LONDON 0 Hull 4? Never mind what the title of The Housemartins’ first album said, it is more like ‘Hull 0 in London’.
For the eighth time in nine Premier League visits to the capital, the Tigers were unable to score a goal as relegation was confirmed in the most demoralising of fashions.
Needing to beat Crystal Palace to take the fight for survival to the last weekend of the season, Hull crumbled horribly. Never mind failing to score once again in the capital, Marco Silva’s men could not even muster a shot on target in 90 sorry minutes.
Ahead inside 133 seconds courtesy of Wilfried Zaha, Palace coasted to victory with such ease that chants of ‘we are staying up’ were ringing around Selhurst Park long before Patrick van Aanholt’s late strike had capped a fine afternoon for Sam Allardyce’s men.
As the locals celebrated survival, the 2,197 Tigers fans who had made the long trip south more in hope than expectation could only look on stunned.
In the club’s biggest game since the play-off final victory over Sheffield Wednesday 351 days earlier, Hull produced comfortably their worst display under Silva.
Relegation, of course, was not all about yesterday’s no-show in south London. Far from it. The seeds were sown in an exasperating summer for supporters that saw Steve Bruce quit and the fruitless pursuit of Chris Coleman drag on for far too long.Richard Sutcliffe
Devoid of ideas and spirit, Hull bumbled their way through proceedings and looked every inch a side that deserve to be relegated.
Nerves undoubtedly played a part, as could be seen by an extra touch on the ball being taken time and time again in the early stages when a quick pass was needed.
But, even allowing for how much additional pressure had been piled on the Tigers by Swansea City’s win at Sunderland the previous afternoon, this was shockingly poor fare.
Silva’s body language on the touchline spoke volumes. Arms folded, brow furrowed and a face like thunder as the footballing ‘miracle’ he had spoken of being needed in January to keep the East Riding club up evaporated in front of his eyes.
Relegation, of course, was not all about yesterday’s no-show in south London. Far from it. The seeds were sown in an exasperating summer for supporters that saw Steve Bruce quit and the fruitless pursuit of Chris Coleman drag on for far too long.
That Hull started the season with just 13 fit outfield players –two of whom were goalkeepers – said everything that needed to be said about how things had turned sour since Mohamed Diame’s spectacular winner at Wembley.
Back-to-back wins over Leicester City and Swansea City in the opening week did paper over the cracks, but, eventually, that shocking summer caught up with the club.
By January, the Tigers looked down and out. Silva’s arrival sparked a revival but, ultimately, Hull had no margin for error during the run-in.
That the fatal blow should be self-inflicted did not come as a surprise. This, after all, is a side that has given away a staggering 13 penalties this season, comfortably the highest tally in the Premier League.
Even by Hull’s standards, however, the manner in which Palace were gifted the lead yesterday took some believing.
A hopeful lob forward by Andros Townsend, standing just inside the visitors’ half, appeared to offer no danger.
Even Michael Dawson’s header towards Ranocchia being weaker than was probably needed did not cause undue alarm.
Then, though, the Inter Milan loanee inexplicably missed the ball when attempting to clear. Zaha needed no second invitation, the Ivory Coast international darting forward before drilling a shot under Eldin Jakupovic.
Ranocchia’s catastrophic blunder left Hull, without an away league win since August, hovering perilously over the trapdoor marked ‘Championship’.
The Tigers crashed straight through 11 minutes before half-time, and again Silva’s side had no one to blame but themselves.
Wretched marking was the visitors’ Achilles heel this time, as Christian Benteke was allowed a free run to meet Jason Puncheon’s corner and power a header beyond Jakupovic.
It was the 21st time Hull had conceded from a set-piece this season and just about summed up what has, even allowing for the hope briefly engendered by Silva in the Spring, been a miserable return to the top flight.
Silva tried to instil some life into his side by making two half-time substitutions, but Hull rarely looked like battling back into proceedings.
Jarrod Bowen, one of those brought off the bench at the interval, had one good chance, but he made a mess of converting a left-wing cross by Sam Clucas.
Ahmed Elmohamady also found himself in a very similar position to Bowen when the ball broke to the Egyptian, but, again, the execution was woeful.
With those two spurned opportunities went any hopes of Hull regaining a toehold in proceedings. The final insult for the travelling fans came via two goals in the final five minutes. First, Dawson’s lumbering challenge on Jeffrey Schlupp left referee Martin Atkinson with no option but to point to the spot and Luka Milivojevic did the rest.
Worse was to follow as Hull’s defence went AWOL and van Aanholt drilled a low shot under Jakupovic.
Palace’s re-working of The Housemartins’ debut album title was complete as Hull were once again nilled in the capital. The big question now is when the Tigers will next get the chance to put that record straight as a Premier League club.