He didn’t have to say anything. Hands shoved into his pockets, a scowl that creased his face and a kick at fresh air. Another night at the KCOM Stadium, another night of frustration for Mike Phelan.
Hull’s beleaguered manager should have headed for home warmed by the glow of winning after his side battled and scrapped and scored twice against Everton. They worked diligently, battled and scrapped and took advantage of the fact their visitors came bearing gifts.
Instead, though, Phelan will be consumed by a sense of bewilderment after Hull, in the season of goodwill gifted Everton two goals of their own, Ross Barkley grabbing a dramatic late equaliser when all seemed lost. In such a perilous position, Hull cannot afford to be so benevolent.
Ross Barkley (left) meets Leighton Baines’ pinpoint cross to head in an 84th-minute equaliser for Everton on Friday night
Everton’s 18-year-old whizzkid Tom Davies (right) celebrates with Barkley in front of the travelling supporters
Hull City’s Scottish star Robert Snodgrass watches on as his brilliant 65th-minute free-kick flies into the top corner
Snodgrass smiles as he runs off to celebrate his goal, ten minutes after hitting the woodwork with another free-kick
Snodgrass puts a great deal of power and whip on his second-half set-piece, to beat the Everton wall and goalkeeper
Hull’s Scottish goalkeeper David Marshall (in all-green) punched in for a bizarre own goal on the stroke of half-time
The 31-year-old stopper collided with his team-mate Dieumerci Mbokani as the Toffees got a 46th-minute equaliser
PLAYER RATINGS, LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Marshall 6; Maguire 6, Dawson 7, Davies 8, Robertson 6.5; Elmohamady 6, Meyler 6 (Clucas 56, 6), Livermore 6, Diomande 7 (Huddlestone 85); Snodgrass 7.5, Mbokani 6.
Subs not used: Jakupovic, Maloney, Weir, Henriksen, Mason.
Booked: Maguire, Elmohamady.
Scorers: Dawson 6, Snodgrass 65.
EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Robles 6; Coleman 6.5, Williams 6.5, Jagielka 7, Baines 7; Gana 6, Barry 6.5 (Davies 66, 6); Valencia 6 (Calvert-Lewin 74, 6), Barkley 7.5, Mirallas 7 (Funes Mori 87); Lukaku 6.
Subs not used: Hewelt, Lennon, Cleverley, Holgate.
Booked: Jagielka, Davies.
Scorers: Marshall 45+1, Barkley 84.
Referee: Jonathan Moss 7.
Man of the Match: Curtis Davies.
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Barkley finished off an impressive team move with his head – CLICK HERE for more from our brilliant Match Zone service
‘We’re in the business of taking positives from games,’ Phelan said through gritted teeth. ‘We can be greedy and say it should have been three points. At 2-1, we were reasonably solid but, as usual at this level, you get punished for errors but I’m not going to bemoan the fact that it’s a point.’
He might not do it in public but he will in private. Had it not been for David Marshall’s fumble in first half injury time and his defenders standing like statues in the shadows of time, this game would have been won and the New Year could have been approached with vigour.
Outside the stadium beforehand, it felt as if Hull’s horrendous run of form had finally zapped the locals of their fighting spirit and the disillusionment towards the divisive owners had taken its toll; the flat atmosphere, meanwhile, was only exacerbated by the ridiculous kick-off time.
Attendances have dropped here and the full house for the Boxing Day visit of Manchester City had registered with Phelan, who has carried himself with dignity at all times during what has been the most testing of first managerial jobs.
‘It was good to have a bit of an atmosphere inside the KCOM,’ Phelan wrote in his programme notes. ‘More of the same is needed if we are going to end 2016 on a winning note and ensure we head into 2017 in a positive frame of mind.’
His plea did not fall on deaf ears. Those locals who had ventured out got behind Hull from the first whistle and gave Phelan’s players a noticeable lift; they were also aided by the fact that Everton on Koeman’s watch have been slow starters and this presented an opportunity.
It was one they took. After a couple of early skirmishes, when the ball had zipped in and out of Everton’s penalty area, Hull won a corner in the sixth minute. The delivery from Robert Snodgrass was precise, the flick on from Curtis Davies caused havoc and Michael Dawson emphatically finished.
Falling behind jolted Everton. Koeman is being driven to distraction by the way his players keep stumbling out of the blocks but they tend to summon a response and this was no different as they managed to get the ball down and start playing.
Playmaker Barkley’s heat map from the Friday night match courtesy of Sportsmail’s brilliant Match Zone service
A delighted Michael Dawson wheels away to celebrate his sixth-minute goal for Hull against Everton on Friday night
Hull’s captain, former Tottenham Hotspur defender Dawson, enjoys his fourth goal of the season in all competitions
The Tigers’ 33-year-old No 21 centre half jumps in the air as Ahmed Elmohamady (No 27, right) joins him in celebration
Hull’s talented 29-year-old No 10 Snodgrass sees a second-half free-kick agonisingly hit the crossbar in the 55th-minute
Everton’s 23-year-old Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku calls for more noise from his team’s visiting supporters
English central midfielders Jake Livermore of Hull (No 14) and Gareth Barry of Everton (right) go up for a header
‘You like to score first because then maybe you’re a little more comfortable,’ said Koeman. ‘When you’re in that situation you’re at more risk.’
First Kevin Mirallas tested Marshall, jinking inside a couple of chances before driving in a shot that Marshall spilled around the post. In the next attack, Gareth Barry – who had lost Dawson for Hull’s goal – tried to make amends but his cross was headed against the woodwork by Seamus Coleman.
Barry has come in for criticism in recent months from Evertonians, who are hankering for young midfielder Tom Davies to be given an extend chance, but the former England international played a crucial role in helping his team regain a foothold.
He never did anything complicated, just picked the right pass every time and one in the 23rd minute into the feet of Barkley – who was better than in recent weeks with England head coach Gareth Southgate – almost led to an equaliser. Barry also had a shot of his own that whistled wide.
Eventually Everton forced a way back into the contest but it owed much to good fortune. Mirallas put a corner into a dangerous area but Dieumerci Mbokani got in the way of his goalkeeper and Marshall made a hash of his punch, the ball spinning backwards into his net.
Everton’s Enner Valencia (right) and Hull’s Andrew Robertson battle for the ball on a cold night in Humberside
Everton’s Seamus Coleman rises highest to meet a cross but the Republic of Ireland skipper sees his header hit the post
The 28-year-old right back Coleman sprays water on his face before the Premier League encounter at the KCOM Stadium
‘I stand by David,’ Phelan stressed. ‘He’s a fantastic keeper. It’s the kind of thing where you take your medicine when it comes.’
Had they fallen behind within two minutes of the restart, they would have capsized. On this occasion, however, Marshall atoned superbly, stretching out a hand to push a thumping effort from Romelu Lukaku on to the bar following good work by Mirallas and Barkley.
Able to breathe a sigh of relief, they set about taking advantage of what proved by pivotal moment. They came within a whisker of regaining when Snodgrass bent a wonderful left-footed free-kick onto the post but it was luck was in 10 minutes later when he whipped a right-footed effort past Robles.
Yet just when it seemed Hull’s luck had changed, there was to be a sting in the tail. In the 84th minute, Leighton Baines was afforded too much time to cross and he picked out the unmarked Barkley, who buried his header from six yards. Phelan could only bury his head in his hands.