Hull City 2-0 Middlesbrough: Tigers roar to first home win
HULL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Middlesbrough's Duncan Watmore competing with Hull City's Alfie Jones during the Sky Bet Championship match between Hull City and Middlesbrough at KCOM Stadium on October 2, 2021 in Hull, England. (Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Hull City finally broke their duck at home with a convincing win against Middlesbrough to ease the pressure slightly on Grant McCann's side. Keane Lewis-Potteropened the scoring with a tremendous volley, but the goal was eventually given as a Joe Lumley own goal after the ball hit the post and then the head of the Boro keeper before crossing the line. Boro counter attacked well but their finishing let them down, and as they pushed forward for a leveller they fell victim to a Mallik Wilks breakaway goal to seal the points for the Tigers.

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  • Story of the match

Grant McCann surprised many with his team selection, making five changes and switching formation to 3-5-2. Tyler Smith and Tom Eaves started up front, and Eaves had the home fans shouting in his defence when he appeared to win a free kick after three minutes, only for the referee to award it to Middlesbrough. 

Hull started well, with Eaves and Keane Lewis-Potter at the heart of everything going forward. The latter won a free kick on six minutes, which George Moncur rather wasted - blasting it into the side netting. Minutes later, Josh Emmanuel brought a good save from goalkeeper Joe Lumley and the ball just didn't drop for Eaves, and his attempt at a shot ended up in a foul on Sol Bamba.

Jacob Greaves put a smart ball through for Tyler Smith to run onto on 12 minutes, but Lumley was out quickly to gather at the striker's feet. City were getting a lot of joy in wide areas with their 3-5-2, and had the better of the opening stages of the game - but aside from Emmanuel's earlier effort, Lumley had no been made to work too hard.

The weather conditions certainly weren't helping either side as the rain increased, and neither side really created much of an opening until Marcus Tavenier got on the end of a cross from the left hand side - his effort went wide of Matt Ingram's goal. Tyler Smith then had a shot blocked down the other end as the pace of the game started to quicken just before the half hour mark.

Eaves and Bamba were having a good battle against each other, with the big striker wanting to try make one of the starting positions up top his own. An error from him almost led to a Boro counter, but Alfie Jones came across to clear easily.

On 33 minutes, good work from Lewis-Potter and then Moncur won City a corner, which was cleared - but not before Tavenier had stupidly fouled Di'Shon Bernard. The free kick was cleared easily by Bamba but City kept the pressure on and Emmanuel's cross only needed a touch to put it in the net. Lumley gathered it with no City player able to move to it quick enough. Boro had a shot through Tavenier, but it was closer to the corner flag rather than the goal as the last five minutes or so of the half approached.

Middlesbrough did have one chance just as the 40 minute mark approached as they attempted to counter attack City, but Andraz Sporar skied his effort into the South stand. City then had an injury blow, with Sean McLoughlin having to replace Alfie Jones who was only just returning to full fitness.

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Excellent play out from the back by City eventually saw a shooting chance for Greaves at the edge of the area, but he snatched at the shot and it went over the bar as three minutes of added time were announced. No further action happened however, with the referee blowing the whistle for half time.

The rain didn't let up as the second half kicked off and neither side made any changes. Lewis-Potter's ball in early on almost reached Eaves before Boro cleared, and then Dael Fry was very lucky to win a foul when it looked like Tyler Smith simply shrugged off the defender and made him fall over his own feet.

A thunderous tackle by Richie Smallwood put Marc Bola on the ground and there was a break for the injury after 52 minutes. Smallwood won the ball, but Bola came off worse - he did, however, walk off the pitch and come back on fairly quickly.

Boro felt they should have had a penalty just before the hour mark, but the referee immediately waved play on. Greg Docherty replaced Moncur with half an hour to go as McCann tried to tweak his team to be the ones to open the scoring for the first time this season.

Boro reminded City that they can be dangerous on the break, but Tavenier skied his effort in front of the travelling supporters in what was a rare defensive lapse from the Tigers. Sporar was then put in behind but hit his effort wide, much to the delight of the home fans who celebrated the miss like it was a goal. Mallik Wilks then replaced Smith after a very energetic shift from the ex-Sheffield United forward.

Tom Eaves had a great chance on the volley but snatched at his chance as both sides were starting to go for the opening goal with time running out. City were definitely an improvement from recent weeks with the change in system, but Middlesbrough were very happy to sit in and then counter, with Ingram having to be at full stretch to deny Paddy McNair. McNair then blatantly tripped Lewis-Potter who glided past him easily on the edge of the area to earn himself a caution. 

Hull deservedly went in front soon after. The free kick came to nothing, but after recycling possession, Eaves inadvertently teed up Lewis-Potter. His volley cannoned off the post and onto the head of Boro 'keeper Lumley, trickling over the line and sending the Hull fans into delirium. It was no more than Grant McCann's side deserved, and it was the first time they had taken the lead in the Championship this season. 

Tom Eaves committed a foul on the edge of the Hull area with just a few minutes to go, and there was some confusion when the referee blew his whistle to stop the game before McNair bent the ball in. On the retake, the ball went high into the North Stand.

Quite how Wilks didn't win a free kick on the counter only the referee will know, but Boro nearly equalized up the other end and it was another smart stop from Ingram that the Tigers had to thank for that. Boro piled everyone forward to try get the leveller and on the counter, Hull were ruthless. Wilks and Eaves broke and the former kept a cool head in front of goal to hit the ball in off the post and make sure of the points.

  • Takeaways from the match

Is 3-5-2 the answer in the Championship?

It has taken over two years for Grant McCann to change his side's shape from 4-3-3, but today was the day - and it looks like the right decision. Neil Warnock's side were matched up man for man, and the Tigers were by far the better side for much of the game. There was an element of luck in the Tigers' opening goal, but this is exactly the luck that hasn't been going McCann's side's way. Today it did, and the players certainly looked confident in their new formation.

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For McCann, it may breathe new life into his tenure - but for his opposite number it may be a troubling period, as the travelling fans belted out "sacked in the morning, you're getting sacked in the morning" towards Neil Warnock. Boro had chances in the game but their finishing was woefully wide of the mark.

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  • Stand-out players

To a man, every City player ran themselves into the ground - but huge credit has to go to Di'Shon Bernard, Richie Smallwood and Tom Eaves. The style of play the Tigers usually played switched to three centre halves, and the leadership each of the players showed in their third of the pitch was tremendous and potentially kick starts the season for Hull City after a very difficult period. 

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