The anger ought to be have belonged solely to Steve Bruce and Hull City. For 80 minutes of a scrappy encounter the patched-up Tigers had frustrated Tottenham Hotspur, holding them at arm's length with increasing comfort. There was much to admire in the way that theypressed and stifled.

Then the referee, Michael Oliver, made his play for the headlines. His penalty award was baffling. Jan Vertonghen's cross hit Ahmed Elmohamady's leg and the ball reared up to strike his hand. But Elmohamady was no more than five yards from Vertonghen; the ball was travelling at pace and the Hull player even appeared to be looking away. No matter. Penalty. Roberto Soldado scored and Tottenham were reprieved.

Yet André Villas-Boas, who had cut an agitated figure throughout, was also in the mood to give vent to anger and his target was a controversial one: the Tottenham home support. They had chuntered all afternoon, at least until the penalty, as their team groped for fluency and cutting edge, and many of them might have argued that the performance was nothing new. With Villas-Boas's team set up to counterattack, the performances have invariably been better away from home.

But Villas-Boas had had enough of the naysayers and, speaking on behalf of the players who, he said, were also hacked off, he got stuck in. To him the situation has become so serious that White Hart Lane has begun to favour the away team. Some fans might want to take their lead from a spark on the field but Villas-Boas suggested that the inspiration also had to come from the stands.

"It was a very tense, difficult atmosphere," the manager said. "We looked like the away team. We had to dig deep within ourselves because we weren't getting any help from anybody. I think the stadium reflected that: it was very tense, with not a lot of support until the goal.

"We play comfortably away from home but at home it's different. It is like it drags the ball into our goal instead of the opponents' goal. I don't intend to send them a warning or hurt their feelings but this is something that is felt within the squad. It's a feeling that invades us in fixtures like this."

This outburst had been building inside Villas-Boas and the decision to speak honestly about his feelings was commendable on one level. Perhaps, it will get the desired response, beginning on Wednesday when Hull visit again in the Capital One Cup. But on another level it had to be considered as risky and, even worse, foolish. Criticising the paying customer tends to be a no-no in any business, let alone one as emotive as football.

"You need that help [from the crowd]," Villas-Boas added. "We are great believers in emotion and motivation and this stadium, with the noise you can generate, can be so so difficult to play but not like this. We realise we have to be better, we have to create more situations but Hull came with a strategy.

"It's a consequence of playing Sundays as well [after Europa League ties], after everybody else has played. You see that all the top teams win and, instead of coming with a smile and that push, you become a little bit more tense. We know we have to win and do our job. We don't need people to tell us that."

Bruce's rage was more predictable. He described the penalty as "an absolute joke" and said that Oliver "absolutely couldn't wait to give it". According to Bruce, the referee had "robbed the players of a well-earned point"; he "totally balls-ed it up".

"And I have to ask the question," Bruce continued. "Would we have got it?" Somebody muttered that Hull might not have done. "There you go," he said. "That answers my question." Bruce was asked when he had last got such a soft penalty. Perhaps during his playing days at noted big club Manchester United? "Maybe," he replied. "You know what I'm alluding to."

Soldado showed no sympathy. For the third time this season he scored from the spot to give Tottenham a 1-0 league win. Half of his tally for the club has been penalties and the previous conversions, against Crystal Palace and Swansea City, also followed contentious awards. Tottenham were not given a single penalty last season. How their fortunes have turned.

Tottenham did create a few chances in the first half and Soldado went close after the interval but they laboured for rhythm. Hull, meanwhile, also flickered in the first half and, at the very last, Tom Huddlestone, the former Spur, fizzed a free-kick inches wide.

Shortly beforehand Andros Townsend had crashed head-first over the advertising boards and down into the photographers' pit. It was a long way to fall and he hurt a wrist as he sought to cushion the landing. Villa-Boas said that the Tottenham winger was dazed. He was not the only one.

Man of the match George Boyd (Hull)