O’Connor climbs out of sick bed to sink Hull
Hull City 0 Birmingham City 1
Sunday 20 September 2009
Phil Brown will hope to find a little more spring in his step than his leaden-footed defenders when he takes on the Great North Run today.
The 50-year-old Hull manager, who will tackle the Newcastle-to-South Shields half-marathon with six of his backroom staff, will give £5,000 to cancer research should he fail to beat the two hours and 24 minutes he set on his last attempt 29 years ago.
However long it takes him, it will be more than enough to mull over how none of his defenders could jump high enough to prevent Garry O'Connor heading Birmingham to their first away win of the season.
The Scotland international, sent on to ease the burden on lone starting striker Christian Benitez with 28 minutes left, immediately added muscle to Birmingham's attacking play and when he rose above the crowd to head home Keith Fahey's 75th-minute corner it was enough to push Brown's team into the bottom three.
O'Connor's energy delighted the Birmingham manager, Alex McLeish, who revealed that the player had been struggling to overcome a stomach bug for much of the week but was pressed into service because of a Birmingham injury list so long they could muster only six substitutes.
"He travelled up by car and had a single room to keep him away from the rest of the players but I told him I needed him if he could possibly make it and from his performance you would never have known he had been ill," McLeish said.
So stretched were Birmingham that McLeish also had to insist that Benitez carry on despite spending seven minutes off the field having stitches in a head wound sustained in a clash with Hull's Ibrahima Sonko.
If O'Connor's goal was hard for Brown to take, it must have been just as painful for his goalkeeper, Boaz Myhill, who had performed heroics as the last line of Hull's leaky defence until that moment.
His fingertips denied Lee Bowyer after 14 minutes and the industrious Benitez just before half-time as he tried to keep the home side from conceding their 13th goal in six matches. On the hour he somehow kept out Bowyer at point-blank range and it was another save from Benitez that conceded the corner from which O'Connor struck.
Sonko's late header against the bar was the closest Hull came to an equaliser as Jozy Altidore and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, Brown's new strike partnership, looked largely unthreatening, although both clearly need time to attain Premier League sharpness.
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