Hull City 0 Crystal Palace 1: Bruce calls for unity as Tigers search for ‘little piece of magic’

YOU know that you have problems when a striker who has not scored all season comes off the bench and proves the difference between two sides.

Hull City's Danny Graham and Crystal Palace's Joel Ward battle for the ball

This was the case at the KC Stadium and underlined the gap between the haves and have-nots of the Premier League.

Tigers chief Steve Bruce paid £3m for Cameron Jerome in 2006 when in charge at Birmingham and new Palace manager Tony Pulis forked out £4m for his services at Stoke in 2011 – small change for Champions League chasers but hefty slices of the budget for others.

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Huddersfield-born Jerome was loaned to Palace for the season after Stoke parted company with Pulis, who watched from the stands on Saturday after agreeing a two-and-a-half-year deal to become Palace’s new manager.

Jerome must have impressed Pulis after coming on in the first half when Marouane Chamakh retired to have eight stitches in a head wound following an aerial collision with Paul McShane, who battled on until just before the hour mark.

Jermoe was the one striker who unsettled his rivals’ defence and he set Palace on the way to their first Premier League away win in 19 attempts, driving past Maynor Figueroa and cutting the ball back to present Barry Bannan with a far-post sidefoot finish in the 81st minute.

The goal came just three minutes after next-to-the-bottom Palace had been reduced to 10 men when Yannick Bolasie went over the top on Jake Livermore trying to retrieve possession on the edge of the area, and received a straight red card.

Hull went mightily close to preserving their unbeaten home record in the fourth minute of stoppage time when Dean Moxey cleared George Boyd’s inswinging corner off the line and substitute Liam Rosenior thumped the ball back in from outside the area only to see the ball strike a post.

But the hosts’ lack of threat in front of goal had been patently obvious even though Bruce employed attack-minded players for a game where victory would have given them a comfortable buffer ahead of sterner tests against 
Liverpool and Arsenal.

Quite rightly, Bruce concentrated on defence when preparing for life back in the top sphere, spending around £6m on captain Curtis Davies and goalkeeper Allan McGregor, and the Tigers have got it right at the back, conceding only two goals at home.

Midfield is also strong following the acquisition of record £4.5m buy Tom Huddlestone and loanee Jake Livermore, both from Spurs, but Bruce needs no telling that it is in front of goal where Hull fall short, especially with Sone Aluko sidelined with Achilles trouble.

Against Palace, Bruce brought in Robbie Brady and Robert Koren to support lone striker Yannick Sagbo as McGregor returned in goal following thigh problems, these three changes being made to the side which had beaten Sunderland and lost at Southampton before the international break.

Neither of the two outfield players made much of an impact, however, and when George Boyd threaded the ball through into the area for Sagbo shortly after the break, Hull’s best chance was snuffed out as Julian Speroni dived at the forward’s feet.

Palace immediately struck on the counter and had it not been for Ahmed Elmohamady’s sliding challenge in his new right-back role then Dwight Gayle would have put Palace ahead earlier.

In fact the visitors, playing for the last time under caretaker boss Keith Millen, took the game to the Tigers in the second half, leading to further disgruntlement from a home support angered by stewards preventing a banner stating ‘We are Hull City’ being paraded around the ground in protest at the proposed name change.

One-time Palace manager Bruce said: “I can understand supporters’ frustration. No one is as frustrated as I am but we’ve got no god-given right to beat anyone in this division. We’ve got to play well again.

“It was only a few weeks ago we were playing fantastically well at Spurs twice in a week.

“If we’d have taken a point, which we should have done, we’d have been 10th in the league.

“If you look at all of the bottom half of the Premier League, the one thing that everyone struggles to find is goals.

“Every team has got top, top players who make life difficult for you. You don’t get four or five chances like we used to get in the Championship.

“We had the best chance of the game with Sagbo and missed it. That’s a concern for me because we have to be better there.

“As I’ve said repeatedly, for weeks and months now, that’s the difference. That’s why we’re all scouring about trying to find that front player with a little bit of magic.”

And on supporter unrest over the proposed name change to Hull Tigers, Bruce added: “The one thing any football club needs is stability at the top, which we have, but there’s a situation that’s arisen with the name change.

“What we all need to do is concentrate on what we are and where we are.

“I can understand supporters’ frustrations, they have a right, but let’s not make it a distraction. Let’s not make it an excuse.

“Let’s stay together and make sure we go forward together. As a football club we can do without the distractions. It’s hard enough on a Saturday without all that.

“People are entitled to opinions, of course, I’d never suggest otherwise, but it’s probably a wrong time to voice their opinions on a Saturday afternoon with a game going on.”

Hull City: McGregor, Elmohamady, Davies, McShane (Rosenior 58), Figueroa; Koren (Gedo 78), Huddlestone, Livermore, Boyd; Brady (Graham 46); Sagbo. Unused substitutes: Harper, Bruce, Meyler, Faye.

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Moxey; Bolasie, Dikgacoi (O’Keefe 75), Jedinak, Bannan, Gayle (Puncheon 86); Chamakh (Jerome 36). Unused substitutes: Alexander, Mariappa, Phillips, Williams.

Referee: A Taylor (Lancs).