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Premier League

Hull players behind Brown says Bullard

Hull's players proved they are firmly behind Phil Brown as they bought their manager precious breathing space with a superb performance and victory.

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink struck a stoppage-time winner as the Tigers overcame 10-man Stoke 2-1 at the KC Stadium to lift themselves out of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone.

It was only City's third league win of the season - and just their fourth of 2009 - and the result might just be enough to keep Brown in office, for the short term at least.

The performance of Jimmy Bullard, on his long-awaited home debut after 10 injury-ravaged months, was inspirational and with him in harness, Brown has reason for optimism.

Bullard said: "We thoroughly believe in the manager and the staff and we want him to stay.

"I believe he will - and hopefully for a long time. He is a great man and a great manager."

Brown's position had been the subject of heavy scrutiny owing to the club's dreadful run of form, with one report claiming he would be leaving regardless of the outcome.

That was denied by new chairman Adam Pearson and it could be considered harsh if Hull's most successful manager is now shown the exit after a performance of commitment and determination.

Hull were unfortunate to trail at the interval after Matthew Etherington raced through to score from a tight angle against the run of play.

Former Stoke midfielder Seyi Olofinjana equalised with a sublime strike just after the hour and, although Ryan Shawcross hit the bar, Stoke were hanging on after Abdoulaye Faye was sent off for two bookable offences.

They eventually cracked as Thomas Sorensen pushed away a long-range shot from Bullard and substitute Vennegoor of Hesselink snaffled the rebound on his 31st birthday.

Bullard realises Hull have been through a tough period but he can see them surviving in the top flight, with Brown at the helm.

The former Fulham midfielder said: "Sometimes football is like that, results don't go for you.

"But it's so tight down there and three or four wins can really boost you and give you confidence and make you go up the league.

"We feel the pressure as players and men and we wanted it for him."

Stoke boss Tony Pulis was left to lament the frittering away of a winning position.

The Potters remained a healthy ninth in the table but Pulis admitted his side were below par.

"We're disappointed," he said. "It is the third time we have led away from home this year and not won the game.

"We weren't at our best but when Matty scored we were hoping that would take us on."

Pulis angered striker Tuncay when he substituted the player because of Faye's dismissal just six minutes after putting him on.

Tuncay shook his head and walked straight down the tunnel but Pulis could understand the reaction.

He said: "I've got no problems with that, but it still wouldn't stop me doing it again.

"It is not about me or Tuncay, it is about the team. We had lost a centre-half so we had to put another defender on."