A strong Hull City side progressed to the second round of the League Cup beating Accrington Stanley on penalties.
There was much excitement amongst those of us in the tiger nation for whom a “ground tick” is more exciting than a signing and Accrington’s tiny Crown Ground, recently renamed the Wham stadium, didn’t disappoint. The capacity is supposedly over 5,000 but the attendance was less than half that and I’ve no idea where you’d fit the other half.
The majority of the City fans were stationed on a wide open terrace behind one goal with more in the seats one either side. Behind the opposite goal is a stand that has seating at the front and terracing behind and is home to the “Stanley ultras”. On the continent that would generate an image of hooligans carrying little, fat knives but here – it’s some kids with a flag and a drum.
For the second home game in succession, Accy’s fans were outnumbered by the opposition. How on earth they compete in League Two with home gates that size is anyone’s guess but full credit to them because not only do they compete but they are a very tidy side who caused City problems. You can see though why selling the naming rights to the stadium to George Michael for £200,000 is a massive boost for them.
Moses Odubajo – Harry Maguire – Curtis Davies – Andy Robertson
Ahmed Elmohamady – Tom Huddlestone – David Meyler – Sam Clucas
Sone Aluko – Nikica Jelavic
It was an unusually impressive line-up for Bruce in this competition with the temptation to rest players for Wolves on Sunday resisted. Any ideas that we might therefore brush aside the opposition failed to come to fruition during a competitive first half in which City laboured in possession and Accy created the better chances. Dean Windass’ son Josh is their star player and he had a very decent game.
Maguire and Davies defended well for the most part and Odubajo showed his searing pace a couple of times. Otherwise it was very low key from City. We worked the ball into wide areas well with patient passing but they dealt easily with crosses into the box. Odubajo worked his way in behind brilliantly twice but couldn’t pick anyone out in the packed penalty area.
The Tigers needed someone to open them up in central areas but with Huddlestone’s unambitious passing and Aluko being unable to turn without falling over we struggled in that area. They only chance we created came from Clucas leaving the left wing to look for the ball, linking up with Elmo and then the feckless Jelavic and curling a shot too close to the giant goalie Mooney. At the other end Harry Maguire headed clear after Windass had chipped Jakupovic following great work from the trick Mingoia.
Half time: Accrington Stanley 0 Hull City 0
Things didn’t improve massively after the break although Sone Aluko made a better contribution – perhaps having been given a pep-talk by Bruce. Chances were still at a premium with headers from corners at either end the only cause of any consternation for the keepers. Greg Luer replaced Odubajo and later Chuba Akpom came on for Jelavic. Akpom’s introduction did give the midfield a target up front and coupled with moving Aluko wide, the inter-play around the box improved immeasurably. It was still tough to break down the disciplined defence, guarding their box like A Flock Of Seagulls, but we created half chances for Robertson and Elmohamady.
A City winner very nearly came and it would have been fortuitous. Nice play on the right released Akpom who hit the bye-line and crossed low. Keeper Mooney got down to gather but the ball hit his forearm and squirmed underneath him. Luckily for him a defender was alert and kicked it literally off the line.
Full time: Accrington Stanley 0 Hull City 0
The City fans had enjoyed a rare terrace experience and been noisy but no-one seemed desperate to endure another half hour of the football. It was going to be a late arrival back in Hull and even later for the large number who stupidly choose to live outside our fine City. Some even live down south would you believe? Typically, having committed us to another thirty minutes, City then scored immediately. Aluko found Akpom on the right and he cut back inside and curled a lovely left-footed shot into the far corner [0-1].
Aluko was then withdrawn – very oddly for Matty Dixon. Shoring up midfield at one-nil up isn’t unusual but against opponents two divisions below when you’re finally starting to dictate the game, it was quite negative. Despite looking comfortable after the goal, we then conceded just before the break. The cross from our left was a good one but balls come in from Robertson’s side too often and too easily. The cross was met by Crooks who’d got a good run on defenders who were well on their heels and he powered it home [1-1].
Half time in extra time: Accrington Stanley 2 Hull City 1
City went in front again with a similar goal. Patient football saw the ball moved across via Akpom and Huddlestone to Elmo whose brilliantly cross was produced an even better header from Luer and looped beyond the keeper [1-2]. It was a tremendous first professional goal from the impressive Luer whose movement is very good for a young striker and his pace and strength bely his wiry frame.
That should have been that but while the City fans were distracted by one of the “Goolies” being thrown out, Jakupovic dropped a harmless looking shot and it ended up in the far corner [1-1]. The goal was awarded to Gornell so perhaps rebounded off him. Either way it was more terrible keeping from our serial flubber.
Half time in extra time: Accrington Stanley 2 Hull City 2
That meant penalties after an extra period that proved ten times more interesting than the ninety minutes that preceded it. Young Luer stepper up first for City and buried his penalty [0-1]. More evidence of his confidence and maturity. Mingoia then scored easily [1-1] before Harry Maguire did his Chris Waddle impression [1-1*]. Fair play to him for stepping up early but it was truly woeful. Windass put them ahead [2-1*] with a beauty into the top corner and then Huddlestone levelled, sending the keeper the wrong way [2-2*].
Billy Kee was denied by a fine stop from Jakupovic [*2-2*] to bring us level and then Akpom buried into the bottom left-hand corner despite the keeper going the right way [*2-3*]. Jakupovic then saved McConville’s powerful strike to give us a chance to win it [**2-3*]. David Meyler stepped up and put it wide of the post (think Cantona for Man Utd at Elland Road that time). Another appalling pen [**2-3**]. They still had to score and Gornell did easily [**3-3**].
SUDDEN DEATH- Curtis Davies stepped up and confidently beat Mooney down the middle [**3-4**] and then Crooks smashed his penalty over to end the drama. It was a relief to get through in the end but if you’re going to do it then winning a penalty shoot-out in front of your travelling hordes is the way to do it.
I’m not sure Steve Bruce will have learnt much that he didn’t already know from the game. Our play out of defence and through midfield is too slow against opponents who gather behind the ball. Odubajo is an excellent addition. Jelavic has someone else’s kit on underneath ours. Jakupovic is unreliable.
What do we want from Round two? Ground tick, of course!