Promotion-chasing Hull City ran out as 2-0 winners against the Terriers in the latest npower Championship game of the season as Town’s winless streak ran to six games.
Town fell 1-0 down early on in the game through Robert Koren, but had good spells at the KC Stadium and even had three strikers on the pitch for the final 20 minutes as they searched for an equaliser. However, they never tested David Stockdale in the home goal and conceded again in second half added time through David Meyler – all before former Town loanee Alex Bruce was sent-off after the final whistle.
Town matched up Hull’s 3-5-2 formation for the game, with Ward and Hunt operating as wing backs in front of a back three of Joel Lynch – restored to the starting line-up after his hamstring injury – skipper Peter Clarke and Anthony Gerrard.
Simon Grayson has explained that Hull keep the ball well in his pre-match comments and the Tigers lived up to those words in the opening quarter of an hour, showing good movement off the ball to create space on the expanses of the big KC Stadium pitch.
Hull exerted good early pressure on the Terriers and Premier League referee Howard Webb was well positioned in the seventh minute to turn away home penalty appeals when striker Jay Simpson’s volley struck Clarke at close range in the area – although it looked to catch the skipper flush in the face rather than on the hand.
However, Steve Bruce’s side made their early pressure count in the next minute by scoring the first goal of the game. Former Sheffield United midfielder Stephen Quinn received a pass to feet down the Town right channel and dummied his way past Clarke before firing an excellent first time cross into the area for Slovenian international Robert Koren, who was completely unmarked in the centre of the area and made no mistake in firing past the helpless Alex Smithies.
Egyptian winger Ahmed Elmohamady’s direct style of play was causing Ward some problems at this stage and his near post cross was headed just wide of Smithies’ near post on the quarter hour mark – by Town defender Gerrard!
Grayson’s side started to find a proper foothold in the game as the 20th minute approached, moving the ball through midfield – with deep lying playmaker Adam Clayton becoming increasingly influential. The men in navy started to find Ward in the attacking third of the pitch thanks to Novak’s tenacity and Vaughan’s aerial superiority over centre half James Chester, but his crosses were not finding their intended targets in the area.
Northern Ireland international Corry Evans’ long range drive was easy pickings for Smithies on the ‘keeper’s 150th career appearance as Hull launched a counter-attack, but the Terriers kept pressing and had their first shot in the 24th minute. Ward’s long throw from the left corner was contested by Vaughan and Chester and the Town striker chested the ball back to Lee Novak, whose acrobatic overhead kick hit the outside of the side netting.
Hull fought back and had a couple of chances before the end of the half; first midfielder David Meyler’s in-swinging cross was finding the far corner before Smithies pushed it to safety and then defender Jack Hobbs headed Robbie Brady’s free-kick just wide after losing his marker Gerrard in the area.
Hull’s players were asking referee Webb to take action against Ward after they felt the winger had gone down too easily in the area in Town’s last chance of the half, but Danny was knocked off balance after collecting a low pass from Hunt inside the area – dummied cleverly by Novak – and surging towards goal.
Skipper Clarke had to execute one of his trademark blocks to deny Koren a second goal in the final minute of the half. It appeared Quinn had clipped Clayton’s heels in the right corner, but Webb waved play on and the ginger-haired midfielder’s pass found the Slovenian in the area; fortunately for the Town fans behind the goal, Peter got across to block the Hull man’s eventual shot from 20 yards out.
The hosts carried the momentum into the second period and had a few chances early in the half. First Smithies had to push Brady’s shot from out wide around the far post before the resulting corner struck the chest of defender Hobbs before firing wide. Then striker Simpson fired over from outside the area before Elmohamady scuffed a shot wide under pressure from Lynch after a swift Hull counter-attack.
Town hit back through a Norwood corner, with Lynch getting above the Egyptian at the near post but heading the ball powerfully over the crossbar. Norwood had another chance to deliver an excellent free-kick into the danger zone after a foul on Vaughan out wide ten minutes into the half, but Chester did excellently to head the ball clear amongst a crowd of Town players.
Simpson wasted a chance on the break for the Tigers soon after before Peter Clarke ambitiously drove the ball well wide from way out after a good passage of play from the Terriers.
A cross-field pass from Clayton towards the edge of the box was knocked down expertly by Vaughan on the hour mark, but just as strike partner Novak looked to pull the trigger former Town loanee Alex Bruce blocked the shot in expert fashion and the chance was gone.
Simon Grayson decided to ring the changes after the hour mark, with Jermaine Beckford coming on for his first game in five after his hamstring injury and Chris Atkinson backing up the strikers in a 4-3-1-2 formation. They were soon joined by Alan Lee in a very attacking 4-3-3 formation.
Hunt started to deliver crosses into the box at every opportunity and the game became stretched, with the excellent Gerrard needed to pull off several excellent clearances and blocks at the other end on several occasions. One of Hunt’s crosses picked out Beckford in space at the back post, but the striker inexplicably opted to head the ball tamely wide when he had time to bring it down.
Hull controlled possession well in the five minutes of added time and Meyler even hit the bar on one attack after being picked out by another Quinn pass, but it didn’t matter moments later as the Tigers did put the game to bed. Jay Simpson picked the ball up out wide and skipped around Clarke before drawing Smithies and laying the ball back to David Meyler, who firmly placed the ball past the covering Anthony Gerrard on the line.
One of Town’s best chances came at the death, but Vaughan just couldn’t connect with Hunt’s excellent cross across the face of goal.
There was a spot of drama after the final whistle; Alex Bruce shoved Alan Lee after claiming the big striker had caught him with an elbow, but Howard Webb quickly flourished the red card to the Hull City man.
Town’s team (3-5-2):
Alex Smithies; Joel Lynch, Anthony Gerrard, Peter Clarke (c); Danny Ward (Chris Atkinson 60), Oliver Norwood (Alan Lee 70), Adam Clayton, Keith Southern; Jack Hunt; Lee Novak (Jermaine Beckford 60), James Vaughan
Ian Bennett, Calum Woods, Adam Hammill, Murray Wallace
Town booking: Keith Southern (33)
Hull City bookings: Stephen Quinn (31); David Meyler (52)
Hull City red card: Alex Bruce (90)