Tigers' boss Phil Brown saluted a “world class” save from Canary keeper David Marshall as he insisted that his side had set their stall out from the start to win last night's Championship encounter.
“I think it was a fair point – certainly as far as we were concerned,” said the former Bolton No2, as his side drew heavily from Sam Allardyce's rule-book on commitment, organisation and efficiency to halt Norwich's recent winning run in its tracks.
The fact that they went into last night's clash having only conceded 34 goals home and away all season – two less than their hosts – was proof of a defensive stubborness that Norwich failed to crack. Or at least not twice after Dion Dublin's looping first-half header had given the Canaries such an excellent, early platform to work from.
In the end, however, and it was Hull's lone striker – the on-loan Frazier Campbell – that denied City boss Glenn Roeder a fourth straight win with that 52nd minute leveller. Seconds earlier and Campbell had been holding his head in disbelief as his free, eight-yard header was somehow tipped up and onto the bar and over by Marshall's finger-tips.
“We came here to win the game and only a little bit of class goalkeeping stopped us winning the game, to a certain extent,” said Brown, grateful that his own keeper Boaz Myhill was on hand to deny Lee Croft in the first-half and Darel Russell in the second.
In fairness, Brown did admit it was backs to the wall in the game's dying minutes as Norwich looked to bag yet another late winner.
“We had to defend late,” he said. “We had to throw bodies on the line and in the last 15 minutes we couldn't really get out of our own final third. And that was down to us giving the ball away and a little bit of tired legs.”
The Hull boss would point to the fact that he had “five, quality Championhsip players” missing last night as to one of the reasons that the Tigers almost wilted; neither ex-England international Nick Barmby nor Jay-Jay Okocha have featured regularly of late as Hull legend Dean Windass disappeared for a minor cartilage operation.
Hence his delight at the final scoreline.
“To come away from Norwich who are probably the form team over a long period of time in the Championship with a point is a fantastic point,” he said.
It was a result that took the Canaries' unbeaten run to 13 league games; Hull – no-one's mugs – have now not lost in four. And with eight points to boot, could well be there or thereabouts at the end.
“We've said all along that if you win your home games and get something on your journeys, then if you continue like that until the end of the season then you'll be OK.”
Norwich, of course, have gone from being utterly hopeless on their travels to being a force to be reckoned with given recent away wins at Scunthorpe, Barnsley, Southampton and Cardiff. Indeed, it is at home where they have stuttered – Charlton (1-1) and Leicester (0-0) are games that Roeder insists should have yielded more. Last night, however, and he followed Brown's lead and agreed that a draw was a fair result.
Likewise the two managers were both big fans of Okocha. It was the ex-Bolton star's teasing through ball to Campbell seven minutes after the restart that caused Messrs Shackell, Bertrand and Marshall all manner of problems.
“We still haven't seen the best of him at Hull,” said Brown, who of course had the Nigerian World Cup star in his charge under 'Big Sam' at the Reebok.
“So he's still got something to prove – and a quality player with a point to prove is a dangerous player. So maybe he has some part to play in the final 15, 16 games.”
Had the score ended 1-0, however, and there would have been only one person with his name in lights – City No1 Marshall whose instinctive save to deny Campbell ought to have new Scotland boss George Burley thinking as he prepares to name his first squad for next month's friendly against Croatia.
Was Brown celebrating as Campbell rose to head the ball?
“I was,” said the Tigers chief. “I thought it was an unbelievable save. I haven't seen it again, but it was probably one of the best saves of the season. But I'm expecting it to nestle in the back of the net.”
Given the place that the man holds in Canary folklore it was something of a shame not to see 39-year-old Windass back in Norfolk once more. He could, of course, have become part of the local furniture had Martin O'Neill had his way in 1995. The ex-City boss wanted Windass and “wanted him before the end of the century” as his war of words with then chairman Robert Chase escalated that poisonous autumn.
“Dean's had an exploratory operation that normally lasts seven to ten days,” Brown reported. “He's had a little bit of a trimmed cartilage. But knowing Dean, he'll probably be back for Saturday…”
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