A Keane afternoon in Hull
We might still be looking for our first away win of the season but we did pick up our second point on the road yesterday in a 1-1 draw at Hull in a match with Michael Keane playing a big part in both goals.
By the time the goals arrived it was beginning to look as though one goal would win it but thankfully, just four minutes after giving away a penalty for handball, Keane scored the equaliser with a smart finish from a Robbie Brady corner.
With 30 points having been secured ahead of this game, we are in a reasonably comfortable position in the league, but it was certainly still a welcome point in that it also ensured Hull, who dropped to next to bottom, didn’t get any closer to us.
Given recent experiences for this fixture, I am able to report a reasonably trouble free journey to the now named KCOM Stadium, some rain, but no floods, and certainly no one threatening to jump from a motorway bridge.
The pub stop in Howden was excellent and we arrived for the game in good time with the expected team announced with, due to absences, Dan Agyei making his first bench appearance in the Premier League. That expected team included two former Hull players in George Boyd and Robbie Brady. For Brady it was a first return since he departed for Norwich at the end of the 2014/15 season and he received a warm welcome from the home supporters.
It was certainly a different looking Hull side to the one we played back in September at home with only four of that day’s team kicking off yesterday’s game as manager Marco Silva named his new look team with all eyes for Burnley fans on Andrew Robertson and Kamil Grosicki, who was strangely booed by the away following on a number of occasions.
Our great run of five successive wins there had come to an end on Boxing Day last season when we were beaten 3-0 but I did suggest that the defeat was probably the most significant result we’d had there given what happened during the remainder of the season.
Attacking the far end of the ground in the first half we made a very positive start and had much of the early play. The closest we came to a goal was from Boyd who saw his shot well saved by Eldin Jakupovic to his left.
Things might have been even better but Brady just couldn’t get things right on his return. He twice badly hit crosses into the box and, after being set up by a delightful ball from Boyd, fired his shot wide.
It was never going to continue like that; Hull have been doing well at home of late and eventually they got themselves back into the contest. They had one big chance that fell to Dieumerci Mbokani but he missed target with his header.
Both Brady, who hit the wall, and Grosicki, who was close, had opportunities from free kicks and between them the closest we came to a goal was from a Ben Mee header that hit the post via the goalkeeper who then got another touch before the ball went out for a goal kick off Ashley Barnes.
Overall, we’d been the better side in the first half but 0-0 it was when referee Martin Atkinson blew for half time and at that point I was pretty confident we would get something from the game, maybe even the win that would at least stop the national media constantly discussing our away results.
That 0-0 scoreline might have become 0-1 almost immediately after the restart but again Mbokani failed with a header and for a while the game became something of a stalemate with little action at either end.
It burst into life with three big opportunities. Barnes fired just wide from 25-yards and within a couple of minutes Andre Gray went clear but his shot from the right hand side went just wide of the post.
At the other end Grosicki missed target with a shot from the left hand side when he looked a likely scorer and at this point I was beginning to think it would be 0-0.
Suddenly, Hull got a few minutes and won some corners. When the last of them came over it ended with referee Martin Atkinson pointing to the spot. I didn’t see anything at the time but it was for handball against Keane. Yes, the impressive Harry Maguire pushed him, no doubt, but I’ve no argument with the decision and would certainly have been demanding a penalty had that happened in the other box.
Atkinson, who might have missed what could have been a red card for Boyd a few minutes earlier, got out his yellow for the protesting Barnes, and that was to prove important.
Tom Huddlestone took the kick and, although he got to it, Tom Heaton couldn’t keep it out. As Hull celebrated, Heaton kicked the post in frustration.
Staring another away defeat in the face, we were behind for no more than four minutes. A Brady ball into the box was pushed out for a corner by Maguire which Brady took. It dropped for Keane beyond the far post. He chested it down and then, with real composure, fired home to the delight of the Burnley fans in the corner.
That’s his first goal since he scored in the 2-0 win against Watford earlier in the season and he was delighted with it. “It was a great ball from Robbie,” Keane said. “We worked on it yesterday, going to the back post. I saw it all the way. Ben took their man away and I knew I had a bit of space. I just took it down with my chest and it sat up nicely for me and it was good to finish it off.”
He joked: “I am always joining in the strikers’ finishing sessions. Sometimes the keepers tell me to go away and head it, but maybe I’ve earned myself a spot there now.”
Keane headed for the Burnley fans. “I knew where the fans were and each time I score I like to celebrate with them because it makes it that bit more special.”
There was still nearly quarter of an hour to go, plus the four minutes added on, but neither goalkeeper had any real concerns and that’s how it ended, although Burnley finished the game with ten men when Barnes got a second yellow for raising his hand in an aerial challenge. He can certainly have no complaints and will now miss Swansea.
I would certainly have taken a point yesterday morning. Keeping our ten point lead over them was important. The good news continued as we left for home – Crystal Palace might have won but they beat Middlesbrough and there were also defeats for Bournemouth, Swansea and Sunderland.
Sam Allardyce, after Palace’s win, said it was now three from seven and it was their aim to be as high as possible within that group of seven. It’s incredible that we are no longer mentioned as relegation candidates although we do still need more points to ensure our place next season.
So, another point for us, one point closer to where we need to be, wherever that is. I really don’t think we’ll need many more points but let’s just keep getting them.
We might still be looking for that elusive first away win but when that final whistle blew yesterday it certainly felt like a win.
The teams were;
Hull: Eldin Jakupovic, Ahmed Elmohamady, Andrea Ranocchia, Harry Maguire, Andrew Robertson, Omar Elabdellaoui (Abel Hernandez 82), Tom Huddlestone, Alfred N’Diaye, Kamil Grosicki, Shaun Maloney (David Meyler 67), Dieumerci Mbokani (Oumar Niasse 67). Subs not used: David Marshall, Adama Diomande, Josh Tymon, Jarrod Bowen.
Yellow Card: Tom Huddlestone.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Ashley Westwood (James Tarkowski 85), Joey Barton, Robbie Brady (Scott Arfield 89), Ashley Barnes, Andre Gray (Sam Vokes 85). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, Tendayi Darikwa, Dan Agyei.
Yellow Cards: Ashley Westwood, Ashley Barnes.
Red Card: Ashley Barnes.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (Leeds).
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