
Off the field my day had been made enjoyable by a decent crowd (83 h/c) and some decent matchday takings, especially in player sponsorship, which is an area we've notoriously struggled in over the past few seasons.

With Bulwell unable to join us in The Granby afterwards, it was a generally satisfied throng who gathered round the telly for "Final Score" (and news of The Tigers' continuing travails on their travels).
I sank a couple of fine pints of Pricky Back Otchan before retiring to a friend's party up the road; happy in the knowledge that the day had gone about as well as I could have hoped and already looking forward to the following week's home game against FC 05 Bilsthorpe.
Meanwhile, some people are looking forward instead to their holidays.  Aren't they Brett...

"Am I glad I'm not flying with Kiss!"

Thanks as always to Burt Graham and Colin Brammer for the Easington United photographs used on this page.

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