WHEN A disputed penalty condemned Hull City to a very harsh defeat at West Ham United just before Christmas, the post was voted man of the match by relieved home fans.
With good cause, too, as the upright had denied Mike Phelan’s Tigers on no fewer than three occasions in a game they dominated from start to finish only for Mark Noble to seal the points with that late spot-kick.
Andrew Robertson had more reason than most to rue Hull’s misfortune in East London, the Scot seeing a rasping shot leave the woodwork reverberating after an earlier drilled cross had done the same via a deflection from Noble’s head.
No wonder, therefore, Hull’s left-back took such huge satisfaction from a victory in the return that went a long way towards banishing the memories of that winter’s day when 57 per cent of Hammers fans had cheekily voted for the post in an online poll to find the man of the match.
“This was a massive win for us,” Robertson told The Yorkshire Post while clutching three bottles of Champagne, the reward for his own man-of-the-match display.
“It keeps the momentum going in terms of our home form before another important game on Wednesday (against Middlesbrough). That game down at West Ham is one that I will always remember, as there was no way we should have been beaten.
“We were just so unlucky and the dressing room afterwards was an awful place to be. Mike Phelan was the manager then and what do you say to your players after a game like that?
“You couldn’t fault anyone’s commitment or desire that day, not with the chances that we created or the way we dominated the game.”
Asked if netting the equaliser that paved the way for Andrea Ranocchia’s first goal in English football to seal a precious three points made up for the frustration of seeing the woodwork come to West Ham’s rescue over and over again before Christmas, Robertson replied: “I would have preferred both of them going in because then we might have won both games.
“But the main thing is we won. The dressing room was a totally different story this time. The boys are happy and the momentum is with us heading into Wednesday night.”
“Other teams have got a harder run-in than us, so we have just got to focus on the games and knock them off one by one.”Hull City’s Andrew Robertson
The chances of Hull going into that crucial all-Yorkshire encounter with Boro on a high seemed remote at the interval against the Hammers.
Having fallen behind to Andy Carroll’s 50th Premier League goal, the Tigers, sloppy in possession and lacking tempo, left the field having struggled to create anything of note.
Cue head coach Marco Silva, who abandoned a 3-5-2 formation that had clearly not worked and brought Kamil Grosicki off the bench in an attempt to kick-start his side. The tactical switches did the trick, Hull’s second-half display being in total contrast to the lifeless efforts of the opening 45 minutes that had suggested relegation might just be accepted with a whimper after all.
Robertson drew the home side level eight minutes after the restart by finishing neatly from a pass by Grosicki. Earlier in the move, Lazar Markovic had displayed both a delightful touch and great vision to spread the play from the right flank to the left via a neat exchange of passes with Abel Hernandez.
West Ham, who had wasted an early first-half chance when Robert Snodgrass headed straight at Eldin Jakupovic, visibly wilted after that as Alfred N’Diaye thundered a shot against a post and Grosicki drilled the rebound just wide.
Markus Henriksen should then have done better when presented with a chance before fellow substitute Shaun Maloney won the corner that would, ultimately, settle the contest in Hull’s favour.
As with Robertson’s equaliser, Grosicki was the creator with a beautifully-flighted delivery that allowed Ranocchia to ghost in front of Cheikhou Kouyate and flick a header past Darren Randolph.
The Inter Milan loanee’s first goal in English football continued Hull’s stunning form in front of their own fans under Silva.
His seven league and Cup games at the KCOM Stadium have yielded half a dozen victories and a draw against Burnley.
Silva’s four wins and two draws also mean his points tally is now superior to the 13 claimed by Phelan from his own 20 games at the helm.
If Hull, who have spent the past 163 days in the relegation zone, can boost that tally further come Wednesday night then the great escape really could be on in the East Riding.
“It is a big opportunity for us,” said Robertson, who left the KCOM on Saturday night with former Tigers team-mate Snodgrass. “Middlesbrough are struggling on the road, just like us.
“We can also maybe drag other teams into the mix who didn’t think they we were in trouble.
“Other teams have got a harder run-in than us, so we have just got to focus on the games and knock them off one by one.”