Hull City's relegation woes deepened with a damaging home defeat against promotion outsiders Millwall at the KCOM.
Story of the match
Hull manager Grant McCann made three changes to his side for the home clash with Millwall after back to back defeats. Toral, Magennis and Scott dropped out with Stewart, Eaves and Bowler coming in to replace them. Gary Rowett started with a back three, a midfield four and then Ryan Leonard and Wallace playing off Bradshaw.
It was a lightening start for Millwall, who scored with their first shot of the game. Millwall got the ball into the feet of Leonard, who launched an unstoppable drive from 30 yards to leave Hull City keeper George Long with no chance. This took the number of games Hull City have failed to keep a clean sheet in to seventeen.
On ten minutes, Bowler got in behind the defense and had the chance to level up, but the Millwall goalkeeper Bialkowski stood firm. Almost straight after, Billy Mitchell had the chance to make it two for Millwall on his first start, but blasted over the bar. It was very much a let off for Hull City who did not look comfortable at the back yet again.
Hull saw more of the ball after this, but the Millwall back three looked strong and untroubled. Indeed, they snuffed out Hull City attacks and then were comfortable playing the ball out from the back, which rendered the Hull City press ineffective.
Mallik Wilks had a great chance he created himself, forcing the Millwall defense to made a rare error. He got himself into a great position but the away keeper stood firm and made a good save at his near post. Soon after, Bowler put a superb ball into the box and De Vijs saw his header blocked by Peace before Honeyman's header was easily caught by Bialkowski.
Hull's frailty at the back was present again when Hutchinson got ahead of MacDonald from a corner, but headed just wide. Wilks gave away a needless free kick near the corner with ten minutes to go, but somehow Millwall couldn't take the chance and the ball ended up on the top of the net.
Looking to drop deep and play on the counter, Mason Bennett was nearly in behind the Hull defense but the ball was somehow scrambled away. Millwall looked solid at the back and dangerous going forward. A poor kick from George Long offered a chance for Leonard to get his second, but he drove wide from the edge of the area.
Just before half time, Leonard got onto a ball from Bradshaw and George Long made a crucial block to keep the score at 0-1. Hull could and perhaps should have been losing by a heavier scoreline, so the half time whistle will have come with a sense of relief.
Neither side made any changes at the break, and it was obvious to many that Millwall's 3-4-3 system was working perfectly for them. Hull's 4-3-3 left them open on the counter, but also toothless going forward, as Millwall were able to squash any creativity with the bodies they got back. With this in mind, McCann went like-for like and switched to 3-4-3 - with Leo Da Silva came to the right wing back role. Bradshaw had a chance two minutes into the second half, but blazed over the bar.
Hull had a massive shout for a penalty when Wilks went down in the box, but the referee somehow remained unmoved. Wilks tested the Millwall keeper soon after but it was straight at him, and he gathered easily.
Kevin Stewart - already on a booking - was lucky not to get his marching orders after a late challenge on Ryan Leonard. He was smartly substituted soon after for Dan Batty, and Josh Magennis replaced the ineffective Tom Eaves, whose best contribution was a goal-line clearance moments before he departed.
Josh Bowler twisted and turned down the right hand side, but his shot went past the far post. Hull were trying to make a fist of things, but the end quality was just not there. That was his last contribution, as the local youngster Keane Lewis-Potter took his place and switched wings with Wilks.
Wilks won a free kick on the right side soon after and Elder swung it in, and Magennis' header was saved well - but he was flagged offside, and the chance went begging. Millwall had a similar chance almost immediately after, but again the linesman flagged against Cooper.
No real chances were created for either side as the game went on, until Keane Lewis-Potter had a glorious opportunity in the area but got his shot all wrong, and the ball slowly dribbled into Bialkowski's gloves. The game petered out somewhat, with Hull remaining in the bottom three and Millwall keeping up the chase of the promotion dream.
Takeaways from the match
Today will go down as the day that saw Grant McCann finally buckle and change his system to 3-4-3 - but only at half time, and it had no effect on the result. Hull looked more solid at the back in the second half but in truth never really looked like scoring. Millwall's system and gameplan worked to a tee, and they keep their faint playoff hopes alive, as they are two points outside the play-off places.
Ryan Leonard's goal came two minutes into the game, but was the only real bit of quality in the game. He played well in Millwall's unconventional 3-4-3 system, which Gary Rowett has clearly drilled his players well with. Billy Mitchell played well on his full debut and could have scored in the first half.
George Honeyman was the engine in midfield that never stopped running, but there was a massive lack of quality from this Hull side who look more likely to finish in the bottom three as the weeks go on. Grant McCann has a huge three games left to save his season.
Up next for both
Hull travel to Wigan Athletic on Tuesday in what is now a gargantuan game for the Tigers. Millwall return to the New Den to play Blackburn - also on Tuesday - as they try to sneak into the play-offs.
Hull City: Long; Macdonald (Tafazolli 80'), Burke, De Vijs, Elder; Stewart (Batty 61'), Honeyman, Da Silva; Wilks, Bowler (Lewis-Potter 69'), Eaves (Magennis 61').
Substitutions (Not used): Ingram, Toral, McLoughlin, Pennington, Scott.
Millwall: Bialkowski; Hutchinson, Cooper, Pearce; Ferguson (Wallace 83'), Woods, Bennett (Skalak 65'), Mitchell; Leonard, Wallace (Thompson 90'); Bradshaw (Smith 90').
Substitutions (Not used): Steele, Williams, Molumby, Mahoney, Muller.