Hull City manager Steve Bruce revealed top-scorer Nikica Jelavic was “beating himself up” over his miss-of-the-season contender against Leicester.
The Croatian striker has found the net eight times this season, twice as many as nearest challenger Mohamed Diame, but fluffed a golden opportunity in Saturday’s goalless draw at the King Power Stadium.
In a match that suggested neither of the relegation strugglers would be out of place in the Sky Bet Championship, Hull managed a rare moment of quality in the 20th minute.
Tom Huddlestone’s chip over the top and Ahmed Elmohamady’s first-time pass off the instep were both perfectly executed but when Jelavic was left with a regulation finish from close range he fluffed his connection completely.
“Jelavic has won us so many games since he’s been with us over the last year but that’s one of those awful ones he’s beating himself up over,” said Bruce, whose side held on for 19 minutes after Huddlestone was sent off.
“It was a big, big game for both clubs and you could see the nerves. We had the clear-cut chances but it was not to be.
“It’s another point gained, and we all have different opinions of how many we’ll need, but it’s another one towards safety.”
Leicester lie bottom of the table and seven points away from survival after the stalemate.
With victories now becoming absolutely essential for a side who have won just four times all season, the failure to put away Hull after Huddlestone’s red card could come back to haunt them.
Midfielder Matty James could not hide his own frustration and knows an improvement is needed soon.
“We’re a little bit disappointed we didn’t get three points. We all know the current situation and we have to start putting points on the board,” he said. “It’s always important not to lose but we’re also getting to the point where we need to start winning.
“It’s two points dropped for us so we’ve got to try and win the next one and hopefully try and kick on.
“It was difficult, Hull set up and made it difficult from the start and got men behind the ball. When they went to 10 men they retreated, which is what you do with 10 men, and we created one or two chances but it just didn’t drop for us.”
Hull boss Bruce had no qualms about Huddlestone’s red card, the midfielder dismissed for the second time this season after being booked in each half.
But he was indignant about two decisions that immediately preceded the midfielder’s dismissal.
Both Alex Bruce and Michael Dawson were cautioned for what their manager took to be fair challenges, leaving the Tigers boss to question the conduct of the Leicester players.
He stepped back from aiming too much vitriol at the opposition, but carefully referenced the midweek antics of Chelsea against Paris St Germain.
“I’ve got no problem with Huddlestone’s two yellow cards, but is every challenge now a yellow if you mis-time it?” he said.
“It got a bit angry towards the end, but for me the referee booked my two centre-backs for (fair) challenges.
“There’s a raging debate about Chelsea in midweek and if we’re not careful...I saw everyone surround Alex for a red card for his challenge.
“There wasn’t a nasty challenge in the game yet we’ve had five yellow cards and a sending off. I never saw that coming.
“The reason we enjoy the Premier League is its honesty and integrity and if we’re going to go down the route of every other league – jumping around and whinging and trying to get people yellow and red cards – for me that’s not right.”
Leicester manager Nigel Pearson, whose mood soured visibly during the course of a brief, terse appearance before the press, strongly disagreed. Responding to the journalist who asked him for a response to Bruce’s statement, he said: “How many times have you seen us play this year?
“You’re not in a position to judge my players on that. You’re asking me and I’ve told you, ‘No, I don’t think it’s a fair assessment’. Full stop.”
Leicester – with just four wins in their first 28 matches – are rooted to the foot of the table and seven points adrift of safety.
“We’ve got 10 games left, six at home and we probably need to win five. Today’s game shows how tough it can be,” he said.
“We are in the same sort of position as before. We have six games at home so our home form has to be drastically improved to give us the best chance.”
Elsewhere, Bruce poured cold water on Robbie Brady’s hopes of linking up with the Republic of Ireland later this month.
The winger has been named in a provisional squad for the March 29 game against Poland but Bruce is certain he will not be fit.
“He won’t be available for Ireland, no chance of that,” said the Tigers boss.
“He’s got a nasty tear of his calf. He’s jogging slightly but not trained with any force at all.
“He had a 9cm tear of his calf so that’s six weeks out and it’s now two and a half. I can’t see him being ready.”
Leicester City: Schwarzer, De Laet (Lawrence 76), Morgan (Nugent 84), Huth, Upson, Schlupp, Mahrez, Cambiasso, James, Vardy, Kramaric (Ulloa 61). Unused substitutes: Schmeichel, Drinkwater, King, Wasilewski.
Hull City: McGregor, Dawson, Bruce, McShane, Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Ramirez (Hernandez 85), Robertson (Meyler 79), N’Doye, Jelavic (Quinn 78). Unused substitutes: Figueroa, Davies, Harper, Aluko.
Referee: J Moss (W Yorkshire).