The Dentists Diary – 392nd

What a difference a week makes and boy how many times have I used that expression in this weekly blog!?

But, for what it’s worth that was for me, our best performance of the season.

The difference that made it stand out was simple really, we got the basics right we played the game at a high tempo and we rolled forward every time we were in possession of the ball. Plus, we kept the errors down and didn’t give away any soft penalties. But most of all we showed a great and solid defence and backed that up with a good kick and chase game, we played the ball quickly and, with lots of dummy runners, the acting half back options were varied and aggressive. In fact looking back to the Cup game, I now think that we were unlucky; not on the field so much as with who we were able to select, because had Ellis, Whiting and Carvell been available, then we’d have won. After Thursday I have little doubt of that!

But, the Cups gone and in a week in which we saw a game of musical chairs at Salford, watched the same drop goal attempt from every angle, for dozens of times and when Neil Hudgell and Sir Adam both received hefty fines for telling the truth. However last Thursday we witnessed an exciting game full of endeavour and some great attacking play!! In fact some top stuff to round off another strange old week!

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The Dentists Diary – 391st

“It’s a really flat dressing room and I haven’t had to say much after the game. Some of the efforts were really top drawer from some of them tonight and probably enough to win two games, but certain areas of the field are really costing us and the same players are making the same mistakes week in week out, and cost us the game!”

Thus said our Coach and so ………we’re out of the Cup!!

Some folks complained about his ‘criticism by implication’ of certainly players in his post match comments, but bloody hell guys, he only said what we were all thinking!

If I had to précis the whole situation after a pretty disastrous night, then I would say that it’s quite simple really; you score 36 points at home you should win but if you concede 37 you don’t deserve to. It was a fabulous game of rugby but there was just one reason the FC lost and it was our defence, not all of it, but some significant bits of it! The attack was generally good and even pretty dynamic at times and the two young half backs I thought, looked to have something that can perhaps be nurtured in the coming months. The game was good entertainment, as have been in all fairness, all but one of our matches this season. We are certainly good to watch now, but the thrill a minute, end to end nature of that entertainment can’t mask the serious flaws in certain areas of our defensive play.

Believe me I wasn’t as dejected as I was after the Widnes match because I have over the years developed a real ‘saddo’ way of dealing with Cup football (which I will for the first time share with you later). However when you look at the game outside the fixation that is our obsession with the FC, it was an absorbing and nerve jangling encounter in which some of our players turned up big time, but as Radford said afterwards, the same few players making the same mistakes at critical times let us down again, and that for this fan is really hard to take.

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The Dentists Diary – 390th

“I don’t think people realise how desperate the players are for the two points tonight, we know we cannot afford to let the gap between us and the top teams get any bigger.”

5 days after the Widnes debacle, I still found myself worrying and as I read those pre-match words from Jamie Shaul and looked at our depleted ranks I thought, “Yeh great words, but we’ll have to go some to get anything at all!”

In fact I simply couldn’t envisage any way our depleted troops were going to come out on top, especially against a big strong Salford team, who were back to winning ways and led by Rangi Chase. However, for the second week running my pre-match predictions went straight out of the window when we took to the field and produced nothing short of a stunning performance.

At this point last week I said that sometimes it’s really difficult to write this rubbish week in week out and it might surprise some to know that even after a win, this week it’s little different. Back in January, I resolved that this season I would try to avoid those massive swings in emotion that have beset this blog over the past 8 years. You know the stuff; one week we are the best thing since sliced bread and the next we are absolute garbage. However just 7 games into the season I’m afraid it’s unavoidable really, because although the proper journalists are really good at keeping the lid on it all, if this is to truly be the journal of an average biased fanatical supporter, then it must at times portray the fact that supporting Hull FC is like riding on an out of control roller coaster. Put simply, for this fan that was an amazing turn round in just 5 days, as true to form for the team we love, some players who were nothing short of shocking last week were superb this.

If you were one of those who stayed away to help create possibly the smallest gate for a Super League game at the KC, (and after last week, who can blame you) then boy you missed a real all action thrill a minute treat played out in the best atmosphere we’ve experienced for ages. The passionate support from the terraces for our line defence took me back to the Boulevard and in the end those who attended emerged from the emotional tumble drier that is supporting our Club, hoarse, relieved and embracing perhaps just a bit of hope for the future. We aren’t world beaters by a long chalk, but it was a fine show just the same.

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The Dentists Diary – 389th

“If I don’t get performances I walk, it’s the business, and I understand that completely”
So said Lee Radford, after another of those debacles that have, for years, proved ‘Coach Killers’ at Hull FC.

You know sometimes just occasionally, I don’t want to write this, it’s so hard to rationalise such an abysmal performance, I could try to be reasonable and consolatory, but why should I be? I’m so disappointed and annoyed I’d rather just crawl off and grieve on my own, but in the spirit of this weekly journal I’ll press on, however yesterday was horrible and there’ll be none of the light hearted stuff this week because quite frankly I and thousands of other FC fans ain’t laughing!

