Saturday 25th April 2015 – Crystal Palace 0 – 2 Hull City AFC
Premier League @ Selhurst Park, London
Some away days just feel like they were meant to be. It all comes together off the pitch and then behold it happens on it too. City’s trip to Palace at the back-end of a rather shitty April was just one of those days.
I have visited Selhurst Park many times previously – we’ve played them quite a bit since our elevation to England’s top two divisions – though I don’t remember much success in my visits there.
My first trip was in the 2005 / 2006 season when goals from Andy Johnson and Clinton Morrison (remember him?! Now at Exeter City) brought a newly promoted Hull down to earth in a 2-0 defeat.
After that, I’m sure I have seen other games (though obviously not memorable), but the most recent foray was our 1-0 defeat at the back-end of last term with the Pulis revival in full flow – McGregor was sent off, City looked crap (probably saving themselves for the cup final). The time before that was even worse – pushing hard for promotion, a quick fired Kevin Phillips hat-trick put City to the sword 4-2. A dire trip. Though both teams were promoted that season.
And so here we found ourselves. Palace safe some time ago, with Pardew claiming to be aiming for a top ten finish. And City. Well, City looked fucked, and were the choice of pundits everywhere to slide through the trap door. With a run that features Liverpool (H), Arsenal (H), (Fucking) Burnley (H), Spurs (A) and Man United (H) – it didn’t look good. We never beat Burnley. And it was straw clutching with the others – perhaps they would already have their minds on Withernsea beach?
This game was therefore ‘massive’ – something here, and we might have a chance. Might.
Selhurst Park is situated in deepest Croydon (it’s not really London) and you can reach it via a plethora of stations. As per the last umpteen trips, Ground Grab headed for Selhurst in search of a pre-match watering hole.
The last two visits to Palace had been at night – and straight from work – and I had not done any research! So finding a pub was a bit of a stab in the dark! Turning right out of Selhurst Station, I was expecting to find a famous Palace pub (from memory with caricatures of Lombardo and Coppell on the wall), but this it seemed had turned into a Co-op….
So we ended up in a perfectly agreeable Shepherd Neame number called the Two Brewers. We went in despite a sign on the door saying ‘No Away Fans’ – to be greeted by, a pub 90% full of away fans (but not in colours….)
Beer was good and the atmosphere friendly – though the decor ‘interesting’. As well as some Palace memorabilia, and the usual Shepherd Neame posters, there also seemed to be a lot of pickled animals and a fish tank. Felt a little like being in a 1970s front room…..
Two Brewers is about 10 – 15 minute walk from the ground. Selhurst Park is one of those grounds nestled between the houses that you don’t see until you are slap bang on top of it. The stewards had on previous visits frisked me like I was entering a maximum security prison and this trip was no different.
But that is where the moans about the ground end. Whilst old and a bit rickety, the place has real character. The concourse is small and cramped, but spills out into the outside (which when the sun is shining is great). Until last season the seats in the away end were still wooden – until recently cash strapped Palace have renovated it, but did the away end last. Fair enough!
The Hull support was large in number that day. Not only was this to be a crucial battle against the drop. But also the first opportunity to show Allam enough is enough.
“Support the team, not the regime.”
Since I last blogged about City, the multitude of sins committed by our custodians against the fans / City of Hull has increased ten fold. There was the FA Report into the last name change submission which slammed the club’s attitude towards fans as being irrelevant. Then there was the hike in season ticket prices (despite the increase in TV money). They have evicted a whole host of local sports teams from the Airco Arena adjacent to the KC Stadium, to make way for an indoor pitch for their millionaire staff (and held the local council to ransom in the process), and withholding £200k of Away Supporters Initiative cash and then those terrible T-Shirts at Southampton. And….a fresh name change application has gone in!!! Apologies if I have missed anything off…..!
I feel like I am on borrowed team with City sometimes – I stay loyal to the team, but if Hull Tigers does come into existence, then that will be it. Already having a ticket for the last game away to Spurs, Palace could have been the penultimate.
Palace’s fans ain’t bad. They have – a much derided – Ultras Section to the far left of the away end that make a lot of noise, though they do need a drum to maintain the effect. Pre-match they have a huge golden eagle diving about the place and the players enter the field to The Dark Clark Five’s ‘Glad All Over’ (and here are Palace singing it). To add to this, the away support were greeted with ‘Legends’ flags featuring, from what I could see Warren Joyce, Ian Ashbee and Dean Windass. I didn’t see many being waved – most of our lot content with chanting – but it was a nice touch. Hopefully not all the £200k was spent on these though….!
A minute’s silence was held before the game to mark the anniversary of the Bradford Fire Disaster.
And then it kicked off. City shooting towards the Ultras and taking the early initiative. It was a scrappy but feisty first half, with spells of dominance going from one side to the other. In honesty though, despite their claims to be going for a top ten finish, Palace, and their fans, looked like they were already on Brighton Pier. They were there for the taking it seemed.
In the second half they were taken. City continued to push and the breakthrough came in front of the City fans via N’Doye’s foot. 1-0. Total ecstasy in the away end. Much of the column inches this term have been on what a waste of money the likes of Di Maria, Falcao and Balotelli have proven to be. I hope in the season reviews, regardless of whether we stay up or not, Steve Bruce is praised for the signing of N’Doye. At c. £4m, his goals have been priceless. Fairly sure we would already be down without him.
Palace seemed to take the game back a bit after that, City running out of energy and ideas. Then it happened. On 85, Sanogo slotted home past Harper. 1-1. Or so it seemed. City fans were deflated. But then the boos from the home end. It had been disallowed!!! City had a free-kick. It was still 1-0!!! Buoyed by this City went for the jugular. And in stoppage time they slashed it clean open. N’Doye again. 2-0. Ecstasy turned into total pandemonium in the away end. Clattenburg had to pull the City players away from their fans such were the celebrations.
As the home stands emptied, cries of ‘We are staying up’ filled the Croydon skies. Full time. Three vital points.
But their goal should never have been disallowed. It was never a foul. Our fans knew it. Their fans knew it. Our players never protested. But so be it. Every team gets its share of bad luck – this feels like compensation for the overcrowded sick bay at City this season.
A disallowed goal may just have preserved City’s top flight status.
And what of the Anti-Allam protests? Despite the no-show on Match of the Day, I am pleased to say fan sentiment has turned against our ghastly and deluded owner. They were frequent and loud, but did not impair the support of the team. Well played City fans.
As much as I despise the Premier League sometimes, a win is a win. And a win when you are fighting at the wrong end of the table feels even better.
City have given us hope. Liverpool tonight is now a ‘free shot’ rather than a must win. Please don’t break our hearts.
It was with great sadness that I learnt post-match that North Ferriby United, whose FA Trophy exploits I blogged about previously, may be voluntarily relegated two divisions due to “the on pitch success not being matched commercially and by an increase in fans”.
Guess who the owners are….seems two clubs now have an #AllamOut campaign!
I wish them the best – and luck – and hope this isn’t the case and they are back fighting in the Conference North (or National League North?) next season.
At the other end of the scale, congratulations to Bromley on their promotion to non-league’s top tier. Had a great trip there earlier in the season and hope to be back in 2015 / 2016.
“Tranmere Rovers, we’re coming for you…”
And finally, best of luck to Dulwich Hamlet in the Play-Offs against Margate.