Saturday, 3 October 2009

08: Hull City 2 - 1 Wigan Athletic - 03/10/2009

We are well aware that the chairman of Hull City wouldn't have the balls to fire the manager in any event, but for the moment he doesn't have to. Phil Brown got the players back onside against Wigan Athletic to earn a crucial, job-preserving win.

The game was one of the dullest seen at the KC Stadium in years, but it still produced some smart football, tenacity in abundance and three most welcome points. Brown made the expected changes but while a couple were predictable, a couple more certainly weren't. What was certainly unexpected, particularly after sweeping Chelsea aside with craft and ease last week, was that Wigan would be so poor.

Nick Barmby, acting captain and therefore suddenly a first choice player, took to the pitch with the chronically unlucky Kamel Ghilas relegated to the bench. Kamil Zayatte returned but as holding midfielder, with Kevin Kilbane reverted to the centre of defence. Dean Marney also earned a recall to the midfield and responded with one of his better displays.

From kick off City could have had a penalty when Barmby's shot hit Manuel Figueroa on the hand but it was interpreted as accidental. Marney then shot down Chris Kirkland's throat from distance after nice work from Geovanni as City applied the early pressure.

Hugo Rodallega hit one too high after Boaz Myhill had to punch out a corner and then panic hit the City six yard box when Myhill parried Mohamed Diame's shot but Ibrahima Sonko, possibly still suffering Torres-based flashbacks, failed to clear as Rodallega closed in and Myhill had to barge through to land on it at the second attempt.

There were a fair few gaps in between the chances, and so much of the first half involved stoppages, midfield contention and wasted final balls. Eventually, Geovanni swiped a shot from long range which Kirkland allowed to fly over his bar in an effort to break the monotony, and Jason Scotland went on a penetrating run through City's softening centre but dragged his final shot wide.

Stephen Hunt, whose game consisted of his usual probing runs but with less end product, then made room for Geovanni to aim for the far post with his cross, but Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink flicked the chance just wide.

Another lengthy period of nothing followed, ended finally when Kilbane was the target for a Geovanni free kick but the Irishman just failed to connect. A goalless first half and a largely guileless one too.

The second period began in much the same manner. It was a poor spectacle between two teams whose priority was to not lose, as opposed to any positive action aimed at winning. Still, occasionally it did burst into life and Marney read a Wigan pass immaculately to intercept, hare goalwards and put a shot just wide via a deflection. Hunt swung in the corner and Zayatte headed it beyond the post.

Wigan's retaliation was quick, with Scotland sending Charles N'Zogbia down the left and his dangerous looking cross hit a stray body and looped into the air for Myhill to catch under pressure.

It wasn't exciting, but it was intriguing. Genuinely tough to imagine which team would score first, the game was developing further into a bolted-on goalless draw when, all of a sudden, City took the lead.

And so straightforward it was too. A corner was forced, Marney swerved it to the near post and Vennegoor of Hesselink won the header cleanly and powered in. Simple and vital. And also terrific to see the big Dutchman open his account in a game so important to the Tigers.

Barmby then twisted smartly to make room from a Vennegoor of Hesselink knockdown but scuffed his shot. This was the acting skipper's final contribution, as Ghilas came on for him and instantly, a second was notched.

Zayatte, reading the play like the central defender he normally is, stole a ball from basic Wigan possession and charged forward with no stray foot able to halt his progress to the byline. The cross avoided Vennegoor of Hesselink but was lashed home at the far post by Geovanni, who ran the length of the pitch, alone, to celebrate with the Tigers' side of the North Stand while everyone else in amber chose to go congratulate Zayatte for a fantastic assist.

City's third nearly came after good advantage was played, with Paul McShane tripped on the edge of the box but possession staying with City, and ultimately Marney saw his low drive held by Kirkland.

Zayatte was replaced by Seyi Olofinjana while Scott Sinclair came on for Wigan and promptly scored when heading in the rebound after Myhill could only beat out Jordi Gomez's shot.

It made for a nervy ending, which included a whopping five minutes of time added on and chance to have a pop at Marlon King when he came on as a Wigan sub, but City survived with some comfort.

Only a third Premier League win of the calendar year, but ahead of an international break it is a fantastic one. It gives Brown room to rethink the team's strategy while most of his players beetle off for duty with their nations, and by the time we reconvene at Fulham two weeks on Monday, there may be a new owner and new chairman, as the rumours persist about a £73m takeover, and more urgently than this, a place in the team for a certain Jimmy Bullard. This is good timing all round.

Hull City: Myhill, McShane, Sonko, Kilbane, Dawson, Zayatte (Olofinjana 81), Marney, Hunt, Geovanni, Barmby (Ghilas 64), Vennegoor of Hesselink (Mouyokolo 90). Subs not used: Duke, Halmosi, Cairney, Altidore.

Wigan Athletic: Kirkland, Melchiot, Boyce, Bramble, Scharner (Gomez 66), Figueroa, Thomas (King 90), N'Zogbia (Sinclair 84), Diame, Scotland, Rodallega. Subs not used: Pollitt, Kapo, Koumas, Cho.