The Dentist’s Diary – 480th

What a quite amazing performance that was!!!! Aren’t you proud? Because I certainly am!!!

If I were to have one initial thought it would be that I am so pleased for Adam Pearson, for at long last all his investment, patience and all those months of frustration, look to be in ‘danger’ of being rewarded!!

Our owner would of course say that two swallows don’t make a summer and two games don’t make a season, but boy, come the early season break had any one of us been offered 15 tries from 10 different scorers, 80 points scored against 6 tries conceded and never having been behind in 160 minutes of rugby, We’d have snapped their hand off!! It was a result that as far as the margin and the performance was concerned was way above my wildest dreams. Yet there was so much more about it than the tries, because our control, tenacity, defence and game management for the full 80 minutes did at times make me wonder if I was really watching Hull FC!

So, well done to Lee Radford for an almost perfect game plan, well done to Adam Pearson for paying for a charter flight, well done to Jamie Shaul for sacrificing the chance to be at the birth of his first child, well done to every member of the 17 man squad on duty and a massive well done to the fans who made the unseasonal trek to Catalonia!! Those of you who went should be congratulated for your efforts and as far as I’m concerned you all deserve a bloody medal!

So I guess for me, the players richly deserve their 4 days off while for us lot, wherever you watched that brilliant victory in Perpignan, isn’t it’s great to be an FC fan at present!!!

On a personal note I didn’t go, I’d been in London all week, taking in some live music and doing my best to push the worries of the weekend trip to France to the back of my mind, but as Saturday came around all the old trepidation was back as I wondered if the bubble would burst, could it be just another false dawn and would we flop in Catalan as we have so many times before? Let’s face it you have to look back to 2010 to find our last victory there.

You see, it’s still a bit that way for this fan I’m afraid, however slowly but surely this team is actually beginning to win me round and bringing my confidence back. Catalan for all their big signings, ‘referee baiting’ crowd and dubious video officials, just couldn’t hack it and were a beaten and beleaguered outfit well before the end. Still, despite that we pressed on and despite a couple of disallowed tries we never gave in and there was no last quarter collapses this time around!!

Unlike some of you who made the trip, I’m afraid I’m not that good a fan and therefore, like many more who are reading this rubbish around the world this morning, I watched at home firstly from behind the settee, then from behind a cushion, before I found myself finally standing cheering and applauding at the TV. You know, for all its shortcomings with commentators, the fact that Sky still broadcast every Catalan home game live here in Great Britain is a real godsend for those who can’t, for whatever reason, get there.

As a Club, whatever had gone before, this season sees our coaching staff leaving no stone unturned as they prepare for the next game and our detailed planning and preparation is so far paying off handsomely. We now have some strong leaders with strong personalities and they are the people we will look to when it comes to settling the rest down confidence wise, whether things are going well, or not.

However teams will be looking to ‘find us out’ and we won’t win every game, every time, however confident and well prepared we are. This time we went to Catalan at a great time of year, but because it was cooler and earlier in the campaign the minus side to that was that we didn’t take so many fans and the Frenchmen’s celebrating their 10th anniversary couldn’t have come at a worse time either, as they had over 10,000 baying fans there booing every refereeing decision that went against them. So, it was always going to be a big ‘ask’ and as tough a game as we will face all season; however we need not have worried really need we?

In the coming weeks, our current financial situation means that we as fans must do everything we can to support what is, whatever the results, the best squad we have had for years. Once again this week, the little touches made all the difference as Adam Pearson stumped up again and chartered a jet to take the team out on Friday and back straight after the game. That was the option they decided upon rather than the usual palaver of travelling over to Manchester or Liverpool to fly to Barcelona, before getting a three and a half hour transfer from there all the way to Perpignan. Some Clubs still persist with the 3 day trip, while Leeds have tried ‘there and back’ in a day, which hasn’t so far worked either. Radford therefore went for a different approach and when it was a financial ‘toss up’ between going on pre season camp abroad or hiring a plane for a charter to the actual game in France, it was the latter he went for. Again as last week for Salford, in very different circumstances, our planning was still meticulous!

