Hull strikers the villains for Dowie

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Hull boss Iain Dowie lamented his side's frailties at both ends of the pitch as the Tigers' survival hopes were dealt a potentially fatal blow in a 2-0 defeat by Aston Villa last night.

Hull were looking to take advantage of their game in hand on their rivals but instead saw goals from Gabriel Agbonlahor and James Milner condemn them to a fourth defeat in six games under Dowie, leaving them three points behind West Ham with a vastly inferior goal difference.

Hull shot themselves in the foot as early as the 13th minute as a defensive mix-up allowed Agbonlahor all the time in the world to find the top corner while George Boateng's foul resulted in Milner netting the second from the penalty spot 14 minutes from time.

Dowie said: "We've got nine goals from our strikers (all season). It burns you and it burnt us again. It's what you pay big money for, people that don't make errors. The best defenders don't make errors. I like my defenders not to be emotional, they've got to think clearly."

He added: "It's a familiar story. The stats don't lie. We've outperformed Villa in every part of the game except what matters - goals. We've had more crosses, more shots, more corners but we've got to take our opportunities."

Dowie was also disappointed with Hull's start, saying: "They had 10 passes and we didn't make a tackle. We talked about having a really big start. After we rejigged it we got a response but you're a goal down then. I don't understand the start to be honest."

Meanwhile, the Hull boss is expecting to be without Vennegoor of Hesselink for Saturday's must-win game against Sunderland after the striker was knocked out in a challenge with Richard Dunne. There was a seven-minute delay as the Dutchman was treated on the pitch before being taken to hospital for a CT scan.

Dowie said: "I'm very doubtful (he'll be available) because of the amount of time he was out. He was out for five minutes so that's a real worry. We'll have to wait and see but he was looking in a fairly bad way."

Victory for Villa kept alive their hopes of reaching the Champions League as they climbed to sixth in the table, three points behind Tottenham in the final qualifying place.

Boss Martin O'Neill, though, knows it could go both ways in the final three games of the season.

He said: "We're in the mix. We're going for everything and guaranteed nothing. We're not even guaranteed to finish eighth in the league at this minute. We've gone above Liverpool with three games to go and that's pretty exceptional."

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