Andy Robertson, Andrea Ranocchia both score to earn Hull valuable win
Just when Hull City needed to find their seventh Premier League victory of the season, they produced a fine comeback to beat West Ham United 2-1 at the KCOM Stadium on Saturday.
Andy Carroll's opener had threatened to plant a nail in the Tigers' relegation coffin but the second-half goals from Andy Robertson and Andrea Ranocchia sealed an invaluable win. City also hit the post through Alfred N'Diaye after the break and few could begrudge them three enormous points in the battle to avoid an instant return to the Championship.
A drab first half saw the Tigers trail to Carroll's calm finish at the interval but the character shown in the second half deserved huge credit. City drew level through Robertson and even when it seemed as though West Ham had weathered the storm, Ranocchia's late header earned three deserved points. In the context of the relegation fight, the turnaround was huge. Not only have City kept on the coattails of those closest to them, they have dragged a number of others up above back into the mix. It is now 13 points from a possible 15 at the KCOM Stadium under Marco Silva.
Not that it mattered by full-time, but City's first-half performance was a concern. For the third home game in succession they were slow starters, making life difficult for themselves before finding a timely reaction. Whether it was anxiety or unfamiliarity with a revised formation, the Tigers were very poor for 45 minutes. The second-half response ensured no damage was done but scores elsewhere did take some of the shine off City's win. Crystal Palace's unexpected win at league-leaders Chelsea kept a four-point gap between the two relegation rivals.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Silva's 3-4-3 formation did not work through the opening 45 minutes but his changes at the break, bringing on Kamil Grosicki, proved decisive. City were much the better side on the back of his alterations.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Eldin Jakupovic, 6 -- Unable to keep out Carroll's well-taken opener but still made some key contributions. Tipped a long-range drive from Manuel Lanzini round his post before denying Carroll a second after the break.
DF Andrea Ranocchia, 8 -- The Italian is fast winning fans at the KCOM Stadium and his matchwinner only heightened his popularity. A composed and solid defensive effort was capped by an unstoppable late header.
DF Harry Maguire, 7 -- England boss Gareth Southgate was in the stands and should have liked what he saw. Maguire started slowly with a few sloppy passes but grew in stature as the game wore on.
DF Curtis Davies, 5 -- A defender of his experience will not enjoy watching a replay of West Ham's opener -- Davies lost Carroll and the flight of the ball. Passes were loose as well before his game was ended with City's changes at the break.
MF Ahmed Elmohamady, 6 -- An injury to Omar Elabdellaoui brought a recall on the right flank and he helped to keep City old boy Robert Snodgrass out of the game. Not much to show for his attacking exploits.
MF Alfred N'Diaye, 6 -- Better from the midfielder after a poor run of form and he almost grabbed a goal when striking the upright in the second half. Improved after a pedestrian first-half display in keeping with his team.
MF Sam Clucas, 6 -- The absence of the suspended Tom Huddlestone left big boots to fill but Clucas did well overall. One of the few to offer drive in the first half and helped City to grind down West Ham afterwards.
MF Andy Robertson, 7 -- A long-awaited first Premier League goal changed the course of the game. Finished like a seasoned striker in an excellent second-half effort, banishing the mistakes of a previously errant passing game.
FW Lazar Markovic, 7 -- Still short of the impact expected of him but this was certainly a step in the right direction. Purposeful play on the right flank laid the foundations for the opening goal, showing awareness and skill.
FW Abel Hernandez, 6 -- Given help up front but that elusive goal was not forthcoming. The Uruguayan barely had a chance of note but his link-up play, working in between the lines, improved as the game went on.
FW Oumar Niasse, 6 -- Not for the want of trying, but things rarely fell into place for the on-loan striker. One driving run was the catalyst for N'Diaye's shot against the post but shackled by West Ham in the main.
MF Kamil Grosicki, 7 -- At last there was an end product from the Pole. Set up both goals when introduced on the left flank.
MF Shaun Maloney, n/a -- Hardly a hero but his cleverness earned City the corner that brought the late winner.
MF Markus Henriksen, n/a -- A first league appearance of 2017 brought a fizzed shot wide and little else.
Philip Buckingham is ESPN FC's Hull City blogger. Follow him on Twitter: @PJBuckingham.