HOW apt that on the day dubbed ‘Panic Saturday’ due to High Streets up and down the land being besieged by desperate Christmas shoppers, Hull City’s season should have edged ever closer to reaching panic stations.
Anxiety is undoubtedly growing across the East Riding at what, with each passing week, is becoming an increasingly precarious league position.
A woeful run of 10 games without a win and just one solitary triumph since the opening day means Steve Bruce’s men sit two points adrift of safety heading into the festive season.
This would be bad enough, but throw in the fact Hull have scored just twice in a little over 14 hours and it is clear to see why this is shaping up to be the bleakest of winters at the KC Stadium.
Hull’s problems were clear for all to see against a Swansea City side who started the game without injured influential playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson and for whom Wilfried Bony, the Welsh club’s top scorer, only managed a late cameo from the bench.
Toothless in attack, clueless in midfield and guilty of committing far too many basic errors at the back, Hull got exactly what they deserved. Nothing.
Okay, the game’s only goal may have had a huge element of good fortune with Ki Sung-Yueng knowing little about the wicked deflection that Jonjo Shelvey’s shot took off his thigh before beating the wrong-footed Allan McGregor.
But, on the balance of play and chances created, Hull were distinctly second best against a visiting team that hit the inside of a post in each half and saw McGregor deny Shelvey what seemed a certain goal towards the end.
Plenty, therefore, for Bruce to ponder ahead of what is now a crucial Christmas double header at Sunderland on Boxing Day and then at home to bottom club Leicester City two days later.
The Hull chief, whose side were booed off at the final whistle, said: “We have had a wonderful couple of years here and now we are up against it for the first time.
“The players know that there lies a long winter ahead. That is what the Premier League is and don’t forget this is only our fourth season in our history of playing at this level. We all expected to be higher up the table, I don’t dispute that. But we are still only separated by four or five points.
“We just need to find a performance because on this occasion we weren’t good enough to win a game at this level.
“The players have got to accept the criticism because the performance warranted it (the booing). I will take responsibility, too. We simply weren’t good enough.”
As with ‘Cyber Monday’ and ‘Black Friday’, America’s influence on everyday life on this side of the Atlantic has seen the final Saturday before Christmas given its own tag-name in recent years.
However, while panicked shoppers did, as forecast, head towards the shop tills in their millions, Hull fans were never going to forsake the match for the shops.
With Swansea having failed to score on any of their three previous visits to the KC Stadium, the hope among the locals ahead of kick-off was that an early Christmas present would be coming their way courtesy of three much-needed points.
Instead, what they got was a turkey of a performance as Hull slipped further into the mire on another frustrating afternoon.
Only Andrew Robertson, thanks to some impressive wide-play and a shot that struck the top of the crossbar, and goalkeeper McGregor emerged with any credit from a sorry afternoon that must have had many of the 21,913 crowd wishing they had gone shopping after all.
Perhaps the most glaring difference between the two sides came when not in possession.
Swansea, to their credit, pressed the ball at every opportunity, hassling and harrying their hosts into mistakes.
Hull, in contrast, were much more lethargic and this proved a telling factor in the game’s only goal on 15 minutes.
When the ball found Shelvey 25 yards from goal, the midfielder should have been closed down immediately.
But he was not, meaning Shelvey was afforded sufficient time to look up and then hit a shot that took a massive deflection off Ki before nestling in the bottom of McGregor’s net.
It was poor from the Tigers, but that did not prevent a repeat just 15 minutes later, this time Shelvey allowed to drill a low shot from distance that struck the inside of a post before bouncing to safety.
Eight minutes earlier, Hull had been left bemoaning their own ill fortune after Robertson, latching on to a lay-off from Abel Hernandez, had struck the top of the bar with a rising shot.
Hull also went close in the second half when Lucasz Fabianski, whose previous appearance against the Yorkshire club had been in the FA Cup final for Arsenal, did well to beat away Nikica Jelavic’s header.
Those two chances, however, were as tough as it got for Swansea, who struck a post again in the second half when Bafi Gomis, under pressure from Ahmed Elmohamady, scuffed a volley following excellent work by substitute Marvin Emnes.
That came with 15 minutes remaining but any hopes that this let-off would spark a late Hull rally were to prove wide of the mark, Swansea going closest to netting the game’s second goal when Shelvey was played through only to see his shot blocked by the out-stretched leg of McGregor.
All in all, therefore, a chastening afternoon that left Bruce admitting: “Quite simply, we have got to be better than this.”