FOR Nouha Dicko and his Hull City team-mates, the contrast between the scenes in the first half against Sheffield United on Friday evening and those at the conclusion of the game could not have been more stark.
The well-documented fracture between the club and a significant section of the Tigers’ fanbase was conveyed to a watching television audience for the second time in the space of just under four months with sponge-ball mayhem and vociferous protests towards the Allam family again pockmarking proceedings.
The rift is unlikely to be healed any time soon, but, briefly, a team and a fanbase reconnected during a pulsating finale.
It culminated in Hull securing a richly-deserved victory over the Blades, with home supporters putting their angst to one side to do their bit to help the hosts get over the line and secure three precious points.
Its significance was not lost upon the players, according to Dicko, with he and his team-mates needing every bit of assistance they can get in a relegation battle that could well go right down to the wire.
And ahead of a ‘six-pointer’ of huge significance against fellow strugglers Barnsley this evening, the small details could well assume key importance.
On the fans’ backing at the end on Friday, Dicko, whose strike against the Blades earned Hull just their third home league win since the end of September, told The Yorkshire Post: “That was nice from them.
“We need them to be in this battle with us, even though they have frustrations.
“Even though they were not happy with some things that have happened, they were there behind the team. That is what we need. It was good.
“Those kind of things (protests) can happen and it happened against Nottingham Forest at home.
“It is not something you want to see as a player, but the fans have the right to protest as well. But we stayed focused.
“It is something we do not want to get involved in and we have to do the job, no matter what. The most important thing was to stay focused.
“Even though it is a frustrating season for the fans, there are still a lot of games to go and to stay in this division is the most important thing and get ready for next season.”
The importance of some games does not need to be dressed up in any way.
We need them to be in this battle with us, even though they have frustrations. Even though they were not happy with some things that have happened, they were there behind the team.Hull City’s Nouha Dicko
Tonight feels like one of those occasions. A victory for either side would see them end a harsh and, at times, bitter winter with a ray of hope ahead of some major fights that lie ahead.
Dicko is under no illusions about the importance of tonight’s encounter.
“It is a massive game and a game for six points,” the former Wolves striker observed.
“We did the job against Sheffield United and are now more confident and that is what we need. There is only one outcome we have to get.
“You have this (Barnsley) game at the back of your mind, even when the game was a bit far away. This game will be massive.
“If we win the atmosphere around here will be so much better.”
For Dicko, an erratic and frustrating campaign was provided with a welcome shot in the arm by way of his cherished winner against the Blades, which earned Hull a maiden victory over a side in the top eight so far this season and boosted morale ahead of another all-Yorkshire affair.
A tasty sub-plot will also add spice tonight with former Barnsley captain Angus MacDonald facing his old club – just 27 days after making the switch from South Yorkshire.
MacDonald left Oakwell under a bit of a cloud, having not featured since the end of November, with former Reds head coach Paul Heckingbottom citing an iron deficiency as a reason for his lack of opportunities early in the new year.
Upon arriving at Hull, the former Torquay United defender quickly suggested that he had been fit for “four or five weeks” and immediately plunged himself into an alternative survival fight with his new club.
For his part, MacDonald is affording no added significance to this evening’s game due to the opponents and is solely concerned with Hull’s fortunes and not those of his former club.
Playing down matters, the central defender said: “It is just another game. We will go out there and do our job and, hopefully, pick up three points.
“I have spoken to a couple of lads because I am still close to a few of them, but I do not check up on (their) results.
“My time at Barnsley was good, but towards the end I did not get enough game time. As a player you want as much game time as possible.”
Last six games: Hull DLWLLW; Barnsley LLLDLW.
Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).
Last time: Hull 0 Barnsley 1; January 26, 2013; FA Cup.