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Flying high on the way back!!!

However these arrangements probably suited Mark Sneyd better than anyone because he had a back spasm in the ‘Captains run’ at National Avenue on Friday and was declared to be doubtful. He would not have played at all had he been stuck for hours sat up on a bus, but the new arrangements meant he was able to get to Perpignan and get loads of rehab beforehand. In the end, he didn’t just play in the game, he blooming starred in it! With our financial state still remaining a concern, everything has to be thought out in advance and weighed carefully against cost benefits, so it’s great to see Pearson is still putting the team first and foremost above all other economies; and long may that continue!!

So it was that at 5-00pm on Saturday that I and thousands of other FC fans across the region and the world settled down (as much as we could be settled) to watch a game, which I hoped would, if nothing else, be a good measure of how we were coming together as a team. Beforehand I had perused the opposition and their strengths and decided that they had a quality squad and if I’m really honest, ‘I of little faith’, expected them to perhaps have too much for us on a hard pitch in a partisan and intimidating environment. Looking back in the afterglow of a great performance, I guess that I actually ended up watching what was arguably the best display I’ve seen in years.

Some would say that the Dragons were off the pace, but I honestly believe that for once we actually blew them away. You see, having watched a rather pedestrian game between Wigan and Huddersfield the night before, I was pretty amazed by the momentum of the Dragons and indeed the way they went about ‘pulling us’ around in the first quarter. Their ruck speed was great, but it was also assisted by us giving them too many penalties.

We had to counter that start and hang on for dear life to keep in a game in which the home side had pinned their hopes on a fast start blowing us away. We survived by matching their verve, exchanged scores, and then cut loose ourselves and sheer determination from Mini in the lead up to a superb try by Manu and some brilliant ‘soft’ hands by Ellis for Logan’s try, were for me the highlights of our 4 first half scores.

However when we were leading by 12 at half time that early Catalan line speed and quick play the ball was still a concern, because they are such a good team out of the blocks and in the past they have been renowned at home for never giving up in front of their partisan fans. They would receive a right bollocking at half time and would surely come out firing again. However by three quarter time we had them beaten and had shut the home fans up completely, while, as the FC fans sung their hearts out in Catalan, back home in front of the TV sets there was plenty of silence too, mostly from us lot; the gobsmacked onlookers!!!

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Looking happy to be back Gareth Ellis scored a great try!

The thing that struck me most from early on was, despite not seeing much of the ball, just how clinical we looked on attack and how much sharper we were when compared with last year. Later when Pryce was off, our game management was exceptional and Sneyd played an absolute blinder in that period. There is a new heart and a new determination about the place and as has been the case in the previous two games, we looked pumped for the battle from the off, in fact I thought as the game wore on we grew in stature, if that was possible.

If the first half saw us wrestle the initiative away from the Frenchmen and hammer our advantage home that second half was just awesome in that we never ‘took our foot off their throats’ and as Watts, Bowden, Ellis and particularly Taylor owned their front row, Frank, Thompson, Minichiello and Manu sorted the fringes and everyone played their part. It was a fine, fine performance that has really made the rest of the game of Rugby League sit up and take notice!! I bet they also all noted that brilliant Taylor tackle in the second half to force a drop out too, because it just epitomised what we are about these days and Taylors brilliant ability to get a string of penalties by getting up quickly in the tackle won’t have been missed either!

There is a pattern developing however, because there is little doubt that our strength in depth from the bench is starting to emerge as a massively deciding factor. Like the Rovers and Salford games we dominated the second quarter when we pulled away, before coming out and pushing the score further out after the break. This time however there was no taking the foot off the gas in the last few minutes as we ploughed on and destroyed the Dragons, in fact only a couple of missed conversions and some bad luck with the whitewash ensured that the Dragons avoided a much bigger humiliation.

Jamie Shaul once a bit of a ‘black sheep’ in the squad, has matured no end of late and he even declined the chance to stay behind as his partner Chloe was about to give birth, citing the fact that he, “Didn’t want to let anyone down” His smile was almost as big as Franks when he scorched away to end a 90 yard effort that completely sunk Catalan and he is deserving of very special mention for both his performance and his loyalty; in fact well done to Jamie, Chloe and of course young Teddy!

