The Dentist’s Diary – 578th

Houghton’s Heroes Battle to great win!!


‘The Spirit of 2016’, was back in abundance on Thursday!

Didn’t you just love that, isn’t it great to at last beat Leeds at the KCOM and what a drama packed match it took to attain it. Those of us who were there in that cauldron of an atmosphere, sitting perched on the edge of our seats and shaking at the end with the excitement and relief of it all, certainly got our money’s worth, in a game that had drama, controversy, brilliant rugby and stoic defence, in fact, everything we love about nights under the lights at the KCOM.

It was our first league victory over Leeds since 2014 and so intense was the drama that I was physically shaking in that last four minutes, and once the hooter had gone, I wanted to tell everyone I met about it and what’s more I was still buzzing way after midnight, which I guess is exactly how you want to feel after a game.

For the second home game running we won a close encounter with a Sneyd drop goal and hung on to win with some of the best goal line defence we have seen all season. If the first half was our best one so far in this campaign, the second saw us almost throw it away, however throughout the whole game that spirit and will to not give in was manifest right across the black and white ranks.

So after years and years of yearning for it, not only have we beaten Leeds in the league but at last after 5 home games we look as if we are actually starting to develop fortress KCOM. The atmosphere on Thursday was unbelievable at times. It was electric and intimidating and what’s more that great crowd witnessed a fantastic game which just about got us back on track in the League. Thursday proved that we are, when we get everyone fit and out there on the field, a bloody good team. I loved it and it re-ignited my belief and my season!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 578th

So four wins from the last 5 games has seen us consolidate a mid-table position and in fact it’s even just kept us in touch with the top four. It’s been hard and we have continued on through a deal of adversity which has seen us play some scratchy stuff but get some good wins just the same. Forget appearances, it’s all about points at this stage in the season.

Despite the fact that Widnes had their own troubles, last Thursday we had to get over a spirited side who we invited back into the game a time or two, when we already had it won. I guess in the end it was all about grabbing two points and we got them, but if we think that Leeds will perform the same way on Thursday, we will be badly undone. They looked a tad jaded last week but they’ll come to us all guns blazing and we have to be ready. We have to raise our game, keep the flowing stuff coming, but cut out the mistakes and the stupid penalties we continue to conceded late in sets.

Life is tough at the moment, we stand 6th but at least we have 12 points in the bag and should we now get players back and thus raise our game to challenge the top Clubs later on in the year, we’ll be thankful that we have. Then of course there is the Challenge Cup and we always raise our game for that, don’t we?

We are missing Watts’ unpredictable style but if nothing else we have at least tested to the full our strength in depth and recently players like Matongo, Abdull, Lane and Fash have certainly risen to the challenge as the intensity never dips when they are introduced and that has to be a plus. Players like Washbrooke who perhaps these days wouldn’t get in a fully fit side, have revelled in the opportunities they have been given, whilst before his injury the returning Hadley has been one of our top players. That all bodes well for the future, but for now I guess we have to be patient as its just a case of living from week to week at present.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 577th

The Easter farce is over, we’ve come out with 6 points from a possible 8 and who wouldn’t have taken that three weeks ago eh?

Yet, it has been a tough holiday season for the FC and there have been several casualties, a few alarms and a lot of talking points. Few fans really expected us to beat Saints and the majority of the Faithful were right. Many doubted our chances against Wakey, but we somehow sneaked a win with an amazing bit of skill, Rovers away was the expected lottery against poor opposition with the now usual miraculous outcome and, well, we had to beat Catalans didn’t we?

So I guess 6 points was as good a haul as we could have expected to pick up in these last 4 games, for whatever the rhetoric coming out of the Club, by that Saints match last Friday we were undoubtedly buggered, damaged and crocked and so paid the penalty for those massive efforts we put in on Good Friday and Easter Monday. However, we should not forget that Saints were in the same boat as us games wise too, yet they still produced a much more clinical and effective performance. Why? Well at the Totally Wicked Stadium our heroes were left at times chasing shadows, against a team that had suffered less injuries and in fact who perhaps even looked better prepared fitness wise than we were.

