Hull City 1 - West Bromwich Albion 1
Three wins in a row turned out to be one too many as Hull came from behind to rescue a point at the KCOM stadium. Albion started unchanged from the 4-0 win over Burnley but Nacer Chadli was fit enough to claim a spot on the bench.
Gareth McAuley put Albion ahead with his third of the season when he headed home from a Matt Phillips corner, and by half time Hull still hadn't managed a single shot.
The second was a different matter, however, and the home side looked far better, culminating in Michael Dawson levelling the scores with less than twenty minutes left after Albion failed to clear a free kick. Having already brought on James McClean, they added Chadli and Hal Robson-Kanu but failed to regain the lead.
Albion remain in ninth with 17 points from 13 games.
All the momentum, coming into the second game of our Burnley, Hull, Watford series appeared to evaporate as Albion gave up another two points to a bottom three side but still came away with a "we might have nicked all three near the end" refrain.
The very early signs were actually very promising as Albion, with the same starting eleven and starting positions as had seen us start Chadli-less against the champions and an abject Burnley, having much the better of an opening five minutes in which they pressed high, suggesting that their recent form against two mid-table teams would not see them giving as much respect to a third-from-bottom Hull side as they had afforded Sunderland and Stoke when both had been bottom, indeed, they would reach the half-hour mark having had 50% of the play, although most of what they had to show for that would merely be the type of scuffed, or shanked, off-target efforts from distance that sometimes undermines the 'can hit them from all angles" appellations.
Around the twenty minute mark, it appeared that Phillips, seemingly full of confidence after two games starting on the left, would be swapped, with Brunt, back to his right-sided right side, and although neither would fire from that point on, Phillips would come back over to the left, so as to take the corner that allowed McAuley to put us ahead from a set-piece around the 35-minute mark, a set-piece that would see him get ahead of his marker, Albion-old-boy Davies, and direct a header goalwards from just inside the centre of the six-yard box.
The rest of the half was closer to the early season Albion than the more recent showings, with their going ahead from their one shot on target set-piece goal being allied to a stifling defensive effort that kept the Tigers caged, to the extent that they failed to muster an single attempt towards Foster's goal, let alone a shot at it, though slightly more worrying, from the defensive effort point of view, were the sights of both Yacob and Fletcher going down with heavy knocks that initially suggested we might need to replace one of our two holding players with someone off of a bench containing much less defensive capability (maybe something to be rectified in the January window?), although both would, after some treatment and a walk to the sideline, solider on.
The home side would make a substitution at half-time and it seemed to have given any ascendency claims to them, to the extent that, around the hour mark, Fletcher could be seen to be in one of those "discussions", with the referee, that ex-ManU players were brought up on and, perhaps, so as to diffuse any tension, the captain was almost immediately subbed for McClean, at which point Brunt moved into the holding role, although it hardly helped Albion's cause, as regards holding onto the ball, with passes continuing to go astray, whilst five minutes later, so still with some 25 minutes playing time left, Evans would be booked for time-wasting. (Is he getting close enough to missing a game during the congested "festive" fixtures that this could have been a case of "taking one for the team"?)
Pulis's Albion's oft-lauded set-piece prowess is not, of course, solely limited to scoring from them and so Hull's equaliser, coming from a free-kick a long way out, might well see the players in on Sunday to rectify the issues that led, when it wasn't dealt with, to Dawson, the Hull centre-back who plays at centre-back, not the Albion centre-back who plays at right-back, convert what I suppose might be seen as an unlucky bounce in the box that sat up nicely for him, albeit bouncing for him inside our six-yard-box, with twenty minutes to go.
Albion, having been clawed back level by the Tigers, then spent ten minutes not looking for much more than holding onto the point, until Chadli - clearly so short of match practice that he needed to do a ten-minute warm-up before coming on to replace Morrison: once again our best playmaker on the day even if his "plays made" count was down on the previous two games - and HRK - coming on for Phillips, whose showing out on the right since his twentieth-minute swap had also not seen him living up to those previous games either - would liven up our approach enough, within the last ten, so that Chadli would get to draw a fine save out of the Hull keeper from a free kick with four minutes of regulation time left, whilst Rondon, in the fourth minute of time allowed for stoppages, having pulled off the back of our mate Curtis to the edge of the six-yard box, should have at least got his then free header, from McClean's inviting cross, on target. Yes the keeper might still have saved it, and so prevented us from nicking all three points right at the death but, as it was, all the keeper had to do was collect it from a ball-boy out by the corner flag and punt the resulting goal- kick high and over the half-way line, which is where it would be punted twice more, before, as so often when the ball ends up there, the final whistle sounded
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