x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Sun starting to set on Hull's top-flight stay

Birmingham did not take the game to Hull but they were not short of opportunities.

The sun shone brightly in Birmingham, but the game at St Andrews was hardly Calypso football, it was often dull and bordering on desperate. No one should be surprised as Birmingham have gone six games without a win and the relegation favourites, Hull, have lost seven of their last eight games. Alex McLeish, the Birmingham manger, described the match, as the battle of the "spanked bottoms" following Hull's 4-1 home defeat to Burnley and Manchester City's rout of Birmingham last weekend.

Iain Dowie, the Hull manager, was looking for fight and passion from his team. His players responded though you would have to question the quality of a side that had been assembled on large fees and fat wages by Phil Brown, Dowie's predecessor. Fight and passion were not forthcoming from a Birmingham side that have gone from relegation favourites to the top 10 thanks to hard work and the guile of their former Scotland manager.

Birmingham did not take the game to Hull but they were not short of opportunities. In the third minute James McFadden curled a 20-yard shot inches over the bar from the right channel and on 34 minutes Craig Gardner, Birmingham's January signing from rivals Aston Villa, caught the Hull defence off guard by bending a 20-yard short from the right that Matt Duke, the Hull keeper, palmed out. Jan Vennegor of Hesselink always looked a handful up front for Hull and you have to wonder what the burly striker could have achieved if he had a strike partner.

With both teams playing a 4-5-1 formation they tended to stifle creativity. The Dutchman had the best opportunity of the first half in the 40th minute when Andy Dawson, the left-back, supplied a perfect cross. The forward lunged at the ball and his diving header required an excellent save from Joe Hart, the England goalkeeper. Hull needed a win and something magic from inspirational midfielder Jimmy Bullard. The former Fulham man ran and ran and hassled the Birmingham midfielders but never looked like being creative.

Hull bossed the second half, but failed to turn their possession into goal-scoring chances. With three minutes left on the clock Tom Cairney had a shot that whistled past the keeper and a Cameron Jerome free-kick in the closing minutes was probably Birmingham best of a poor second half. The dull draw leaves Hull three points from safety and staring at relegation. @Email:sports@thenational.ae