After a turbulent pre-season new manager Leonid Slutsky got his first win as Hull City boss in a 2-1 victory over Bristol Rovers at the Estadio de Nora, Albufeira.
It was a close contest throughout but as the game headed into the last 20 minutes the Tigers were far more clinical than their opposition and two good finishes from Abel Hernandez and Jarrod Bowen secured the win for City.
With few resources at his disposal Slutsky was forced to name the same starting 11 that began Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Oxford United. The Championship side started sluggishly and their lower league opposition immediately took advantage and dictated the first-half.
City ‘keeper Allan McGregor, who spent the back end of last season on-loan at Cardiff City, was forced to make a smart early save from the lively Billy Bodin.
Worryingly for City, despite re-inforcements rumoured to be imminent, Evandro had to be replaced by James Weir after 12 minutes and later returned to the dugout with heavy strapping to his hamstring.
Rovers pushed to open the scoring and moved the ball much sharper in the final third than their counterparts, with Bodin a constant threat running into the channels. City’s half was summed up after Abel Hernandez horribly miscued a shot from 18 yards that dribbled well past Sam Slocombe’s right post.
Bodin again provided the last chance before the half was up, forcing McGregor into a sharp save low-down after a snapshot from 25 yards.
Half-time: Bristol Rovers 0-0 Hull City
A change of formation and personnel made little difference in the early stages of the second half for the Tigers who fell behind on the 51st minute.
Young midfielder Dan Batty underhit his backpass to Michael Dawson which allowed Rory Gaffney to cleverly ghost around McGregor and slot into the empty net which maintained Gaffney’s 100% pre-season scoring record.
Things nearly got worse for City as Byron Moore’s cross from the right hand side was turned in from close-range by Gaffney but the linesman’s flag saved the Tigers’ blushes.
Hull did eventually grow into the game in an attacking sense through Hernandez and Bowen; the latter a willing runner down the right flank.
Back in it
And they got back on level terms after a smart pass from Markus Henriksen played in Hernandez down the left with the Uruguyan striking powerfully to fire past Slocombe’s near post.
And with that shift in momentum the Tigers looked a different prospect altogether with Hernandez almost doubling the lead and his goal tally directly after the restart but his tame effort with his weaker right foot failed to beat Slocombe on that occasion.
The impressive Bowen helped stake his case for a place in the team that take on Aston Villa on the opening day of the season and his instinctive shot following a Weir corner nearly edged the Tigers in front.
However Rovers fought back again and should’ve took the lead themselves as an unmarked Rollin Menayese headed straight at the ‘keeper from 12 yards and Bowen nearly made the Pirates pay straight away but his effort cannoned off the post.
What a way to win it
With just 3 minutes left however the former Hereford United front-man got his goal, an absolute pearler after he cut in from the right-hand side and curled into the bottom left corner past a helpless Slocombe in the Rovers net.
And that strike proved to be the difference between the two sides at full-time in front of the travelling sets of supporters. Rovers could rightly feel aggrieved by the result but in fairness the one piece of real quality throughout the 90 minutes won the game for the side in Black and Amber.
Rovers head home now to continue their preparation ahead of a tough season whilst the Tigers remain to play Portuguese champions Benfica at the Estadio de Algarve on Saturday.
A daunting prospect in truth but with new boy Fraizer Campbell signed and others rumoured to be on the way, City fans will be relieved to hear Leonid Slutsky confirm ‘the supermarket is closed’.
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