The Dentist’s Diary – 457th

Well, perhaps I’m going a bit soft but I have to say that I really did enjoy Friday night!!

Despite losing (and indeed throwing it away as far as some fans are concerned) with the initial phase of ‘points mean everything’ behind us, Super League guaranteed, the chance of getting anything out of the Super 8’s gone and five games of pressure free rugby ahead, I approached this game more relaxed and pretty philosophical and left the KC thinking that it was, for entertainment value at least, just about as good as it gets without winning!! Although we didn’t get an unlikely win, we did get some thrills, spills and excitement and the League leaders must have left at least knowing that they’d been in a game!

Some of our scores on Friday were simply top draw and executed to a level of perfection that had some round me saying, “Where the hell did that come from” as we showed some real pace and creativity in broken play, coupled with some great running on and off the ball. The offload by Downs that brought about Shaul’s try was superb and as good as it gets. As was the chip by Abdull to release Jamie again, this time on an arcing run to put Rankin in to grab a try that came after a passage of play that was just breathtaking to watch.

Invariably we tried it too much and swung the ball around when perhaps we should have got some field position first, but there is little doubt that we do possess the capability to entertain and we played some fine rugby. Of course as always with the FC it seems that we had to endure all that being counter balanced by errors like that stupid mistake from the short restart and those poor, wayward passes from acting half, which are the stuff the best team in the competition pounce on and turn to their advantage. In an ideal world I’d want us to continue playing as we did on Friday and at Saints, but be more like Leeds in the clinical way they do things and the way they are the ultimate predators when it comes to jumping on other team’s mistakes. However all that said, I do think that we have some pretty good youngsters, don’t you?

Sadly our flamboyance and refreshingly naive attitude led to the blunders as once again Leeds ‘did for us’ by what looked to those not in attendance like a comfortable margin, but hey, we took them a lot closer than many teams have this year and did it with 7 players in our ranks that have one way or another come through our much maligned and apparently failing youth set up! There has to be some hope for the future there; had the Hull FC academy got any sort of future at all!

The thinly veiled news that another two players had broken down in the ‘Captains Run’, (the last training session before the game) and that Tom Lineham’s ‘Buggering about’ had led to him being dropped, meant that it was with little hope that I walked to the game on Friday on an evening that was one of those rare occasions when the expression Summer Rugby did ‘what it said on the tin’.

Back in the mid nineties, with the advent of Super League, the concept of sitting in shirt sleeves throughout a game on a barmy summer evening is something that we always dreamed was the future for us fans. Gone forever we thought were the freezing cold days and pouring rain of those Boulevard winters, only for us to soon see them again manifest in Friday night games in May and June at the KC! In fact over the years it has proved that the reality rarely matched the vision, so it was great for once to enjoy a barmy summer evening at the KC. If it was pleasant on the terraces, it certainly looked hard going out on the field for both sets of players, as the heat took hold three quarters of the way through each half. In fact, in the second it was then that Leeds pulled away and dealt the killer blows thanks to a couple of blunders that were pretty hard to take at the time, but which were, on reflection, just par for the course when you’re an FC fan.
You see I could watch that sort of stuff every week no problem, but of course in the bigger scheme of things earlier in the season we have to get the points to stay in the top 8 and I suppose that has to come at a cost. However we must find a way to incorporate this new found panache and devil may care attitude into our play next season, because despite its leading to the inevitable mistakes which in the end usually cost us, the ‘throw caution to the wind’ stuff is great to watch and could bring a few fans back.

If we want to whinge, then for me at least, at the short kick off that led to his try Hall was miles in front of the kicker in the first place and for the breakout killer try from Tom Briscoe at 22-24, I thought he was so far into our line before the ball had left the acting half backs hands, he looked as if he was back playing for us! But that’s just sour grapes seen through my black and white spectacles and on the night we were undoubtedly beaten by the better team. However when you step back and look at it all again, we at least kept coming back and hung in there really well which has to give us the long suffering fans a bit of hope for the future.

