Under pressure Phil Brown still believes as struggling Hull City put up a fight

Phil Brown

Problems: Phil Brown

For Phil Brown, the statistics for the calendar year 2009 could not really be much worse.

From 37 Barclays Premier League games, Hull City have taken only 25 points.

Five wins, 10 draws, 22 defeats. It has been a miserable year, one that has seen Brown lampooned for everything from his singing to his sun tan.

As his victories started to disappear at the start of December 2008, so did many of his friends. Given the haste with which managers tend to be sacked, it is remarkable in many ways that Brown still has his job.

When chairman Paul Duffen left the KC Stadium to be replaced by Adam Pearson in early winter, it seemed Brown’s colourful tenure may end. But here he is — at the turn of the year — still in charge of a team who, on this evidence at least, still have an opportunity to earn another season in the top division.

Before this game, Brown stated that he had no wish to work again down in the anonymity of the Championship. It seems that his team have no wish to be dragged down either.

If there is such a thing as a ‘defeat with positives’ then this was it. Shortly after Hull equalised Wayne Rooney’s opening goal on the hour, a local bookmaker flashed up odds of 9-1 for them to win their fifth league game of the season.

The odds seemed generous at that stage as Hull — heartened by the manner in which they had regained a foothold in the game — pressed Manchester United deep in their own half.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Respect: Sir Alex Ferguson put Hull deeper in relegation trouble after Manchester United beat Phil Brown's side 3-1

That they didn’t manage to push home what turned out to be a fleeting territorial advantage said everything for the genuine quality that players such as Rooney bring to these games.

The margins are tiny but — ultimately — they mean everything. They make the difference. This should not, however, dishearten Hull.

Against other, lesser teams, what they produced yesterday would have been enough. Just like their manager, it seems Hull’s players are still in there fighting.

Watch enough football and it is easy enough to see the signs of players and teams in trouble.

It is easy to recognise the signs of disappearing confidence and mental frailty. At times it is quite painful to observe. At the KC yesterday, there was none of that. Hull began rather tentatively and seemed to be crying out for the bravery and the momentum often brought to them by the injured Jimmy Bullard.

Jimmy Bullard

Crocked: Brown is desperate for Jimmy Bullard to return to fitness

After a while, however, they shook the tension from their legs and seemed to realise that this was not just a big game but a big game they could get something from.

Midfielder Stephen Hunt, working the left side, typified much of what was good about Hull. In the 39th minute, he was close to scoring the opening goal.

A minute later, he threw his body in the way of a Darren Fletcher shot to ensure that his team didn’t concede at the other end.

Richard Garcia was similarly committed, driving his colleagues forward on the break, while in the centre of defence Kamil Zayatte more often that not proved an insurmountable obstacle in the path of Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov.

Conceding a goal in first-half injury time could have killed Hull, but it didn’t.

Their equaliser — from the penalty spot — was fortuitous but also thoroughly deserved, and had Garcia’s header from a corner drifted inside the post instead of just past it in the 67th minute then Hull could have been out of the bottom three this morning and looking towards tomorrow night’s game at Bolton with some confidence.

There is, though, no reason why they shouldn’t go to the Reebok Stadium in good heart anyway.

Despite the positive nature of Sunday’s display, it will be performances against those teams around them in the table that will determine Hull’s fate. So far this season, they have beaten Stoke, Wigan, Bolton and Everton and that bodes well.

What could be problematic for them, however, is their struggle to score goals, especially away from home. Only four times this season have they scored more than once in a league game and yesterday their two central strikers, Craig Fagan and Jozy Altidore, were the two most ineffective players in their team.

Stephen Hunt

Combative: Stephen Hunt battling qualities will be vital to Hull's relegation battle

Both were willing workers. Witness the way Fagan intercepted Rooney’s back pass to set in motion a sequence of events that led to his team’s penalty.

Too often, though, there was insufficient penetration. Brown will try to find an answer in January. You can’t buy belief, though.

Of that, Brown — at the end of this dismal year — seems to have plenty.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now