Unless his chairman goes back on his word, Hull City manager Phil Brown can go into the international break safe in the knowledge that he will still be in charge when his side's Premier League season resumes with a home fixture against West Ham United on Saturday week.
Adam Pearson, who has done little other than answer questions about Brown's future since his return to the KC Stadium a week ago, promised in an interview yesterday morning that Brown would remain at the helm with a win against Stoke, by which token the stoppage time goal by substitute Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink that turned a Hull comeback into victory – taking them out of the bottom three – has kept him in his job, at least for the moment.
Brown kept his thoughts on that subject private, however, ducking out of the post-match press conference. His assistant, Brian Horton, agreed it was not in Brown's nature to keep a low profile but insisted nothing sinister should be read into his non-appearance. "It is unusual because Phil does like the spotlight," Horton said. "But today he has chosen to send me out. Alex Ferguson doesn't come out every time, does he? Phil's a Premier League manager, just the same. He is having a Guinness and he deserves it. I haven't seen the chairman and why should I? Perhaps he'll come and have a beer with us too."
Horton praised Hull's commitment in coming from a goal down after a defensive error allowed Matthew Etherington to give Stoke a first-half lead but, after poo-pooing the suggestion that their performance had been a declaration of support for Brown, he changed tack to say that the squad were right behind their manager.
"Players play for themselves first, their families second and maybe the manager third but they are right behind Phil. If you had seen them last night, when we took them away to a hotel to prepare for today, you would have seen that. And so they should be for what he has done for this club."
Brown's relief had been clear on the touchline when he pumped both fists in the air after former Celtic striker Vennegoor of Hesselink, who had been relegated to the bench among five Hull changes following the defeat at Burnley, found the net.
He was grateful that the Dutchman had had no trouble keeping his composure when Stoke goalkeeper, Thomas Sorensen, could only parry a rasping shot from Jimmy Bullard 23 seconds into four minutes of added time, stroking home the loose ball with immaculate technique as it ran to him near the edge of the penalty area.
The goal capped a sustained recovery effort by Hull after the combined failings of Bernard Mendy and Kamil Zayatte had allowed Etherington a clear run on goal when Ryan Shawcross's long ball sailed over the top. The winger's finish was superb but it was a goal, from Hull's point of view, that should have been avoided. However, with the injury-plagued Bullard impressively pulling the strings on his belated home debut, Brown's team did not let their spirits sag and were rewarded with an equaliser after 62 minutes when Seyi Olofinjana, the former Stoke midfielder signed by Brown in August, made space for himself and curled a shot past Sorensen for his first Hull goal.
A red card for Stoke centre-back Abdoulaye Faye, for a second yellow three minutes from time, certainly helped Hull's cause but was far from the deciding factor, but perhaps Brown's plea for a response from his players was. Time will tell.
Hull City (4-4-2): Duke; Mendy, Zayatte, Gardner, Dawson; Garcia (Barmby 52), Bullard, Olofinjana, Hunt; Fagan (Boateng 90), Altidore (Vennegoor of Hesselink 83). Substitutes not used: McShane, Kilbane, Ghilas, Warner (gk).
Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Huth, Shawcross, Abdoulaye Faye, Collins; Delap, Whelan, Whitehead, Etherington; Fuller (Tuncay Sanli 80, Wilkinson 88), Beattie (Kitson 60). Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Higginbotham, Cort, Lawrence.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).
Bookings: Hull: Mendy. Stoke: Shawcross, Huth, Abdoulaye Faye. Sent-off: Abdoulaye Faye (87)
Man of the match: Bullard.
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