We made the mistakes that cost us…… again, but with the season all but over for us, I don’t think, this time at least, we should let them detract from another promising display where it was great to see that the youngsters heads never went down and as we have seen so often in the Under 19’s this year, (and again on Saturday) we kept coming back at Leeds to prevent the opposition getting the sort of ‘roll on’ the Rhino’s got in the other two games we played at the KC against them this term.

Sadly though, unlike against Saints the week before, Leeds proved that they are the best team in the competition and put us away quite comprehensively in the end, but as I said earlier it was an entertaining encounter despite us contributing to our own downfall with some shocking mistakes, while the Rhino’s were aided and abetted by a referee that produced some baffling decisions at times; but then again that’s nothing new either is it?

Still we had a real go and it would have been hard to find anyone beforehand who would have backed a 6-6 score line at half-time as the older heads provided a steadying hand for the youngsters who again threw caution to the wind and entertained us with some great off the cuff rugby.

Leeds are without doubt a fine team and a well drilled outfit that play some clinical rugby. They wait and wait for their chance to pounce, which when it comes is grabbed with both hands. That ability to find a way to win when under the cosh is something we lack, but it’s a facet of their game which we have to strive to perfect, because although it’s a much used phrase, we are not that far off at all really!

Mark Minichello; absolutely amazing both in effort and desire!

Leading the way on Friday was Mark Minichiello who had another superb game and was again my Man of the Match. After a brilliant step he ran a wonderful line for a try which rocked Leeds back straight after they had opened the scoring and from then onwards he was into everything in attack and a real rock in defence. He must be up there as the best second rower in the competition at present and is just great to watch. I also thought that on his long awaited return to the first team Jamie Shaul was a big hit too. He is an exciting player who looked dangerous every time he had the ball. I remember as Downs produced an exceptional off load under our sticks I strained to see who was haring off down-field but once I saw it was Shaul I knew that it was try time, because in those situations no one catches him do they? He is an exhilarating player to watch with the ball and a safe pair of hands under it too! He also showed again a great ability to hold players up over the line and when the full back position is his next season then I think we can look forward to Jamie having a bright future at the Club! It does of course pose the question of why has he been kicking his heals on the touchline for so long though doesn’t it?

Once again Abdull shone out as another one for the future and the more game time he gets the happier he looks in the half backs. Quite frankly he simply plays without fear and expresses himself whenever he has the ball in his hands. He launches the spinning high bomb like a siege gun and has a real eye for picking out the supporting player that is in the biggest ‘hole’. If it were earlier in the season and Pryce was coming back from his injury, I would be very disappointed if he marched straight back into the first team at the cost of Abdull, because there is little doubt that (as Arthur Bunting once said of Wayne Proctor), “If they’re good enough in the first place, the longer you play ‘em the better they get”

Now to Dean Hadley who I have to say has been much maligned in here at times and a player that I couldn’t really see what all the fuss was about really. That is, I couldn’t until Friday when I thought he had his best game in the irregular hoops and was a revelation. He worked his socks off, ran well with the ball and broke the line constantly against some top class marker defence. He copped a late head shot (which went unpunished) in the build up to Rankin’s try and so was in the wars again after just returning from concussion, but all of a sudden, finding his place in the team in real danger from the incoming players for 2016, he pulled out a magnificent performance that tended to make this fan think again!

Back where we seem to belong in these Leeds games…behind the posts!

I want as well to talk for a minute about Danny Houghton who’s shocking bobbling, bouncing pass (in an attempt to find Feke on a run to the line) led to that killer try by Briscoe. OK we have talked about his distribution before, which I still feel is effected by fatigue and playing to many minutes anyway, but it’s a shame that his display was tarnished by that occurrence, when just two minutes earlier my pal Jeff sat next to me had commented on the amazing amount of work that he had got through. There is interest from Leeds in our number 9 and its strong interest I’m told, but I sincerely hope we hang onto him, because for all his, at times, wayward passing he’s a human dynamo who gets through a mountain of work, organises the team in the middle of the park and who simply bleeds black and white!! However I think that despite his liking for playing 80 minutes we should be spelling him with a ‘different’ sort of hooker off the bench. I asked the Club why they didn’t sign one in this latest batch of players and was told there are few if any around of the quality we would need. I still look back with great affection to the days of Aaron Heremaia and how we shoved him on from the bench to spell Danny, predominantly it seemed, because we couldn’t decide what else to do with him and how his contrasting style really complimented Danny’s play. I thought when Aaron played off the bench we saw the best of Houghton at 9.