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“That’s your Dad at the back”. Watching his first game with auntie!

As for the players, well they were all pleased and proud of Jamie too and former Catalans stand-off Leon Pryce led the tributes to his team-mate, tweeting: “Big shout out to @jamieshaul who became a father over night! Huge Commitment.”

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A real hero in more ways than one!

Talanoa, injury free and back to his best ‘Flying Dustman’ form had a great game, as did Carlos in the centre with the latter quickly developing into the find of the season. Several FC fans, me included, were left disappointed last year when we missed out on Krisnan Inu, but Carlos completely eclipsed him on Saturday, when there was simply no contest!

At the other side Logan is still learning in defence, but showed his class when he scored a great try as he dissected the home defence in great style. Michaels too played his part and never let us down when targeted by the high ball early on. However once again, as I say, the turning point of a tight first half seemed to come with the introduction of Frank the Tank and Bowden, coupled this time with the return of Gareth Ellis! Once those three were on, Pryce and Sneyd seem to step up a gear and it’s them and Danny Houghton that are really making us tick. Bowden has got over his personal issues and is really blossoming into a brutal battering ram of a player this time around. Once the game was won, we took Houghton off after another great showing, but on came Washbrook and nothing much changed, which was so heartening to see, as the intensity remained high and we went on to ‘nil’ the home side in the second half!!

Hull FC's Fetuli Talanoa and Salford Red Devils' Justin Carney during the First Utility Super League match at the KC Stadium, Hull.

A great game!!

I guess on reflection we didn’t as much win, as outplay the home team in every department and who would have thought 4 weeks ago that I’d be writing that. In fact for only the second or third time in the 10 year history of this waffle, I’m in danger of running out of superlatives.

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The FC Army on tour; and well done to you all!!!

It was a fine display and perhaps in hindsight better than we could ever have hoped for, whilst almost as important as the win, was the fact that we got no new injuries either. You know in sport you’re constantly told that you’re only as good as your last win, but for the next 10 days lets all wallow in the reflective glory of an immense performance and as good a start to the season as we have seen for years. Oh and the St Valentine’s Day massacre at Warrington is worth a smile or too as well, don’t you think? Then, bring on Castleford who like the rest of the league will have watched that performance and scratched their heads a bit!!

Of course we’ve done nothing yet except started well, now we have to kick on and do it again and again as other teams start to realise what they are up against and try to prepare a plan to negate it!!!

Well, that’s enough of that and perhaps now I have to close the Thesaurus at the ‘Amazing’ page and try to get back down to earth a bit. Firstly from the week gone by, I want to extend a big well done to Acklams the coach company from here in Beverley. They have of course been staunch supporters of the Club for ages and are still our official travel providers too. This week they took delivery of our brand new designated Coach which is branded throughout and contains all the latest in ‘on journey’ entertainment! It’s just another example of how we are trying to make sure that everything that can be done to make sure we prepare correctly is being covered, however in the end much will still be down to attitude and how the players approach each game, but so far they have excelled at that one too!

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Lee Radford admires the new branding!

We have as a Club done Ok thus far injury wise but we are always going to get them and Fornua’s is the first of what is likely over the season to be a string of mishaps. However there were, for me, some interesting elements to this one. Straight after the Salford game we were told that as far as our Coach was concerned it was nothing to worry about and that he wasn’t unduly perturbed about the injury. Four days later Lee was waxing lyrical and obviously relieved that after a scan, a consultation and a second opinion had been obtained, it was ‘only’ an issue that would keep our new winger out for 4 to 6 weeks, but that an operation would be needed.

Relieved?????? Well for me that smacks of us actually being very worried about the knee in the first place and therefore about the likely impact the injury would make on our wingers season. I just hope the prognosis is right and that Fornua’s rehab will see him back sooner rather than later. However as I said earlier, it’s a long season and even though it’s only round two and we are doing OK, injuries across the game are already starting to bite.

