Premier League survival may be the stated aim for Hull City but they could yet embellish that goal by appearing in a major cup final for the first time in their history.
It is 84 years since their only appearance in an FA Cup semi-final – they lost to Arsenal in 1930 – but they stand one win from another after they held off a stern second-half challenge from Brighton last night to seal a place in the last eight, where they will host a Sunderland side they have already beaten twice this season.
Brighton’s Leonardo Ulloa glanced home a free-kick from David Lopez to ensure a needlessly nervy final 20 minutes for Steve Bruce’s side, who had taken control through scruffy first-half goals from Curtis Davies and Robert Koren.
Lewis Dunk struck the bar for the visitors soon after the break, but the Championship side only started to show their true colours after going two down, no doubt conscious of having missed their opportunity to progress when they were pegged back late on in last week’s first meeting.
Hull host Newcastle on Saturday with just two victories from their remaining 11 league games likely to be needed to extend their stay in the top flight. That now seemingly successful effort to stave off an immediate return to the Championship could be accompanied by some unexpected but welcome knockout success.
The sides made 11 changes in all last night, Hull shading it by one. It was not clear whether either manager’s team selection was swayed by the presence of Andre Marriner, whose involvement at Arsenal on Saturday had persuaded Sunderland manager Gus Poyet to rest Lee Cattermole, the card-magnet midfielder who has in the past fallen foul of the Birmingham-based official.
A late equaliser by Hull forward Yannick Sagbo at the Amex Stadium had forced an extra fixture that neither side approached with any particular relish given their league commitments, and that apathy permeated through to supporters, as the contest was played out in front of a sparse turnout at the KC Stadium.
Those charitable enough to attend had to wait less than a quarter of an hour to see the hosts take the lead in mildly bizarre circumstances through a second goal of the season for defender Davies.
Koren’s deep corner from the left was met by the centre-half six yards out at the far post. A far from threatening-looking header looped over goalkeeper Peter Brezovan and almost apologetically found the corner of the net as the attempts by Jake Forster-Caskey, stationed on the post, to clear were hampered by the attentions of Hull midfielder David Meyler.
In the 36th minute Hull doubled their advantage with another goal on which Brezovan will reflect upon with little relish. A Dunk foul on Sone Aluko presented the hosts with a free-kick 20 yards out. Koren’s set piece took a slight but significant deflection off Stephen Ward, sufficient to wrong-foot Brezovan, who should still have done better than merely helping the ball into the net as Matty Fryatt waited to pounce on any rebound.
Goals. Hull City2: Davies 14, Koren 36. Brighton & Hove Albion 1: Ulloa 69
Hull City (4-4-2): Harper; Elmohamady, Chester, Davies, Figueroa; Koren, Meyler (Quinn, 84), Livermore, Sagbo; Aluko (Boyd, 76), Fryatt. Substitutes not used McGregor, Rosenior, Bruce, Huddlestone, Faye.
Brighton & Hove Albion (4-3-3): Brezovan; Calderon, Dunk, Upson, Ward; Forster-Caskey, Ince (March, 60), Andrews; Lopez (Obika, 89), Ulloa, Rodriguez (LuaLua, 46). Substitutes not used Ankergen, Bruno, Greer, Chicksen.
Referee A Marriner (West Midlands).
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