SPORT...with Paul Clarke, 21/08/15  :  Hull FC v Leeds Rhinos, held at KC Stadium, Hull.  Pictured, Mark Minichiello Picture: Jerome Ellerby first half

SPORT…with Paul Clarke, 21/08/15 : Hull FC v Leeds Rhinos, held at KC Stadium, Hull.
Pictured, Mark Minichiello
Picture: Jerome Ellerby
first half

That’s all Folks!! Briscoe scores the killer try and we were at last beaten!

So there we are an entertaining game with not much to play for and another defeat to Leeds, but on this occasion perhaps just a sign that we are starting to get there, although as I have often said in here, as FC fans we have seen more false dawns than most!

On Saturday I took in the almost tropical surroundings of the YPI to watch another great display by our Under 19’s who, with 8 players missing through international duty, injuries and first team call up’s and with the heat taking its toll on some of our younger additions, eventually did for an experienced and feisty Castleford outfit. The senior players like Callum Smith, Reece Dean and Jansen Turgot had to step up, as despite trailing 24-26 with ten minutes to go, we found another gear and came out victorious 36-26. Back from injury Reece Dean got 16 points and took control of things after he lost his half back partner Harry Tyson Wilson to injury. He took it upon himself to grab the initiative and went on to star in a gritty display that saw us twice come back from behind. The second surge back into the lead, which was in the last ten minutes, came through a try that followed a telling off load from Ross Osborne which found prop Masimbaashe Matongo, who galloped in for a great score. A year ago in here I raved about him when he made his debut against Rovers and he is one for the future without doubt! Reece Dean then finished off the scoring with a wonderful stepping score under the posts and everyone went home happy if not a little scorched.

I guess that this week it seems appropriate that a lot of my thoughts have been steeped in the afterglow of that win at Saints, with the off the cuff rugby we played and even more with the showing of our youngsters who stood in so well. Several readers of the Diary who contacted me this week talked a lot about Jordan Abdull and the way that his pass to Tom Lineham (which cut out our players and the Saints defenders as well), was in the style of Paul Cooke. This week our 19 year old half back (or loose forward) confirmed the thoughts of those fans too, when he alluded to the fact that he went against his ‘rugby league barmy’ mother’s advice when she told him to model himself on Kevin Sinfield, because as a young man she thought he shared more than a passing similarity to the Leeds player. But, you don’t listen to your Mother do you?

This week in an excellent article in the Mail Jordan said, “My mum always used to drill into me that if I could be anything like Kevin Sinfield then I would be going a good way, but Paul Cooke probably epitomised what I needed to be. He was a loose-forward combined with a stand-off sort of player and he made it work for himself. Cookey obviously brought success to the club and I think I try and model my game on him now.”

Like the other lads, who’ll I’ll talk about in a minute, Jordan loved that victory because like all of us lot, he first and foremost an FC fan. He said of the victory, “I have been Black and White through and through all my life and it is overwhelming to be honest to be starting now for the team, when I’m at the KC Stadium walking out onto the field and I see all the Black and White shirts in the stands its amazing”. That for this fan, who seems to have been watching the Club since the days when we were all running around with bows and arrows is still, after all this time, all I want to hear.

The same feelings are also extended to young Brad Fash, who was certainly elated as well last weekend after his own excellent showing at St Helens. He was so proud to be involved in what was a quite amazing win and afterwards he said that he believes the group of Under 19s players in the first-team can continue to excel and are getting better all the time. He cited the fact that they are a close knit bunch of guys who have used an almost life-long association to develop their understanding on the pitch while all the while their friendship off it, continues as strong as ever. Brad said after the game, “We’ve continued to develop a better understanding of each other; we’ve known each other since we were kids so we all know what we’re going to do more or less all the time. We’re all there for each other as we’re a close knit-group of mates. I want to play every week. I want to be with the boys and in the team, whether that’s on the bench, 18th man, or even in the starting team. I just want to be there for the lads and I want to play rugby for Hull FC.”

