The football season is nearly over for another year and you know you are getting down to the business end of things when talk outside the Premier League turns to the play-offs. In England’s top flight there are still three games to go with essentially everything to play for. At the bottom things are as they were at the start of the weekend after everyone from 13th downwards lost. Having had the luxury of watching some of those seriously threatened by relegation I have come to the opinion that one side who aren’t going to fall through the trap door are Hull City.
Over the course of Saturday, Sunday and Monday I saw Middlesbrough put up a limp-wristed fight at home to Manchester United, witnessed Newcastle put in a pathetic performance at Liverpool and was nearly bored to tears with Sunderland’s inability to look threatening. So after those three torturous games I was pleasantly surprised to see that one side does still have a bit of fight within them. Despite the run Aston Villa were on, Villa Park is never an easy place to go, especially when you have won just one of your last 18 games.
Although Phil Brown’s side were up against it, with Geovanni and Daniel Cousin’s decision to fight amongst themselves hardly helping the situation, the Tigers put on a decent display. Watching the game with a Hull fan I was expecting a desperate evening which would end with me having to put an arm round his shoulder and try to explain how Peterborough away won’t be so bad. Instead I was the optimistic one who was trying to convince him that things will be ok.
With essentially the same Championship side they had last season, plus a couple of extras, Hull seriously threatened Aston Villa in the second half and were perhaps unlucky not to get a draw out of the game. They had to rely on Boaz Myhill to make three outstanding saves to keep them in the game but then what are goalkeepers for if not to provide that last line of defence.
Hull were the only one of the sides I watched this weekend actually prepared to fight for the game when they fell behind, unlike the north-east trio who looked decidedly flat after conceding the first goal. What they lacked in quality they tried to make up for in fight and desire. Getting anything from Villa was always going to be a long shot and I will concede that Martin O’Neill’s side weren’t at their best but then neither were Everton, Man Utd or Liverpool and they managed to make their opponents look very ordinary.
Next weekend will be the decider with Hull facing Stoke at home in a game they must win to probably put the final nail in the coffin of the bottom three. Failure to beat the Potters though and a win for either Middlesbrough or Newcastle will spell trouble for Hull with games away at Bolton and home to Manchester United to come. However, that will be a worst case scenario for Phil Brown’s side and I expect them to overcome Stoke so they can begin to think about their second ever season in the top flight. Football betting over the next couple of weeks is set to be very interesting indeed.