Personally for me the game was soul destroying, because, although god damn it, I should be used to it by now, it was once again so bloody predictable. ‘Heartbreaking’ was the expression I used to Mrs R as we left on the final hooter because I just couldn’t bring myself to stay to clap the player’s at the end, I couldn’t even face the safety and relative calm of The Drum and Monkey, until that is, I heard our Coach say in his post match interview, that he was ‘heartbroken’ too. It is, I know, his responsibility to sort it, but it was also good to hear him feeling exactly the same as I did, because yesterday come 5-00 pm I was gutted. Believe me, I want to give some hope to all those of exiled fans out there who didn’t attend, but it was just a shambles and I challenge anyone who was there to find a better adjective to describe it.

However in the cold light of Monday morning it was I guess, ‘Same old same old’. This sort of stuff has been going on since the days of Peter Sharp through the reign’s of Agar and Gentle and now it’s back, surfacing again, as Radford said, from deep in the DNA of our players; quite frankly in the most simplistic of terms, some of our lot can’t be arsed when it’s a team we are expected to beat!

Don’t try and blame our depleted forwards either for they stood up, but it was the mess and muddle around them that did for us. And if you’re looking for recurring themes from those last 5 or 6 years then after a listless and mistake strewn performance, my pal Tony summed it all up ‘Alan Sugaresquely’ as he left the game saying, “And so the Club’s search for a half back continues!”

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The Dentists Diary – 388th

Another ‘Close but no cigar’ job, another big effort and another two points go down the pan.

I’m currently sitting in the car with my lap top on my knee. I’m stuck in a traffic jam on our way out of Castleford, looking at the pub across the way and still wondering what exactly a “Singing Chocker” is! I’m fed up, frustrated and disappointed!!

I guess in hindsight it was a good game played out in an excellent atmosphere and in the end it could have gone either way. But on this occasion it went against us, as missing two starting forwards, making a few wrong choices, losing a prop in the first half, not taking our chances and a tragic one on one miss near the end cost us. It was a tight game against a very well drilled, confident and unbeaten Castleford team and we almost got the points, so there should be no big drama around the loss, but after three ‘almost’ games away from home we have to learn to finish teams off; we simply have to!

At the end of a week when we’ve all wondered at the situation at Bradford and the latest episode of ‘Keeping up with the Koukashians’ and when it was also revealed that Mr Allam, not content on converting the whole of West Hull to Squash is now about to beguile them with that great working class game of Polo and when Sandy Cock was directing the Dobbins in training under floodlights to exactly duplicate how it would be a Wigan; (including no doubt him shouting “Ok lads you can pack up now” at 8-45pm), it was always going to be really tough for us at Cas. But, with ten minutes to go I honestly thought we’d scrape home for a famous battling victory.

I can stomach defeat, as an FC fan you get used to it, but in the end I guess for me it isn’t so much the fact that we lost that hurts, but rather the reality that we could so easily have won.

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The Dentists Diary – 387th

Well done Lee Radford!

“Don’t say that just yet” was the general consensus in the Drum and Monkey as we celebrated afterwards and no doubt there will be times that I WON’T be saying that this year. However having witnessed that animated and vibrant first half and considering that our defensive Coach of last season is now instigating play that is as good as we have seen for probably four seasons, then for this week at least, I’ll stick with my headline!

In any case I challenge anyone to disagree with the fact that had that been St Helens playing Bradford in that first half, they would have done little better.

OK it was ‘Only Bradford’ but I have as usual to admit that I was preoccupied and not a little worried as I read last week’s West Riding press about the Bulls Coach targeting this game as a ‘Total Wipe out’ of their 6 points deduction. Bradford came to town on the back of two wins, a massive financial crisis, that points deduction and after having played in front of their lowest ever Super League attendance of 5,410 five days earlier so, boy, was this the sort of ‘banana skin’ game in which we usually struggle; the sort of match that in the past I dreaded.

It had to be the acid test of our new found resolution and our Coaches motivational skills, it was also the first big test of the new regime’s commitment and focus, but we came through with flying colours! Next week is another challenge and a big one, but for now two points, a great attacking display and a big sigh of relief will do for this fan!!!

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The Dentists Diary – 386th

Still conceding penalties, still making some wrong decisions, but…..still battling like hell!!!

Despite some issues which Radford refers to as game ‘management’ that were particularly prevalent in the first half, there’s still hope, tons of hope because we never gave up and we never gave in, as for a second week running we gave a great display of battling together. In fact. I say that because for the second week running I left a game, in which I initially expected us to get a pasting, really heartened. Having lost two games on the trot Warrington were out for blood, but we blunted their threat and kept them pointless in the second half, few teams will achieve that in the coming months.

Regular readers of this weekly blog will know that I rarely get involved with discussions about referees, but this week has to be different, because for two periods as we valiantly defended our line in the second half, Childs was awful! Dressed head to toe in pink the officials were for me pretty poor and quite frankly they looked ridiculous too! We battled and battled our way back into the game in that second 40 minutes, but in the end we came up just short, however once again everyone stopped to the end and everyone acknowledged another close shave, where sadly, after all the heroics and in the cold light of day, we still missed out on the points.

As for a lasting memory from yesterday….well I simply loved the attitude of our players in that second half it was absolutely great!

