“YOU’RE going down with the Burnley,” taunted the noisy band of travelling fans shortly before kick-off on Saturday and by the time referee Martin Atkinson had blown for full-time almost two hours later there were not many among the locals willing to disagree.
Instead, long faces abounded in the East Riding as the reality of a hugely damaging defeat for Hull City sunk in.
Danny Ings’s second-half winner had not just maintained the Clarets’ Indian sign over the Tigers by making it nine wins from the last 10 meetings between the two clubs.
It had also, judging by the near funereal silence of the supporters making their way out into a cool Yorkshire evening, sucked out any belief that Steve Bruce’s men are capable of beating the drop.
Two points separate the White Rose county’s sole top-flight representative from safety with two games remaining but, if the limp display against the Clarets is anything to go by, it might as well be 22.
Hull were truly abject. Robbie Brady may have been unfortunate to see two free-kicks crash against the crossbar but, over the 90 minutes, the home side’s insipid display deserved exactly what it got – nothing.
The enormity of the occasion seemed to get to the hosts, who – with the odd exception, such as Brady and Stephen Quinn – simply froze.
Nowhere was this more apparent than in midfield, as both Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore laboured to such an extent that Hull lacked sufficient rhythm and purpose to put the visitors under any sustained pressure.
As a result, the forward line – and Bruce used more or less every available striker at one stage or another on a hugely frustrating afternoon – had to survive on scraps against a resolute defence that, Brady’s two free-kicks apart, rarely looked like being breached.
All in all, therefore, an afternoon to forget for the Tigers, whose final two games against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United hardly seem the sort where precious points will be easy to come by.
“This was a big chance missed,” admitted defender Paul McShane, the club’s longest-serving player after first moving to the KC Stadium in 2008.
“It was a massive chance for us to stay up. But, unfortunately, we didn’t take it and we didn’t perform like how we have done recently (when beating) Crystal Palace and Liverpool. It is disappointing all round.
“I couldn’t tell you how it happened. Maybe we were a bit tense. We never really got going and didn’t play like we can play.
“In the dressing room afterwards, there was devastation. This was a massive game for us. Burnley were there for the taking but we just didn’t turn up. That is the bottom line.
“Now, the lads have to pick themselves back up and start again. We have two massive games left. Time is running out and we need to pick up points.”
Sunderland’s shock win at Everton in the Saturday lunchtime fixture had nudged the Tigers back into the bottom three as Bruce’s men completed their pre-match warm-up.
A home game against a side without a goal in almost 10 hours, however, promised the perfect opportunity to fire an instant response.
Instead, Hull picked the worst possible time to regress to the form of deep winter that first started the relegation alarm bells ringing.
Burnley deserve credit. Unlike the earlier meeting this season at Turf Moor, the Clarets’ success owed as much to their own determination in defence and attacking potency as Hull’s failings.
Ings also produced a clinical finish to end a barren run that had reached 1,036 minutes when he fired in what proved to be the winner just after the hour mark, and Hull were fortunate that referee Atkinson was in forgiving mood during a second half that saw George Boyd and Ings seem to be clipped when through on goal.
Not everything Hull did was poor. Brady, for instance, was desperately unlucky to see his 37th-minute free-kick cannon against the crossbar. He was even more unfortunate to see a similarly impressive second-half effort also beat goalkeeper Tom Heaton but not the bar.
Brady also deserved better than Ahmed Elmohamady heading over after whipping in a delightful left-wing cross that caught the visiting defence napping. Those three chances apart, however, the Tigers offered little of note in attack with the final quarter, in particular, being a disappointment.
Bruce, in attempting to kick-start his mis-firing side, ditched his preferred three-man defence in favour of a set-up that saw top scorer Nikica Jelavic and record signing Abel Hernandez join Dame N’Doye in attack.
All the unfamiliar formation seemed to do, though, was to confuse the hosts, whose efforts became even more disjointed the longer the game went on. An equaliser never looked like coming, as a result, to leave Hull in grave danger of following Burnley out of the Premier League.