That comment was followed by Jack Downs saying of his Super League debut in the same game, “I’ve played with Abbo and Brad since I was a kid, so we all know how each other plays, I think it worked really well on Friday night. If you’re a Hull FC lad you’re even more determined to play well for this club”.

You see as I say, that’s what I want to hear as a fan! It’s the sort of camaraderie and bonding that people like Andy Last, Steve Crooks and more latterly Richard Horne have, over the years, worked so hard to develop and something there has always been amongst the younger players whenever I have been in their company. I wonder if that final comment both players made about wanting to play rugby for Hull FC reflects the feeling I’m hearing from other academy players whereby the youngsters lament the end of a Hull FC junior team and the advent of the new City wide academy set up. I think Abdull will make it in a big way and I hope it’s here at my Club, although for me the jury is still out on both Fash and Downs, simply because it’s much too early to judge them, but cometh the hour cometh the hero and they were all that at Saints.

Those lads joined Hull FC because it was their team. We are told that we will see better player development and better quality juniors coming through the new set up and I guess on that one we will have to wait and see. However I seriously wonder if we will see that same sense of loyalty to each other, the FC brand and the fans, that we now get from these kids. Let’s face it if they are lucky enough to get into the new academy anyway (and they all won’t) then our great crop of youngsters who have shown up so well this year against the lauded youth set ups at Wigan, Leeds, Saints et al, will from next year, be training and learning with what they have been brought up to believe are the mortal enemy!

So, as if to prove the point many of you are already making to me about ‘what exactly do we get out of all this’, on the same weekend as we were playing three of our current outstanding talent pool in a win against the current League Champions away from home, Rovers were playing Halifax in the middle 8’s with 5 loan signings (or was it 6) in their 17 man squad. So much for their youth’s set up at present then!

You’re fed up of me going on about it and I apologise for so doing, but it’s been so badly handled and just keeps raising its head as it did last weekend with the youngsters’ showing at Saints. However, putting aside our obvious hatred of all things red and white it just seems such a bloody swizz. As I have said all along, for me Rovers certainly have plenty to gain from this new set up and although I know I bang on about it, can anyone tell me, as the youngster keep coming through to make their debuts in the first team, what exactly will we be gaining from this merger besides an obvious saving in costs? I honestly can’t see it producing more or better youngsters than our current academy would do, can you?

There is a lot of talk at present about ‘Frank the Tank’ and Manu ‘The Wrecking Ball’ coming next season and the mouth watering prospect of them joining up with Houghton, Mini, Wattsy and Ellis in what should be a great pack to watch, but for me the big plus could well be the arrival of Scott Taylor and I think, (on a four year contract which will take him to 29), he is a brilliant acquisition. I’ve watched him quite closely this season whenever I could and even noted the lamentations of the Salford fans who have him on loan at the moment and who would dearly love to have him stay. When you look at his OPTA stats up to last weekend they are certainly mighty impressive. He has made 2468 yards in a total of 321 carries, made 718 tackles, conceded just 8 penalties and made only 5 errors. At just 24 he could well be the mainstay of our pack for years to come, he loves the Club and his family told me a while ago that he sees his signing as ‘coming home’. With Watts and Taylor upfront we should have a brilliant starting front row and a pair of props that could well be the combination that will feature for England in years to come.

While we are on stats, it was great to see that last week in the official team of the week the loose forward was the much maligned Joe Westerman who had a great game at Saints. He got in the elite squad (along with Curtis Naughton) as he made two breaks, bust four tackles and scored a try. He got through 37 tackles, made 13 carries and did not concede any errors or penalties at all. The challenge for Joe, who obviously has the talent but a wayward reputation off the field, is now to do that on a consistent basis. For me he has some way to go with that one, but it was good to see him get some recognition.

