Hull City 1 Middlesbrough 0 match report: Hull find some mettle thanks to Jason Steele

Click to follow
The Independent Football

This weekend just happens to mark the 20th anniversary of the pivotal Old Trafford occasion when Steve Bruce rose to head home two late goals for a comeback win against Sheffield Wednesday which put Manchester United back on course for their first League title in 26 years.

Two decades on, Sir Alex Ferguson's old faithful of a central defender had reason to be grateful for a different helping hand that steadied his Hull City side on the road to automatic promotion to the top flight.

Last Tuesday, Bruce's charges relinquished three of the four points they had in hand on Watford in second spot in the Championship table, getting stung 1-0 at home by Gianfranco Zola's Hornets.

Yesterday, his pussyfooting Tigers were in danger of suffering another setback, toothless in attack and second best to Tony Mowbray's Middlesbrough side, until the 63rd minute turning point of Robbie Brady's curling free-kick from deep on the right.

Jason Steele, in the visitors' goal, got down to meet it but only succeeded in pushing the ball up into the roof of his net. The relief was palpable but Hull and their manager had to endure a few nervy moments before the precious points were safe. "It wasn't pretty but we hung on," Bruce reflected. "I've heard some nonsense in the dressing room that Robbie watched Ronaldo or Bale take a free-kick like that and make it bounce before the keeper. It looked to me like it hit a divot and the keeper made a mess of it."

And so Middlesbrough's freefalll continues. This was a 12th loss in 16 League games since the turn of the year for Mowbray's charges.

However, Boro settled quicker than their somewhat nervous hosts, Grant Leadbitter dictating operations in central midfield and the roving Sammy Ameobi cutting in from the right to test David Stockdale in the home goal with a low drive from 20 yards.

It took the Tigers until midway through the first half to start digging their claws in, Robert Koren unleashing a thumping shot from distance that Steele did well to push wide and George Boyd firing a shot into the side-netting.

Still, Boro were back on top, with the home crowd getting more than a little restless, when Brady despatched his fateful free-kick and Steele fumbled.

The visitors finished with a threatening flourish too, Scott McDonald's back-heeled effort drawing a fine save from Stockdale, and André Bikey forcing a goal-line clearance from Corry Evans.

Not that Mowbray was remotely consoled. "We need to score goals," the Middlesbrough manager lamented.

Hull City (3-5-2): Stockdale; Bruce (Rosenior, 45), Faye, Chester; Elmohamady, Koren, Evans, Quinn, Brady; Gedo (Simpson, 54), Boyd (Fathi, 79).

Middlesbrough (4-3-2-1): Steele; Hoyte, Williams, Woodgate (Bikey, h-t), Halliday; McEachran, Leadbitter, Carayol (Zemmama, 68); Ameobi (McDonald, 68), Haroun; Miller.

Referee: Simon Hooper.