Fagan grabs point as Hull reclaim the high ground

Hull City 2 Port Vale 2
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The Independent Football

Hull City stumbled, but finally took advantage of Luton Town's lapse at home to Barnsley on Good Friday when they reclaimed the leadership of League One thanks to a late penalty from Craig Fagan. For their manager Peter Taylor it was a point gained rather than two lost after surveying the results elsewhere.

Hull City stumbled, but finally took advantage of Luton Town's lapse at home to Barnsley on Good Friday when they reclaimed the leadership of League One thanks to a late penalty from Craig Fagan. For their manager Peter Taylor it was a point gained rather than two lost after surveying the results elsewhere.

Taylor, of course, was managing a team at the KC Stadium for the second time in two days following his England Under-21 side's draw with their German counterparts 24 hours earlier. Unlike the stalemate on Friday night, however, this result left him disappointed by a performance that looked disjointed and craved inspiration even if he was glad of a point that put Hull level with Luton, but ahead on goals scored.

"We played some great football at Bournemouth in our previous game, but this time we were forced to dig deep against a good side," said Taylor, who yesterday signed a contract extension which will keep him as Under-21 coach until 2006. "I cannot say that I'm happy with our display over the 90 minutes. Port Vale were better than us, but it was a very important point.

"We didn't play as well as we can," he added. "Port Vale caused us a lot of problems and some of our players lost confidence, but this happens when you are under pressure at this time of the season. This is a big club and the prize at stake is a very big one too."

Port Vale, for whom the point eased relegation fears, took control after 13 minutes when Lee Matthews capitalised on Leon Cort's hesitancy and struck a magnificent right-foot volley from 35 yards, the ball looping beyond Boaz Myhill and into the net. The home crowd and their team were stunned.

Taylor, visibly frustrated, replaced full-back Robbie Stockdale with Jason Price shortly before Cort made amends, after 33 minutes, by rising high to power a header past Mark Goodlad. Confidence, however, was not fully restored.

After the interval, Hull again failed to dominate and the crowd were silenced again after 67 minutes when City's defender Damien Delaney headed spectacularly past his own goalkeeper as he tried to clear a cross from Billy Paynter. Having recorded a win over Hull at home in August, Port Vale sensed a notable double was achievable and, playing with much vim, they pinned City back in their own half.

Only when the fourth official signalled an additional five minutes, much to the bemusement of Port Vale's manager Martin Foyle, did the proverbial alarm bells ring for the visitors as Hull threw everything forward. Deep into this added time, during a spell of intense pressure, Danny Sonner was judged to have handled in the penalty area and Fagan swept home the resulting spot-kick for the equaliser.

Understandably, Foyle was not happy. "Hull get a lot of penalties at home and I told my captain, Sam Collins, to have a word with the referee at the start," he said. "He did do, but obviously it didn't do any good. You could smell it coming and the crowd played a part.

"Our players were magnificent in the way they both frustrated Hull and played the better football," Foyle added. "I would have settled for a point before the start, but now it feels disappointing."

Goals: Matthews (13) 0-1; Cort (33) 1-1; Delaney og (67) 1-2; Fagan pen (90) 2-2.

Hull City (4-4-2): Myhill; Stockdale (Price, 26), Cort, Delaney, Dawson; France, Ashbee, Hessenthaler (Lewis, 62), Ellison; Fagan, Barmby (Walters, 72). Substitutes not used: Duke (gk), Wilbraham.

Port Vale (4-4-2): Goodlad; Rowland, Pilkington, Collins, James; Sonner, Cummins, Dinning, Birchall; Matthews, Paynter. Substitutes not used: Brain (gk), Hanson, Innes, Lowndes, Eldershaw.

Referee: P Prosser (Gloucestershire).

Booked: Hull City Stockdale, Barmby; Port Vale Cummins, Sonner, Paynter, Rowland.

Man of the match: Matthews .

Attendance: 17,678.

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