Hull City and Sunderland had to settle for a point at the KCOM in a thrilling encounter that saw the Black Cats pegged back twice by the Tigers to leave the home side top - four clear of second place Peterborough United - and the away side stay third, now level on points with Lincoln City.
Story of the match
Hull City could have been one up within two minutes. Mallik Wilks nicked the ball off Grant Leadbitter and drove forward, but could only fire straight at Lee Burge with Keane Lewis-Potter in a much better position. There were a few players miskicking passes and clearances as well as losing footing in the opening stages, suggesting that the occasion was getting to a few of the younger players in both squads.
Charlie Wyke went down easily on the edge of the area on six minutes, but the referee saw nothing doing. Sunderland started to control possession and after a floated cross, Jordan Jones' header hit the bar and was cleared by Jacob Greaves. Sunderland then took the lead on ten minutes, with Callum Elder impeded by Lynden Gooch in the corner which the referee ignored. Jones then netted with the away side getting their reward for having the lion's share of possession.
Lewis-Potter's free kick stung the gloves of Burge on 16 minutes from a free kick, and from the resulting corner by Elder the ball flashed to Wilks. Hull's top scorer couldn’t connect with the ball however, with Burge in no-man's land. Wyke then led with his elbow on Jacob Greaves, which saw the Hull youngster need lengthy treatment. Wyke can count himself lucky to only receive a caution with Hull manager Grant McCann furious on the touchline.
Hull were struggling to get into the game, but smart play out from the back saw Elder drive up the left wing and cross into the middle. Sunderland cleared their lines, but having won back possession the ball was fired over to Wilks on the right hand side. His curling cross was met by Josh Magennis who headed home the equalizer.
The scores were not level for long, however. Elder will look back at the footage and wonder just how referee Craig Breakspear thought he handled the ball in the area when Gooch tried to knock the ball over the left back. Despite the Tigers' protests, the spot kick was given and Grant Leadbitter sent Ingram the wrong way to give Sunderland the lead yet again.
This was turning out to be an end to end encounter, with both sides desperate to add to their tallies. Nine minutes of added time was announced after Greaves' earlier injury, and Hull had a penalty shout of their own that Breakspear ignored. The whistle went for half time with the home side with it all to do in the second half.
Good work from Honeyman and Magennis set up Wilks on the edge of the area minutes into the second half, but Burge saved easily. Wilks then floated the ball over into the area minutes later only to see the ball headed away for a corner as Hull pushed for an equalizer. Lewis-Potter then went into the book for a frustrated push on Max Power.
Lewis-Potter might have earned his side a penalty just before the hour mark, but again Breakspear waved play on. Wilks went into the book on the hour for a petulant grab of the linesman’s flag after he was left frustrated following a throw in before Sunderland got bodies on the line to block a goal bound shot following a corner. On 63 minutes, Hull finally had their equalizer. Wilks assisted for Magennis yet again, floating the ball into the area for the Northern Irishman to grab his second and deservedly get Hull back on level pegging.
Gooch fired just wide in a reminder to the Tigers that Sunderland still possessed a threat on the counter, and Greg Docherty shrugged off not one but two fouls to drive forward and shoot, but see the effort blocked.
Jack Diamond, Aiden O’Brien and Denver Hume all came on for the Black Cats as Lee Johnson tried to nick the win. Keane Lewis-Potter showed great skill to create himself a chance on 77 minutes but his tame shot didn’t test Burge. Lewis-Potter was also stopped at the last by Gooch, with the young forward almost in behind the defence.
Richie Smallwood, Gavin Whyte and Dan Crowley all came on for the Tigers with ten minutes to go as McCann threw on fresh legs to give his side some impetus. However, it was Sunderland who came close to winning it late on. O'Brien brought a save out of Ingram before rattling the woodwork, and then the Tigers went up the other end with Whyte having a shot blocked. The game finished 2-2 which was probably a fair result in the end - with Hull potentially the happier of the two sides.
Takeaways from the match
Hull do it the hard way - again
Hull were all at sea first half, but their cause was not helped by referee Craig Breakspear. He made some bizarre decisions - including the penalty - but the biggest incident that will leave Grant McCann fuming was the clear elbow on Jacob Greaves by Charlie Wyke. Only a yellow card was brandished, and the home side will feel frustrated that once again - just as when Breakspear refereed their away game at Doncaster Rovers - they did not get the rub of the green. The second half was better from the Tigers but they need to relax in front of goal as they try to bounce back to the Championship at the first time of asking.
Sunderland dominate first half but only get a point
Lee Johnson will have been pleased with his side's first half performance, as they dominated early stages and deservedly went ahead before somewhat fortuitous circumstances handed them a penalty. They always kept pushing and rattled the crossbar in the latter stages, and with Peterborough losing to Gillingham, they will feel they have stopped the rot from recent weeks.
There were some good performances for both sides, with Lynden Gooch and Jordan Jones both linking up well for the first Sunderland goal and some important tackles and blocks from the away defense. Greg Docherty was once again at the heart of everything for the Tigers, with Mallik Wilks and Josh Magennis also linking up well for both goals.