Hull City boss Phil Brown watched his side endure a frustrating draw against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday as both teams showed determination not to lose.
Judging by the reaction of many of the City supporters, they shared his frustration, although in their case it was almost wholly with Brown's tactics and team selection. As far as they and most observers are concerned, City's improved form in the five games leading up to being trounced by Aston Villa last Saturday week was down to two things: the galvanising effect of the return of Jimmy Bullard and playing two recognised strikers.
While Brown could do nothing about losing Bullard, reverting to an essentially negative set-up featuring Craig Fagan, who has yet to score this season, on his own up front in a game which, with Arsenal, Manchester United (twice), Chelsea and Spurs among their next six opponents, the Tigers badly needed to win, was very hard for the faithful to comprehend.
It was not even as though City were water-tight at the back; had Nikola Kalinic taken one of the three excellent chances Rovers created after he came on as a second-half substitute, they would have left with all three points, and arguably deserved to.
Brown was dismissive. "It's for me to pick the team," he shrugged when asked why he had left the improving Jozy Altidore and the canny Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink on the bench. His argument that teams get "sucked into a way of playing" against Blackburn was similarly unimpressive.
If Bullard does have to miss another string of games, there is an argument that he might as well miss matches like those coming up, in which Hull's chances of picking up any points at all appear slim.
Hull City (4-5-1): Myhill; McShane , Gardner, Zayatte , Dawson; Garcia (Altidore, 66), Boateng , Marney (Olofinjana, 77), Hunt, Geovanni; Fagan (Vennegoor of Hesselink, 77). Substitutes not used: Duke (gk), Barmby, Mendy, Kilbane.
Blackburn (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda, Samba, Nelsen, Givet; Emerton, Nzonzi, Grella (Andrews, 40), Hoilett; McCarthy (Kalinic, 59), Di Santo (Roberts, 75). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Pedersen, Diouf, Salgado.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Booked: Hull: Marney, Altidore; Blackburn: Samba, Kalinic.
Man of the match: Robinson