Away Days – Super Billy Jones Dragging Hull City Down With Sunderland

Back in 2017, Sunderland and Hull City were both card carrying members of the Premier League - ahead of Tuesday night's third-tier encounter between the two sides, Micky Lough recalls the Black Cats' and Tigers' last top-flight dust-up

One of football’s simple pleasures is winning a game of zero consequence for your own club while simultaneously ruining another team’s season.

It is childish and a little bit pathetic, but if your own team fail to succeed, there is a lot to be said for making sure that the opposition have nothing to shout about either.

This was certainly the case in 2017 as already relegated Sunderland won 2-0 away from home to all but confirm that the two sides would face each other in the Championship the following season.

Hull went in to the game on a high as a result of their unstoppable home form with The Tigers dropping just two points at The KCOM Stadium since the arrival of Marco Silva at the turn of the year.

David Moyes’ Sunderland, on the other hand, had gained just two points and scored just two goals since their quite frankly hilarious 4-0 win at Crystal Palace on February 4th, a run spanning 10 games, in which they failed to score in nine of them.

Another ominous sign was Marco Silva’s personal home record, he had not only worked wonders at Hull, but was unbeaten on home soil since March 30, 2014, totting up an impressive 41 matches without defeat.

On the evidence of the first half, it was only a matter of time before he made it 42 as Hull piled on the pressure, Jordan Pickford produced a good save from Sam Clucas early on and Harry Maguire fired just wide from the edge of the area.

Hull were also incensed when they were denied a penalty as the ball struck John O’Shea’s elbow from point blank range.

The second half was equally frustrating for the home side as they found Jordan Pickford in exceptional form, he saved well from Abel Hernandez and former Sunderland man Alfred N’Diaye missed from close range.

Then, on 69 minutes the unthinkable happened, Sunderland won a corner and Billy Jones, yes, Billy Jones flung himself at a John O’Shea flick on and put the lads one-nil up.

Usually, a goal away from home is greeted by strangers hugging, players celebrating with supporters and general chaos.

On this occasion, however, 2,000 travelling fans were laughing more than they were cheering, and everyone was celebrating at the Hull fans. Chants of ‘you’re going down with the Sunlun’ started up soon after and there was a party atmosphere as the clock ticked down.

The visitors continued to handle everything that Hull threw at them and, in stoppage time, Jermain Defoe turned home a Seb Larsson free-kick to spark further hilarity in the Sunderland end.

The fact Defoe was quite clearly offside as he steered the ball into the back of the net just made the moment all the funnier.

A win that day would have put Hull on 37 points, ahead of Swansea City and just a point behind Crystal Palace, who beat them 4-0 the following week and officially condemn Hull to the Championship.

Ironically, Sunderland played a further part in Hull’s downfall that weekend as they lost 2-0 at home to Swansea to confirm the South Wales side’s survival.

Unfortunately, a win for Sunderland over Hull on Tuesday will not steer their promotion surge off course, but a Callum McFadzean diving header to stop the hosts from clinching promotion mathematically would at least give us a little bit of light relief.

Michael Lough