Aston Villa duly ended their winless 12-match run to reclaim fifth place in the Premier League last night, although the significance of this result will be most keenly felt down at the other end of the table. If Newcastle, Middlesbrough or, indeed, both are to survive then it could well be at the expense of Hull. Certainly there was so much of this showing that would have spread much-needed hope on Tyneside and Teeside.
Not only did Phil Brown's men extend their dramatic slide but their seemed capitulation depressingly manifested itself in infighting within the ranks as well. Daniel Cousin and Geovanni had to be separated to compound another miserable evening for Hull. Strangely, Brown said afterwards that he would not be speaking to either of his miscreants. He claimed not to have seen the incident he described as "a discussion" and even went as far to say "it shows how much they care".
In fairness, he does have other things on his mind. Hull have now won one of their last 19 games and their home match against Stoke on the weekend takes on critical status. At least the manner in which they finished the match suggested that they still have some fight left.
The cynics, however, might feel Hull's late resurgence was due more to their opponent's nerves. Martin O'Neill's side came in not having prevailed at Villa Park since January and their anxiety was all too apparent in the closing stages when they suddenly looked alarmingly vulnerable against an outfit they should have put to bed a long time before.
The night did not begin well for the visitors. In the 10th minute they lost their captain, Ian Ashbee, when he came off worst in a crunching, eye-watering challenge with James Milner. As Ashbee was still limping off, Villa so almost took an early lead. A wicked cross by Stiliyan Petrov located John Carew's forehead, but the towering Norwegian's glanced effort flashed inches wide of the far post.
There was another close escape in the 25th minute when Boaz Myhill tipped over Milner's crisply-hit free-kick, but nine minutes later the Villa pressure was rewarded. Petrov's tackle on George Boateng led to the move upfield which saw Ashley Young deliver a typically inch-perfect centre for Carew to flick in from the edge of the six-yard box. There was a suspicion of offside; indeed, before he peeled off to celebrate, Carew turned to check for a flag.
Yet the goal stood, Hull heads dropped and as the players ran towards the tunnel for the interval so the frustration boiled over. Cousin and Geovanni had been no sort of double-act up front, but at least they came over all Laurel and Hardy when squaring up to each other, apparently blaming one another for another fine mess. It seemed that the Brazilian had paid for the ugly scene – three members of the Hull staff had to intervene – when he was replaced at half-time for Nicky Barmby, yet Brown revealed the change had nothing to with the "discussion".
Whatever, it was a true pro who led their resistance. Myhill superbly turned away Gareth Barry's 30-yard scorcher at the start of the second half and the Welsh international was again impressive when repelling Milner's low stinger in the 65th minute. But both those saves were merely routine compared to the one he pulled off in the 78th minute. Carew flicked it across for Agonbalahor, who, three yards out, simply had to score. But Myhill somehow got a hand to the point-blank header. His heroics inspired team-mates to press forward and if Barmby could have got a touch to Cousin's half-volley and if Zayatte's touch a little while after had been more purposeful Hull would have salvaged a point. In truth, that would have been more than they deserved.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; L Young, Davies, Knight, Shorey; Milner, Barry, Petrov (Reo-Coker, 90), A Young (Gardner, 90); Agbonlahor, Carew (Heskey, 86). Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), Sidwell, Delfouneso, Clark.
Hull City (4-4-2): Myhill; Ricketts, Turner, Zayatte, Dawson; Garcia, Ashbee (Marney, 10), Boateng, Kilbane (Manucho, 72); Geovanni (Barmby, h-t), Cousin. Substitutes not used: Duke (gk), Doyle, Halmosi, Featherstone.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).
Booked: Hull Zayatte, Boateng.
Man of the match: Myhill.