While we are talking of strange occurrences (and there have been a couple this week), what did you make of the strange case of the Under 23’s and the venue that these games will now be played at in future? I thought that it was unexpected in the first place that we were to open our home fixtures at Bishop Burton on the day after our Catalans game but as it was, we flew back the night before but then earlier in the week as we were all preparing to attend, the game was postponed and rescheduled to be played later in the year at our old stamping ground at Brantingham Park. Indeed all our new Under 23 games, with the exception of the double header with Saints, are to take place at the ground we abandoned a few seasons ago to move our junior operation to Bishop Burton. I know that Yeamo, Rich Whiting, Dean Hadley and a few of the others will see their frustration over not having a game growing by the day. From a personal point of view I like Brantingham and the set up there with the stand and the seating etc, but again it’s a strange one isn’t it?

The situation that developed last Monday with Curtis Naughton and the possibility of him going out on loan was an interesting one as well. Lee Radford has made no secret of the fact that he was open to loan deals for his players, particularly those who are on the fringes of the first team and so having seen the reaction Curtis displayed to being substituted against Rovers (when he appeared extremely reluctant to leave the field) made me wonder how long it would be before he was out on loan. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hasn’t already signed elsewhere for next season myself, but last week it was all systems go for a spell at the Giants. It did at the time seem strange that the Hull Daily Mail was trailing the possibility of a loan deal even after the Giants had taken Jamie Foster on trial that same morning; but by Monday afternoon the news broke that the deal for Curtis was off.

Officially the line was that our Coach had vetoed the move because of the injury to Fornua and of course that was the whole reason for having such a big squad and so much depth. The fact that Naughton had even got as far as a medical in West Yorkshire showed how far down the road things had gone but however much the lad needs some game time our requirements as a team have to come first. I expect he’ll still go out in future, now that Michaels has shown his worth.

Going back for a moment to French matters, it was interesting to hear that Toulouse Olympique have set themselves a five-year target as to their plan to join Catalans Dragons in Super League. The top French Club, who spent four years in the Championship before returning to the French league in 2011, will be back in the English competition in 2016 after being admitted to the Kingstone Press League 1. They will enter the Cup in the third round later this month, before getting their league campaign under way with a home game against Coventry on March 5. It’s an interesting move and with the ambitions of Bradford and Leigh already pretty obvious and just a twelve team top tier, it’s going to be mighty tight at the bottom before long and there will no doubt be casualties amongst the traditional top tier Clubs.

The big thing for me in all of this is, what happens when an established Super League Club gets relegated and how will the deposed Club manage finance wise? All their hard work on youth development, community involvement and player development will go to the wall because the demoted Club just couldn’t afford to do it anymore; some in fact struggle to deliver such things even when they are in Super League. So whether that demoted team can survive must be a big question, the answer to which we will never really now until the unthinkable happens.

Still the French team are intent on getting into Super League and their coach Sylvain Houles, who played with Huddersfield, London Broncos and Wakefield said last week, “The long-term aim is Super League and in the short term we have to get to the Championship as quickly as we can, We need to win our league his year. We don’t want to put ourselves under pressure but we would have to bring in new players to compete in the Championship. We have to be realistic; there are full-time teams and a lot of quality teams in the Championship and so we would have to compete. It is a tough competition, we’ve been there.”

Houles was speaking at Monday’s season launch in Manchester via Skype from Marrakesh, where the club are continuing their preparations with a series of team-bonding sessions which included camel rides and quad bikes. Not bad for some eh? The future will certainly be interesting and the thing to ensure I think is that you don’t get relegated, because whatever the RL say the way back will be a long one and perhaps something some will never get through at all! Sadly of course sooner or later someone will fall through the relegation trap door and then all will be revealed!

Much of course is still to be placed at the door of a system that sees 4 Clubs out of 12 as potential relegation candidates. As you all know by now, I remain pretty open-minded about the current format of domestic rugby league following last year’s restructure. At first I didn’t like it and our games in the top 8 at the end of last season didn’t help that perception, but I guess we’ll give it another year and see. As the RL pushed through the concept of the ‘middle eight’s’ and hailed it as a success, we whiled away the end of the season with little chance of anything but dead rubbers. And that as the bottom four Super League sides battled against the top four in the Championship for the right to be in the top flight in 2016 and the top three or four looked towards Old Trafford. In the middle bit however we just stagnated.

