Hull FC: Gentle must address familiar failings as fans fear another false dawn
AS the ink dries on episode five of Hull FC's latest 27-chapter story, there is an all too familiar feeling this book has been read before.
The current edition has all the hallmarks of previous seasons, a story that begins with great expectations but tails away to a disappointing conclusion.
With many pages in the 2013 edition yet to be written, hope remains that Hull's story evolves into one of celebration, rather than the bleak tale that has been digested many times before.
When departing the Stobart Stadium on Saturday night, the expectation among fans favoured the latter.
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The performance did little to instill confidence among a group of supporters who have been promised the stars before, only for FC's challenge to falter before take off.
The 36-16 defeat to Widnes was a step backwards for a side that has failed to spark this season, but until Saturday had at least shown glimpses of what may lie ahead.
This was the second successive year Hull had been out-classed by the Vikings on their home ground and it is the lack of progress from recent seasons that has even had head coach Peter Gentle voicing his worries.
"From where I am looking there is very little progress on last season and that is the concern," he explained afterwards.
Gentle couldn't hide his frustration, not just at the performance of his team but their failure to implement basic instructions.
Missed tackles, needless penalties and a combination of poor passing and a failure to catch the ball littered Hull's second-half display. For that the players must take responsibility. But for the first time since arriving 16 months ago, Gentle is also facing criticism.
There is no suggestion his position is in any doubt, indeed he has the full backing of owner Adam Pearson. But, in the eyes of some fans, he still has a lot to prove.
In one of his first interviews as head coach Gentle stressed the need to reduce the gap between Hull's best and worst performance. Consistency was key.
In a first year decimated by injuries, player departures and mid-season arrivals, that consistency was absent but forgiven.
The fans won't be as forgiving this year.
The trouble is that while not entirely a one-man team, Hull struggle without the presence of Daniel Holdsworth.
Missing for the second successive week at Widnes, Holdsworth's absence was highlighted by a rudderless performance.
A problem for Hull throughout the latter days of Peter Sharp's reign and the entirety of Richard Agar's tenure, Gentle attempted to correct the issue this year with the capture of the ex-Salford man.
Indeed he has fixed the problem when Holdsworth is fit, but when he is absent, FC are screaming out for direction and leadership.
The responsibility was entrusted to Brett Seymour at Widnes, with the Aussie given yet another reprieve after his poor showing in round one at Leeds.
However, his failure to implement the job given to him was highlighted when withdrawn by his coach in the closing minutes.
Seymour's poor display at Widnes came with a measure of expectancy. Having witnessed the club's public pursuit of another half-back both last season and throughout the winter, the scrum-half's confidence must be shattered.
In and out of the team with seemingly little confidence in him after seeing hooker Aaron Heremaia selected in front of him last week at Warrington, Seymour played like a player under pressure.
Having selected his fellow Aussie, Gentle has to take responsibility for the team selection, as all coaches do.
The need to have Holdsworth back for Friday's visit from Castleford is evidently clear.
Following his car crash, Seymour won't be involved on Friday and regardless of his accident, there seemed little chance of seeing the scrum-half again this week, perhaps even this season.
However, Hull's troubles lie not just in their half-back issues.
In a team full of potential leaders, one has to stand up and lead from the front.
It's a job Gareth Ellis has been brought in to do, but Hull cannot afford to wait until his return, they need leaders on the field now.
While concerned and ready to make changes, Gentle won't panic.
His side may look a long way off the top-four team many professed them to be at the start of the season, but with 22 rounds to go time is on Hull's side to turn things around.
Cas are a tricky obstacle on Friday, but home comforts can at least provide some solace given Hull's KC record under Gentle.
A good performance and a victory go hand in hand, but despite their lowly position in the league ladder, it could be argued the display is more important.
Two points are vital as another loss will make the gap between Hull and the leading teams alarming at this early stage of the season. A performance of note is equally vital to restore confidence among the players and supporters.