THE prospect of a visit to the highest ground in England on a day when gale force winds were set to batter the country must have left a few Hull City fans tempted to remain under the duvet when the wake-up call sounded on Saturday morning.
Memories of the previous meeting between the two clubs this season just a month earlier will hardly have made a trip to The Hawthorns any more enticing, either, with that goalless draw at the KC Stadium being one of the dreariest games the Premier League has seen all season.
Despite that, a noisy band of 1,500 TIgers fans made their way to the Midlands in the hope that the optimism generated by the New Year’s Day win over Everton could help Steve Bruce’s men to another crucial three points.
Come the final whistle, however, those same supporters must have been wishing they had stayed at home in the East Riding after witnessing Hull press the self-destruct button to lose to yet another relegation rival.
West Bromwich Albion can now be added to Burnley and Leicester City in having inflicted serious damage on the Tigers’ attempts to stay among the elite by taking all three points off Bruce’s men.
The fact Saido Berahino’s winner came courtesy of a dreadful mix-up between Ahmed Elmohamady and Allan McGregor added to the gloom that deepened further on the journey home when Crystal Palace’s tea-time victory at home to Tottenham Hotspur dumped Hull back into the bottom three.
Captain Curtis Davies said: “When you go to a team who are in a similar position to you, the main thing if you can’t win is that you don’t lose, and I don’t think we ever looked like losing.
“I know they had the best chance of the game when Berahino should have scored, but I thought we fully matched them. We were quite relaxed until the mix-up.
“Recently, we have been up and down, a proper rollercoaster. We played well at Sunderland, but then lost to Leicester, when we controlled the game without creating too much.
“Against Everton, we were brilliant again, but then we lose to West Brom, another team around us in the table.”
Asked if the defeat to West Brom and the injuries suffered by Nikica Jelavic and Abel Hernandez were typical of how luck was going against Hull at the moment, Davies replied: “I don’t want to talk about luck.
“We didn’t get the rub of the green at the start (of the season), fair enough, but you make your own luck in football and we have to start doing that.
“I’d sooner be good and get the results because of that.”
The Hawthorns, at 551 feet above sea level the highest ground in England just ahead of Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park, was always likely to take a battering on Saturday once the weather forecasters had warned that 70 mph gusts were on the way.
Hull, however, could not have anticipated how their pursuit of valuable points would be blown off course in such a ridiculous manner just 12 minutes from time. After overcoming the loss of £17m strikeforce, Jelavic and Hernandez, to injury during the first half, the Tigers had looked set to claim a hard-fought draw.
It had not been pretty nor particularly enjoyable.
Saturday’s game proved every bit as poor as the December meeting between the two clubs that had ended in a fitting goalless stalemate.
But, considering how tightly packed together the bottom clubs are in the Premier League, a point at the home of a relegation rival would have been something to cherish on the journey home.
Then, though, came the game’s decisive moment. As Craig Gardner over hit an attempted pass for fellow substitute Victor Anichebe to chase, there appeared little danger.
Not only was goalkeeper McGregor alert to the threat and on his way to collect, but Elmohamady was also on hand to shepherd the ball towards him.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, a mix-up then followed that saw Elmohamady prod the ball backwards to leave his team-mate no option but to drop on it.
Referee Neil Swarbrick immediately awarded an indirect free-kick for a back-pass.
It was a daft mistake but, even at this stage, the situation was retrievable if the defensive wall had done its job.
However, when Anichebe touched the ball to Berahino and he shot goalwards, far too many members of the wall decided to try to charge down the attempt rather than stay in place.
The result was Berahino’s shot from eight yards striking Jake Livermore on the backside before cannoning into the net.
Totally avoidable but, in the context of a poor contest, totally predictable, in that if either side was going to take all three points it would be courtesy of a mistake.
Certainly, moments of attacking quality were few and far between.
Berahino did shoot wide early on following a neat exchange of passes with Stephane Sessegnon before he then brilliantly set up Brown Ideye with a sublime through ball just before the break that deserved better than being dragged horribly wide.
But those two incidents were very much the exception rather than the norm in a contest when Hull’s only real effort of note was Robbie Brady’s shot from a tight angle that Ben Foster did well to tip over.
Manager Bruce said: “Of course it is all ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. But to lose a game like that, and one of this magnitude, is certainly not us.
“The one thing we do pride ourselves on is not making mistakes like that.
“A little bit of a miscommunication and it has cost us the game. The disappointing thing is that we never looked like losing the game.
“We were comfortable, without having a real threat up the other end of the pitch. Maybe with a bit of a cutting edge up the top end, we should have offered more than we did.
“As for the table, it is so close and so tight that it is scary. There are eight teams in it and I said all along there would be. I didn’t envisage it being this tight but it’s all to play for.”
West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Wisdom, McAuley, Lescott, Baird; Yacob, Morrison, Brunt, Sessegnon (Gardner 76); Berahino, Ideye (Anichebe 73). Unused substitutes: Myhill, Pocognoli, Dawson, Dorrans, Samaras
Hull City: McGregor; Chester, Bruce, Davies, Figueroa; Elmohamady, Livermore, Meyler, Quinn (Huddlestone 78); Hernandez (Ince 39), Jelavic (Brady 33). Unused substitutes: Harper, Maguire, McShane, Dawson.
Referee: N Swarbrick (Lancashire).