The Carabao Cup often delivers many shocks, with numerous Championship clubs departing the competition after round one.
But a rampant first half display from Hull City ensured that Grant McCann’s side weren’t going to be on the end of a cup upset against Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park.
Jon Toral made an instant impact on his return to the side by netting after 19 seconds. Enigmatic winger David Milinkovic scored a long anticipated goal minutes later, and centre back Ryan Tafazolli reaffirmed Hull’s dominance by netting on his full debut on the stroke of half-time.
A second half resurgence never materialised for Micky Mellon’s men, as Hull booked their place into round two with their first clean sheet under Grant McCann.
Hull City made 11 changes to the side that beat Reading at the KCOM Stadium; including a first start for George Honeyman recently recruited from Sunderland. He adorned the captains armband for the night with Eric Lichaj rested.
In contrast, Tranmere only made one change to the side that were beaten comfortably by Portsmouth. Mellon opted to go with the live-wire Corey Blackett-Taylor over former Barnsley winger Connor Jennings.
Story of the game
Hull quick out of the blocks
Tranmere began the game with the worst start possible; behind after 19 seconds.
Hull pressed from the off and caused Tranmere keeper Scott Davies to slice a back pass; a few deflections diverted the ball to Brandon Fleming whose teasing, whipped cross met the head of Toral, catching Davies flat-footed.
With Hull asserting their dominance from early on, Tranmere were unable to gain a foothold in the game with the ferocious pressing that McCann’s system provides.
Milinkovic netted minutes later after he capitalised on some lacklustre Tranmere defending.
Hull winger Josh Bowler caught Tranmere left back Liam Ridehalgh napping before sliding Josh Magennis through.
His powerful drive was saved, but Honeyman was first to react. He picked out Milinkovic at the back post before he bundled home a rebound.
Third goal kills off the tie
Hull carried on their siege of the Tranmere goal with Toral instrumental in carrying the ball forward.
The Tigers registered a few more shots on goal but were prevented from troubling the keeper with some inspired Tranmere defending.
Milinkovic then turned provider; his whipped-in corner found Tafazolli unmarked in the centre of the goal to head home just before half-time.
Tranmere fight back in the second half
After putting in a first half display to forget, Tranmere restored some pride in the second half to prevent the scoreline from becoming any more damaging.
Hull’s pressing lessened and Tranmere grew into the game, quickly switching play to their wingers who began to dictate proceedings.
Blackett-Taylor struck the woodwork just after the half time interval.
Darren Potter found himself in acres of space before releasing Taylor on the left, and he hit a ferocious strike from 25 yards out that cannoned off the bar.
Taylor then turned provider; he squared the ball across to Paul Mullin whose curling effort was heading into the top right corner before Matt Ingram scampered across to save.
Despite applying pressure in the second half, Tranmere were unable to break through and Hull showed a contrasting side to their game; an ability to put in a dogged display which rewarded them with a clean sheet.
Takeaways from the match
Tranmere need to be more ruthless in attack
Mellon slammed his team about a lack of consistency after the Portsmouth game, and these two halves of football couldn’t have been more contrasting.
Mellon’s side were unable to play out from the back and were caught napping on a few occasions in the first half upon which Hull capitalised.
Whereas, in the second, Tranmere managed to dominate the midfield more and continuously attacked Hull’s right side; Blackett-Taylor had the edge on Robbie McKenzie for pace and became influential in Tranmere’s attacking play.
In order to build on this performance, Tranmere must settle into games quicker and keep the back door shut for the first 15 minutes.
However, there was much encouragement in their second half display when they managed to pin Hull back, but lacked composure in the final third unlike their opponents.
Fringe players and new signings have taken their opportunity to impress McCann
Whilst Hull rested star men Kamil Grosicki and Jarrod Bowen for their next Championship game against Brentford at Griffin Park, a number of fringe players and new signings took their opportunity to impress McCann.
Academy graduate Fleming took no time at all to grab the attention of Hull boss operating in the left back position; he delivered the tantalising cross for Hull’s opener. He was also a part of the defensive line that survived Tranmere’s second half onslaught.
With Stephen Kingsley performing below par in Hull’s first two matches, the youngster has done his chances of being selected no harm ahead of Saturday’s match.
Although he has Polish International Grosicki ahead of him to dislodge, the once forgotten man Milinkovic certainly proved stern competition after grabbing a goal and an assist. The Serbian winger will be campaigning for a starting spot, should Grosicki choose to move abroad.
Whilst the match-winners did their bit to impress, Matthew Pennington and Tafazolli at the back enjoyed a promising first outing. They will face sterner tests this season, but they dealt with the physical presence of Morgan Ferrier well. With Jordy de Wijs and Reece Burke the usual preferred pairing, perhaps McCann will opt with a backline more resemblant of that which delivered his sides first clean sheet.
Hull now travel to Preston North End in the second round of the Carabao Cup.