A WEATHER event labelled as the ‘Beast from the East’ may be looming, but listen to the locals here and there is already a toxic cloud hanging over this footballing quarter of the East Riding.
A deep schism between irate sections of Hull City supporters and the club’s hierarchy produced another televised flashpoint last night, with the sense of acrimony showing no signs of abating on a frosty evening by the Humber.
But proof of the Championship’s penchant for the unexpected also arrived, refreshingly from a Hull perspective.
A 55th-minute strike from Nouha Dicko helped deliver a priceless and well-deserved home victory on a slightly surreal night to move Hull three points clear of the drop zone, with Sheffield United, hugely disappointing, left to reflect on a bitter evening at its finale as the result dealt a blow to their play-off quest.
Home protests were promised and they duly arrived, more especially when hundreds of balls were thrown from the North Stand after 19 minutes and four seconds – a reference to the Tigers’ formation in 1904 – which stopped play for around two minutes, similar to the protest at the home game with Nottingham Forest on October 28.
Howls of displeasure towards the club’s owners, the Allam family, were also a soundtrack to much of the evening.
Yet by the end it was telling that the home chants were rather more gushingly directed towards those clad in amber and black to hail a milestone evening.
The endless shrill of whistles brought in by many Tigers supporters, with the aim of disrupting play, may have also been an accompaniment to most of the evening.
Yet at the finale last night the whistles were urging referee Simon Hooper to call time and signal a much-needed win.
The Blades had arrived in East Yorkshire with a reputation for derby excellence, with just one defeat in their previous 19 matches between themselves and White Rose opponents.
Their fine recent record on Friday evenings added to their sense of well-being, but on a night when victory would have seen them return to the top six, they never truly showed up in a poor display which will have left manager Chris Wilder nonplussed.
For his counterpart and former Blades manager Nigel Adkins, berated by the 2,000 Unitedites last night in his new position as Hull boss, there was an infinitely sweet victory upon which to reflect.
The first-half stoppage proved comfortably the main moment of drama in a stop-start period that lacked both rhythm and flow, but with Hull looking the more likely and showing more intensity.
Adkins will have at least been grateful that his pre-match call for home supporters to stay off the playing surface was heeded.
On it, his side had the better of a low-grade half that fell away as it progressed, although the early zest manifested by the likes of the recalled trio of Evandro, Adama Diomande and Dicko was a pleasing enough development for the Tigers’ chief.
An excellent early chance in the context of a scrappy half saw the ball break for Evandro, whose low shot was blocked by Jamal Blackman, who kept his place in goal ahead of Simon Moore.
Seb Larsson, a welcome returnee for the hosts, almost caught out Blackman with an opportunist free-kick, and at the other end the distinct lack of threat posed by Leon Clarke, who netted all four goals in the reverse fixture, and Billy Sharp was pronounced.
The Blades were nothing like at full pelt in an uncharacteristically muted first-half performance, although the smart money was on them stepping it up on the restart, expected to be induced by some words of encouragement from Wilder.
The early signs suggested that the Blades had taken the hint, with their tempo noticeably increasing.
It instigated an early chance for Sharp, who was handed a sight of goal only for Allan McGregor to make a key block in his first meaningful work of the night.
This proved a big moment, with Dicko – shortly after seeing a piledriver turned away by Blackman – making capital.
After a corner was not cleared, Jackson Irvine invitingly teed up the former Wolves striker and he made no mistake from close range, blasting high past Blackman at his near post for the 50th league goal of his career.
Diomande soon almost added a second with a header, with Blackman denying him following Ola Aina’s centre, as the Hull faithful started to warm to their side’s efforts on the pitch and help see them through at the end.
Hull City: McGregor; Aina, Dawson, MacDonald, Clark; Larsson, Irvine; Bowen, Evandro (Stewart 78), Diomande (Grosicki 64); Dicko (Campbell 73). Unused substitutes: Marshall, Hector, Toral, Tomori.
Sheffield United: Blackman; Basham (Donaldson 81), Stearman, O’Connell; Baldock, Leonard (Duffy 63), L Evans (Lundstram 74), Fleck Stevens; Sharp, Clarke. Unused substitutes: Moore, Freeman, Lafferty, C Evans.
Referee: S Hooper (Wiltshire).