Hull oprimistic with destiny in own hands
Bolton Wanderers 1 Hull City 1
There were a few people happy that Manchester United won the title on Saturday and they were not dressed in red and white but orange and black. Rarely has success by Sir Alex Ferguson's team been greeted with such enthusiasm on the banks of the Humber.
The theory is that United, with the Premier League trophy already gleaming in the cabinet, will not be straining every sinew against relegation-threatened Hull City at the KC Stadium next Sunday, particularly as the Champions League final in Rome is only three days later. Unfortunately the Tigers' manager Phil Brown does not fully subscribe to the notion.
While describing United's success as a "massive plus" he was also wary. "Is the pressure ever off a Manchester United player?" he asked. "I don't think it is. People are playing for their places in the Champions League final so it will be a tough one. You could pick up the United squad sheet and name two great sides. There will be no favours."
Brown had good reason to doubt the generosity of opponents. A former assistant manager at the Reebok, he remains friendly with Jussi Jaaskelainen and, as he pointed out, the player who had done most to deny Hull a vital win had been the Bolton goalkeeper. "He's a neighbour, but I won't be buying him a drink, for sure."
After Craig Fagan had equalised Gretar Steinsson's first-half goal, Hull dominated, hitting the post through Nick Barmby and being denied by Jaaskelainen. A dive to deny Fagan was good enough, but the tipping of Daniel Cousin's header on to the bar was so exceptional that websites were trying to decide its position in the pantheon of great saves on Saturday night.
So Hull had to be content with a point that looked better when news of Newcastle United's defeat by Fulham filtered through. Now, if Hull do beat the champions, their place in the Premier League will be secure.
"I was proud of every one of them," Brown said, picking out Barmby for personifying the level of commitment. "He almost crawled off the pitch. I've just got to just tickle them along this week, take the pressure off if I possibly can, and make sure they have enough energy to play Manchester United."
Brown knows he will have a nervous day ahead next Sunday but at least Hull's fate is in their own hands. "We'll be looking at the clock ticking down and I dare say the scores will be coming through," he said. "It's an exciting time for everyone involved with Hull."
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, Shittu, Samuel; Taylor (Rig, 82), Muamba (Basham, 82), McCann, M Davies; K Davies, Elmander (Makukula, 89). Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Puygrenier, Smolarek, Cohen.
Hull City (4-4-2): Myhill; Ricketts, Turner, Kilbane, Dawson; Garcia, Boateng, Barmby (Marney, 72), Geovanni (Cousin, 77); Fagan, Manucho (Halmosi, 83). Substitutes not used: Duke (gk), Doyle, Hughes, Cooper.
Booked: Bolton Samuel; Hull Dawson, Boateng.
Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).
Man of the match: Fagan.