This is not usually the moment in the season to admit weakness, but George Boateng has acknowledged that Hull City failed to cope with the intense pressures of a potentially pivotal fixture last weekend and cautioned his team-mates that any repeat of the disastrous performance against Burnley will bring their short stay in the Premier League to a painful end.
Hull folded after taking the lead – the contrast with Graham Alexander's cool execution from the penalty spot was marked – and slipped below their visitors in the table. Only Portsmouth are looking up at them as they sit four points behind 17th-placed West Ham and safety. Today they travel to Birmingham followed by their game in hand against Aston Villa on Wednesday; it's time, says Boateng in more accepted fashion, "for men to stand up and be counted."
"It was a bad, bad result," said Boateng. "Once we conceded an equaliser, I think the pressure of facing relegation in the eye got to most of our players. We've had meetings, we've spoken about the importance of staying in the Premier League, what effect it would have on the area, on people working for the club.
"Every day we come into training and they do whatever we ask them, so it would not be fair on those people if we failed to do our job on the field. It was a good meeting and everyone, if they didn't already, realises now it's time for men to stand up and be counted. There's no time for flair, now is the time to come out and work as hard as you can."
Burnley, belatedly buoyed by that first away win in the Premier League, go to Sunderland today with manager Brian Laws – reportedly on the brink of being sacked last weekend – claiming they can still scramble to safety.
"It is game on, no question of that," he said. "We've grabbed an ankle or two of the teams around us. No one has got away from us. We need at least two wins to get out of it. That victory against Hull has given us great belief. It's about sticking together, it's about working as a team. The ingredients have to be there to win it."
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez had to listen to his side being booed off (by the smallest Premier League crowd of the season) after failing to beat a weakened Portsmouth side on Wednesday, a result that would have all but confirmed their survival. With Arsenal arriving at the DW Stadium tomorrow, it is only going to get more difficult. "It's not the reaction you want, but you can understand it," said Martinez. "We're at a very important moment of the season and points now are crucial. But it's not a worry, and I don't think they are losing faith at all. It was heat of the moment, the emotion we were all left with after the final whistle. We all felt the same way."Reuse content