No beauty con­test, but com­mit­ted City muf­fle alarm bells for an­other week


Hull Daily Mail - - EYE ON THE TIGERS - Philip Buck­ing­ham

Twenty one vis­its span­ning 83 years and not one sin­gle vic­tory. Whether at Burn­den Park or Bolton Wan­der­ers’ cur­rent home in Hor­wich, these have been the un­hap­pi­est of hunt­ing grounds for Hull City.

March 1935, four and a half years be­fore the out­break of World War Two, was the only oc­ca­sion City had ever re­turned from this cor­ner of Greater Manch­ester with a vic­tory but that long wait is now mer­ci­fully at an end.

And boy did the Tigers need this land­mark re­sult.

The drain­ing, mis­er­able run that had led Nigel Ad­kins to Bolton was slowly suf­fo­cat­ing op­ti­mism. Seven games with­out a win might have in­cluded promis­ing per­for­mances but more was needed to dis­pel the the­ory that this is a cam­paign slowly sub­sid­ing. Only a win would re­ally do.

That long-awaited suc­cess came thanks to Fraizer Camp­bell’s sev­enth-minute strike and a show of de­fen­sive re­silience that for once would not be un­der­mined in stop­page time. City were not al­ways pretty but this meeting of likely rel­e­ga­tion ri­vals was more a strong­man show than a beauty con­test.

At the 15th time of ask­ing, the Tigers fi­nally hit dou­ble fig­ures for the sea­son.

The 10th, 11th and 12th points banked at the Univer­sity of Bolton Sta­dium do not mask the short­com­ings that have run through Au­gust, Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber but they did re­mind the 427 trav­el­ling fans that this is a team still pre­pared to scrap for a cause the own­ers have all-but given up on.

“You could see there’s a spirit and to­geth­er­ness amongst the play­ers,” said Ad­kins af­ter­wards. “Ev­ery­one contributed. I’m re­ally pleased for all the play­ers and staff.

“We’ve got a team and a be­long­ing here. These are the times when you find out about the peo­ple you’ve got around you. Again we pro­duced a spir­ited per­for­mance.”

Ad­kins used the ex­act same buzz­words af­ter last week’s games with Pre­ston North End and Bris­tol City but this time they did not jar. The re­sult gave them a foun­da­tion this time around. No longer did they seem quite so hol­low.

The Tigers, though, have been build­ing to­wards this third win of the sea­son.

Ad­kins’ men might have had a point away to league-lead­ers Sh­effield United be­fore the in­ter­na­tional break and re­ally ought to have beaten Pre­ston in the first game back. A draw was also the least they de­served at Bris­tol City in mid­week.

A bet­ter per­for­mance had ar­guably come at Ash­ton Gate than the one good enough to beat Bolton but it mat­tered not. Des­per­ate times ruled out the need for panache or flair. Com­mit­ment and dis­ci­pline were the or­der of the day and they came in spades. Camp­bell 7

“Things have maybe gone against us a lit­tle bit but we pre­pare well for ev­ery game,” said Ad­kins. “On a daily ba­sis we’ve got ev­ery­one con­tribut­ing. I’m al­ways op­ti­mistic about what we do.

“We scored early for a change here. We’ve cre­ated a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties early on pre­vi­ous games and this time we’ve taken one.”

This restora­tive re­sult was ul­ti­mately made pos­si­ble by a piece of ruth­less fin­ish­ing that City had so badly lacked in pre­vi­ous weeks.

Markus Hen­rik­sen, feisty on his re­turn as cap­tain, played a ball into the penalty area that was dum­mied by Kamil Grosicki and there was Camp­bell to send a first-time fin­ish low past Ben Al­nwick in the Bolton goal.

Ad­kins ap­peared to bristle at the sug­ges­tion that Camp­bell had proved a point but that is pre­cisely what the striker had done. Over­looked against Mid­dles­brough, Leeds, Pre­ston and Bris­tol City, a re­turn to the start­ing XI de­liv­ered the goal that Chris Martin, Camp­bell’s re­place­ment up front, is still wait­ing for in black and am­ber.

As much as Camp­bell’s name de­manded the head­lines, how­ever, City’s vic­tory owed ev­ery­thing to a stoic de­fen­sive ef­fort.

This, lest we for­get, was a makeshift rear­guard de­nied the ser­vices of four se­nior cen­tral de­fend­ers. Tommy El­ph­ick was ex­cel­lent as the leader of the pack, while Rob­bie Mcken­zie also en­joyed a full Cham­pi­onship de­but to re­mem­ber. The for­mer South Hold­er­ness School pupil, on City’s books since the age of 10, scarcely put a foot wrong.

Credit also went to full-backs Eric Lichaj and Stephen Kings­ley, as well as sec­ond-half sub­sti­tute On­drej Mazuch, for the

un­yield­ing pro­tec­tion af­forded to goal­keeper David Mar­shall. A sec­ond clean-sheet of the sea­son has been com­ing and for all Bolton pushed for an equaliser, it was rarely in any great doubt.

Clay­ton Don­ald­son en­joyed the one big chance that came the home team’s way. The City academy grad­u­ate was sent rac­ing free by Erhun Oz­tumer’s threaded pass but, one-on-one with Mar­shall, he sent his shot high and wide of an ex­posed goal.

A bet­ter team might have pun­ished City at other times, too, but Bolton are in much the same rut that the Tigers are at­tempt­ing to climb out of. Dan­ger­man Oz­tumer was al­ways a jink­ing threat with­out be­ing able to find the telling pass, while Chris­tian Doidge and Don­ald­son showed their lim­i­ta­tions.

Bolton sup­port­ers were far from happy watch­ing the lat­est chap­ter of a nose­div­ing sea­son. They chanted “at­tack, at­tack, at­tack” at one point of the sec­ond half but Oz­tumer’s curl­ing shot wide was as close as they came in spells of long pressure.

City, in fact, had the best chance of them all to net an anx­ious fix­ture’s sec­ond goal. Jack­son Irvine’s pass into Jar­rod Bowen brought a ball back into the path of Grosicki but the Poland in­ter­na­tional could not pro­duce the fin­ish re­quired for a first goal since April.

Not that it mat­tered for once. One was enough for City to conquer Bolton and move back to within two points of the safety line ahead of the test­ing fix­tures to come against West Brom and Birm­ing­ham.

The Tigers will have done su­perbly well if they have es­caped the bot­tom three by the time the next in­ter­na­tional break ar­rives but a first win at Bolton in the post-war years has turned down the alarm bells for at least a week.

Hull City on their way to vic­tory at BoltonPic­tures: Michael Sedg­wick/fo­cus Images

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