Bullard's classy rescue act gets Brown bullish

Hull City 3 West Ham United 3
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The Independent Football

It has taken the Hull manager, Phil Brown, a dangerously long time to rediscover the formula that brought the Tigers enough points to stay up last season, but in this extraordinary game there was evidence to suggest he has finally done so.

It helps, mind you, that Jimmy Bullard has not only returned to fitness but has at once found a vein of form which lifts City's football. Some of the former Fulham midfielder's passing here was of international quality, and his drive and intelligence powered the Tigers back into a game which, having conceded twice in the opening 10 minutes, they could have gone on to lose by a hatful. He even scored twice, and if both goals were fortunate in different ways then Bullard undeniably deserved material recognition for his efforts.

West Ham's supporters were celebrating after an opening burst during which Guillermo Franco got the wrong side of his marker, Richard Garcia, to head home a fifth-minute corner, and then Jack Collison out-jumped Andy Dawson to put a header over City's poorly positioned goalkeeper, Matt Duke.

"I couldn't see them coming back into it at all, because we were in control," sighed the Hammers manager, Gianfranco Zola, but if it required a substantial slice of luck in the form of deflections off both Scott Parker and Carlton Cole for Bullard's 26th-minute free-kick to beat Robert Green, it was reward for the way City had refused to let their heads go down.

Having got back in the game, however, they cannot have expected to go in at the break ahead. First Kamil Zayatte swept in a Stephen Hunt free-kick, and then Craig Fagan, going down under a mistimed challenge from Julien Faubert, won a penalty which Bullard thrashed beyond Green.

Bernard Mendy's sending-off shortly after the break, for bringing down Scott Parker as the midfielder looked set to go clear into the City penalty area, saw the momentum change again. Now it was the Hammers' turn to press, and with 20 minutes left Manuel da Costa took advantage of the ball falling kindly to drive past Duke.

Luis Jimenez and Collison both had chances to win the game, while for Hull, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink saw a strong appeal for a penalty turned down, but the draw was a fair result.

"When we were in the Champion-ship Jay Jay Okocha came in and was a catalyst, and Jimmy Bullard is a similar sort of character," said Brown. "He gives us belief, and his team-mates trust him with the ball. It's the first time we've scored three since Manchester United away last season."

Zola was similarly sanguine. "It was a strange game, a crazy game, and clearly we need to focus on our defending, but the good thing was our reaction when we went behind.

"Obviously we're not in a position where we can say we're going for the Champions' League, but it's still early and we are going to be all right."

Attendance: 24,909

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Man of the match: Bullard

Match rating: 6/10

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