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Premier League

Hull City 0 Southampton 1 match report: Tigers stay close to the drop after José Fonte seals victory for Saints

Goalline technology needed to confirm defenders match-winning strike

Southampton completed a double over Hull City that leaves Steve Bruce’s side still precariously placed in the congested battle to pull clear of the Premier League relegation places in which every team from 10th downwards remains involved.

The decisive goal came after 69 minutes in a game in which Southampton had enjoyed most of the chances and the bulk of possession. So there was little argument that it was deserved, even though it took goalline technology to determine it when José Fonte’s second attempt in a goalmouth scramble was shown to have crossed the line.

The evening had started badly for Hull, who were fortunate not to go behind twice in the first eight minutes when Ricky Lambert squandered two good chances, and lost full-back Paul McShane in keeping out the second of them, when Steve Harper spread himself  to save with his legs but collided with his team-mate, who fell awkwardly and was eventually removed on a stretcher.

Bruce reorganised by dropping Ahmed Elmohamady to right-back and introducing George Boyd into midfield. The substitute was involved immediately as Hull countered, his shot requiring Southampton keeper Artur Boruc to push the ball over the bar after a Shane Long header had hit the foot of a post.

The visitors had climbed to third in the Premier League table when they smashed four past Hull at St Mary’s in November, a position no-one seriously expected them to maintain but one which provided the platform for a season so successful that they are one of the few teams other than those chasing a top-four spot who are not worrying about relegation.

They had the edge in possession and chances in the opening half, going close again when Jay Rodriguez, slightly fortunate to pick up a ball that rebounded to him off the Hull defender Alex Bruce, hit the bar with a dipping shot that beat Harper.

Hull struggled to hold on to the ball and tended to look threatening from set-pieces or crosses more than in attempting to play through the middle.

But in Long and Nikica Jelavic they have made a couple of sound signings in their bid to secure their place in the Premier League and the powerful Jelavic, signed from Everton in the January transfer window, used his strength to make a chance for himself late in the opening half,  forcing Boruc into another save.

For all their creative skills, Southampton do not shy  away from physical contact and Lambert was lucky to go unpunished when he went in with both feet on Tom  Huddlestone, before Luke Shaw did earn a caution  for bringing down Elmohamady.

José Fonte (middle in red) watches as his effort creeps over the line (AP)

Fonte went into the book too, for a trip on Boyd early in the second half as Hull attempted to strike on the break, but Southampton’s grip on possession continued. The home side were more diligent in closing their opponents down in midfield, but still the visitors made openings.

Rodriguez, attempting a scissors volley on the end of a Calum Chambers cross, squandered one opportunity by sending the ball straight up in the air.

The breakthrough came on 69 minutes after a pinball moment in the Hull box which saw a Fonte header saved, Adam Lallana’s follow-up blocked and a second attempt by the defender Fonte appeared to have been cleared off the line before Lambert finally found the net.

However, goalline technology showed that Fonte’s effort had crossed the line and the goal was credited to him.

After that, the Hull substitute Sone Aluko forced Boruc to save at the foot of a post as the home side sought a way back.

But at the other end the midfielder Jack Cork almost scored a second for the south-coast visitors close to the final whistle when his effort hit the bar.

Man of the match Lallana.

Match rating 6/10.

Referee M Atkinson (Bradford).

Attendance 23, 670.