Brady sparkles for Hull to light up Bruce's day
Newcastle 2 Hull 3
Why do Newcastle United seem to be locked in an eternal struggle when it comes to defending set pieces? How, with due respect, did Tom Huddlestone end up at Hull? Where has Papiss Cisse's confidence gone?
Huddlestone was excellent, passing beautifully and intercepting smoothly from the heart of midfield. His performance proved the springboard for a wonderful, ultimately deserved, win against the odds for Steve Bruce's side, sealed by Sone Aluko's superlative volley.
In contrast, Cisse, withdrawn during the second half, seems to have forgotten how to score. While two goals from Loic Remy partly concealed the Senegal striker's alarming regression, the worry is that Newcastle's failure to sign an additional forward in the transfer window may haunt Alan Pardew.
Newcastle were rewarded for a vibrant start full of slick passing and movement in the 10th minute. When Moussa Sissoko crossed from the right Cisse attempted to volley goal-bound, but failed to connect properly with the dropping ball, merely volleying it into the ground No matter; Remy was on hand to swivel away from his marker and head the fallout beyond Allan McGregor.
Hull looked uneasy in the face of Hatem Ben Arfa and friends, but, creditably, they were not about to surrender and equalised when Robbie Brady cut in from the left and sent an angled shot curving through Tim Krul's legs. Where, Pardew must have wondered, was Mathieu Debuchy, Newcastle's right-back and Brady's supposed minder. Although Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa attempted a late interception, the centre-half arrived too late.
By now Huddlestone was proving a growing influence, the imposing Hull midfielder refusing to allow Newcastle's Yohan Cabaye to dominate midfield, while also reducing Vurnon Anita's early impact. It is a mystery that more clubs were not in the queue when it became clear Tottenham Hotspur were willing to sell Huddlestone. Not that Bruce is complaining; the sometime England midfielder looks capable of being the difference between survival and relegation.
Indeed, had Danny Graham – enduring a seemingly never-ending goal drought – not missed a decent chance, his touch betraying him when he was clean through with only Krul to beat, Hull would have taken the lead. As it was, their tactic of constantly double marking Ben Arfa was beginning to pay dividends as home frustration began mounting.
Instead, though, Newcastle regained the lead. Once again the scorer was Remy, with another opportunistic finish secured after James Chester blocked a Cabaye shot and the striker, on loan from QPR, took a single, steadying, touch before side-footing the rebound past McGregor.
Deflated, Bruce kicked thin air. At least things were not quite as bad as three years ago, when, then managing Sunderland, he saw his team thrashed 5-1 here by Chris Hughton's Newcastle before heading home, drawing the curtains and refraining from opening them for the remainder of the weekend.
"That was certainly the darkest Sunday afternoon I have had in football," Bruce said afterwards. "It's taken a long time to come back, but we have come back and dusted ourselves down, and it's always nice to win here."
Bruce's mood improved significantly early in the second half. Brady flighted in a free kick and, benefiting from horribly slapdash Newcastle marking, Ahmed Elmohamady glanced a free header onto the inside of the post before watching it drop into the back of the net. The finger he put to his lips while standing, jubilant, in front of the Gallowgate End served as a reminder that the right-back is a former Sunderland player.
A subsequently scuffed Graham shot from an inviting position spelled reprieve for Krul and Newcastle, but it was only temporary.
George Boyd, newly on as a substitute, crossed cleverly and Aluko put Hull ahead courtesy of a simply stunning side-foot volley that brushed the inside of a post as it evaded Krul's grasp.
Remy later caused Pardew to hurl a water bottle to the ground when he missed a stellar opening to complete a hat-trick and earn a point, but it was Bruce's day.