Yet no club was promoted or relegated and even with some adjustments Super League sides still have a significantly greater spending power on the salary cap. So was it a success or not….well who at this point really knows, as a brilliant finale to the top of the table somewhat negated the lack of movement between the divisions and the stagnation that occurred between 5th and 8th. I guess in the end we’ll just have to wait and see what happens this year, but with relegation and the possibility of a second French team breathing down our necks, Super League is destined to be a tight old place to play in years to come!

On a personal note and as I alluded to earlier I’ve had a full week and one that contained both the opposite ‘poles’ of my musical taste. We had a few days in London visiting Rosenberg Jnr. and took the opportunity to take in the doyen of 70’s Rock operas, as Jeff Wayne conducted a full orchestra and rock ensemble in a performance of his iconic ‘War of the World’s’. I just about wore out the vinyl of that one back in the late 70’s! Then on Thursday at completely the other end of my musical spectrum we went, for the first time ever, to the O2, to watch Pop Punk legends Good Charlotte and my personal favourites All Time Low. But, how about this!! With 10,000 in and the place absolutely bouncing I amazingly found myself standing right next to Cameron Diaz and Nicole Richie (They had to be pointed out to me though, otherwise I’d never have known!!!) and so it was a quite unforgettable night for yours truly.

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All Time Low at the O2!

The thing is of course about breaks like that, is that at times it’s just nice to occasionally get away from the week in week out soap opera that is British Rugby League and my full time obsession with Hull FC. However when I checked my phone as we headed for the tube after the concert, I really couldn’t believe that score line that came in from the Salford v Saints game. Sport Eh? You leave it for five minutes and it’s surprising you already!!!

So, quickly moving on from my perverse musical taste, “If there big enough there old enough” and “he’s a big lad but his mother loves him” were both two of Eddie Waring’s most famous catch phrases. However, it appears that those all embracing comments, that came from beneath a pork pie hat, have like so many other things, now been blown out of the water by the scientists! At least they have for youngsters anyway! What follows is I guess a reflection on just how scientific sport and particularly Rugby League has become, because last week we found out ‘after extensive research’, that bigger is now not always better for young rugby league players!! Research from Leeds Beckett University found youths who are bigger and earlier maturing at age 14 are less likely to become professional rugby league players in adulthood than their smaller peers. The study also found that playing positions affected how likely adolescents were to progress to elite or professional levels in the sport. For instance the report concludes that junior pivots were three times more likely to become professional players than junior props.

Lead researcher Dr Kevin Till, a senior lecturer in sports coaching at Leeds Beckett, is also strength and conditioning coach at Leeds Rhinos. He said: “Young players shouldn’t be pigeonholed into a certain playing position as our findings indicate that can limit their development and hamper their opportunities. Coaches need to look to develop all players’ attributes, rather than pick for certain positions on size alone at an early age” An international team of researchers tracked 580 youngsters who were chosen for the RFL’s talent development programme between 2005 and 2007. They found that, as well as player position, relative age affected their progression too. Players selected to the programme but born later in the annual scholastic year (May-July) were three times more likely to become professionals than those born earlier in the year (September-November). That last bits a tad hard to believe don’t you think?? But now you know!

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The new signs varnished and up on the shed at last!!

This week, in probably the longest Codgers Corner yet, I feature two games that for this fan at least encapsulate all the highs of expectation and excitement of being a fanatic with the ultimate ‘all time low’ of getting beat in the big one!!!! In 1988 the draw for the Challenge Cup semi finals was performed live on Look North and the bookmakers immediately posted a 20 point start for Hull over Cup favorites and very much in form, Halifax. Hull’s journey through the early rounds of that year’s Silk Cut Challenge Cup had seen us play out some of the easiest draws we have ever received, against Doncaster, Sheffield and Hunslet. Some poor performances had seen us dispatch Len Casey as coach, Smithy was still three months off and we were now under the guidance of joint caretaker managers, Keith Hepworth and Tony Dean. The week before the big semi, we had all witnessed that wonderful, wonderful, game against Wigan at the Boulevard that I featured a few weeks ago, that finished with that amazing 100 yard try which saw us win after the hooter had gone.

