Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini claimed he was not overly concerned about Chelsea’s growing Barclays Premier League lead after dropping points against Hull.
But the Chilean admitted he was worried about the standard of his side’s performance after needing a late goal to snatch a 1-1 draw with the relegation battlers at the Etihad Stadium.
City had looked to be heading towards a highly damaging loss until substitute James Milner struck a superb injury-time free-kick to grab a point.
The result still left City seven points behind leaders Chelsea, without a win in five games and looking bereft of the inspiration they will need to mount a successful title defence.
Pellegrini said: “We are not concerned about the gap - we are concerned about how we can return to our normal performance, how we can score goals again and resolve the problems that other teams are putting in their box.
“Once again we couldn’t create space against a team with 10 players behind the ball. We didn’t have clear chances to score because we’re not playing well when attacking.
“But you are not seeing a team with doubt. The team is running, the team has spirit, the team has possession of the ball. We work and try.”
Pellegrini tried to look on the positive side, knowing that the picture would have looked even worse had Milner not staged his late salvage act.
He said: “Before the game if you’d said we were going to draw against Hull I wouldn’t have liked it, but the way we did it was not so bad with a goal in the last minute.
“In the 90 minutes we had all the possession and attacked and attacked.
“But we only created one chance and that was when Kun (Sergio Aguero) hit the crossbar, so it’s very clear, we must work and try to improve in that sense.”
Milner’s late heroics underlined his value to the club but the England international is out of contract in the summer and, despite talks that have been ongoing for some time, a new deal remains unsigned.
It has been claimed that Milner may have reservations about committing to a new contract because he may not be able to command a regular starting spot.
Again he was on the bench and Pellegrini said: “I needed to make changes because last two games we didn’t score one goal here against Arsenal or Middlesbrough.
“I made changes to bring back Samir Nasri from injury but James Milner always has a space.
“He scored a beautiful goal from a free-kick. He has started a lot of games but it’s a team problem, not just one individual player.”
The influence of Yaya Toure was again missed. City have now failed to win in six Premier League games without the midfielder, who is currently at the African Nations Cup, this season.
Pellegrini said: “We have no doubt about how important a player Yaya is but we play other games without Yaya and we could win.
“It’s not about Milner or Yaya - we must be a creative team again to do it better.”
Pressure had been building before Milner’s equaliser, with David Silva denied a penalty and Aguero hitting the woodwork, but the finish was still deflating for Hull.
Without a win since New Year’s Day, the Tigers were in sight of a much-needed victory in their battle against relegation after David Meyler struck in the 35th minute.
Manager Steve Bruce said: “I think that’s five or six times it’s happened to us this year that we’ve conceded late.
“Especially after last week we needed a response from the players, because against Newcastle we weren’t anywhere near up to standard.
“That was a bit more like the team I’ve had the pleasure of managing for the last couple of years, but I’m disappointed for them because they’ve played so well.
“It’s been an awful 10-12 weeks for us but hopefully that can galvanise the whole squad and help the confidence that has ebbed away a bit.
“If we can do that then we’ll come back here next season and that’s the aim of what we’re trying to do.”