Hull manager Steve Bruce will look back on 2014 with only qualified pleasure unless his side’s fortunes take a significant turn for the better in the next three weeks or so. Set against the high spot of an FA Cup final is a fairly grim record of six wins from 31 matches in the Premier League despite a near £50m spending spree and the prospect of a penalty from UEFA for breaching financial fair play rules.
What’s more, Hull are now sitting in the bottom three after one win in 14 matches, with Chelsea to come at Stamford Bridge next weekend and, if that were not enough, Bruce has a decision to make about the future of Hatem Ben Arfa.
The controversial Frenchman, on a season-long loan at Hull after being frozen out at Newcastle, has been left out of Hull’s squad for two consecutive matches following his first-half substitution against Manchester United last weekend amid reports of a clash with Bruce in the Old Trafford dressing room. Bruce last night denied there had been any clash but admitted he is disappointed enough with Ben Arfa to be ready to review the loan next month.
“There was no bust-up,” he said. “But when I take a player off after 35 minutes when he is not injured I am obviously not happy with him.
“But others have not been happy about not being in the side and he has to be treated like everyone else. There has to be a workrate and attitude to make sure you do something for the team.
“As far as his loan goes, we will sit down in January and see where we are with him, but in the meantime we might lose three or four players and he will be back in again. We will just have to see what the next four or five weeks brings.”
On the field, it could have been worse for Hull, who conceded a ninth-minute penalty when Jake Livermore brought down Victor Anichebe only for Graham Dorrans to see his spot kick saved by Allan McGregor, who produced the second half’s outstanding moment to keep out Craig Gardner’s free kick.
“It was a good save from the penalty and an outstanding save from the free kick,” Albion head coach Alan Irvine said. “But you normally hope to score from a penalty, so we feel a bit disappointed having controlled a lot of the game.”
Nonetheless, after a run of four straight defeats, Albion will view an away point as encouraging, with the return of Gareth McAuley giving them greater security at the back. With only one win in nine matches, they are only a point better off than Hull and will see victories against potential relegation rivals Aston Villa and Queen’s Park Rangers in the next two matches as the minimum requirement.
Hull (4-4-2): McGregor, Elmohamady, Dawson, Chester, Rosenior (Brady, 61); Meyler, Livermore, Huddlestone, Quinn (Robertson, 60); Aluko (Jelavic,77) Hernandez.
West Bromwich (4-3-3): Foster; Wisdom, McAuley, Lescott, Pocognoli; Mulumbu, Morrison, Gardner (Ideye, 80); Dorrans, Anichebe (Berahino,73), Sessegnon (Varela, 67).
Referee: Michael Oliver
Man of the match: McAuley(WBA)
Match rating: 5/10.
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