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A Game of Two Games

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 15/07/2023

I LIKE to get to at least one pre-season friendly as it's nice to do and provides the chance to see Town's new signings in action. Unfortunately with evening games which I can't get to as an exile, and a rail strike stopping me from getting to the Hull game.

Then I was resigned to not seeing any. So I was very pleased that the club offered up the Hull and Lincoln games on Mariners TV - well done Town!

Pre-season games of course are no real guide, as apart from the obvious fact that no points are at stake, game management doesn't come into it. Mr Hurst won't spend hours pouring over the strengths and weaknesses of opponents, or I assume he doesn't, and teams won't spend 20 minutes wasting time in dubious Crocombesque activities in order to hang on to a 1 - 0 lead. It's about our players and "us shape". The fact that we're playing local teams might be considered to add a bit of spice, but it doesn't. I can't remember the last time we played Hull in a competitive game, besides which they've loaned us great players like Conor Townsend and Andy Smith.

For the Hull game, in order to give the players game tie someone clever had come up with the idea of four quarters of 30 minutes, with the starting XI of each team changing over after 60. Let's call them Team A and Team B. I really liked this idea. Unfortunately, this was all too much for the Mariners TV commentator, who gave the impression he'd been roped in five minutes earlier and couldn't get his head round the fact that the game wasn't one of four halves, with the added weighty conundrum of deciding whether it was two games with two separate results or one game with one score. While he was pondering this, the first quarter was well under way. Town's Team A was: Eastwood, Mullarkey, Rodgers, Maher, Glennon, Conteh, Clifton, Eisa, Khouri, Vernam, Rose. All I saw from Town was poor passing, not much understanding and no threat. Up went the cry: "What sort of pass was that?". "Ah, the frustration has begun" commented my wife, who was on the receiving end of this interrogation. Town improved in the second quarter but conceded at the end following a rare Hull attack when a neat passing move sliced open the defence, leading to a tap-in. Both sides looked rusty. There were signs that Town's defence was giving Hull too much space but Rodgers looks useful. Eastwood too looked good in goal, in so far as he had to do anything. Eisa looked tricky, Clifton's presence was evident as always, and Rose looked liked he could be a threat. I do wonder if Rose should drop back into the McAtee role behind the striker to give him more space. It certainly would have helped when Mullarkey, who had a decent game going forward from right wing back, placed a cross behind Rose at one point.

So 0 - 1 it was when the second game / third quarter began. Town's Team B was Cartwright, Efete, Waterfall, Bramwell, Amos, Holohan, Green, Hunt, Khan, Braithwaite, Wilson. Town this time were more open in their play and passed better, no doubt because many of the players had been together last season. The standout was Hunt who looked lively and ready to find space before distributing the ball out wide. Hull were guilty of two ridiculous misses in the third quarter and another more defensible one late in the game, and showed an ability to stretch Town's defence. Awful defending by Bramwell led to Hull's second goal after Town's defender failed to deal with a cross and laid the ball on a plate for the Hull player to score. Both Hull sides seemed to have a death wish, struggling to pass the ball out of defence, and on 91 minutes a silly mistake by a Hull defender was seized upon by Wilson who rounded the keeper and slotted home to make it 1 - 2. Green almost returned the compliment with an error in Town's half, before Hull had a goal inexplicably disallowed after an attacking move carved up Town's defence. The final period was more open than at any time but based on the cumulative score, Hull were 2 - 1 this friendly battle of Humberside.

Hull showed signs of being a championship side with their play, but were not at their best at you'd expect at this stage. As for Town, whether the poor passing and communication was the result of players having yet to reach an understanding, or due to poor technical skill, it's hard to say. Town were opened up at the back more often than the final score suggests, but what was most concerning was that Town didn't trouble either of Hull's goalkeepers at any stage. I'm sure Mr Hurst will regard this game of two games a useful workout, and so it was.

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