So on Saturday 28th March, we all went to Headingley with much excitement but the nagging fear of a drubbing and although we all felt at home as the FC Army took over the South Stand, it was certainly a big ask to expect us to beat a West Riding outfit packed with accomplished and powerful players. It was a sunny and breezy day and perhaps it was the chance of a place at Wembley that had really excited the FC faithful as we turned up in great numbers, making up at least two thirds of a 20,000+ gate.

From the first tackle it was obvious that this was to be an epic duel, where the going was going to be really hard. Carroll and Regan in our second row were crashed to the turf in quick succession and both were left shaking their head and needing attention after tackles from Holliday, Pendlebury and Neller in the Halifax pack. The first half was tense and nerve racking, because it was one of those games where so much was at stake. Twice Dane O’Hara broke away down the wing in front of us, only to be dragged back by desperate tackles by Eadie and Anderson, and then we witnessed a great break by Kevin Dick which saw an easy pass to Pearce go to ground when the move deserved better. But at half time the scores were locked at an unlikely 0-0.

The second half saw Halifax probably shave the exchanges, as with a massive pull in the scrums they started to press our line, although we still had our chances, most of which came from the impressive Divorty who broke down the middle on three separate occasions. Man of the Match Terry Regan also sparkled in the cut and thrust of a half that had us all on our toes one minute and biting our finger nails the next. Near the end Regan made a superb break down the left but lacked any sort of support and that was it for chances as both defences were at their supreme best.

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“Give us the ball!” Kevin Dick had a massive game.

Once or twice early in the second half Pearce had a good look at a possible drop goal but decided instead to turn the ball back inside, although the one point was to become a tactic that both sides contemplated towards the end, but the breeze had now increased to a wind and all attempts proved futile. As the final hooter went it was the Hull side that was celebrating whilst the Halifax coach Chris Anderson locked his team in the dressing rooms and gave them a right verbal lashing. So the scene was set for a replay at our ‘Lucky’ ground of Elland Road the following Wednesday night.

One of the major memories of that replay was the difficulty we all had getting there. No lessons had been learnt from the mayhem that existed several years earlier in 1982 when the Black and White hoards descended on the north Leeds ground for a Challenge Cup final replay against Widnes, and the experience that March evening was little different. 25,000 people filled the terraces that night, of which around 18,000 were from Hull. I just got into the ground as Pearce kicked off, but many others missed half an hour of the game because although they managed to get to the ground, the queues were horrendous, as the limited number of turnstiles that were open could just not cope. The problem had started with long tail-backs on the M62, but at the ground, a third of the 75 turnstiles were closed despite Hull FC making a much publicised offer that Monday to provide 12 extra turnstile operators. With 20 minutes to go to the 8-00pm kick off there were only around 5000 in the ground with about 10,000 stuck in traffic, whilst another 10,000 were still queuing to get in.

In the end the game kicked off at 8-10pm with hundreds still outside, and although some stand areas were full, folks were still being directed into them and women complained afterwards of children being lifted over turnstiles and squashed through gates, it was horrendous. We just got into the Kop end as the game started, but were constantly crushed as new arrivals tried to get in at the ends. How no one was seriously hurt is just amazing.

So eventually, and 10 minutes late, the game kicked off. For the first 26 minutes it was just as if Saturday’s game had never finished, as both sets of forwards locked horns and there were few running chances for the backs. In fact 106 minutes of the semi had passed before drives by John Carroll, Terry Regan and Alan Tomlinson saw the ball flipped back from Kevin Dick to Gary Pearce, who right in front of us slotted over the sweetest of drop goals, for the deadlock to at last be broken. Another 26 minutes of biff and bash and half time passed before Bob Grogan ran in front of Whitefield and referee John McDonald immediately indicated an obstruction. From the resultant penalty ‘Porkey’ slotted the goal, and our Wembley dream was alive; we were 3-0 up!