My quote of the week this time around has to go to Lee Radford in his post match comments at St Helens when he was talking about how well Curtis Naughton had done in the second half after what was a rather shaky first 40 minutes. Our Coach said, “He made a couple of crazy errors in the first half against Saints. The play two kick he produced in the first half was crazy and I’ve never seen anything like that in my life before. If you could have got a picture of Marc Sneyd’s face when Curtis put that kick in, you could put it on the mantelpiece to keep the kids away from the fire”

So what do you make of the Super 8’s then? Well, whatever else, it’s certainly not attracting the crowds in the numbers that the game must have hoped for, is it? Last weekend attendance figures were certainly poor. Saints got just 10,000, Leeds did well as usual but there were just 4000 at Salford, 5000 at Cas and 4000 at Huddersfield while as an aside, expansionism isn’t working either as down at the bottom in the pile there were 235 at Oxford and 135 at Hemel Hemstead. So for me the big question (besides the one about expanding the game being a blooming waste of time and money) has to be why the hell are we streaming games on line as well as showing them on Sky? Surely the Clubs have to realise that visiting fans are going to be cut to a very low level indeed if folks can sit and watch their team on a Friday night, playing at the other side of the Pennines on their computers!! The plan is apparently for eventually all Super League games to be covered one way or the other by the media, which for me is an absolute recipe for disaster! There are often now three Super League games televised every week so it’s easy to see how the other 3 could eventually end up being streamed isn’t it? Its blooming lunacy but having given Sky a ridiculously long contract to screen the game, the RL are now apparently powerless to do much about it!

However of even more concern has to be the format and structure of this Super 8’s set up, because for several teams in the top and bottom echelons of the play off completion, there is precious little to play for. Back in November last year in the second diary of that month I lamented the fact that the new structure would be great for Clubs who did well in the regular season and tough and yet exciting for those who didn’t, while it would be the ones who scrapped into the top eight or finished in the middle of the Championship that would have precious little to play for. I said then that if we were not careful we would end up with a system that was plastic, contrived and artificial and that’s exactly what we have now got.

This season the usual suspects finished at the top of Super League and far enough away in points from the 6th, 7th and 8th teams to ensure that those bottom clubs would have precious little to play for in the play-off Super 8’s. That is the conundrum really, because although it might suit Sky, who can pick two games a week that are ‘interesting’, in general people are getting fed up of seeing the same teams playing each other for the third or fourth time this year, when in effect there is little for us or Catalan to play for each week but ‘dead rubbers’. It’s starting to dawn on the Clubs and the fans that this isn’t really the ‘every minute counts’ stuff we were promised and that it was perhaps a mistake to let the Super League Clubs in the top 8 keep their regular season points. That’s where the issue is and yet if you play 23 rounds and finish top then you need some advantage to take forward into the play-offs don’t you! You could offer the top Clubs home advantage over the lower Clubs and seed the draw, or you could scrub the points already attained and start the top team after 23 rounds on say 7 points, second team 6, down to 8th who would start on 0 with everyone’s point’s difference reset to 0.

This would mean that the 8th place side would only be 4 points from 4th place, which over 7 games is achievable, while it would also allow for an advantage to be retained for finishing as high as possible after 23 rounds. The problem is once you start buggering around like this then the whole thing becomes more and more complicated more and more contrived and more and more artificial, which is a real ‘turn-off’ for new recruits to the ranks of supporters and old hands alike. I’m not sure what the answer is really but it’s something I think that the Clubs will want to look at again, with the senior Clubs who finish in the top 8 carrying all their previously accrued points forward perhaps the main bone of contention for many!

While I’m on that subject, I see that the middle 8’s are turning out pretty predictable thus far and it’s certainly not the easy ride a couple of Championship Clubs thought it might be. The almost arrogant attitude of Leigh to the competition is seeing them fall on their faces and although Salford copped one at Bradford in general it’s all proving to be simpler than I thought it would be for the senior Clubs. The thing is of course the four failed Super League Clubs have more money to spend than the Championship leaders and so were signing up players in the run up to the split once they knew where they were heading, while the Championship clubs with less resources and indeed smaller salary caps couldn’t do that! Again it’s not really a level playing field at all is it and perhaps that’s something else that needs to be looked at too!

