HULL 2 TOWN 0
The score-line in Town’s opening day defeat at Hull City doesn’t really tell the full story of the game.
When a well organised first-half display was punctured by a debut goal for Hull’s Sam Clucas, it meant Chris Powell’s men had to up the attacking emphasis and tempo in the second 45 minutes.
They did just that, dominating possession for large spells and creating a few good chances against the Tigers before being undone by Chuba Akpom’s 72nd minute strike.
Chris Powell clearly set his side up to stay defensively robust against the newly relegated Premier League outfit, with Davidson and Smith getting forward to attack when possible but slotting in alongside the three centre backs when the Tigers had the ball.
Denied the services of Sean Scannell through a hamstring injury, that did leave Powell without an obvious out ball down the right but the front two of Harry Bunn and Nahki Wells – the latter in particular – kept Hull centre backs Michael Dawson and Curtis Davies honest all half.
Going forward the Terriers had some nice passages of play, although Jacob Butterfield and Wells weren’t on the same page at times as to whether the Bermudian wanted the ball short to feet or long to run onto.
It was Bunn who had the game’s first chance in the eighth minute, collecting a pass from Smith just inside the right edge of the box. He span cleverly towards goal to gain half a yard on the defender before smashing goalwards from a narrow angle, with the ball flashing just over the bar.
At the other end, Hull’s passing was a little slow at times but they did use the width well thanks to some clever switching of the play from Tom Huddlestone and enterprising attacking from wide players Andrew Robertson on the left and Ahmed Elmohamady on the right.
One cross from the Town left gave Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic half a chance to get Hull on the scoresheet, but he miscued a volley in the area under heaving pressure from two Town defenders.
Then, after all the hard work, a Town error in midfield was punished in the 39th minute. A Town player gave away possession in the middle of the park and Whitehead couldn’t clear up, allowing Hull to break on Town with numbers for the first time.
They took full advantage, with Elmohamady advancing down the right and crossing deep for Clucas. His initial shot was saved at close range from Smithies, but Hull’s summer signing reacted well to fire the rebound into the roof of the net.
After the restart, Town shifted up a gear. Practically dominating possession throughout, Butterfield suddenly started to boss proceedings and created a guilt-edged chance for Davidson just three minutes in. The Player of the Year clipped a ball over the top perfectly to find the Australian’s run, but from around 15 yards he smashed the first-time volley over the bar when completely unmarked.
Powell’s men continued to control the midfield, but with no other clear cut chance coming he didn’t delay, bringing Ishmael Miller on to bolster the attack.
Ishmael had an immediate impact, holding up the ball on the right before slipping it infield for Butterfield to strike; his shot was pushed away by McGregor.
Bunn and Wells both went agonisingly close to levelling for the Terriers only to be denied by the last defender – and then disaster struck.
Hull finally relieved the pressure by winning a free-kick in Town’s half and when the ball was worked into the box, it dropped to Arsenal loanee Chuba Akpom. The striker had looked lively all afternoon and he managed to work half a yard on a defender onto his favoured right foot before smashing the ball across Alex Smithies and into the far corner.
The second goal settled Hull down and the hosts had a couple of further sniffs at goal, with Smithies forced into work by Huddlestone and then Clucas. At the other end, Town’s best chance came in stoppage time when a defender managed to deflect Miller’s close range shot over the bar.
Town’s team (5-3-2):
Alex Smithies; Jason Davidson, Joel Lynch, Mark Hudson (c), Martin Cranie, Tommy Smith (Ishmael Miller, 64); Jacob Butterfield, Dean Whitehead (Kyle Dempsey, 82), Jonathan Hogg (Adam Hammill, 80); Harry Bunn, Nahki Wells
Joe Murphy, Murray Wallace, Jordy Hiwula, Sondre Tronstad
Tommy Smith (28), Mark Hudson (62), Harry Bunn (86)