ONE down, eight to go and one point to show for their efforts after Hull City’s manic March kicked off with a dramatic last-gasp equaliser by Matty Fryatt at the seaside.
Hoping to steal a march on their promotion rivals and return to the play-off places, the Tigers will have headed back across the Pennines in satisfied mood last night.
Nick Barmby’s side may have been a long way from their best and distinctly second-best for long periods after falling behind to a stunning first-half strike from Thomas Ince.
They may have also had Vito Mannone to thank for keeping them in the game with a string of impressive saves on his 24th birthday. But, thanks to Fryatt’s 90th-minute strike from close range, Hull were able to keep their push for the Premier League firmly on course against one of their main rivals.
They may not be occupying a play-off position this morning but taking a point off in-form Blackpool at Bloomfield Road is a notable achievement and one that should set the Tigers up nicely for Tuesday’s derby with Leeds United at the KC Stadium.
The visit of Neil Warnock’s side will be the second of nine games for Hull this month, a gruelling schedule by any means.
To keep racking up the points in March, there is little doubt Hull will have to play a lot better than they did against Ian Holloway’s men on a cold night by the Irish Sea.
The tone for the evening was set in the opening exchanges with Barry Ferguson displaying his undoubted Premier League class and Keith Southern putting himself about in a manner that means the opposition are usually unable to settle.
The upshot was the Seasiders assumed control of central midfield and, as a result, always looked the most likely to score in the early stages.
During that initial onslaught, Mannone twice had to be alert to keep out efforts from Southern and Alex Baptiste that, but for the intervention of the Hull goalkeeper, would have found the net.
The Tigers also had Mannone to thank for averting the danger when Ince had left Andy Dawson trailing before drilling a low cross that was intended for Brett Ormerod, and James Chester also deserves credit for getting in the way of an effort from Kevin Phillips.
Blackpool finally made a deserved breakthough on 27 minutes courtesy of a sweeping move that ended with Ince exchanging passes with Phillips before finishing in style from outside the penalty area.
It was no more than the home side deserved, even if Aaron Mclean did seem to have a legitimate shout for a foul during the build-up after being upended next to the touchline.
In contrast to their hosts, Hull laboured in attack during those first 45 minutes with lone frontman Fryatt left far too exposed due to the midfield’s failure to get forward in sufficient numbers.
That was because Hull were unable to retain possession, particularly in the centre of midfield where Robert Koren and Seyi Olofinjana, making his first start for the club since 2010, failed to match the industry and poise of Ferguson.
In fact, the closest the visitors came during that one-sided first half was when Matt Gilks misjudged a long punt forward from Hull counterpart Mannone.
The ball duly ran free to Mclean, who then chipped the ball over Gilks and a couple of defenders only for Baptiste to head clear after intelligently racing back to cover for his out-of-position goalkeeper.
Blackpool’s dominance continued after the break with Mannone having to save from Roman Bendtner following a woefully short back pass from James Chester.
The Hull goalkeeper then saved brilliantly from Phillips before again denying the veteran striker as Blackpool failed to capitalise on having a four-on-two breakaway.
It was only in the final quarter that Barmby’s side came to life, the introduction of Josh King for the ineffective Cameron Stewart and the out-of-sorts Olofinjana being taken off.
First, a darting run by Liam Rosenior opened up the home defence before the full-back swung over a cross that Fryatt flicked towards Mclean only for the ball to be cleared.
Then, Koren finally managed a shot on target 13 minutes from time – though the ironic cheers that met the Slovenian’s effort said as much about its poor quality as it did the largely insipid nature of Hull’s display.
By the final minute, however, the cheers emanating from the away seats were for real as Fryatt poked in from close range after Chester had chested the ball into the striker’s path.’
It was undoubtedly rough on the Seasiders after the manner in which Ian Holloway’s side had dominated proceedings for most of the game.
Not, however, that anyone of a Hull persuasion cared as the Tigers fans headed off to enjoy the delights of a night out in Blackpool in a mood to party.
Blackpool: Gilks; Eardley, Wilson, Baptiste, Crainey; Ince, Southern, Ferguson, Ormerod (Lua Lua 84); Bednar (Fleck 70), Phillips (Evatt 85). Unused substitutes: Halstead, Dicko.
Hull City: Mannone; Rosneior, Chester, Hobbs, Dawson; Olofinjana (Evans 61), McKenna; Stewart (King 61), Koren, Mclean (Cullen 75); Fryatt. Unused substitutes: Dudgeon, Gulacsi.
Referee: E Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).