Saturday, November 21st, 2015
Bristol City halted Hull City’s perfect winning streak with the first goal the Tigers have conceded in six matches en route to a hard-fought point.
Kieran Agard was the man who provided it, reacting quickest to turn the ball home inside a crowded six-yard box on 39 minutes.
But Hull are top of the league for a reason, and their talented assortment of senior internationals remained patient in pursuit of an equaliser eventually scored by substitute Shaun Maloney 17 minutes from time.
Steve Cotterill named an unchanged starting line-up following the goalless draw at Bolton Wanderers before the international break, with Agard continuing alongside Jonathan Kodjia up front.
Kodjia would have been touched by a well-observed minute’s silence in the build-up to kick-off in tribute to those who lost their lives in the tragic Paris terrorist attacks.
But the Frenchman, who was back home in the city at the time, took no time to make his mark on the match, latching on to Luke Freeman’s ball over the top and sending a difficult half-volley just a couple of yards wide after it dipped over the stranded Allan McGregor.
Hull’s lofty league position was reflected in their comfort in possession, keeping the ball for long periods without quite engineering enough space in the final third for a clear chance on goal.
Instead it was City’s more direct approach that opened up another yawning gap in the Tigers’ defence on 13 minutes.
This time Elliott Bennett seized on a loose ball and charged towards the box only to be tugged back cynically by Harry Maguire, who went into the book.
Then Freeman sent the resulting free kick towards the top corner with a curling effort McGregor smartly tipped behind for a corner.
Hull were without eight-goal top scorer Abel Hernandez but still had players who could hurt City. Mohamed Diame, playing in a withdrawn striker’s role, was teed up by Sam Clucas and opened up his body looking to pass the ball inside the far post only for Luke Ayling to intervene with a brave block.
It was a good spectacle for the Sky TV viewers. Derrick Williams demonstrated his ever-improving attacking instincts with a teasing cross from deep that only just escaped Agard.
At the other end Maguire stepped out of the visiting defence and unleashed a ferocious rising drive that needed Frank Fielding to be alert to help on its way over the bar.
There could be no questioning that the Football League’s meanest defence was being given a stern examination.
Three of Hull’s starting back four had been yellow carded – and midfielder Tom Huddlestone – by the time Agard struck the opener six minutes before the interval.
Again Bennett escaped down the right flank, this time being upended by Andrew Robertson, paving the way for Freeman’s delivery to bobble around the danger zone before Agard pounced with a smart finish on the turn from six yards.
It was the first league goal conceded by the Tigers in six matches and one that provoked an angry response.
City would do well to withstand the next ten minutes, including an extended period of added time.
Jake Livermore’s goalbound volley was excellently headed behind by Bennett, while Robertson’s inviting cross floated agonisingly beyond Chuba Akpom before Diame sent a 20-yard free kick over the top after an anxious wait.
City had been in danger of dropping too deep as the first half ticked by but City held a higher line at the start of the second and the Tigers found openings tough to come by despite plenty of possession.
Clucas traded passes with Livermore and fired wide from the edge of the box, but the way the winger snatched at the chance suggested a growing sense of frustration among Steve Bruce’s players.
City continued to keep the visitors at arm’s length in the face of several corners, but the equaliser would finally arrive on 73 minutes via the most direct route.
McGregor’s goal kick towards the right wing was headed on by Ahmed Elmohamady and cleverly hooked on by a cute backheel from Diame that put Maloney in the clear.
With only Fielding to beat, the Scotsman composed himself and dispatched the bouncing ball expertly with a firm sidefoot into the top corner.
There would be no great change to the pattern of play in the remaining minutes, as Hull set about turning one point into three.
Cotterill introduced Aaron Wilbraham and Mark Little to freshen things up, while Diame and substitute Sone Aluko both shot narrowly wide, before Clucas mistimed a last-gasp header as the visitors searched in vain for a dramatic winner.