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“What the mind believes the body achieves” – Steve Prescott

Steve Prescott Bridge

Lest we ever forget; the newly dedicated Steve Prescott Bridge.

It had to be Steve Prescott’s night and every fan at the game did him proud. The FC supporters in attendance (and there was a big following for a Friday night), were simply magnificent, with the constant choruses of “There’s only one Stevie Prescott” often drowning out a big home contingent. It was an emotion night and almost as an aside, for long periods, an excellent game to watch too. In fact I was glad I was there. You know, just occasionally there are times when you realise how lucky you are to be part of that magnificent FC family, who know instinctively how to react to such an occasion and do so like no others can.

Well done as well, to the St Helens Club and the local Council who put on a great show to make it a real occasion and to facilitate the dedication of the Steve Prescott Bridge beforehand, when as the heavens opened I stood with 400 or so fans in the pouring rain, to watch a fitting tribute to one of the games great heroes.

As for the game itself, well as I walked away I remember thinking that all the chaos and gridlock on the M62 going over, would always be worth it if we continue this season to display that sort of effort and pride in the shirt. As many of the home fans left early, the FC Faithful remained and gave the lads a rousing ‘Thank You’ The team spirit was there for all to see, but with a pivot at each side of the field there was a lot more structure and form in that first half and again our effort throughout was exemplary. We lost but there’s still a deal of hope around for this fan.

However if it was about anything on Friday then it was the fact that “There’s only one Stevie Prescott!”

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The Dentists Diary – 384th

“Goal kicking costs you games” was one of the comments made in Friday’s post match de-briefing in the Drum and Monkey, to which I had to reply, “But it didn’t cost us this one” and of course it didn’t.

Getting this old chestnut out of the way first, can I say that for me if we are to have an off day with the boot then have it when we score 8 tries. Let’s hope our failings in that department on Friday get the issue of some consistent goal-kicker to the top of our agenda, so we can get it sorted and move on. How we address that failing will now be critical but we just got away with it this time! We certainly got out of jail with the Catalan misses at the end, but that went to prove for me that it wasn’t all Joe Westerman’s and Ben Crooks’ faults and perhaps the swirling wind and conditions played a part too. Thomas Bosc is one of the best goal kicker’s in the game and he couldn’t hack it in the end either.

I could see a few folks I bumped into on the concourse afterwards were wondering why I was disappointed, but that was because for me once again we put the cue on the rack and let the opposition back in when we thought we’d won the game. There was also for me the feeling of disbelief that a team coached by Lee Radford, a rugged defender in his playing days and last season’s defensive coach, could concede three tries in the last few minutes in such a disastrous manner. However on reflexion there was much to celebrate too. Some of our attacking play, once we got onto the front foot, was as good as we saw all last season and certainly pleased the fans, it was scintillating stuff that started through the introduction of the fresh legs of Heramaia, before being carried forward by Horne and Rankin.

With the tough two games we have coming up, we desperately needed that win and in a season where for this fan the first goal is to keep away from the bottom two places, we are out of the starting blocks with two points, as we dodged the bullet against a team tipped to make the top 8 and that’ll do for me! However more consistency is a must and much bigger battles loom ahead!

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The Dentists Diary – 383rd

“Don’t worry Wilf, You can’t believe much of what you see in pre-season”, commented a guy I spoke to as we all tramped out of the Good Fella’s Stadium together, and on into the encircling gloom!

And of course he was right, but if you were there it was doom and gloom for all and certainly hard not to wonder how we would turn things around in time for this Friday when, whether we are ready or not we set off on another adventure in Super League. While my heart says, “It s a brand new start, new players, new coach, new hope!” my head tells me that with new comings and goings reported, we’re actually in more disarray than we should ever be at this point of the proceedings.

I really got some stick last week for my appraisal of the Featherstone game; interestingly enough, almost exclusively from those who didn’t attend! However 7 days on and having endured it again on FC Live, I still find it hard to apologise for my comments, made as they were in the cold afterglow of a pretty demoralising afternoon in West Yorkshire. Nor could Pete Smurthwaite excuse it on Humberside last Friday, when 5 days after the event he still described it as ‘a debacle’. Of course he was right, because it added an inglorious finale to a less than satisfactory pre-season. But for me, the Rovers game apart (which provided a much needed and comforting, if only temporary, interlude) it’s the way that the rest of the games were unfocussed, messy and disorganised that’s really of concern.

Yet in the ‘ying and yang’ of the RL fanatic it’s such an exciting time. Perhaps it’s the hope, maybe the anticipation or even the thought we may have got all our concerns totally wrong, but whatever has gone before now somehow matters for nought, as once again we set out on ‘the quest to be best’. A poor pre-season, some ‘panicky moves in the transfer market, a few injuries, a cold Friday night, no visiting supporters and the game on TV; it couldn’t start any worse for the Club, could it? Yet, with no points on the board and only one game completed thus far in the whole competition, it’s still all to play for and we’ll all be there on Friday, full of hope and expectation. You see despite my much talked about misgivings, I have no choice, because I simply can’t wait!!!

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