Gavin Whyte scored a brace to put Hull City top of Sky Bet League One on goal difference as the Tigers cruised to victory against a relegation threatened Bristol Rovers side.
Story of the match
Rovers got the game underway, with both sides cautious in the opening few minutes with no real chances at either end. Josh Magennis had the first chance, heading goal-wards from George Honeyman's cross. His header, however, flashed wide of Joe Day's post. Good defending at the other end from the home side snuffed out a chance for Rovers in their first real foray forward.
Bristol Rovers were determined to play with high energy in the opening stages and set about applying the pressure high up the pitch. Joey Barton's physical influence didn't take long to manifest itself, with Alex Rodman shoving Honeyman to the floor after he attempted to slow down a free kick. No cards were shown at this stage, however. Maillk Wilks was also taking some heavy treatment on the right wing as it was clear that the Gas were attempting to intimidate the home side.
There was almost an opening for Gavin Whyte on 17 minutes, but the ball would just not sit up for the Hull City winger as Rovers cleared their lines. Hull City forced a corner on 22 minutes but the away side managed to scramble the ball away. Greg Docherty drove forward well soon after but Honeyman's cross left a lot to be desired at the half way point in the first half.
Docherty was once again in the centre of the action with a 50 yard ball to Wilks, but Alfie Jones' shot was blocked after the winger squared it in the area. After a break for an injury, Docherty once again switched the play and found Wilks. He managed to keep the ball in on the byline and pulled it back for Whyte to find the bottom corner just after the half hour mark to give the Tigers a deserved 1-0 lead.
City should have had a second just five minutes before half time, but somehow the ball didn't cross the line following a scramble from a Honeyman corner. Magennis was adjudged to have fouled Day and Rovers got away with it. Wilks came close moments later, cutting in from the right hand side and shooting just wide of the post.
Rovers forced a corner on the stroke of half time and came close, with a flick-on just drifting wide of Matt Ingram's far post. Good work from Callum Elder up the other end almost saw a chance for Magennis, but the forward had drifted into an offside position. A blatent Sam Nicholson dive was ignored by the referee just before the half time whistle, leaving Barton thinking his team had been hard done by - but the official was perfectly placed and blew for the interval.
Barton's side made a change at the break, with Max Ehmer being replaced by Jonah Ayunga. The away side changed shape slightly with Brandon Hanlan and Ayunga being the two players up front. Hanlan almost got on the end of a cross early into the half, but Ingram picked the ball up on his second attempt.
Luke Leahy and George Williams were both lucky not to pick up bookings for late challenges, and good link up play from Wilks and Honeyman saw the latter win a corner on 54 minutes. Jacob Greaves fouled his man and the chance was gone. Greaves then made the error to let Hanlan in but the forward blazed over the bar.
Rodman then deservedly went into the book for a tackle on Jones, and Hanlan went down soon afterwards after ducking his head onto Reece Burke's clearance. Superb play from Wilks and Honeyman saw the influential midfielder square for Whyte to side-foot home his second on the hour mark in a great piece of counter-attacking football.
There was some confusion soon after as the linesman flagged for a foul on Lewie Coyle, but the referee let Honeyman shoot - giving the advantage - and then bringing the play back in a bizarre moment from the official. Hull's freekick routine however, did not pay off and Rovers cleared their lines.
There was a clash on the sidelines near the dugouts involving Honeyman and Leahy, with both players being shown the yellow card. Leahy could count himself very lucky to not have been given his marching orders.
Magennis, Honeyman and Whyte were replaced by Tom Eaves, Dan Crowley and Keane Lewis-Potter respectively for the home side as McCann looked to consolidate his side's lead. Eaves was almost in for a chance with ten minutes to go but Day smothered the chance.
Rovers started to go a bit more direct and put the Hull City defence under pressure in the final stages, and Ingram pulled off a smart stop to keep the score at 2-0 late on. The Tigers very much deserved the three points and that now makes it three wins on the bounce to send McCann's side top on goal difference.
Takeaways from the match
Hull find ways to score at home
After numerous blanks drawn at home in recent weeks, the Tigers have now scored four in their last two home games. They weren't at their sparkling best but always looked dangerous on the counter and moments of quality saw them get a routine victory in the end. Alfie Jones at the base of midfield is crucial to Hull's stability and he is filling the void left by Richie Smallwood superbly.
Rovers physical approach doesn't pay off
Bristol Rovers were aggressive from the off and looked to press the Tigers, but they switched off for the first goal and never really recovered. They showed fight - a little too much at times - and the referee was certainly kept busy, with Leahy probably counting himself lucky not to see red for a petulant push on Honeyman, who was booked himself for his troubles.
Greg Docherty was superb for the Tigers yet again, creating the chance for Mallik Wilks to tee up Whyte for his first goal on the half hour mark. He covered every blade of grass on the pitch as well as midfield counter part Honyeman, who made the second goal. Mallik Wilks was a constant thorn in the side of Luke Leahy and it was a comfortable win for the home side.