West Ham 3 Hull City 0: Defeat was self-inflicted, says Brown

THE question, when it came, made Phil Brown positively bristle.

"Is that the first time you have seen your side look like a relegation team?" asked the Hull City manager's inquisitor.

The Tigers had just slipped to a defeat every bit as emphatic as the 3-0 final scoreline suggested against a West Ham United side who had started the day on the same number of points as Brown's men.

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A truly miserable day had been made even gloomier by Anthony Gardner having been stretchered off in the closing stages.

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With Craig Fagan having also been sent off early in the second half, it meant the visitors had ended the afternoon with nine men on the field and precious few crumbs of comfort to glean from another fruitless visit to London. It was a point Brown conceded as he talked of the "self-inflicted damage" that allowed the Hammers to canter to victory despite putting in a distinctly ordinary performance.

However, when it came to the question of whether Hull now wore the look of a doomed side, Brown was unequivocal in his answer.

"I don't think we do," was the terse reply that invited no further follow-up inquiry.

Brown's faith was admirable and borne out of the battling qualities that City have shown for much of the past three months.

Even in defeat against the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, Hull emerged with tremendous credit after producing gutsy and determined displays against superior opposition.

If Brown's men can reproduce those qualities in the final 11 games – and, just as importantly, get Jimmy Bullard fit – then the KC Stadium may well be hosting Premier League football again come August.

What also cannot be denied after the insipid efforts at Upton Park, though, is any repeat and Hull's chances of survival are slim.

City were, to put it mildly, shockingly poor.

The previous night, soap fans had been glued to events taking place deep in West Ham territory as the identity of Archie Mitchell's killer in EastEnders was revealed.

But for the City supporters who followed their side to the capital, there was precious little suspense or excitement to be had at Upton Park with the final outcome not in any doubt from the moment West Ham had opened the scoring after just 130 seconds.

That the goal was so utterly avoidable only added to the sense of frustration among those sporting amber and black in the lower tier of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand.

An unwise attempted pass by Andy Dawson to Tom Cairney gave the teenager no chance of claiming possession, Radoslav Kovac duly sweeping in to push the ball to Guillermo Franco. He, in turn, found Valon Behrami, who exchanged passes with Guillermo Franco before firing past Boaz Myhill.

As Brown bemoaned afterwards, the damage was "self-inflicted" but City failed to heed the lesson.

Just eight minutes later, Stephen Hunt needlessly conceded a corner that Alessandro Diamanti swung over for Scott Parker to drive straight at Myhill.

The City goalkeeper then brilliantly clawed a Behrami header away after the outstanding Diamanti had taken advantage of City's slow response to a quickly taken free-kick.

It seemed only a matter of time before the Hammers doubled their advantage only for the visitors to suddenly spark into life as the first half drew to a close.

First, a Paul McShane cross from the right caused panic in the home penalty area and Cairney just failed to capitalise.

Then, in stoppage time, Dawson's long ball forward was punched clear by Green to Boateng.

The veteran Dutch midfielder controlled before weaving his way through one challenge and hitting a stinging drive that Green superbly turned over.

It suggested a lively second half may be in prospect, but instead it proved no more than a false dawn as City endured 45 minutes from hell.

The first blow came soon after the restart when Fagan's tug at Diamanti's shirt was enough to earn him a second yellow card following his ill-timed lunge at Scott Parker during the first half.

West Ham duly made their numerical superiority pay just before the hour when Gardner horribly mis-judged a Julien Faubert pass and Carlton Cole raced clear to beat a helpless Myhill.

Brown responded by making a triple substitution on the hour in an attempt to rouse his troops, but all to no avail as Gardner was forced out of the action after landing awkwardly.

Faubert added further insult to damaging injury with a neatly taken third goal in stoppage time to make it five defeats from as many visits to the capital by Hull this season.

MATCH FOCUS

Hero: Alessandro Diamanti

Terrorised the Tigers right flank and came within a whisker of embarrassing Boaz Myhill with an audacious effort on goal from five yards inside his own half. Deserved standing ovation when substituted near the end.

Villain: Craig Fagan

After being rightly booked for a late challenge on Scott Parker after 26 minutes, he really should have known better than to tug at Diamanti's shirt eight minutes after the restart.

Key moment: 59th minute

Even down to 10 men, Hull still harboured hopes of a comeback until a misjudgement by Anthony Gardner allowed Carlton Cole to race on to a Julien Faubert, above, pass to make it 2-0.

Ref watch: Mike Atkinson

Applied the letter of the law in sending Craig Fagan off for a cynical tug on Diamanti, though even West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola admitted the decision was harsh.

Verdict

The most worrying afternoon of the season for the Tigers as a distinctly average West Ham won at a canter and captain Anthony Gardner suffered an injury that seems likely to rule him out for the season.

Quote of the day

It was self-inflicted damage – Phil Brown's scathing assessment of his City side's efforts in the East End.

Next game

Everton v Hull City; Sunday, March 7, 2010; Premier League.

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