The unflappable Marco Silva discovered that there is one referee virtually guaranteed to make even the mildest of men lose their tempers, and on this occasion it would be fair to say that Mike Dean took the Hull City manager right to the brink.
The penalty Dean awarded against Hull in the last regulation minute of the game threatened to deny Hull a rare and precious away point in what is starting to look like a miraculous survival season and Silva was furious. Were it not for Eldin Jakupovic’s fine save down low to his left from Dusan Tadic’s spot-kick then the Hull manager would surely have struggled to control his emotions but in the end he could celebrate a draw that takes his club three points clear of the relegation zone.
In the aftermath, Silva politely advanced the theory that he did not believe it was a penalty when Alfred N’Diaye and Maya Yoshida collided in the area, and he also said that for the sake of consistency if that qualified as a foul then there were others Hull could cite against them.
One was a grapple that involved Harry Maguire and then in the dying seconds Oumar Niasse had his shirt pulled in the Southampton area as the striker connected with a header that was cleared off the line by Cedric Soares.
“There was a similar situation in the other box and the referee didn’t give it,” Silva said. “I wasn’t happy but then there was a big save from Eldin. I wouldn’t say it’s like a victory but it’s important because we didn’t deserve to lose. It gives us more confidence because we have changed our away form now.”
Should Swansea City in 18th position lose at Old Trafford on Sunday then Hull’s prospects look bright. Both of them have to play relegated Sunderland before the end of the season and although Hull must also face Crystal Palace away and Tottenham at home on the final game of the season they have, remarkably, given themselves a very good chance of staying up.
They have won just once away from home all season, against Swansea in August, and this was just their sixth point earned on the road all season. After the visit of Sunderland to the KCOM stadium, Hull’s final away game of the season is at Selhurst Park which was why Silva was eager to see an improvement.
It was a bad day for Puel whose team were booed at half-time and there was the same reaction when the manager substituted Manolo Gabbiadini in the second half. Increasingly one wonders if the Southampton fans’ hostility towards the Frenchman will influence whether he stays next season, especially with a home record that is the sixth worst in the league.
Puel said afterwards that his team were “too slow” at times to break down Hull. “For us it was not enough,” he said. “We could have won this game with a penalty but a draw was normal [fair result]. It was a bad day.” He added: “We are angry, like the fans. We have to accept this [criticism].”
Saints still have Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United to play and it could yet get worse for their manager if the crowd continues to turn against him, even with the team in ninth place currently. Meanwhile there was another manager at St Mary’s who might appeal to a club that has a history of appointing good young foreign coaches.