Fagan picks Fulham's pocket to resurrect Hull
Hull City 2 Fulham 0
Sunday 28 March 2010
Iain Dowie's arrival here might have been almost inconspicuous, but his departure was not. Dowie, taking charge of his first home game since succeeding Phil Brown as manager, had sneaked into the dugout without being noticed yet left after Hull City's crucial victory with fists pumping to a crowd lavishing their new saviour with a standing ovation.
What a difference a week makes. Dowie and his players were inconsolable following their defeat at Fratton Park but now have genuine hope of producing another great escape. This win, courtesy of goals from Jimmy Bullard and Craig Fagan, saw them draw level on points with West Ham but with a game in hand. Their destiny is in their hands and Dowie said: "I enjoyed that, in the end and specially at the final whistle.
"Some players have been sick all week and fate conspired against us a bit, but those selected responded. I thought they showed guts and desire. Paul McShane lost his father just over a week ago so the lad must have a heart the size of a bucket. I'm just pleased for the boys because they've worked really hard and that's a great response to the cruel nature of last week's defeat. We've got to take care of our own business, but the manner of this win gives me a lot of confidence."
Dowie made four changes from the side beaten so crushingly at Fratton Park last weekend, the most notable being the surprise recall of Ibrahima Sonko, the on-loan Stoke defender. Totally ignored by the previous manager, Sonko made his first appearance since October in the heart of the Hull defence. Fulham made five changes themselves with next week's Europa League quarter-final against Wolfsburg in mind. This contest was of far more significance to Hull than the visitors, yet it was Roy Hodgson's side that made the brighter start and almost took the lead inside four minutes but Zoltan Gera's raking drive was kept out by Boaz Myhill.
Some unexpected help from Chris Smalling went a long way towards soothing home nerves in the 16th minute when his clumsy challenge bundled Jozy Altidore to the ground and referee Chris Foy had no option but to award a penalty.
Bullard converted for his third goal of the season and against the run of play, Dowie's side had something to protect. The advantage looked fragile, however and never more so than in the 28th minute when Bjorn Riise's corner was headed down to Gera by Brede Hangeland but his goalbound shot was superbly blocked on the line by George Boateng. Gera was denied on the line again in the 37th minute when his shot beyond Myhill was hacked clear by Steven Mouyokolo and somehow Dowie's men remained ahead.
Sandwiched in between this was a free kick from Bullard which bounced wickedly in front of Mark Schwarzer but the goalkeeper managed to keep it out before blocking another effort from Dean Marney soon after.
Hull craved a second goal and it arrived minutes into the second half when Marney's deep cross found Fagan, who outjumped Paul Konchesky before sending a looping header over Schwarzer and into the far corner. It was the cushion Dowie's side needed and survival looks achievable for the second time in succession, only this time with a different man at the helm.
Hodgson said: "Both goals were poor defensively, but I was very disappointed in general today. But Hull showed great grit and determination, like you would expect from a side fighting for their lives towards the bottom of the table."
Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the match: Mouyokolo
Match rating: 7/10
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