Toothless Tigers tamed

After easily his best performance since returning to Town, Duane Holmes latched on to an over cooked Thomas corner, slid past two Hull players on the edge of the box then unleashed an excellent shot in to the top corner to seal a deserved, but not entirely comfortable, win for the Terriers.

Limited but awkward, the Tigers enjoyed the majority of possession in a game more notable for inconsistent officiating than the quality of play, but came up against a resolute host deliberately drawing their opponents on to a solid defence and looking to hurt them on the break.

The adoption of a low block was possible because Town scored their earliest goal in a game this season from a rather eventful corner, which arguably shouldn’t even have occurred as the referee failed to penalise a strong challenge on a Hull player in the passage of play immediately preceding.

With Town’s artillery massed beyond the far post, an unusual ploy appeared in the offing though the chaotic events which followed had less to do with a planned set piece and more as a result of a powerfully whipped in swinger from Sinani proving too difficult for Hull’s keeper to handle. Under pressure from Ward, which looked marginal for legality, Ingram punched the ball upwards and behind him, allowing Lees to attempt to force it home from inches away, only for a block to hit him on the back of the leg and over.

Town’s game plan changed after the goal, allowing the visitors to come in to the game but while the impressive Nicholls had to make one smart save and also cut out a potentially dangerous cross, Hull’s threats were fairly limited.

Sinani, who really needs that first goal in Town’s colours, forced a very good save from Ingram as the half time whistle loomed and there were a few decent counter attacks to cheer but it was all a little mundane.

A plodding second half saw Town relinquish possession in favour of defensive shape against opposition which struggled to break down their block. The superiority of the hosts’ back 3, backed up by the confidence instilling competence of Nicholls, kept the visitors at bay, though the counter attacking which was meant to accompany the solidity was too rarely seen.

O’Brien, with his best display of the season, constantly carried the ball from the danger area and was regularly dumped to the floor by unpunished challenges. Despite giving out an early card to Colwill, rightly, for a high foot the inconsistent and regularly bewildered referee allowed far too much leeway (just minutes after Colwill’s booking, O’Brien was chopped down while breaking and a yellow card was obvious but not produced).

As the second half wore on, Town’s devotion to defending began to look a little extreme and rather tedious. While there has been a marked and welcome improvement in game management this season, such a deep block against fairly limited opposition appeared too over cautious and the prospect of a calming second goal remote.

Thankfully, Holmes capped his energetic performance with a lovely strike, unaided by a bobble this time, to put the result beyond reasonable doubt.

A professional, competent display and a sprinkling of excellent individual performances, garnered 3 welcome points without providing many thrills. Over the past few seasons, such games have invariably ended in defeat so it would be churlish to critique the win too deeply.

The keeper and back 3 performed with exemplary calm and executed a defensive strategy with aplomb. Pearson, who went off ill, was back to his best after something of a form dip in recent weeks, while Lees continues to excel. Pearson’s replacement, Naby Sarr, had a very Naby Sarr moment when he kicked fresh air and let in a Hull forward only to recover with an excellent block. 

In the middle, Hogg and O’Brien put in monumental shifts to thwart and frustrate Hull. The latter was rewarded with several unpunished clatterings to go along with his concussion in the first half when trying to finish off a Ward cross.

Holmes, operating out wide where he is significantly more effective than in the middle, was busy all afternoon and fully deserved his excellent goal.

Up front, Ward contributed a lot to forward movement though his ability to hold the ball with his back to goal remains poor. For the first half hour, he was dominated by central defenders getting to the ball before him, though when he did free himself of their attention, he showed that he can link up play to good effect.

A game to swiftly move on from, but the very welcome points pushed Town in to the play off positions, cementing a very encouraging opening quarter of the season.

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