Hull on the road to hell

HULL is not a city you pass through.

Isolated on the Yorkshire coast, you have to make a conscious decision to go there.

But it’s not the roads to Hull that bother Iain Dowie. It’s the routes leading out. For the Tigers, they have been the roads to hell. Defeat at Stoke was their 13th in 17 away games this season

Somehow, Hull are going to have to break their away-day jinx if they are to stand a chance of escaping relegation. The drought stretches back to March 4 last year, when they beat Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Fortunately, four of their remaining six matches are at the KC Stadium. However, with Aston Villa and Liverpool, on the final day, yet to visit Dowie is keen to pick up points at Birmingham and Wigan.

“Everyone talks about our away form but in the time I’ve been here we’ve had a mad five or 10 minutes at Portsmouth (a 3-2 defeat) and a poor half,” he said.

“I can’t look at what has happened in the past. I thought we played very positively at Portsmouth and we played positively in the second-half at Stoke. We’ve got four games at home and they will be big games. We’ve also got to go to Wigan and Birmingham and take something because I think that will be required. We are in good spirits and we have to make sure we turn our home form to our advantage against Burnley.”

Dowie was in a similar situation 12 months ago as assistant to Alan Shearer when the pair were appointed in a failed bid to save the Magpies from relegation. However, this time around he is the man in charge and he knows he has no-one to hide behind when things go wrong.

Asked if there was anything he could use from his Newcastle experience to save Hull, Dowie replied: “You learn you have to take your opportunities and you have to have a group of players who have a belief in the way you play.

“You need to have clarity of game plan, clarity of team shape and the way you have to go about it.”

In only the sixth minute, defender Paul McShane misread Dave Kitson’s flick-on with disastrous consequences as Ricardo Fuller nipped in behind him and raced into the penalty area to beat Boaz Myhill.

“We cannot afford to concede goals in that manner – they clear the ball from the back, win a flick-on and are through on goal,” added Dowie.

Even during their best spell of play in the entire match – 20 minutes in the middle of the second-half – the Tigers failed to test goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.

Their problems were compounded when, having used all three subs, captain George Boateng was carried off on a stretcher after being knocked unconscious by Tuncay Sanli’s attempted overhead kick.

For 15 minutes – plus a further eight added on for the injury – the visitors had to play with 10 men and Liam Lawrence exploited the extra space to fire home the decisive second in the 90th minute.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis admitted he could breathe easier now his side had reached 42 points but challenged the players to surpass last year’s total.

“We now have to go out and beat last year’s points tally,” he said. “If we can do that it will be a very good season.”

Match rating ** - Both sides managed just four shots on target between them. The beautiful game it wasn’t.

Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire) 6 - A total of 27 fouls and five yellow cards. Just another day at the office for Mr Probert.

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