Harry Drew brings us the first match report of the new season. A win! Hurrah!
How things change quickly in football. Merely two and a half months ago the holy grail of Premier League survival was still possible. Alas, it wasn’t to be and City found themselves relegated to English football’s second tier for the second time in five years. To go from competing against Manchester United to Huddersfield Town is, with all due respect to our opponents on Saturday, something of a comedown.
Starting anew is not an unfamiliar experience for City, so this season’s opener was approached with calm optimism. The influx of new signings in the past couple of weeks, as well as the FA’s welcome ruling last month that our name would indeed remain Hull City AFC, no doubt also contributed. No sign of Assem or Ehab Allam in the stands, their absence at the KC on match days apparently indefinite.
Dreams of exciting European adventures long gone, promotion from the Championship is now the ultimate objective. An opening home fixture against local rivals should never be underestimated and Steve Bruce was surely all too aware. With four debutants – Taylor, Hayden, Clucas and Akpom – the starting XI had a solid yet fresh look about it. To see the likes of Calaum Jahraldo-Martin and Greg Luer (who came on for his debut late in the game) on the bench was also encouraging. Huddersfield fans packed the away end and vocally backed their side in what, for them, was a daunting challenge against a team among the favourites for promotion.
The game was underway once tributes were paid (and the pitch cleared of oranges) to former goalkeeper Ian McKechnie and celebrity fan Omar Sharif. The first half was pretty bereft of chances, Huddersfield evidently satisfied to restrict City’s attack while not being particularly adventurous themselves. That said, Harry Bunn fired a shot over the bar for the Terriers in the game’s first serious attempt. Ryan Taylor’s free-kick went comfortably wide of the post not long after as City struggled to break the visitors down.
City possess an abundance of quality for this level, Ahmed Elmohamady finally manifesting it in the 39th minute as his textbook cross found Sam Clucas at the far post. A peripheral figure in the opening exchanges, the winger signed from Chesterfield struck a left foot volley towards goal that was well saved by Smithies. However, Clucas converted the rebound to claim his debut goal. There was a tangible air of relief around the KC as the deadlock was broken. There was time for Huddlestone to unleash a long-range effort before the end of the half, his shot flying narrowly wide.
After the break City fans were hoping for more of the same but it was Huddersfield who were showing the most promise going forward. Left-back Jason Davidson got in behind the home defence on 48 minutes, his sliding attempt going way over the crossbar. Yet this was a warning to City, whose main weakness last season was arguably not adequately defending leads. This was further reinforced when McGregor had to save well from a 25-yard strike from Jason Butterfield.
Sone Aluko was sent on by Bruce to inspire some life into City’s attack, and this proved to be a shrewd move. The Nigerian international was immediately causing problems for the away team, and on 72 minutes delivered an in-swinging cross which found its way to Chuba Akpom. The Arsenal loanee worked some space and fired the ball into the top corner, giving Alex Smithies no chance. Another debut goal; 2-0 to the Tigers it would remain. All eyes now turn to Accrington Stanley for a fascinating cup tie on Tuesday night.
Harry Drew @hdrew95