WHEN Steve Bruce and Sam Allardyce get together for their annual post-season holiday this summer, it may be advisable for any talk of contentious penalties to be banned.
Otherwise, the pair could fall out after West Ham United were last night gifted three points by a controversial decision from Mike Dean that not only set the Londoners on their way to victory but also forced Hull City to play with 10 men for more than an hour.
Scott Ledger, one of the linesman involved in the debacle at Stamford Bridge last weekend that saw Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs sent off in a clear case of mistaken identity, flagged for a foul on Mohamed Diame by Tigers goalkeeper Allan McGregor.
Dean, as any good referee surely should, took the word of his assistant and pointed to the spot. The problem, however, was that a second or so earlier the Senegal international had blatantly controlled a pass from Mark Noble with his hand after the ball had ricochet in his direction via the shins of both James Chester and Tom Huddlestone.
For a referee of Dean’s standing, it was a poor mistake that he then compounded by handing Hull’s Scottish goalkeeper his second red card in eight games.
It meant Steve Harper was in goal when Noble made no mistake from the resulting spot-kick to set West Ham on their way to a victory that continued Hull’s miserable record at Upton Park.
More pertinently for Allardyce, it was payback for an equally contentious penalty award – given for a foul on Robbie Brady by Joey O’Brien that prompted the Hammers chief to brand the Tigers wing-back a “diver” – that handed City a 1-0 win when the two teams met at the KC Stadium in September.
Last night’s penalty award left Bruce just as incensed as Allardyce had been six months ago, which was vividly illustrated by the City manager remonstrating with Dean all the way down the tunnel as he left the field at half-time.
Hull did manage to cancel out Noble’s opener when Nikica Jelavic deflected Huddlestone’s free-kick into the home net three minutes into the second half.
However, a Chester own goal shortly afterwards meant a fifth straight defeat at Upton Park for the Tigers in a run that dates back to October, 1990, and has seen the Yorkshire club concede 16 goals.
The penalty award was undoubtedly the defining moment in last night’s contest.
But West Ham had started the game much quicker. Stewart Downing was the first Hammer to ask serious questions of the Tigers, the one-time England international’s searching dart from the right flank ending with McGregor saving well low to his left.
Shortly afterwards, Alex Bruce had to twice be alert to keep out, first, an Andy Carroll header and then a fierce shot from Matt Taylor.
Once down to 10 men, Hull were always up against it. They did, though, have two chances before the interval to equalise. Huddlestone’s half-volley flew over the crossbar following good work by Ahmed Elmohamady down the right. Adrian also had to react smartly in stoppage time to keep out a Maynor Figueroa drive.
City’s battling efforts continued after the restart and their reward came when Huddlestone’s 30-yard free-kick took a deflection off Jelavic to spin beyond Adrian in the home goal.
Had they been able to stay on level terms, the night may have ended differently with the locals in the crowd displaying a definite sense of frustration immediately after Jelavic’s goal.
Unfortunately for the Tigers and their 1,000 or so followers in a crowd of 31,033, parity lasted just six minutes as Chester, in trying to clear a Guy Demel cross, diverted the ball beyond Harper via his knee.
City could still have rescued some reward, with a swift break on 67 minutes seeing David Meyler fail to spot Jelavic when a simple pass would have put the Croat through on goal. Huddlestone then brought a decent tip over from Adrian with a shot from 20 yards, while at the other end Harper beat away a dipping Kevin Nolan effort.
Despite that, City finished the stronger of the two sides but there was to be no dramatic equaliser as Allardyce’s men exacted revenge for that early season defeat at the KC. The one consolation for Hull was that Sunderland’s defeat at Liverpool meant the gap between Bruce’s men and the bottom three remained at eight points, a cushion that should see Yorkshire club given an opportunity to improve their woeful recent record at Upton Park next season.
West Ham United: Adrian; Demel, Tomkins, Collins (Johnson 9), McCartney; Diame (J Cole 69), Noble; Downing, Nolan, Taylor; Carroll. Unused substitutes: Jaaskelainen, Armero, Vaz Te, C Cole, Nocerino.
Hull City: McGregor; Elmohamady, Chester, Davies, Figueroa (Rosenior 59); Bruce (Harper 25); Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler; Long, Jelavic (Sagbo 82). Unused substitutes: Koren, Fryatt, Quinn, Aluko
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).