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Stoke heading for safety as Hull continue to struggle

Hull City are hoping that a late run of home matches might be enough to keep them up for another season, while Stoke believe they are secure after reaching 42 points.

Four of Hull's six remaining matches are at the KC Stadium, starting with the critical visit of fellow strugglers Burnley next Saturday. They have been beaten only four times at home, against a record of only four points earned away.

They looked a prettier side than Stoke yesterday, although that was about the only comfort they could draw from a 13th defeat on the road. With Jimmy Bullard in charge in midfield, they forced Stoke to play on the back foot for long periods, yet they seldom looked like repeating last week's victory over Fulham that gave their manager, Iain Dowie, his first win.

Indeed, Stoke's goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen had an easy day as Hull paid for an early defensive lapse and conceded a second close to the end after an injury to midfielder George Boateng had left them to play the final 20 minutes with 10 men. By then, as Boateng was loaded into an ambulance with a suspected fractured jaw, Dowie had used all of his three substitutes.

Stoke led on six minutes after the defender Paul McShane was caught off balance by Dave Kitson's flick-on, allowing Ricardo Fuller to steal a yard before firing past Boaz Myhill with the outside of his right boot.

After that neither side looked too likely to score with the defenders on top, Danny Higginbotham being outstanding in Stoke's back four. Hull fluffed their best chance of an equaliser when Craig Fagan met Bernard Mendy's cross with a poor first touch.

Boateng's match ended when his face collided with Tuncay Sanli's boot as the Turkish striker attempted an overhead kick. Stoke took advantage of the extra man on 90 minutes when Matthew Etherington's pass found Liam Lawrence in space, allowing the midfielder to place his shot wide of Myhill.

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"I think we have enough to keep us in the Premier League," the Stoke manager, Tony Pulis, said. "Now the target is to beat last season's points tally of 45 and then build on this next year."

Hull's Dowie believes his team have enough to beat the drop. "We had a poor first half and gave away a joke first goal but I've seen enough fight to believe we can do it," he said.

Attendance: 27,604

Referee: Lee Probert

Man of the match: Higginbotham

Source: Independent

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