Sunday, February 11, 2018

Nottingham Forest 0-2 Hull City

It's 8:30pm on Friday evening, as our TUI 737 plane touches down on the East Midlands Airport runway, after a turbulent, near-on five-hour flight into 60mph winds. We're met with freezing temperatures after seven days of sun-kissed Canary Island blue skies.

Base camp was at the Hotel Bahia Princess, in the southern resort of Costa Adeje. Of course, we ticked a ground off; we always do. A 20 euros taxi ride saw us head up into the hills towards the small town of Las Zocas, in the San Miguel region, who were hosting CD Mensajero, a club based in Gran Canaria. It's the fourth ground I've visited in Tenerife (Tercera Division 12 Canary League). It was 8 euros in. We didn't bother with the raffle as the prizes were a bag of potatoes and a homemade Madeira cake, baked by Ronaldo's mum. The game was a cracker, with a last-gasp winner from UD Zocas sending the locals into raptures and more importantly towards a crowded bar, with celebrations set to run deep into the night.

We chilled out the rest of the week. Ms Moon very kindly booked a whale and dolphin watching boat trip and a one-hour full body massage, back at the hotel, for my 54th birthday. I stayed off the beer as Tenerife doesn't do real ale. Sadly, I overindulged on the Hendricks gin which resulted in a couple of gincidents. I bagged a bottle of the said gin in our resort, before foolishly packing it into my hand luggage to avoid any breakages. Security were having none of it, as the bottle showed up on the thermal image machine. It was confiscated, or as the blithering idiot of a guard put it, 'destroyed.' - yeah by you and your mate.

I ploughed my way through a couple of good reads from the safety of my sunbed. The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club, by former Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook (some cracking anecdotes in this book) and The Long Road From Jarrow by 6Music presenter Stuart Maconie.

It's Saturday morning and Ms Moon's birthday. It's teeming down with rain. We've already agreed that it's not worth the chase of a Non-League game, as few are going to survive this wretched spell of weather we're experiencing. After wolfing down a bacon cob, I wash a few pots whilst listening to Tim Sherwood on Five Live's Danny Baker Sausage Sandwich Game. Sherwood mentions that he went to China with Watford back in the day when Elton John owned the club. I saw Elton play a 45- minute set at our hotel on Thursday evening. After the final song I headed for the backstage to have a word in Elton's ear, as I'm still a bit cross on how he snared our manager, Graham Taylor, from Lincoln City back in 1977. Ms Moon saves my blushes by pointing out it's a tribute act and not the real person.

 I leave the Princess to catch up on Emmerdale, Corrie and Coach Trip: Road to Tenerife (she'll enjoy that one). We'll meet later in West Bridgford for dinner and drinks after the game. I jump on the No.25 bus outside The Doghouse pub (a punk rock and heavy metal venue) on Carlton Road. It's a bit grim at the bottom end of Sneinton. All the old classic pubs such as the Duke of Devonshire, Duke of Cambridge and White Lion have bitten the dust. Lower Parliament Street is just as bleak. It's littered with 'To Let' signs and washed out windows. Antibo, the Italian restaurant famous for two for one meals, is now a derelict building, having been closed for over six years.

I nip into Pandora, a jewellery store in Victoria Centre. I buy a couple of charms for Ms Moon's bracelet and a safety chain, before pegging it down to Arkwright Street for my first liquid refreshment of the day.

BeerHeadZ is a Grade II listed green and white painted 'Cabman's Shelter' to the right of the Railway Station on the corner of Carrington Street and Queens Road. I order up a pint of Auckland pale ale, crafted in Yorkshire. I get chatting to a couple of cheerful chaps from Bottesford and Bradford who are real ale aficionados.

I take a stroll up Arkwright Walk, through the Meadows, before crossing over Trent Bridge. Ten minutes later I clock a lanky streak of p**s walking in my direction. It's none other than Sticky junior (aka the 'Keyworth Georgie Best'). He sparks up a cigarette as we head towards the Main Stand turnstile. The boy has already had a few scoops with his pals at the Hubble Bar on Pavilion Road. His nerves kick in as he rolls-up another fag as I chat to 'Big Al' a friend and ex-work colleague. We're joined by Johnny Haslam, a Forest die-hard, born just outside Hull.

