Hull City closed the gap on Brighton at the top of the Championship table to two points with a workmanlike 2-0 victory at MK Dons.
It was my first visit to “Stadium:MK” as it probably was for most City fans. It’s a stadium with an unholy amount of seats and a quiet ridiculous amount of executive boxes. Despite being nice as a piece of architecture, well-engineered and well designed as a community venue – it’s not a great football stadium. It’s vast for the size of the crowds it attracts and completely non-atmospheric. 2,600+ away fans would fill most visiting enclosures and make a hell of a lot of noise but even an enthusiastic band of Tigers fans couldn’t liven up that thing. There’s nothing particularly distinguishing about it either. It could be anywhere and belong to any club. Some would call that apt.
Moses Odubajo – Michael Dawson – Alex Bruce – Andy Robertson
Ahmed Elmohamady – Jake Livermore – David Meyler – Sam Clucas
Abel Hernandez – Chuba Akpom
City were unchanged from the fine win over Birmingham and, in truth, won at a canter. There won’t be much to this as a match report because little happened. MK Dons may well be the worst team I’ve seen in the Championship in the last ten years of City’s involvement. They have decent football principles but to a man they are League One players and as a whole they failed to ever take a stranglehold on their own ground. The Tigers played at 50% of their capability and won without a scare. No scares. On Halloween. That’s horrific.
The start was as confident as you’d expect from a team who were unbeaten in seven going in and had won three games in a week at home (sort of). They made the game look easy and whether moving out from the back or counter attacking were able to cover two thirds of the pitch easily and swiftly time after time after time. The quality wasn’t there in the final third but stretching the game was very easy throughout. Disappointingly, City by passed midfield too often in a rush to get Hernandez and Akpom into the wide open spaces in their half when patience would have seen them kill off listless opponents much sooner.
MK Dons were just starting to get a foothold in the game after twenty minutes or so of kicking us when we took the lead. One of the many counter attacks broke down on the edge of the box with Akpom trying to slide in a pass. Hernandez reacted better than the defenders and slotted the ball across goal for Elmohamady to arrive at the far post for the simplest of tap ins [0-1]. Elmo didn’t have his best game and his crossing was particularly poor for his high standards but he turned up when it mattered to give City a lead that was rarely threatened.
They did try to respond particularly through the impressive Josh Murphy who had some joy against the also off colour Odubajo. Moses was booked for an early fouls on Murphy and then lost out to him a couple of times later in the half. Two dangerous crosses from the on-loan Norwich winger were cut out by the alert Alex Bruce. City were sloppy, perhaps because the game seemed so easy, and a few players got a rocket off Allan McGregor for needlessly conceding possession and good field position. Akpom forced a comfortable save from David Martin while McGregor saved their only decent effort when he punched Church’s near post drive to safety.
Before the break Elmohamady missed a golden chance to kill the game. He wandered in behind the dopey defence and rounded goalkeeper Martin only to fluff his left footed half volley with an empty net begging to be rippled.
Half time: MK Dons 0 Hull City 1
The second half was a turgid affair. Despite numerous substitutions our feckless hosts didn’t improve a jot and with The Tigers showing again their liking for retreating on a lead and playing on the counter it became a frustrating watch. Akpom tested Martin again from the edge of the box with what was about the only effort from either team for about half an hour. City’s counter attacks were undermined by poor decisions in the last third and MK Dons hopes of creating anything were nipped in the bud time and again by interceptions and winning challenges from the excellent David Meyler and Jake Livermore in City’s midfield. This pair continue to look the real deal and have ensured that Huddlestone and Diame will be spectators for a little while yet.
Mo Diame replaced a fading Akpom with twenty to play and Sam Clucas looked to have got through on goal after latching on to Mo’s pass. The whole City support had spotted the late flag long before Clucas stuck the ball in the net – except the young lady from China who had accompanied us to her first ever football match. She jumped up excitedly and gave a huge “Yesss!” before enquiring as to why the rest of us didn’t seem that bothered.
Steve Bruce signaled his intention to see the game out when he withdrew Hernandez for Shaun Maloney later on. It was a risky strategy to go without strikers for the latter part of the game but the gaffer probably felt he could have seen this one out with eleven keepers charging around. Dean Lewington picked up a booking for a foul on Meyler and thanked his lucky stars that his crude body check on Odubajo had gone unpunished early on and the boys from Sim City wasted a good late opportunity from a dangerous set piece position.
That should have been the end of the game but as the ball was booted up field by City, Maloney controlled the ball and with a runner to the right looking the obvious pass, back heeled the ball to put Diame into space on the left. He beautifully opened up his body and slid the ball in off the far post from the edge of the box to seal it [0-2].
Full time: MK Dons 0 Hull City 2
City will have better games this season but unlike some of the other matches we’ve played and not particularly impressed in so far – I really felt like this was a case of doing enough and if the opposition had stepped up then City would have too.
There were few great individual performances aside from the central midfield pairing but the centre halves were typically unfussy and the defence clocked up a stingy sixth clean sheet in ten games and improved the already impressive goals against ratio I mentioned in the Birmingham report to 0.57 goals per game. Over the course of a 46 game season, that would equate to about 26 goals conceded and a minimum of twenty clean sheets. I’m not sure they can keep that up because it’s simply remarkable.
The game wasn’t great. The MK experience was even less so. Regardless, this was a comfortable away win that keeps City well in the chasing pack in the Championship. When all is said and done at the end of the day and the dust settles and push comes to shove – that is all that really matters.
MK Don’s are football’s Frankenstein’s monster. They didn’t scare City today. The prospect of having to return to “Stadium:MK” next season might, mind.