Victories against the Rhino’s are rare indeed these days, although in the past they were the one team against whom we were always able to raise our game and whatever the circumstances the one club against whom we were able to somehow get a most unlikely victory, whatever our own circumstances at the time. That scenario started back in the 60’s and continued until the early 90’s. So I thought, although I have many memories and there are many such games scattered across those 4 decades, this week I would feature one such victory right at the end of that great ‘Leeds beating’ era.

This week I want to go back to the 1991/92 season when that whole, amazing, Brian Smith dynasty began to unravel. It had been a tough closed season for us FC fans after all the euphoria and rejoicing of winning the Premiership Final at Old Trafford the previous May and although the club registered record sales of season tickets, something had gone radically wrong with our finances. We had seen Karl Harrison depart for Halifax for £100,000 and Patrick Entat return to France having been unable to settle on a new deal with the club. We had brought Ronson and Portlock in from Australia, but little did we all know that this featured game was to be the last one, (for a while at least) that we would have the great David Kirkwood as our Chairman, for he was to be deposed a few days later as (as so often happens) a new Board displayed a knee jerk reaction to a worsening situation.

On Sunday 15th September a good gate of 8,255 attended the Boulevard for the visit of Leeds. Well it was good when you consider that we hadn’t won a Division One game thus far, having lost heavily to both Leeds and St Helens, and we were bottom of the table. This week though we had a chance of revenge over a Leeds side that had thrashed us the week before, as we played then again at home in the first round of the Webster’s Yorkshire Cup. Thankfully for everyone there that day the late Greg Mackey, who had himself been struggling to secure a new deal before the season started, chose this game to come back to form. What a great player he was. We also had Wayne Portlock playing his first game at Stand-Off, whilst Jon Sharp and Richard Gay returned from injury. Leeds came to town with the tabloids ‘nick naming’ them ‘The Millionaires of Rugby’ because they had spent a fortune on building a team that included Goulding, Bentley and Herron, as well as ex FC heroes, Garry Schofield and Gary Divorty. Also included was new signing Ellery Hanley who had breezed into Headingley the previous week for a staggering £225,000, to be immediately be made captain.

The game started with two massive sets from both sides as both packs of Forwards tried to get an early foothold in the oppositions half. Steve Durham felled Maskill with a real haymaker of a tackle though, and after just 3 minutes the nuggetty hooker converted the penalty and Hull FC were 2-0 down. Back came the Black and Whites as winger Chico Jackson was proving again to be quite a revelation coming inside twice to help out his forwards, and on one of those occasions breaking a tackle by Heugh, and scrambling thirty yards down field, handing off would be tacklers as he went. It was in fact on Chico’s third sorte down the middle, that he was hit late on the ground by O’Neill, and from the penalty Eastwood hit a brilliant goal to level the scores. Portlock who had only had one training session with the lads, after landing from Australia, was showing up well particularly in defence, where he constantly blotted out the threat that Schofield posed at 6.

The Aussie broke free after 26 minutes and nearly engineered a try for centre Brian Blacker before the ball went to ground and the chance was lost. O’Neill was certainly marking Mackey’s card too and the big second rower swung a punch at Greg as he sidestepped past him and Eastwood converted the penalty again for us to lead 4-2. As half time approach you had to wonder how the two sets of forwards could keep up the aggression and passion they were showing, but after a good set of drives from Leeds’ players Maskill, Dixon and Wane, Goulding stood back in the line and dropped a goal and with the first half try less, the two sides tramped off with the score board showing 4-3 to Hull.

