Whatever confidence or momentum had been built-up during Christmas, this woeful 90 minutes has brought reality crashing back down around Phil Parkinson’s ears.
Trailing to Kamil Grosicki’s 29th-minute strike, there was no real sign of the capitulation to come, at least of this magnitude.
But once Evandro doubled Hull’s lead just after the hour the sheer speed at which Wanderers surrendered was frightening.
Grosicki netted again, Chris Martin added a fourth, Jared Bowen and Nouha Dicko rubbing salt into a gaping wound.
And in truth, this could very well have been a heavier defeat had the Tigers been a mite more ruthless in the last 10 minutes.
Parkinson will shoulder the blame for the heaviest defeat of his managerial reign.
Never have his players given up in this fashion and he can have no complaint at the fury being aimed his way.
This was another 90 minutes without a shot on target. Another 90 minutes in which the team’s centre-forward, Christian Doidge, failed to touch the ball in the Hull City penalty box.
The first half was flat, disappointing, certainly. But Parkinson’s decision to bring off defensive midfielder Marc Wilson and put on playmaker Erhun Oztumer backfired in a way he could never have imagined.
There were signs of the slack defending in Grosicki’s opener, as Bowen was allowed to slip through a sea of bodies on the right to pull a cross back for the Pole to fire into the roof of the net.
There is always a ‘what if’ moment – and Bolton’s came at the end of the half when Clayton Donaldson somehow skied a shot from six yards out after a decent interchange between Sammy Ameobi and Jonathan Grounds.
Would that have changed the course of the afternoon if it had hit the back of the net? Possibly – but that does not excuse for a second what followed.
Wanderers had no answer to Grosicki, who was moving with the swagger of a Premier League player in waiting.
If Hull manage to keep hold of him and Jared Bowen this season, they could yet be dark horses for the play-offs.
He created the second for Evandro with a good cross from the left, then added a third with a nonchalant strike from the edge of the box. Wanderers’ defenders had gone completely AWOL.
Martin made it five – and three goals in five minutes – when he finished off a beautiful five-pass flowing move.
By this stage the Tigers were playing a different game altogether.
Alnwick, ‘celebrating’ his 32nd birthday, did prevent Grosicki from grabbing his hat-trick and made another breathtaking stop in the middle of a frantic scramble 10 minutes from time in which Martin also hit the bar.
Sub Dicko rounded off the rout with a close-range header amid yet more statuesque defending. The embarrassment was complete.
Parkinson’s target had been to remain out of the bottom three by the close of business. Instead, he finds his side three points adrift and back in the relegation zone.
Frustrated fans’ chants for the manager’s head may or may not be heeded by owner Ken Anderson – but they are very real.
Whether Parkinson is now backed to try and dig his team out of this mess, or spend whatever resources are available for new signings will be a big call indeed.
It is difficult to look at this performance as typical of those under the manager.
Effort has never been a problem, quality always has.
And in this 90 minutes Wanderers did not have enough of either commodity.
Wanderers have suffered heavy defeats before – a 7-1 at Reading which prompted Dougie Freedman to admit his team were not good enough, a 6-0 hammering at Bristol City which left caretaker manager Jimmy Phillips in no doubt where his relegation-bound players were heading. This had all the same horrifying hallmarks.
Investment is the only thing that will ultimately help Bolton. A change of manager may only be a sticking plaster at this stage.
This newspaper asked Ken Anderson in December if we should be concerned about the club’s position off the field. A penny for the chairman’s thoughts about what happened on it at the KCOM Stadium.
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