Colin Randalldescended into the matchday bunker to listen to commentary via the official club site (with occasional silences), watch here-one-second-gone-the-next streams and wait for those much more reliable text updates from Pete Sixsmith …
Georges, the fishmonger, told me after our great France-England badminton clash (I won), that during a six-month stint as a trawlerman in the UK, he caught a boat to Kingston. It soon became clear that he hadn’t sailed up the Thames but into what most people called Hull.
The way this game started, Hull City might as well have been Kingstonian FC, given the ease with which Sunderland created chances.
By the time Darren Bent grabbed his 24th Premier League goal of the season, after all of six minutes, we should have been two up.
And yet again, we made life hard for ourselves with our failure to take chances, our limitations with the dead ball (from corners or what should be dangerous free kicks) and our tendency to allow teams back at us when we should be burying them. So it was that as half time approached, we had Jimmy Bullard to thank for missing a penalty to keep the slender lead intact.
And then Geovanni went close with a free kick, one of those we give away all too easily outside our own box.
Then came a double sending off – Altidore for butting Hutton and Hutton, presumably, for bouncing the ball off the Hull player’s head or back an instant beforehand their idiotic clash on the touchline. A dismal end to the first half of game that ought already to have been won by now – yet might have been thrown away.
The second half started in ragged fashion. So much for any hopes we had that reaching safety with games to spare – and reputations away from home to assert – would produce relaxed, flowing football and a convincing win.
Give Hull some credit for putting up a fight, knowing defeat for them and a home win at Boleyn ground in east London would effectively send them down, this was a deeply disappointing way to respond to the lifting of any threat to our own Premier survival.
The irresistible feeling as the second half wore on was that if we are serious about our desire to establish ourselves as a top half club, Sunderland remain a long way from the finished product. Half chances came and went, passes went astray, concentration lapses set up Hull for opportunities of their own.
With only intermittent visual links, I came to rely more and more on Gary Bennett’s usual common sense and excellent reading of a game on BBC Radio Newcastle to gain a proper sense of individual performances. Matthew Kilgallon was singled out as a star performer at the back, Gordon made what has become a customary crop of face-saving saves and lots of huffing and puffing up front came to nothing.
Steve Bruce’s dismissal to the stand by Lee Probert, described by Pete Sixsmith at half time as having a nightmare, may have been the most exciting incident of the back end of the game.
Sorry Hull – you’re down barring scorelines that don’t happen (with Burnley and Pompey) – and well done in the end West Ham. As for Sunderland, a second away win of the season and back-back-wins are welcome.
But we will have to improve enormously to stop Manchester United winning with ease at the Stadium of Light.