On a day when Hull City honoured their own veteran striker, Dean Windass, it was West Bromwich Albion’s own legendary marksman Kevin Phillips who stole the limelight as Albion stormed back to the top of the Championship after a deserved, but hard-fought, victory at the KC Stadium.
Windass received a rapturous ovation from a Hull crowd (on the event of his 250th game for the club) that was swelled by expectation following a five-game unbeaten run that had lifted their team into the play-off picture.
However, 34-year-old Phillips soon took up the role of party pooper with the opening goal inside two minutes, finishing off a superb move and excellent low cross from Chris Brunt.
He then teed up James Morrison, who beat Bo Myhill with a cool finish, with a sublime, defence-dissecting pass for the second goal half-an-hour later as Albion took control.
The Tigers never gave up and set up a tense finish when Richard Garcia beat Dean Kiely with a curling shot from the edge of the area on 71 minutes and the crowd were roused even more when Paul Robinson received his second yellow card within 60 seconds of the restart, and subsequently was sent off for the second time in nine games.
But substitute Roman Bednar finished Hull off in the last minute of added time with a superb solo goal that added the gloss on what was a polished attacking performance from Albion.
Phillips’ goal was his 16th of the season in just 16 starts, which is a remarkable achievement considering he spent seven weeks on the sidelines after rupturing the cruciate ligament in his left knee. The injury does not require surgery at this stage and Phillips has vowed to play on but when he crumpled to the turf just before half time, Albion fans feared the worst and the promotion push would have received an almighty blow had the injury been more serious.
Manager Tony Mowbray must have breathed a sigh of relief when Phillips dragged himself to his feet and carried on, although he confessed afterwards his top scorer has had a few scary moments in training.
He said: "Kevin’s knee does occasionally give him a little trouble in training. Sometimes he tweaks it or catches it wrong. Generally he gets up and is fine. Thankfully it was one of those today."
It wouldn’t have just been Mowbray who had been delighted to see Phillips fit and in such sparkling form, his team-mates are also appreciative of the skills of the former Sunderland and Aston Villa striker, and have now adopted Phillips’ chosen nickname of ‘Super Kev’, as captain Jonathan Greening revealed.
He said: "Super Kev has been doing it all year for us. He has been different class and one of the best professionals I have ever worked with. He is 34 years old but is like a teenager running around in training. He loves to play the game.
"When he first came to the club he asked to be called ‘Super’ and we all thought he was a bit of a plonker to ask us but now we all know why he is called it.
"To score the amount of goals this season is phenomenal when you think he has been out for seven weeks with a knee injury as well. He is something special and everyone appreciates him and his qualities."
While Phillips was getting the plaudits from the vast majority within the KC Stadium, Mowbray was quick to divert some of the praise to the rest of his side, who stood firm in the final 20 minutes after Robinson’s dismissal.
He said: "I don’t want to turn this into the Kevin Phillips show because the team worked incredibly hard. I thought we were always a threat going forward.
"It wasn’t a game we could control and you have to give Hull credit, but sometimes that extra cutting edge is what gets you the win and that|proved|to|be|the|case|today."
Indeed, Phil Brown’s Hull side were full of enthusiasm and passion, and they forced Dean Kiely to make some excellent saves, most notably a fine double save to deny Ian Ashbee and Garcia in the first half.
Although it wouldn’t have been Albion without a heart-stopping period in which they looked like throwing the game away, as they conceded a goal and then were reduced to ten men, the visitors were always the better side and are deserved current leaders of the Coca-Cola Championship.
Scorers: Phillips (2) 0-1, Morrison (32), 0-2, Garcia (71), Bednar (90) 1-3.
HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill, Ashbe, Turner; Windas (Barnby, 59), Hughes, Garcia, Brown, Delaney (France, 85), Folan, Ricketts, Marney (Campbell, 53).
WEST BROMWICH ALBION: Kiely, Hoefkens, Robinson, Barnett, Koren, Greening, Miller (Bednar, 76), Phillips (Cesar, 76), Pele, Morrison, Brunt (Gera 68).
Referee: Colin Webster (Tyne & Wear).
Bookings: Hull — Delaney (foul), Windass (dissent).
Sending-off: Albion — Robinson (second bookable offence).
Albion man of the match: Kevin Phillips — his quality finishing and superb vision proved to be decisive.