Posts Tagged relegation

Portsmouth 3 Hull City 2

Fratton Park from the away end

Rare picture of Portsmouth's stadium where it doesn't look a dump

The Iain Dowie era began with a deeply disinterested Hull City performance and a deserved defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. The loss leaves Hull City gurgling around the Premier League plug hole, effectively five points adrift of safety with eight games to play.

The build-up to the game was suitably shambolic with the team coach stuck in a traffic jam and relying on a police escort to make it on time. And, apparently, loan strikers Amr Zaki and Jozy Altidore were both ruled out of contention late on with mystery injuries.

So the eleven which Dowie carded was harbouring a worryingly light defensive line-up of Bernard Mendy, Paul McShane, Stephen Mouyokolo and newly-appointed captain Andy Dawson, as well as Kevin Kilbane on the left-wing, Dean Marney continuing in midfield and Caleb Folan (remember him?) thrown back in up front.

Weak links all over the park, in other words, but even so we took the lead midway in the first half through a Craig Fagan shot which brushed Folan in the crowded penalty area and then beyond David James.

For a while our makeshift team looked moderately comfortable – until we allowed a corner to trickle past a succession of City players across the goal-line and a Pompey man at the back post touched it in from two yards. Yet another soft goal conceded from a lack of organisation at the back.

And from then on we were truly abysmal, despite Folan poaching another goal against the run of play midway though the second half. It was a good through-ball from sub Richard Garcia, and nice control and a cool one-on-one finish from City’s forgotten man.

Folan looked as rusty and ineffective as you’d expect after such a long time out of contention, and he strayed offside with infuriating regularity, but when it mattered most he delivered the goods. The same could not be said for half a dozen others who fell well short of what was needed.

Just as City’s rained-upon support revelled in the notion that we’d sneak an undeserved three points away from home, the late capitulation kicked in.

In short: Jamie O’Hara curled a wonderful free-kick into the corner, then virtually from the restart their winger tore down the left and the cross was directed in by Kanu lurking in space in the box.

And that was it. Cruel to lose so late, but no one could honestly say we deserved to win. The relegation battle isn’t over yet, but it will be soon if we produce many more performances as timid and listless as this.

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Reasons to be cheerful – and fearful

Consecutive debacles at West Ham and Everton no doubt led every City fan to ponder whether we’re going to stay up this season. I believe we will, or at least we should.

Let’s compare the attacking options we have compared to those from 12 months ago. Now we have Jozy Altidore, Amr Zaki, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Kamel Ghilas. Last time round we had Daniel Cousin and Manucho. For both seasons Geovanni, Nicky Barmby, Craig Fagan and Caleb Folan remain the same.

Now who is more likely to bang in enough goals to keep us up – a combination of Altidore, Zaki, Vennegoor of Hesselink, Ghilas, Geovanni, Barmby, Fagan and Folan, or Cousin, Manucho, Geovanni, Barmby, Fagan and Folan?

In midfield, we’ve put Stephen Hunt, Tom Cairney and Seyi Olofinjana into the mix, Jimmy Bullard looks set to play a greater role than last season, and lost only Ian Ashbee through injury. So we’re clearly a stronger proposition in the centre of the park too.

At the back, the loss of Michael Turner and to a lesser extent Sam Ricketts undoubtedly weakened us. However, Paul McShane and Stephen Mouyokolo have by no means been disastrous additions, while Kamil Zayatte has improved and we teased more of a contribution from Antony Gardner this season than last. Meanwhile our goalkeeping options of Boaz Myhill and Matt Duke remain constant.

Overall, who could deny we have a stronger squad than last season? And with many more players who have survived the intense pressure of scrapping for our lives than our main two challengers, Wolves and Burnley, too.

We may not be great, but we have more than enough quality in the squad to stay up. If we’re relegated, it will largely be down to our manager not prising enough out of a superior squad than he did last time, and being outsmarted by Mick McCarthy, Brian Laws and Avram Grant.

In other words, success or failure is down to how well Phil Brown fares over the next 10 games. Yikes.

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Hull City are already virtually safe from relegation

Well, according to former referee Jeff Winter, who has been compiling the League of Injustice of all the wrong decisions made by refs which have affected the result of Premier League games.

His latest update from last Tuesday has us at 38 points, nine clear of the bottom three of Blackburn Rovers, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion.

Presumably he will add an extra point for the Sunderland goal which never was this week too.

Though of course, we may not have been playing in the league this weekend anyway if Arsenal’s offside winner in the FA Cup quarter-final had been ruled out.

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