There is no doubting the effort and passion we put in and everyone gave their absolute all, but if I’m honest and I always try to be in here, we didn’t look as sharp as the Saints and in any case, we haven’t really played as well as they are at present, very often this season at all. We have yet to get it right for 80 minutes in any game, because we’ve played some good stuff at times, but only really excelled in patches. Plus, with injuries on the increase again we face a tough few weeks, with a position that is cemented in the top 4 (as was our aim at the beginning of the season), still looking to be a long way off. Saints on the other hand have been able to play the same 19 or so players for several weeks now and looked to be more settled than us. Cohesion is everything when you’re tired and we are struggling through injuries to find much of that at all at present.

Of course, it’s early days and perhaps that will come at the time in the season when it really matters, because all that is important now is getting to the 22 points mark, so as to see us avoid the bottom 4. Of course as I always say, perhaps that’s just me and maybe you see it completely differently, but we look to be struggling for consistency and coherence at times and that bit is still a concern.

I’m not worried yet, we have struggled since Australia with injuries and disruption, but I do think we are falling short at present when it comes to finding the sort of form that won us those two trophies in 2016 and 2017. We keep saying it’s still early days, but the season moves on and we are almost half way through.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 576th

DON’T YOU JUST LOVE IT WHEN YOU WIN LIKE THAT?

When you stand back from it all, that was probably one of the best Derby wins we have seen for a good while and ranks well, if not quite as well, with the efforts of the 20-0 Come-Back Kids of 2016.

With twelve men for all but 9 minutes of the game, it was a defeat that the Dobbins fans will certainly find hard to live down. But, we love it don’t we and they can’t begrudge us that, because can you imagine what it would be like where the boot on the other foot? It wasn’t the best short-handed victory I have ever seen, that was probably back in February 2003 when we lost Jason Smith after 29 seconds and Richard Fletcher with half an hour to go and still beat Halifax 24-16, with 11 men. But it was still a mighty fine display.

That’s six Derby wins on the spin and after 625 days since the last such fixture, this latest victory made me so proud of the lads, because when it comes to sheer guts, determination and tenacity, it was as good as it gets. Yeh, Rovers are poor, their fans know that and although we made mistakes, what was so gratifying was the way that we looked so much better with ball in hand, as Houghton, Albo, Shaul and Sneydy provided a great platform for our backs to perform.

We attacked well, tackled like terriers, held our nerve and came out victorious for a win that was pretty unpalatable for most people in East Hull particularly those ullin attendance. We were great and if not that polished or classy, it was still an indication for every FC fan that although we have stuttered a bit of late, that amazing spirit and passion that got us two consecutive Cup Final wins, is still alive and well in the hearts and minds of every FC player! Who can’t ask for anything more really and it was certainly the win of the season so far.

The game was refereed from the gantry throughout which really narked me and I’ll address that one later, but we even overcame that to chalk up a great victory over adversity in a cauldron of a Stadium. There is little doubt as well that those days when I went on and on in here about Rovers always wanting it more than us in Derby games, (a comment that even saw the Diary being quoted by David Burns on Sports Talk) are gone forever. Well they are as long as this Coach and administration are at the Club. Rovers may have made all the brash statements and done all the posturing during the week, for they obviously wanted it badly, but with us in that frame of mind they weren’t getting it!!!

It’s so important to so many people to get such victories and the circumstances that surrounded our success mean that we all had a great couple of days over the Easter Weekend.

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The Dentist’s Diary 575th

You know me by now, I hate losing at the best of times, but some defeats are easier to take than others, and perhaps in hindsight on Thursday, as far as Hull FC were concerned that was the case, but as far as the officials were concerned it wasn’t easy to take at all!!!!

A great showing of resilience and fortitude under pressure by the lads saw a late fight back almost get us the points, we had Leeds on the rack, but just lacked the final ball needed to put the game to bed. So, in the end, we fell just short and as far as the pundits and papers are concerned apparently the ‘Headingley Hoodoo’ continues!!

To go there, once the scene of some great FC victories, (but where in recent times we haven’t won since 2007), with 6 first teamers out, was always going to be a big ask. Leeds, with no game last weekend, looked fresh in the first quarter, however what a fight we made of it. It was easy to see that afterwards and be disappointed, whilst feeling really positive about the future, but the officials were just crap at times and I think at the end we had every right to feel badly done to by the video referee last Thursday.

I’ve just about had enough of some aspects of the game at present and the officials are one of the reasons I feel that way. But that’s my problem and we should certainly take nothing away from our lads at Headingley, because the spirit and fight was amazing. We could as a group of players have got really disenchanted with it all and a few years ago we probably would have, but we fought and fought, took whatever was thrown at us and kept on trying right up to the end.

