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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Hull City, a gritty northern side who were in the bottom division of English football just four years ago, are now 90 minutes away from the bright lights of the Premier League. Manager Phil Brown only took over in January 2007 when the Humberside team were paddling in the relegation zone, but through a combination of hard work and inspired signings, he has turned them around. Leading 2-0 from the first leg, they were well worth this emphatic 4-1 victory against a Watford side who were brave and tenacious, but ultimately doomed.

Aidy Boothroyd had spent all week trying to convince his players that a two goal deficit could be turned around, despite the fact that no-one has ever managed it in this division's play-offs. He showed them a video of Bradford's 1996 third division comeback against Sam Allardyce's Blackpool, when the Bantams came from 0-2 in the first leg to win 3-0 in the second. He reminded them that bad refereeing decisions had caused them to be in this predicament in the first place. He told them that they could do it. They couldn't. In the end, he must have been glad to hear the final whistle spare him any more pain

Hull's manager Phil Brown was actually in the side that lost so extraordinarily to Bradford twelve years ago and when Watford's Jobi McAnuff and Darius Henderson split his defence with a gorgeous one-two, he must have feared a repeat capitulation. But this side are made of stronger stuff than that. Former England playmaker Nicky Barmby claimed the equaliser right before the break and Hull never looked back. Watford's defence had seemed nervous from the start and they had goalkeeper Richard Lee to thank for rescuing them from a series of poor backpasses. But Lee's joy was short-lived. His decision to come flying off his line for a ball that he had no right to claim cost his side dearly. A looping header soared over his head as he flapped and flailed outside his six yard box and Barmby stormed in on the line to make sure it counted.

Watford tried to haul themselves back into the game, but it was Hull who enjoyed the better of the second half, threatening several times before Caleb Folan nodded home Sam Ricketts' cross for a decisive second goal. Two late strikes from Richard Garcia and Nathan Doyle gave the scoreline a slightly unbalanced look, but this is typical of the way Watford have ended their season. Just one win in sixteen games has seen Boothroyd's side slide down the table like a pig on a wet roof and their fans sat in shocked silence at the end of the game trying, like their manager, to figure out where it all went wrong.

This will be Hull City's first trip to Wembley in their 104 year history and, while I'm all in favour of a good, post-match pitch invasion, it would have been polite if the fans had at least waited until the game had finished before piling in. Both of Hull's late goals were soured by the sight of people on the pitch and there are now fears that the FA will take a dim view of premature celebrations that even the American Ryder Cup team would shake their heads at. Hull fans, however, will consider any subsequent fine as money well spent. They are going to Wembley, they are closer than ever before to the big time and so far away from the basement division that their time there must now seem like nothing more than a bad dream