Hull City saw off Championship play-off hopefuls West Bromwich Albion as they scored a goal in each half to claim only their seventh home league win of the season.
Ghana striker Benjamin Tetteh, brought in for his first home start since the tragic loss of one of his best friends Christian Atsu in the Turkey-Syria earthquake in early February, struck a memorable first goal for the club.
“He’s had an emotional few weeks,” said Tigers boss Liam Rosenior. “The earthquake in Turkey really affected him. One of Benji’s best friends was Christian Atsu. He’s been down so I’m sure he’ll dedicate that goal to him.”
Hull doubled their lead after the break with a Dara O’Shea own goal – and Albion could not find a way past home goalkeeper Karl Darlow as they suffered a fourth league defeat in seven games.
It was also a fifth straight reverse on the road for injury-hit Albion, who are still without first-choice keeper Alex Palmer and winger Matt Phillips, who were joined on the sidelines by three more of their forwards – Grady Diangana, Brandon Thomas-Asante and Karlan Grant.
Home keeper Darlow had to make a string of early first-half saves before the Baggies were made to pay for their profligacy by the Tigers’ 33rd-minute opener.
Tetteh nodded down a long ball from the back and, although Regan Slater was dispossessed by Okay Yukuslu, the loose ball squirted left to Tetteh and he turned sharply before firing an angled strike which Albion keeper Josh Griffiths could only get his fingertips to as it arrowed into the top right corner.
After being preferred to top scorer Oscar Estupinan, it was reward for manager Rosenior’s faith in him. And it was also reward for a Hull performance which began to improve midway through the half following an impromptu touchline talk from Rosenior to the majority of his players during a break in play because of an injury.
Hull maintained that improvement in the second half – enabling them to double their lead on 57 minutes.
Griffiths gave away a corner when he denied Tetteh with another angled strike – and Ozan Tufan’s inswinging corner from the left was glanced into his own net by Albion skipper O’Shea at the near post under pressure from Sean McLoughlin.
Albion had a chance to get back in it when John Swift’s right-foot free kick hit the inside of the left post before skewing off to safety – and Darlow had to pull off another key save to deny Jed Wallace.
But the Tigers held out with a fourth successive home clean sheet to climb to 13th, just two places and three points behind Albion. Hull are now 14 points clear of trouble and only nine off a play-off spot themselves.
Hull are now without a game until next Saturday (11 March), when they visit another Midlands play-off seeking side, Coventry City.
Albion are back in action before then, on Tuesday, with a home game against bottom club Wigan Athletic before hosting another struggling side Huddersfield Town four days later.
Hull City boss Liam Rosenior told BBC Radio Humberside:
“We played against the second best side in the league. That’s why I give the players so much credit.
“Karl Darlow made some great saves but he’s capable of that – and we were due one like that. We’ve been in games before when teams haven’t previously had a shot and end up scoring from the one shot they have.
“I just got the feeling that Oscar Estupinan’s energy levels were a bit low last week so I decided to make that change and Benji’s goal was a cracker. Left footer in the far stanch. He’s done it in training so for him to do it on such a big night I was delighted for him.”
West Bromwich Albion boss Carlos Corberan told BBC Radio WM:
“I think the opponent’s keeper was maybe one of the best players on the opponent’s team.
“It means you made him work, but I think what happened in the boxes made the difference in the game.
“At the time of the first goal, the team was playing excellent and dominating the game, but in these moments the concentration in defending is necessary too.”