Kingston upon-Hull is a city in the East Riding of Yorkshire with a population of 260,000. The city suffered extensive damage during the Second World War (the Hull Blitz). It was UK City of Culture in 2017. Hull Kingston Rovers and Hull FC are well-known rugby league clubs that both play in the Super League.

Notable people associated with the city include: Paul Heaton and Norman Cook from The Housemartins, Roland Gift from Fine Young Cannibals, Mick Ronson, who was David Bowie's guitarist, poet and novelist Philip Larkin, actor Sir Tom Courtenay, actress Maureen Lipman, Roy North (Mr Roy from the Basil Brush Show), politicians William Wilberforce and John Prescott, aviator Amy Johnson (first person to fly solo from England to Australia), J. Arthur Rank from cinema fame and former footballers Nicky Barmby and Dean Windass.

Welsh-born rugby league winger Clive Sullivan played over 500 games for Hull KR and Hull FC. He died of cancer aged 42 years old. He was held in such high esteem in the city that a road was named after him that runs between the Humber Bridge and city centre (A63).

Hull City FC, nicknamed the Tigers, were founded in 1904. I used to love their old Boothferry Park ground. I went one Friday night, back in the day (1990) to watch Leicester City with Trumpy Bolton. The Foxes lost 5-2. Record transfer received for Hull is £12,500,000 from Southampton for the services of Ireland striker Shane Long. Biggest transfer fee paid out was £9,500,000 for Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez from Italian side Palermo.

I take my seat as the teams emerge from the tunnel - 'junior' has gone for another Heineken. I can't watch my football through beer goggles, unlike a beer-fuelled 'A' Block who are relentless and raucous. There's a rousing rendition of 'Mull of Kintyre.

Spanish manager Aitor Karanka is the latest incumbent in the electric chair. Forest's twelfth manager in just over five years, if you include caretakers. One win in nine League games has seen the Tricky Trees plummet down the Championship table. The goals have dried up too. There's no place in today's squad for highly-rated teenager Ben Brereton. Deadline day transfer activity at The City Ground made Harry Redknapp and Barry Fry look like novices.

Hull City and in particularly amenable manager Nigel Adkins have escalating problems of their own. No League wins in their last nine outings sees them hovering close to the basement. Forest start brightly, spurred on by the crowd. We're only seven minutes in when disaster strikes. Eric Lichaj hauls down Harry Wilson, on-loan from Liverpool. Jon Toral steps up to take the penalty only to see it brilliantly saved by Romanian 'keeper Costel Pantilimon. Celebrations are short-lived, with Toral making amends by nodding home from the resulting corner.

Matty Cash is unfortunate to see an effort, only minutes later, thump McGregor's left-hand post. The Tigers are lightning on the counterattack. They double their lead on 38 minutes with Wilson finishing off a wonderful four-man move at breakneck speed. A point-blank save from Pantilimon on the stroke of half-time saves Forest from further embarrassment.

The players' confidence is shot, as boos ring out, just like they did on my last two visits against Cardiff and Sunderland. Most of 'A' Block retreated to the bar on 38 minutes. Sticky junior joins them on 45 minutes. Not many are around to tap their feet to Justin Timberlake's 'Can't Stop the Feeling.'

There's further deterioration in the second half. Karanka has gone three at the back with Lichaj being hooked. It doesn't matter a jot as Hull control the game. Michael Mancienne and Ben Osborn bear the brunt of the crowd's frustration. Velios hasn't broken sweat and looks disinterested, despite being given a clean slate by Karanka. He is replaced by 34-year-old Daryl Murphy. There's little threat to the Hull goal.

There's been gallows humour in 'A' Block. They've poked fun at supporters in the Bridgford End and ridiculed the team - they've paid their money and take their choice. It turns to anger at the final whistle. Ben Osborn - 'one of their own' - perhaps naively begins to clap the crowd.  The few stragglers left turn on him with a volley of abuse. The boy has tried his hardest, it's just that nothing has come off. His performance has been sub-standard. At least he chose not to hide or shirk responsibility, unlike some others.

Nigel Clough will have the Brewers of Burton pumped up for next week's clash at the Pirelli Stadium. Defeat in Staffordshire for Forest will leave them to fight out another relegation scrap.

Attendance 23,098

Man of the Match: Nigel Adkins - spot on tactically. Exploited Forest's lack of pace.

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