The Airlie Birds came out fired up and after Ellery Handley had juggled a ball from second rower Dixon, before dropping it, we at last scored a try. Mackey hoisted a stunning ‘Bomb’ that seemed to stay in the sky forever. When it came down, the first player to get to it was Steve McNamara, who fed Russ Walker and our second rower crashed in for Eastwood to convert and at 10-3, we all started to believe that perhaps it was going to be our day. As so often happened back then though, it was to be that man Schofield who almost broke our hearts with a try in the 53rd minute. Portlock was working well with Mackey and Sharp and on several occasions his flat ‘Aussie’ style passes had put players into space, however he tried it once too often and of course in came Schofield to intercept and run 60 yards to score under the posts. At 9-8 we started to wobble a bit and then after Busby had allegedly been caught off side, Referee Mr Morris awarded a penalty and as Maskill steered it in from wide out on the right, we were trailing by one point 11-10 and wondering if the floodgates were about to open.

That last twenty minutes was played out in a white hot atmosphere, and the Hull players needed ‘nerves of steel’ to stop the marauding Leeds backs running away with the game. Two heroes that day were Durham and Walker and as they both pushed Leeds back time and again, they refused to panic and laid a platform that kept us in the game with a sniff of an upset.

Then in the 68th minute Mackey shot out of acting half. He drew Hanley and passed to Sharp, who found Lee Jackson careering through a gap in the Leeds line. As the ‘alarm bells’ rang in the visitors defence three players tracked back to nail our hooker on the 20 meter line, but as he went to ground guess who was on his shoulder? None other than Greg Mackey who had started the move! He had recovered from a half tackle and chased after the play before he caught that pass from Jacko and accelerated away from the Loiners defence to touch down for Eastwood to goal and the score to move onto 16-11. Amazingly that was it. Leeds threw everything at us in that last 11 minutes but our will power and belief saw us home. True Handley, Schofield and Goulding all went close, but Hull’s tackling was simply superb and as the final hooter went, Crusher Cleal ran onto the field to congratulate his charges and we all gave them a standing ovation as the chants of “Spent a fortune won F*ck all…..Leeds……Leeds” and “Judas Judas what’s the score” echoed round the ground!

It was a great performance in a season that was to see us slip from the heady heights that had been set by Brian Smith, and that was to herald the start of a few tough years for the club, perhaps we should have kept the affable David Kirkwood as our chairman, who knows, but that afternoon we had beaten Leeds and as always that was all that really mattered….for now!

Well this season’s Cup final is next up on Saturday and quite frankly I couldn’t give a toss could you? The only advice I would give to all the demented Dobbins fans who read this (besides get a life) would simply be ‘Enjoy it’. However that’s where any feelings of empathy, from this fan, stops completely. Personally I hope Leeds smash ‘em! But, I have to say that much as I don’t like it, I feel in my bones that a Rovers win might just be in the stars! That’s the way sport works, it has a certain sort of ‘cause and effect’ about it and we can have few complaints, because that flow went our way at Cardiff! Sometimes, however much you deny it, in your heart of hearts you feel that things are moving with a certain sort of ‘karma’ and Leeds would do well to mark that trend too and be on their guard. Next Saturday perhaps I’ll be sat there in front of the TV with my “Leeds for a Day, FC for Life” T shirt on and cheering on the Rhino’s, but only if I can even be bothered to watch at all; there’s other things to do, my hair to wash and netball on Sky!

You see for me, it’s no good saying, “If they were playing in the back garden I’d draw the curtains” and then watch them in the front room, even if it’s through primrose and blue spectacles and from behind the settee. It would be just our luck if our ‘new academy partners’ won wouldn’t it and believe me if that happens, we’ll never hear the bloody end of it, so we can just keep everything crossed and hope against hope that Leeds don’t freeze. More fortunate folks have taken their own precautions and my pal who works in a Hessle Travel Agency told me this week that he has seen literally dozens of people who were desperate to get away altogether and out of Hull for the weekend.

The only thing that is for certain is that the Diary will be back again next time, so a massive thank you to everyone who has read it this week and for all your correspondence and encouragement, we are regularly getting around 2,500 readers at present which is pretty amazing and extremely humbling! Thanks again for you faith and support!

This week we’re all ‘marching on together’!!

Keep Believing!

Faithfully Yours