THE return of Abel Hernandez and results elsewhere aside, Tuesday night was a desperate affair for Hull City.
A defeat to Millwall so shockingly poor that even the patience of the perennially positive Nigel Adkins snapped was bad enough.
But with swathes of empty seats and an atmosphere so flat the players’ shouts were clearly audible throughout, the KCOM Stadium was a grim place to be on Tuesday.
Talk of relegation understandably filled the air among those who had braved the cold, even if losses for the four clubs below the Tigers meant the gap between Adkins’s men and the bottom three remained at three points.
Jarrod Bowen, City’s top scorer this term with 13 goals, is well aware of such chatter about the club’s possible demise. However, he is also at pains to stress that the players must not allow such thoughts to become a self fulfilling prophecy.
“We are in a position where every result matters,” said Bowen to The Yorkshire Post. “We have got to pick up results, wherever it may be.
“Going into a losing changing room isn’t nice. We would much prefer to be going into a winning changing room and for confidence to be high.
“But, right now, we have to get the points. We haven’t been good enough, we all know that.
“We are in a scrap and have got to roll our sleeves up and fight.
“When you look at the table and you are down there, it is always worrying. But you can’t let that affect you too much,” he added.
“If you go out worrying you will get beat and be relegated, then that is what will happen. We have to start getting the results to get back up that table.”
Hull host Norwich City this weekend and then travel to Birmingham City for a potentially key clash with the side sitting third bottom.
With Easter then bringing back-to-back clashes with Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa and leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers, City cannot afford a repeat on Saturday of the abject defending that allowed Millwall to leave the East Riding with all three points.
“There was no reason for it,” said Bowen when asked about a dreadfully slow start that allowed the Lions to seize the initiative and go ahead inside the opening minute. “The early goal killed us. We should not have let it affect us but, on the night, we did and that cost us.
“I know the goal went in early but we should have reacted differently. It took the stuffing out of us when it shouldn’t.
“We did feel to be putting a few passes together when they scored the second goal. That was even more of a kick in the teeth. Again, though, we should not have let it affect us.”
Just seven wins from 35 league outings this term is a wretched return and the Tigers must hope the goalscoring return of Hernandez on Tuesday after six-and-a-half months out with a ruptured Achilles can bring about an upturn in fortunes.
“Abel is a breath of fresh air,” added Bowen about a striker who is the club’s joint fourth highest scorer this term despite playing just four times. “It was horrible when he got injured earlier in the season.
“Look at the goals he scored a couple of seasons back (in the promotion year), that shows what he is about.
“I was delighted he came back with a goal against Millwall and, hopefully, he can get more.
“He is good to play alongside. He is a goalscorer, just wants to score goals. And that is what we need right now.”