x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Brown rises to the challenge

The Hull coach's managerial situation is being monitored on a game-by-game basis. The availability of Jimmy Bullard for each one can only help his cause.

It was widely speculated at the beginning of this month that Phil Brown would not survive as the Hull City manager following the departure of Paul Duffen as chairman. His main ally was gone as another relegation battle loomed for the Tigers. Apparently, Brown's fate was sealed before the home game against Stoke and not even victory would save him. But like him or loathe him, you cannot say he shirks a challenge.

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink's late winner produced three precious points on that tension-filled day against Stoke and, almost three weeks later, Brown is still there and fighting, like his side, for survival. The Geordie went through similar tough times last season. He accepts there are no guarantees over his future, but wants to prove his worth by enjoying a third year in the top flight. "I think all managers are under pressure. Sir Alex Ferguson or whoever, it doesn't matter who you are.

"You are under pressure to get results," he said. Brown's managerial situation is being monitored on a game-by-game basis. The availability of Jimmy Bullard for each one can only help his cause. Since his return from a knee injury, the midfielder has become the influential figure that Brown sought when he paid a club record £5 million (Dh30.4m) for him back in January. "You could say it is a coincidence that Jimmy is back, but it is a lot to do with it," added Brown on the recent improvement that has seen Hull score five times in two games and gain four points.

Bullard, a constant driving force, starred against Stoke and inspired their comeback against West Ham on Saturday. From 2-0 down they went 3-2 up before their fellow strugglers snatched a point. Brown will be looking for another spirited display against Everton at the KC Stadium tonight. The scenario is likely to be a lot different to the one that saw David Moyes's men triumph 4-0 in their Carling Cup meeting in September.

Everton had too many anonymous performances in the 3-0 weekend loss at Manchester United, and defeat at Hull will see the two sides surprisingly level on points. The pressure might not be on Moyes, but could be if they do not rediscover their best form and climb up the table. There is small margin for error down at the bottom with just six points separating Burnley in 10th and Bolton, who occupy the final relegation place. Blackburn and Fulham are in the middle of this group and meet at Craven Cottage tonight.

Like Bullard, the Rovers midfielder David Dunn is enjoying a renaissance. His recent years have been plagued by injuries, but a goal in the 2-0 win at Bolton on Sunday was his sixth of the season, putting him on course for his best tally since 2003. That season he won his only England cap against Portugal. Ryan Nelsen, the Blackburn captain, admires his qualities. "When he's on the field playing consistently, there's no better player to watch; he's very smooth," he said. "He's such a fantastic passer of the ball, like your Xavis and Iniestas, those sort of players."

Fulham could have their own influential striker Andy Johnson back after a seven-game absence with groin trouble. @Email:akhan@thenational.ae Hull v Everton, Showsports 1 & 2, KO 11.45pm