The game was lost through a few patchy periods of play and some poor and contentious decisions in the first half, but we never gave up and we never gave in. We battled and battled and at 20-6 and playing Leeds and it would appear at times the officials as well, most teams would have thrown in the towel, we didn’t and although we tried manfully to snatch the points, we just couldn’t get over the line. That meant that we got no return from a game we should have won, but although that was disappointing as I say, you have to give top marks to everyone involved. I was proud of that effort, it was a battling and fighting performance and short of not winning, I have no complaints with the lads at all really.

As for the state of the officiating, well that’s completely another matter for me!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 574th

Well, that bloody weather was awful wasn’t it?

I was under the weather myself all week and just about everyone else I knew had a cold or worse! The conditions were nothing short of horrific by Thursday and I can’t remember so many Super League games being postponed for ages can you? For this time of the year, it was a rare blast from the past, harking back, for me, to winters I remember as a kid living down Airlie Street. As an aside I certainly don’t agree with that crowd at the BBC either, Spring hasn’t ever started for yours truly until 21st March, perhaps now they’ll believe me!

As for the game, well I’m always honest in here and for me first impressions afterwards indicated a scruffy display against a bang average Warrington, but, I guess as well, it was pretty typical of a lot of the fare we get served up these days in Super League’s televised games. However, I’ll take the points, because quite frankly looking at how we’ve played so far this year and the luck we’ve had with injuries, we might just need them!!

The team spirit is certainly there and we work so hard for each other and yet we are so bloody undisciplined at times and give away far too much ball at the wrong end of the field. The stats show that we are one of the worst teams in the league for this and whilst Watts’ ‘nut job’ was terrible, so were some of the stupid penalties we gave away. In addition, we witnessed a mini collapse, conceding back to back tries, again, and there were some poor reads as well at times.

However, grumble over because we won the game and got the points, we looked pretty much in charge at 18-0, despite the stuff I cite above, but by the end I concluded that I had seen little to be that excited about either really. It wasn’t a night to be getting excited anyway, but rather one for getting the job done. Why was I a bit disappointed? Well, I guess it just wasn’t the FC we know and love was it? Still, that sort of grinding performance is how we have got back on the horse in the past and I guess in the end a wins a win and points are all that really matter at this stage in the season. To have had only two points after four matches would have been a real concern, but at this time of year I believe that a 50% return is about where you want to be if you’re not to peak too early.

One things for sure it was a blooming freezing night, but we’ve played in colder conditions ….. just! So, more of that one later!”

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The Dentist’s Diary – 573rd

“I don’t think we gave ourselves a start to be honest. Performance wise there were so many people not at the races. It was scary and we were always going to be second best”. So said Lee Radford and we are left, I guess, to make of that what we will.

You’re not supposed to say that Australia might have been a distraction, it’s appearing to be a taboo subject around the Club and something that isn’t talked about by the press either. I really don’t know whether it was or it wasn’t, but that is still, as far as many who attended at Wheldon Road, the ‘elephant in the room’ since that defeat, for although we looked physically prepared we were certainly not mentally at it at all! It wasn’t (as happens when you have an off day) just one or two players either, but as Lee said there were so many of our lads right across the field, ‘not at the races’ on Saturday.

All week we had heard about Jet Lag and fatigue and how it wouldn’t affect us and I’m pleased as a Club (just as was the case with Wigan), that we would never ever ‘run’ to such excuses and anyway whatever our preparation, it was always going to be a tough game and a big ask over there.

But, you know what, I was really disappointed at the end, because we could have won that game, it was ours to take and we blew the chance. So, that said, I decided that perhaps I would watch it all back again on Saturday night, when I was more composed, a bit more rational and before I wrote this week’s Diary.

Having done so, I had my thoughts reconfirmed as we certainly did well to maintain a level of physical verve, but for me we just ran out of mental energy, if that is, some of the players had any in the first place. The usual ‘smarts’ and plays were missing, our ball retention was poor, our sliding defence was horrendous at times and our organisation on both attack and defence on occasions shocking. However, all that said it was still a game we could have won and who knows, perhaps a game that we would have won, on any other given weekend.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 572nd

O.K. it’s over and the hordes of FC fans are now making their way back home, half way around the world, after what has no doubt been for them all the experience of a life time. Well done as well to the Club, for making it happen and to the players for a great performance on Saturday. They have all, both on the field and on the terraces been tremendous ambassadors for the British game. What a great success the last two weeks have been! All that and it seems no more injuries to report as well.

