Bowen is on song as Tigers get in tune for survival
FINALLY SOMETHING TO CHEER FOR THE HULL CITY FAITHFUL
HULL CITY 2 NOTTINGHAM FOREST 1
AGAINST opponents whose fans’ playlist features a chant paying homage to one of the Righteous Brothers’ most famous hits, Hull City proved that they have not lost that loving feeling.
A pretty joyless soundtrack of a season frequented by acrimony – and perhaps most worryingly of all, apathy – required a sweet Tigers’ tune and Saturday’s sense of timing was exquisite, especially with a Yorkshire derby against Leeds United looming large tomorrow evening.
Infamously, the league fixture against Forest in East Yorkshire in November was marred by a disruption from sections of irate Tigers supporters, who threw hundreds of balls onto the pitch to voice their ongoing dismay towards the Allam family.
The only thing that shuddered to a halt on Saturday was Nottingham Forest’s FA Cup bandwagon as those in amber and black enjoyed a rare afternoon to savour by the Humber.
Over 4,000 Forest fans – buoyed by the arrival of Aitor Karanka at the club – made the trek north and the East Midlanders, fresh from a stunning round three triumph over Cup holders Arsenal, could have easily sold many more.
Attracting Hull followers was a harder sell and you sense that would have been the case even had tickets been distributed free.
But the diehards were royally rewarded. For those in attendance on a bitter afternoon at Sunderland seven days earlier there was a difference in emotions, too.
Scan the Tigers’ squad list and it is inescapable to avoid the conclusion that, in terms of talent alone, it is one that should not find itself fighting to avoid a second successive relegation.
Ability alone does not guarantee survival. A virtuoso show by Jarrod Bowen, backed by a strong supporting cast, deserved bouquets, but the hunger and fight shown by Hull was equally, if not more, important.
It was a display that was bewildering as well as bewitching, with the hosts’ quality and spirit begging the question as to why they have been toiling so painfully in the Championship.
It would be a crime to waste this display in the coming weeks.
On the need for a much-re- quired team lift, captain for the day David Marshall, afforded some cup limelight after playing understudy to Allan McGregor in the league, said: “Definitely. I thought in the first half we were excellent and the confidence was obviously knocked before because it is hard losing games, especially losing against a relegation rival last week.
“Everybody is fit now and has got a point to prove and the lads were excellent.
“Forest beat Arsenal and they would have been looking at the game thinking that if they could beat Arsenal, they could go and beat anybody in competition. With the crowd they brought, with a full stand, there was an expectation for them. I thought we did really well and handled the pressure and could have been three or four up at half-time.”
For Marshall, it was also a more noteworthy afternoon than his previous home appearance – he was in goal in Hull’s 7-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur last May.
On a tough season on the sidelines, he added: “I am hating it, to be totally honest, but I don’t think anybody is enjoying with where we are. Obviously, the club are not in a position where they want to be in and we are wanting to end that.
“Personally, you have got to look past yourself and focus on getting us out of the danger.”
After devouring runaway leaders Wolves in their own lair the orevious weekend, Forest were mauled by a ravenous pack of Tigers for substantial parts of Saturday.
Bowen, 21, operating in his favoured role on the right, deservedly took much of the acclaim and his stellar show will not have been lost upon several watching Premier League scouts.
His fine lob following an unholy mix-up deserved a goal, his effort hitting a post with Jordan Smith stranded out of goal, but he was not to be denied.
Bowen soon saw his drive fly in off the crossbar, after deflecting off Michael Mancienne, for his 12th goal of a standout season.
Bowen played a part in the hosts’ second, too, before the break, showing a prodigious leap to rise above Daniel Fox to head Jackson Irvine’s deep cross into the danger area, with Nou- ha Dicko showing a striker’s instincts to get above Mancienne and nod the ball in off a post.
Hull, who should have added a third through Adama Diomande, carried on where they left off in the second half, with more Bowen brilliance setting up Dicko, denied by Smith, with the impressive Irvine also going close.
At the other end, an expertly taken free-kick from Kieran Dowell clipped a post and Marshall tipped over Joe Worrall’s header before a faint touch from Ben Brereton saw Forest hit a post again.
A late strike from substitute Apostolos Vellios, who converted Matty Cash’s fine cross, did provide Forest with a lifeline, but there was no further cruel twist for Hull. Not this time.
Towards the end of what feels like the longest month of all in January, pay day arrived for Hull, led by Bowen, with the hope being that he will be staying put.
Marshall observed: “I don’t think there’s any rush for him at his age and I am sure he under- stands how important it is this season to get us out of the drop.
“I don’t think it would be the right time for him. January is difficult as well. He is a young lad scoring goals in the Championship and getting that experience. I think it is perfect for him at the minute. I am sure the rewards will come later.”
DOUBLE DELIGHT: Hull City’s Jarrod Bowen gets his shot away to strike the target, top, before setting up the second goal for Nouha Dicko, left, against Nottingham Forest much to the delight of manager Nigel Adkins, right, at the KCom Stadium.