THIS was barnstorming Town back to their best.

Roared on by a biggest crowd of the season, Peter Jackson's pumped-up side gave the leaders a solid thumping and marched right back into the play-off chase.

With an average age of just over 21 in the starting line-up and without nine senior players through suspension or injury, YTV's Goals on Sunday cameras might have expected to film another dent on a Town record featuring six defeats in the last seven outings.

Not a bit of it.

Town's young guns were rock solid in every department, transformed from the disappointment of their FA Cup defeat by Accrington and lethal when the chances came to extend their McAlpine winning sequence to seven straight matches.

Hull contributed to their own downfall with shambolic defending for all three goals, but they were out-fought and out-thought for much of the contest and the points were deservedly Town's.

Visiting keeper Alan Fettis and centre-back Marc Joseph (who had a nightmare) contrived to leave Jon Stead with an open goal for his 12th of the season and first in five matches on 32 minutes.

Then Stead's battling forced another mistake to present the excellent Andy Booth with an easy ninth of the campaign four minutes before the break.

Hull, stung by the force of Town's performance and by the silence of their 3,884 travelling fans, stepped up a gear in the second half, but another blunder by Joseph let in Danny Schofield to finish the job with a clever flick and low drive 11 minutes from time.

Substitute Jamie Forrester grabbed a consolation for Hull with 90 seconds left, ruining Phil Senior's hopes of a clean sheet on his return for the injured Ian Gray but failing to take the gloss of a splendid victory.

Every man (sorry boy) in blue and white stripes deserved the standing ovation from the ecstatic fans, but no-one more so than Jonathan Worthington.

Six days on from his red-card devastation in the FA Cup, Worthington bristled with purpose and passion and inspired his teammates with an iron determination.

Hull's surge to the top has been built around Danny Allsopp's goals and the midfield dominance of Stuart Green and Ian Ashbee, but neither was a factor on Saturday as Town worked superbly as a team.

Man-of-the-match could easily have been awarded to impressive Nathan Clarke, the tricky Schofield, the tireless Stead or the faultless Booth as Town were unbreakable down the spine of the side.

Nat Brown, filling in at right wing-back, and the fearless Ian Hughes weren't far away from top honours either as Town defended with real grit, but Worthington was at the heart of the whole operation.

At the back, his excellent pressure and brave block to thwart a Green drive in the early minutes of the second half summed up Town's determination to hold their first-half advantage and prevent Hull gaining momentum.

Much later in the piece, Worthington was seen driving forward from the edge of his own box, linking with substitute John Thorrington on the left and then continuing his run to fire a fierce drive straight into the chest of Fettis.

There wasn't a blade of grass between the boxes which wasn't flattened at some stage by Worthington, and it brought the best out of his colleagues.

Booth's control and aerial ability, not to mention his goal, was invaluable before he went off suffering a hamstring twinge, and credit must go to Stead for shouldering the targetman duties once the willing Thorrington had been sent on for his first appearance in 18 matches since August.

He was clearly ring-rusty after gaining fitness only on the training ground, but Thorrington picked up the spirit of the performance and ran himself ragged to find precious pockets of space on the counter attack.

With Tony Carss looking rejuvenated in a midfield role, Schofield flourished alongside and taunted the visitors with his workrate as much as his skills.

He was particularly delighted to score because, having been fined £50 for not attending as the manager switched on the town's Christmas lights, he'd been given the chance to keep the cash if he could find the net.

Jackson looked just as happy when Schofield ran across to celebrate by rubbing his fingers together to indicate he was `in the money.'

It was the clinching moment of the match. Hull, beaten only once in the League all season at Oxford back in August, knew their run was over.

Brilliant defensive work had thwarted their best efforts to get back in the match and, when Senior sprung to tip over a blistering Green drive nine minutes from time, they knew beyond reasonable doubt it was not going to be their day.

After a shaky start, referee Grant Hegley handled the game well, although Carss and Jason Price can consider themselves lucky not to see red for a kicking bout just before the break.

It was never a nasty match, however, and after the traumas of recent weeks, Town made some much-needed points.

Firstly, that they can still beat anyone in the division on their day, secondly that there is ability throughout the squad and, thirdly, that they've got lashings of team spirit.

TOWN FORM (3-5-2)

Phil Senior Would have deserved a clean sheet on his return. Breathtaking tip-over to deny Green nine minutes from time Rating: 8/10

Nat Brown Filled in excellently at right wing-back, raiding well in the first half and making some good strong tackles in the second Rating: 8/10

Anthony Lloyd Had his work cut out marking Price, but never afraid to put a foot in or, indeed, to link with the attack Rating: 7/10

Paul Scott Made his usual stack of solid headers and did such a good marking job on Allsopp that he was taken off Rating: 7/10

Ian Hughes Made a terrific sliding tackle on Elliott and two memorable clearing headers in a splendid all-round display Rating: 8/10

Nathan Clarke Contender for top man yet again as his quality in the sweeper position shone through to protect Phil Senior Rating: 8/10

Tony Carss Back in midfield and looking eager to prove a point. Created plenty, worked hard and sent in some fine corners Rating: 7/10

Jon Worthington Put the Accrington red card fiasco to the back of his mind and produced a superb effort which galvanised a young team Rating: 9/10

Danny Schofield Hasn't played better all season. His control and possession play were tremendous and he deserved his fine goal Rating: 8/10

Andy Booth Magnificent before being forced off. Led the line and the team superbly and the goal was well merited Rating: 8/10

Jon Stead Got the ball rolling with a goal and then worked his socks off to impress the watching scouts in fine all-round style Rating: 8/10

Hull City

Fettis, Dawson, Hinds, Joseph, Delaney, Ashbee, Green, Price, Elliott (France 78), Allsopp (Forrester 64), Burgess.

Subs not used: Musselwhite, Whittle, Holt.



Jon Worthington

Superb, considering the week's events. Involved in the best breakaway attacks, made some top tackles at the back, fired in a crunching drive at the other end and was the `engine room' for an excellent team display which wrecked Hull's long unbeaten run


Not so much a turning point as a clinching one. There was always a chance of Hull getting back in the match until Danny Schofield whacked in the third goal to seal a seventh straight home win and delight the fans


Subs used: Town: Thorrington for Booth 61. Hull: Forrester for Allsopp 64, France for Elliott 78.

Subs not used: Town: Martin, Mirfin, Booty, Mattis.

Scorers: Town: Stead 32, Booth 41, Schofield 79. Hull: Forrester 89.

Referee: Grant Hegley (Herts).

Bookings: Town: Carss. Hull: Price.

Shots on target: Town 6, Hull 2.

Corners: Town 8, Hull 9.

Caught offside: Town 1, Hull 3.

Free-kicks awarded: Town 19, Hull 13.

Attendance: 13,893 (Away: 3,884).

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