Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Tigers and Villa can breathe easy

Hull and Aston Villa are both safe from relegation

Hull and Aston Villa are assured Barclays Premier League football next season after Norwich failed to win at Chelsea.

But, while Villa can reflect contentedly on their weekend's work - securing a 3-1 win over the Tigers to bank three points that would surely have kept them up regardless - Hull are less happy about their own form.

Survival was always the primary goal for the season and will be welcomed heartily in east Yorkshire, while a first ever FA Cup final appearance and the guarantee of Europa League football next season are unexpected bonuses.

But performances have tailed off since Steve Bruce's side sealed their Wembley date against Arsenal, drawing one and losing two of three subsequent matches.

With Manchester United and Everton still to come, it is conceivable they will take no more points this term.

Victory at Villa would have secured top-flight status without relying on Norwich's struggles, but a first-minute opener from Ashley Westwood and a pair of first-half headers carried the hosts over the line.

"It would have been nice to do it (confirm survival) ourselves but we've only got ourselves to blame," goalkeeper Steve Harper told Tigers Player.

"We've got to learn when we come away to stop giving teams head starts. We weren't good enough in the first half.

"The manager certainly said his piece at half-time. I've been here 10 months and it's the first time I've seen him really do that but we deserved it as a group of players."

Bruce suggested on Saturday that some heads had been turned by lure of the cup final, and Harper believes the older heads in the dressing room must help refocus the squad on the two remaining league games.

"It's not a problem for me, but I can't speak for everyone else," he said.

"I'd be very surprised if that's the case but we haven't got the experience of going there as a club. There's a few players in our squad of vast experience and if one or two are looking that way it's our responsibility to remind them. We've got a very tough game on Tuesday and a very tough one next Sunday."

Villa enjoyed one of their best days of a troubled season, with Andreas Weimann the central figure.

The Austrian ended a 12-game barren run with two important headers but his current tally of six goals is exactly half of what he managed last season.

Manager Paul Lambert remains a big advocate of the 22-year-old and insists there is plenty yet to come.

"I thought Andy was brilliant and his two goals were probably long overdue," he said.

"Last season he scored a right handful, but he only just stepped out of the academy a couple of years ago so he's not long been a professional footballer as such.

"He has years and years to go, he's only a young lad and he'll get better.

"He's probably a better natural striker but when (Christian) Benteke's fit that's hard. But wherever you play Andy you seem to get the same level of consistency. He can play round about Christian but he's also done a great job in the wide areas for me."

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