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98/99: Friendlies:

Pre-season friendly, 18/7/98
Hull City 0(0)
Watford 0(0)
Team: Chamberlain, Bazeley, Kennedy, Page, Palmer, Mooney, Hazan, Hyde, Lee, Johnson, Rosenthal
Subs: Robinson (for Johnson, 10), Yates (for Palmer, 45), Gudmundsson (for Rosenthal, 45), Noel-Williams (for Lee, 70), Ngonge (for Bazeley, 85)
Proper football
Report by Matt Rowson

Look, I'd never been to Boothferry Park before, okay ? And I've got a friend in Hull who I don't see that often. And I'm having my wisdom teeth out on Monday and needed something to take my mind off it. And I needed some PROPER football, football without some inane idiot drivelling over the top, obstinately mispronouncing names and spouting banal rubbish (John Innes and mates : a good effort, but your commentary was far too intelligent. Could do better).

So it's a good job I didn't travel up to Hull on Saturday morning for the sparkling football and passion, both of which were sadly absent on this occasion. Good job too that seeing the new guys in action wasn't high on my list of priorities, as Watford lined up without any of the new names (although it was good to see Ronnie back, and finally starting a game with Hazan).

Alon was as impressive a performer as we had in the first half, patrolling backwards and forwards across the pitch exhibiting a tidy selection of passes to attempt to prize the defence open as the Golden Boys regularly took up camp in the opposition half. It was Hull who threatened first though, causing havoc in the area... a circus routine so comical you half expected to see Keith Dublin and Dave Holdsworth appear waving their hands at each other. We're made of sterner stuff nowadays of course... Mooney booted the ball into touch. This was Hull's only real threat in the first half... some of the build-up play was surprisingly tidy but the final pass was often lacking, and the defence, barring the nervy opening, restricted Hull to some hopeful long-shots which Alec dealt with quite comfortably. Mooney in particular impressed, also finding time to rampage through the centre to break through on goal before slipping the ball past keeper and post.

After ten minutes Johnson, worryingly, limped off to be replaced by Robinson who moved to the left wing-back position with Kennedy moving into the centre. Robinson was typically energetic and involved throughout, and Bazeley too, particularly in the first half, looked very keen to take on the full back, although his crossing was typically erratic.

Meanwhile, Jason was getting his head to most things and generally getting involved. He even won a couple of free kicks... more than were given to him throughout the whole of last season. His best attempt was a header from a cross from the right, which spiralled just wide of the far post... he did well considering the ball came in behind him. Ronnie meanwhile was involved only occasionally, although his touches were invariably of quality, one dancing run through the centre being reminiscent of his early season form last year, the last defender depriving him on this occasion.

His performance was mirrored by that of Hateley at the other end, whose occasional touches invariably led to the Watford defence being put under pressure. Too often, however, his team mates didn't respond to his flicks and through balls and his evident frustration, reminiscent of Mr. Waddle at Vicarage Road last August, boiled over when he lashed the ball in anger into the advertising hoarding having been caught offside by a delayed pass. This was the first of only two emotional moments in the afternoon.

Just before half-time, Watford's best attempt : a low drive by Kennedy which was palmed round the post by the keeper. Half-time was a little glum given the lack of entertainment, but Watford had been the better side, and surely the pressure would be built on in the second half. Entertainment was provided by pondering how Hull had put together their programme cover : a programme to cover all three of their pre-season games apparently featured an action shot involving Micah Hyde, Dwight Marshall of Luton and Paul Groves of Grimsby.

Gudmundsson and Yates appeared at half time and neither, frankly, were terribly impressive. Gudmundsson was lively and moved around a lot in search of the ball; he also dribbled quite well but too often had his head down, either dribbling until tackled or lamping hopeful long-range shots over or wide (often both). Yates had a couple of tidy moments and was noticeably keen to come up for corners, however he was roasted for pace with Hull's first attack of the half, and they had much more joy through the centre in general. Watford didn't dominate possession to the extent that they had done in the first half, and Hull were having the better of the chances.

The introduction of Noel-Williams (Noel Gifton-Williams, according to the announcer) woke things up a bit, but his enthusiasm and running rarely came to much with Hull operating a worryingly effective offside trap, and a linesman in front of us who would have come in for a lot of abuse had anyone really cared.

Ngonge got a few cheers when he came on for Bazeley, but only had time for one real contribution, a fierce header which was blocked (and ruled offside in any case by the myopic lino).

So the final whistle blew, the crowd awoke, rubbed their eyes and wondered what they were doing at Boothferry Park in July. As everyone trooped silently off, it happened : the second emotional moment of the afternoon. Only one member of the Watford staff bothered to acknowledge the travelling support : Jason Lee, who turned fully around from the bench, waved a fist and applauded.

I wonder if he was saying goodbye.