The future began yesterday for Hull City. Mathematically relegated from the Premier League by Steve Gohouri's injury-time equaliser, they turned to youth and two newcomers almost achieved something the club's senior players could not muster between them: an away win. Instead, there was disappointment at the denouement. "That is the nature of this harsh league," said Iain Dowie, the manager. Effectively demoted nine days before, he had signalled a change of approach. Will Atkinson and Mark Cullen, two players making their first league starts for the club, scored the goals to give Hull some cause for optimism in what otherwise appears a bleak next few years. Their selection is a financial necessity rather than a progressive project. Hull need to make drastic cuts to their wage bill, but blooding two of their homegrown produced a benefit.
The most notable omission was Jimmy Bullard, the club record signing. The midfielder's £45,000-per-week (Dh252,000) wages means it is imperative Hull sell him in the summer. An ankle problem ruled him out but Dowie said he would only have been a substitute anyway. The onus was switched to the next generation. It was a memorable Premier League debut for Atkinson, whose previous experience of first-team football was in League Two with Rochdale. Before half-time he beat Vladimir Stojkovic, heading in a cross from Kevin Kilbane. Both Cullen and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink were offside, prompting Trevor Massey to raise his flag, but Phil Dowd, the referee, overruled his assistant and permitted the goal.
It was a goal to highlight the susceptibility of Stojkovic, who is likely to be Serbia's World Cup keeper. So was the winner. The on-loan goalkeeper floundered when George Boateng crossed and Cullen applied the finishing touch with a header at the far post. At 18 years and nine days, he became the youngest scorer in the Premier League this season. "Those two boys are in the team on merit," added Dowie. "I made the decision 20 minutes after the game against Sunderland and they'll play next week [against Liverpool]."
Wigan end their season with a still more high-profile game, against Chelsea. "Not many people will expect Wigan to go to Stamford Bridge and get anything," Roberto Martinez, their manager, said. For Sir Alex Ferguson, hoping for a favour from the Latics at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, their unpredictability may be an asset or a hindrance. It proved both within 90 minutes. Victor Moses illustrated the ability that saw him linked with Arsenal and Manchester City before he signed for Wigan.
Advancing at pace, he deceived Bernard Mendy and Steven Mouyokolo by darting infield before curling a shot in via the far post. Two illustrations of poor defending followed - "Hull scored two goals from very little," added Martinez - before his side mustered an equaliser. Paul Scharner, making a valedictory appearance at the DW Stadium ahead of his summer exit, headed Gary Caldwell's cross into the six-yard box where Gohouri, spectacularly, followed chest control with an overhead kick. Enough, presumably, to impress the watching Sven-Goran Eriksson, his manager for the Ivory Coast. Enough to deny Hull's youngsters. @Email:email@example.com Man of the Match: Will Atkinson (Hull)