It is nice to see two former Hull City strikers conspiring, albeit unwittingly, to prevent Leeds United from leaving the tier of football they arrogantly believe is beneath them.
At Swindon Town, the most unlikely of the teams challenging for automatic promotion from League One, Billy Paynter cannot stop scoring. At this level, as he proved in his early days at Port Vale, he can be a prolific and reliable centre forward and this season he has been helped by the fairytale that comes with his similarly lethal strike partner Charlie Austin, who was a bricklayer picking up £80 quid extra a week playing for Poole Town last season.
Paynter was, in essence, a classic Peter Taylor signing when he joined the Tigers on loan from Port Vale in November 2005. Taylor wanted to develop his side by recruiting from below and turning promising talents into the finished article. He had suffered burned fingers with strikers the year before, despite the heroic promotion into the Championship, as none of his three signings - Aaron Wilbraham, Delroy Facey and Jon Walters - had worked, with the goals that took City up coming almost entirely from Stuart Elliott from wide positions. So alongside Paynter there were already question marks as the player himself was still unpacking his boots.
Paynter scored in his third game for the Tigers with a soaring header from a Mark Lynch cross as City grabbed a handy 2-2 draw at QPR. He then steered in a smart finish from close range at the KC in an impressive 2-0 win over Cardiff City, before hammering in a truly memorable half volley from distance in a Boxing Day draw at Crewe Alexandra that was just as famous for Taylor's oddball substitutions prompting a rather cruel catcall of "you don't know what you're doing" from a Tiger Nation that had conveniently forgotten the two consecutive promotions this manager had already achieved. On New Year's Eve 2005, Paynter hit the woodwork at Leeds United as City lost 2-0.
Taylor signed Paynter permanently when the January window opened, but also memorably signed Jon Parkin from Macclesfield Town within the same trading period. Parkin's arrival was greeted with great scorn from supporters who remember his comical awfulness in the lower divisions, but Parkin became an instant hero, battering defenders with aplomb while also showing poise and touch and an eye for goal that pushed the nose of Paynter out of joint. It is notable that Paynter played almost entirely as a right-sided midfielder for the remainder of the season, if he was selected at all, and never scored again for the club. Taylor's departure in the summer heralded Paynter's too, with Phil Parkinson choosing to sell him to Southend United upon becoming the new Tigers boss.
Parkinson also let Ben Burgess go during the same period, meaning he had room to invest in two new centre forwards which, judging by City's cringeworthily poor start to the season, the team needed with urgency. He bought Michael Bridges from Carlisle United and also Nicky Forster from Ipswich Town. Forster was a prime example of second tier experience and was just the kind of player City required.
As Parkinson's tactical vacuum plunged City into deeper and deeper trouble, however, Forster began to take some stick. He was absent from games for long periods although it was less than helpful that Parkinson had made a panicky switch from possession football to long humps upfield - Forster being a much smaller target than the likes of Bridges and Parkin, as well as Paynter and Burgess.
Forster touched in his first goal for City at Colchester United on a Tuesday night, more than two months after his Tigers debut. It was a shinner from little more than a yard that even then he very nearly missed. But it provided us with hope that he would now settle into the ways of Hull City a bit better. None of us reckoned without Colchester's sense of injustice at the way Parkinson walked away from them in the summer to become the new City manager, and they scored five without response and provoked the first serious calls for the new gaffer to be replaced.
Parkinson did indeed go a few days later after a similarly catastrophic performance and defeat against Southampton. Even though he and Forster were longtime pals, having played together at Reading, the departure of Parkinson seemed to bring out the best in Forster, as if he now had room to prove that he was no puppet, no signing under the old pals act and still able to commit himself as a professional to a club that had paid quite a sum for an ageing player and expected a return. Phil Brown took over as manager and Forster scored a brave headed equaliser to earn a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup third round against Premier League side Middlesbrough, before putting in a superbly selfless and indefatigable shift in a fantastic replay at the Riverside, winning a penalty and generally stretching the Boro defence throughout. City lost 4-3 but did so from positions of 3-0 and 4-1 down.
Forster had the crowd on his side after this display on Teesside. He scored the equaliser in a home game against Leeds United, of all teams, which had become a relegation battle as well as fixture brimming with contempt and mutual dislike. City lost the game 2-1 but Forster's socks were entirely absent at the final whistle from all the running he had undergone.
At this point, Parkin had started to go off the rails entirely with his weight and attitude problems and so Forster, along with the re-recruited Dean Windass, became paramount to City's chances. Windass was far more prolific in front of goal but Forster had become revered for his attitude, more so when offered as a stark contrast to that of Parkin, whose presence became so disruptive that Brown packed him off on loan to Stoke City.
Forster scored the opener in a fine 2-0 win over Preston North End and added further goals against Wolves and, once more, Colchester (this time a much less damaging 1-1 draw) and maintained his team player mentality as City battled and struggled through inconsistent runs that eventually allowed them to beat Cardiff City in the penultimate game of the campaign and stay up, deliciously at the expense of Leeds.
After survival was confirmed, Forster asked to leave City for the benefit of his family, who were still based in the south. Brown allowed him to join Brighton & Hove Albion, from where he has just rejoined Parkinson on a loan deal at Charlton Athletic. They have still to play Leeds as the promotion race hots up in League One.
As Hull City players, Paynter and Forster made contributions to games against Leeds that were memorable, if not always for the desired reason. Recently Paynter scored at Elland Road to help Swindon to a stunning - and most amusing - win there, and Forster has now propelled himself via a late loan move into the promotion race, and still has to face Leeds before the season is out.
Their impacts on the Tigers were short and variable, but each will be willed on from this part of the world as much as possible, as the only outcome that is good for football is pursued - that which prevents Leeds United from leaving the division they have always loftily claimed is not good enough for them. For that attitude alone they deserve to stay there forever.