When your side are bang in the middle of a relegation battle and your lone striker is sent off in the 25th minute of a must-win home game, you know it’s going to be a long afternoon. However, a mixture of fight, desire and a never-say-die attitude from every man in a black and amber shirt, combined with yet another tactical masterclass at home from manager Marco Silva provided one of the moments of the season as the Tigers defied the odds, and a quite shocking refereeing display, to record a priceless victory on Saturday. The outcome of a Premier League season is often decided by outstanding results like this, and now with just four fixtures left of the season could Saturday’s remarkable result against Watford give City a psychological edge over our relegation rivals?
There is only one place I can start and that is with Niasse’s controversial first half sending off. After commenting to fans sat around me before the game that Bobby Madley has impressed me this season, the referee promptly had what I can only describe as the most one-sided refereeing display I have ever witnessed. Typical.
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As well as countless incorrect bookings and questionable decisions throughout the fixture, Madley’s terrible day can be summed up by the sending off. While replays show Niasse did indeed graze the leg of M’Baye Niang, the striker certainly did not catch the Watford man with any malice or intent, and the challenge was in no way dangerous. While refereeing mistakes are part of the game, and can to a certain extent be tolerated, this was a massive, and ultimately incorrect, call by Madley, especially considering Hull City’s Premier League safety and the millions of pounds that go with it are at on the line.
However, while it warranted a mention – or should I say rant – it is Hull City’s performance, and not a poor refereeing display, that the Tigers faithful will be talking about after this game. In a match generally void of an awful lot of quality and many clear-cut chances, the Tigers’ second half performance was something really special. Capped-off by Lazar Markovic’s opener and Sam Clucas’ stunning second, the atmosphere inside the KCOM was immense as a real sense that a ‘great escape’ might be on the cards could be felt oozing out of every stand.
While the atmosphere generated by a routine victory may well have been damped by the news that relegation rivals Swansea had beaten Hull City’s opposition of last weekend, Stoke, 2-0, keeping them just two points behind Marco Silva’s men, the nature of the Tigers’ ‘against all odds’ victory will certainly give the whole squad a psychological advantage heading into the final few games of the season. Indeed, this is something Silva alluded to in his post-match interview with BBC Radio Humberside, and this almost Mourinho-esque ‘the whole world is against us’ mentality surely has the secondary purpose of piling the pressure onto our relegation rivals.
The bottom line is this. Hull City are still two points outside of the Premier League relegation zone and are now one game closer to the end of the season. Our fate is still very much in our own hands. Despite a shocking refereeing display from Bobby Madley at the KCOM on Saturday, our 2-0 victory against Watford really did feel a highly significant one, both in terms of points and mentality going into the final straight of the Premier League season.
I think if Hull City do manage to avoid the drop, Saturday’s extraordinary victory over Watford will be remembered as the match the psychological battle was won. However, we will have to wait until next Saturday to make any assessment. With Southampton providing City’s next opposition at St Mary’s next Saturday, and Swansea travelling to Old Trafford, the lure of a potential five point gap between ourselves and the relegation zone is a mouth-watering prospect. Let’s pray that the Watford game proves to be a defining moment in Hull City’s season, despite the best efforts of Bobby Madley!