Halifax looked to be wilting, but then the unthinkable happened, as a bit of bad luck led to a ’Fax score. Two penalties took the West Riding outfit 60 yards down field, but we tackled heroically until they ran out of plays and it was the end of the set. Confusion reigned in the oppositions ranks as prop Nellar found himself with the ball, and all he could do was try a typical ‘Props Kick’ for the line. The ball shot off the side of his foot, bounced around a bit, and David Brooks the FC prop who was having a real barnstorming game, dived for it. Sadly though he was just not near enough to reach it properly, and as it trickled away from him and over the line, full back Paul Fletcher went to kick it dead. But then, from nowhere, up popped Halifax centre Anderson to get the lightest of touches to make the score. The referee was right on the spot, and before the days of video referee’s, he did not hesitate to give the try.

Suddenly from looking a beaten side Halifax grew in heart and confidence, whilst Hull were visibly shaken, and it took us a full ten minutes to get back at the leaders. We were penned back and lost our attacking pattern, but scrapped our way back into it. Dane O’Hara got a great ball from Patrick and stepped out of two tackles but was just scragged by the collar by Wilkinson as he broke away, substitute McCaffrey took it on, passed to Divorty but his last pass to Kevin Dick was too low and he could not take it in. In the last minute we all dreamed of another great last minute win as we had seen the previous week against Wigan.

Pearce suddenly found himself in front of the sticks with space and time for a drop goal to force extra time. As we all bayed for this, he feigned to do just that, but then, inexplicably, passed the ball to Scott Gale who brilliantly fed Eastwood who shot forward only to be tackled inches short of the whitewash and glory! All it now needed was a drop goal and we were set for it across the park as we put Pearce in the ‘pocket’ behind the attacking line, but as the 25,000 crowd held its breath, and before Eastwood had time to even play the ball, the hooter went and it was over. For the FC, the tears flowed both on the field and off it because, but for one charmed moment of luck for Halifax, Hull would have been at Wembley, and that after another massive and heroic defensive effort in which Brooks, Patrick and Regan stood out.

The journey home was all hold ups and traffic jams and was, in our car at least, conducted in absolute silence. There was a feeling of total and utter dejection which gripped the west if the City for several days after the game. However for the players there was no rest and two days later it was Good Friday, and we were off to Caravan Park. There, despite the disappointment and to the credit of a great team effort, we raised our game again, and beat the Dobbins 21-14 to ensure we stayed in the top division. But even that could not quite wipe away the sadness the replay loss had brought to us all. Sad times but great memories!

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Well what a week I’ve had!! There was first and foremost that great, great win, a baby for Jamie Shaul and lots of great live music, all topped off with a brush with a Hollywood star. It was great to hear this week from so many fans and hear everyone’s hopes for last weekend all of which, in the end, fell well short of what actually happened. Particular mention has to go to long time reader Steve Kirkwood who told me about a chat he had before the Salford game with that wonderful 60’s and 70’s servant of the Club Kenny Foulkes, thanks too to Bob, Stu in France, Harry Priestley and Sue Latham. Best wishes and good luck as well to my pals Mike and Sue!

It’s been a great week though hasn’t it and the performance and off the field preparation that preceded it has again been superb. They have done everything we could have asked of them and now we have to get everyone we can along to the KC a week on Thursday to keep the dream alive. Of course it’s on the TV and many will think about watching at home but we need a big crowd and a big atmosphere to reward the lads after such an amazing effort! The fans out there on the terraces are an influential ingredient particularly when the chips are down and we have to be there to do our bit. So after a performance that was simply nothing short of fabulous, it’s now down to us all to respond and get everyone we can to buy a ticket. Come on, let’s do what we do best and respond to the efforts of the lads thus far with another big gate and let’s pack the KC again against Cas!

Can we dare to dream???????????

Keep Believing

Faithfully Yours

Wilf