But now folks, like it or not, its back to reality and let’s just get everyone home and ready for Saturday eh? We can only hope that we can reproduce some of that form back here in Great Britain, starting as I say, at Castleford this Saturday.

Last Saturday morning I was very proud of every one of our players. It would have been easy to give up the ghost after that Wigan defeat and you know and I know, that some FC teams of years passed would have done just that. But, even when you consider the injuries we had sustained, we didn’t give an inch and we were every bit as good as the Dragons, with the exception perhaps of our defence wide out. Once again we conceded too many penalties, particularly in our own half, but the effort was there and we looked pretty proficient when spreading the ball across the line.

It’s has to be good for the team and great for the Club, I’m sure of that and what’s-more, they did us all proud!

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The Dentist’s Diary – 571st

“I’m really pleased with the effort. There were some outstanding individual performance’s today. I love the initiative by the two clubs. I’ve loved the experience and I really hope it can happen again. I’m obviously disappointed with the result but all in all, it’s been a great trip so far”, so said Lee Radford after the game and few can argue with that really, for playing through such adversity in such temperatures is tough!! And here’s a message for all of you Hull FC supporters reading this and still basking in the sunshine in ‘The Gong’; we might have been beaten but at least you can take some comfort from the fact that it’s been bloody freezing in Beverley!!!

It’s not often that I start these diatribes with an assertion that injuries in a game cost us dearly. Perhaps we are well conditioned these days, perhaps our injury management is good, perhaps we are just lucky, or maybe, usually, I don’t rate such excuses that much, but in the end on Saturday that scenario was indeed the case. In a game that, when you look back at it, we could still have won had we had a bit of luck and retained the ball better, we were hit by injuries big time.

As for the match itself, well, after going all that way surrounded by all that hype, it all came down to a game of rugby and someone in the end was going to lose, exhibition games are one thing, but when two Super League points are at stake it’s completely another. We lost and in the end, as our energy ebbed away, Wigan easily prevailed, but with a fair wind we could have undoubtedly got something out of it.

But the most positive aspect of it all is that around 12,400 were in attendance and taking Super League to Wollongong had therefore been a success. What an amazing turn out of FC fans we have seen in Australia, with the Faithful outnumbering the Pies fans by at least 3 to 1. We have well over 2000 out there supporting the lads and it’s another great example of the loyalty and passion of so many, some of whom will no doubt have made huge sacrifices to get there in the first place.

It’s just a pity they weren’t all better rewarded. Incidentally, it’s also interesting to note that the attendance was actually better than any game between the two clubs in the 2017 regular season, so well done to both Clubs and the New South Wales Tourist Board for getting that many people there.

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The Dentist’s Diary – 570th

Those were two, precious, precious points and in the end it was a good night, a fine occasion and pretty much all we could have wished for so early in the season!!

It was always going to be a bit hit and miss, but it’s all about the W in the games played column at this time of the year and if you were to describe Thursday night in a sentence, then it would be ‘scintillating for half an hour and adequate and understandably scratchy, for the rest of the game’. At one point in that first half we conceded too many yards and our goal line defence, which has served us so well, looked shaky . So early in the season it’s hard to repel sustained attack and they went Penalty, Penalty – Try, lost ball, Penalty – Try and quickly posted two easy scores in a period of play when perhaps a better team would have grabbed another couple as well. But leading from the front with some tenacious tackling when we trailed 12-4, Houghton and Co. somehow survived, rallied and eventually came good in quite dazzling fashion.

Therefore, it was job done and we flew out to the sunshine on Friday night with some early momentum and two points in the bag and, standing back from its all, I guess we couldn’t have wanted for much more. To sit there for the last twenty minutes knowing that the opposition weren’t going to win, was a nice way to ease us all into the 2018 season and in the end that’s how easy it turned out to be! What’s more, it brought two points that I believe will be priceless as a springboard for the next few difficult weeks.

Congratulations to everyone who braved a cold night to make a brilliant opening gate of 13,700 and to Hull FC in general for an enjoyable evening. I also would extend a big well done to Lee Radford, for cometh the hour the attitude was just right and the youngsters stepped up seamlessly to produce a brilliant second half lift in a game that was always going to be a potential banana skin.

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