Sunday, March 15, 2009

That's the way (a-ha, a-ha) we like it? Er, not really

Hull 1 - 1 Newcastle Utd

At last - a goal against Hull, at the fourth attempt. (Except it wasn't, as has been helpfully pointed out in the comments box, Xisco having scored at St James' Park - my only excuse is that I've tried to purge myself of any memory of that horrible afternoon in September...) And boy was it needed - without it, we'd have found ourselves in the bottom three with just nine games to play. Still, down at the KC we weren't exactly the Sunshine Band...

Despite the encouraging display in our last outing against Man Utd, Chris Hughton decided to ring the changes. Out went the unlucky Peter Lovenkrands to make way for a fit-again Little Saint Mick, while Nicky Butt was also back as captain. Rather bafflingly it was neither Geremi nor Alas Smith but Ryan Taylor who made way - presumably the thinking was that defensive midfield solidity away from home was a higher priority than being remotely threatening from set-pieces.

If so, by the tenth minute that plan didn't look too clever, Geovanni having capitalised on some woeful marking to give the home side the lead with a header (I've never liked Brazil nuts) - and that despite a remarkable spot of acrobatics from 34-year-old birthday boy Steve Harper, who flew through the air like a superhero desperate to catch the last bus home.

Geovanni came close to doubling the Tigers' advantage with a free-kick, but they were probably still quite happy with the single goal, safe in the knowledge it had been enough to beat us on the previous occasion we met, in the FA Cup. Thankfully, Butt and Steven Taylor had other ideas, though, the former crossing for the latter to apply a deft Owen-esque finish beyond Matt Duke.

While Little Saint Mick himself was as quiet as the proverbial ecclesiastical rodent (anxious to avoid picking up a new injury perhaps?) and eventually made way for Shola Ameobi with just over a quarter of an hour to go, his strike partner Obafemi Martins was lively, though found himself better marshalled by the Hull defence than by the far more celebrated duo of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic just over a week ago. Having squandered one opportunity in the first period, he had another in the second, while Spiderman should also have scored but instead had us wondering if he'll ever break his duck.

Our hosts continued to have the odd chance themselves, on-loan striker Manucho in particular a threat after he replaced Daniel Cousin. Hughton withdrew an ineffective Smith - who'd have thunk it? - and brought on Ryan Taylor, but given we really needed the three points and were up against a team who've lost more times than any other at home this season, it was disappointing that Lovenkrands, Andy Carroll or Damien Duff never got into the action.

As it was, all the other results went our way (a late, late draw at the Riverside between the Smogs and Pompey coupled with defeats for Stoke, Blackburn, Bolton and the Mackems - the latter courtesy of a corking solo goal from Charles N'Somnia) and we actually inched up a place to 16th. But lest that should be considered reason enough to celebrate, it's worth underlining that all that separates us from Stoke in 18th is goal difference. And our next two fixtures are against Arsenal and Chelsea.

Best keep the cava on ice, then, eh?

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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