Joey Barton's claims pre-game that "there might be a little bit of bad blood" in the Emirates FA Cup First Round tie between Hull City and Fleetwood Town proved to be correct as Fleetwood fell to defeat at the KCOM.
Barton alluded to a now ongoing investigation into allegations of player abuse involving controversial striker Ched Evans during the last clash between the two sides, which Fleetwood won 4-1 a month ago. As it happened, Evans lasted less than two minutes after picking up an injury. Josh Magennis and Reece Burke scored the goals to send Hull City through and leave Fleetwood short of options going forward as Barton's gamble to play his strongest team backfired on him in a big way.
Story of the match
It took only one minute for the referee Marc Edwards to get involved in the match, with Josh Magennis the target of his warning after the Northern Irishman had complained about the over physical nature of Fleetwood's approach from the off. Not long after, there was the first injury of the match. A lengthy delay ensured as Ched Evans needed to be stretchered off after laying motionless for the best part of five minutes. This came off the back of a particularly innocuous looking challenge where Evans was backing into his marker, but looked to come off badly and he was replaced by Wes Burns.
Good play by Hull City saw them try to work a chance for Richie Smallwood to shoot, but Magennis was flagged for offside. Both teams were trying to get the ball forward to create chances, with Harvey Saunders looking to repeat his heroics from last month just after the 15 minute mark with a run out wide. The Tigers defence smothered out the chance to keep it goalless.
Tough tackling from Callum Elder created space for Magennis to run down the left hand side on 20 minutes, and his cross saw an improvised header by James Scott hit the target, but go straight into Jason Leutwiler's gloves. Callum Camp's shot on 23 minutes was Fleetwood's first attempt, and it sailed past George Long's far post.
On 28 minutes, good build up play from Hull saw Mallik Wilks dragged down at the edge of the area - but somehow, the free kick went the way of the away side. Hull City went ahead on 31 minutes, and it was an excellently worked goal. Josh Emmanuel's cross was flicked on by Wilks, who found Magennis to open the scoring with a calm finish.
Emmanuel almost had a goal of his own as half time approached, driving after good build up play by the home side and having his shot blocked for a corner. Elder's delivery found Jacob Greaves, who just couldn't keep his header down. More composure from the young man - making the step up from U23 football this season - could have seen the Tigers double their lead.
Great feet from Wilks minutes later created a crossing opportunity but the ball was overhit. When recycled though, Wilks had his shot blocked for a corner as Hull's pressure began to build. Nine minutes of added time were then announced after Evans' injury at the start of the game. George Honeyman's relentless energy forced Leutwiler into miskicking his clearance in added time, but the chance down the left fizzled out.
Fleetwood were incensed just before the half time whistle as George Long almost took the ball out of the area in his hands, and then Saunders was involved in a clash that saw him on the deck for a similar length of time as Evans at the start of the game. Barton reminstrated with the officials to no avail as Hull went into half time with a 1-0 lead.
Josh Morris replaced the injured Harvey Saunders for the start of the second half for the away side, with Barton's gamble of playing a full strength side to get a result backfiring spectacularly with injuries to two of his most important players in Evans and Saunders. Fleetwood thought they had the equalizer three minutes into the second half the flag correctly went up for offside.
James Scott flashed a ball across the face of the goal which Magennis just couldn't get onto, and a few heavy challenges started to be made in midfield with Smallwood upending Burns. The tempers were threatening to flare up as Callum Connolly went into the book after raising his hands to Honeyman just before the hour mark. Good work from Honeyman and Elder saw the latter put a cross into a dangerous area, but Fleetwood cleared their lines.
It was 2-0 just after the hour mark. Reece Burke scored his first goal of the season, heading in a corner in style and celebrating wildly as Hull doubled their lead. The frustration for the away side started to show when Paddy Madden went into the book for a cynical and petulant foul on 65 minutes.
Fleetwood had plenty of the ball after that, but it was the Tigers who nearly went three up with Burke's header just going wide. Madden - already on a yellow card as the game crept into the last ten minutes - was walking on very thin ice as he pulled down Emmanuel.
As the game went into added time, Greaves almost made it three with a header from a corner as time started to run out for Fleetwood. Joey Barton cut a dejected figure on the sidelines, waving his arms about after various decisions and pacing around like a caged animal as he couldn't mastermind another famous win against a Hull side that had clearly done their homework after the last meeting. Edwards blew his whistle as the Tigers marched on to Round Two.
Takeaways from the match
Irony at the KCOM
Despite Barton's words of bad blood before the game, the focus of the vitrol - Ched Evans - went down injured before the two minute mark, and Saunders was the same at the end of the first half. The game was hyped up by the controversial Fleetwood manager as a game that would see bad tackles and lots of action, but in fact the two injuries came from innocuous challenges and it leaves Barton short of options going forward as both players were motionless as they were stretchered off. Hull City looked like they had learnt lessons from their beating a month ago and looked bang up for this - it was not men against boys as it had been that rainy Friday night in early October.
FA Cup taken seriously once again?
Both sides have an incredibly hectic fixture schedule, playing Tuesday/Saturday for the next four weeks. Despite this, both managers chose strong line-ups with teams that looked close to full strength. With behind-closed-doors fixtures affecting the bottom two leagues of the pyramid disproportionately, is it that League One teams are going to gamble to try and get a money-spinning third round tie in January against one of the big boys for a split of the TV money? Whilst it was a welcome change for the competition to be treated with the respect many think it deserves, it ultimately is a gamble. Just ask Joey Barton, who will now be without two key players for the foreseeable future.
The Tigers were impressive all over the pitch, with Magennis leading the line superbly and Wilks looking sharp in flashes. Special praise must be given to both Alfie Jones and Jacob Greaves though, who slotted into the side extremely well and were not phased by Fleetwood's physical approach despite their inexperience. Both full backs - Elder and Emmanuel - also stood out, with Fleetwood unable to ever really get a footing into the game.
Hull City: Long; Emmanuel, Greaves, Burke, Elder; Smallwood, A Jones, Honeyman; Wilks, Scott, Magennis.
Substitutions: Ingram, De Wijs, Batty, Eaves, Slater, Lewis-Potter, Mayer.
Fleetwood Town: Leutwiler; Edwards, Connolly, Holgate, Andrew; Camps, Whelan, Coutts; Madden, Saunders, Evans.
Substitutions: Cairns, Burns, Duffy, Morris, McKay, Boyes, Finley.