SONE ALUKO’S fifth goal of the campaign was enough to give Hull City their fourth win in five Championship outings as they saw off visiting Barnsley.
The former Rangers star saw his fierce low shot beat the recalled Luke Steele on 16 minutes to settle a contest which was far from illuminating on Bonfire weekend.
But boss Steve Bruce won’t care a jot, with the three points representing the ideal start to a month which sees the Tigers take on the likes of Cardiff and Wolves, along with Crystal Palace and Burnley, complete with new managers.
Despite improving in the second period, the Reds struggled to carve out clear-cut opportunities and badly missed the potent attacking threat of top-scorer Craig Davies.
Unsurprisingly, after last weekend’s impressive televised victory at Bristol City, the Tigers were unchanged in what will have been a pretty straightforward decision for boss Bruce.
His counterpart Keith Hill made three changes from the side turned over 4-1 at home by Nottingham Forest seven days ago, with Luke Steele replacing Ben Alnwick between the posts for his first outing since March 17, with the former Spurs keeper not having his best afternoon at Oakwell last time out.
Martin Cranie, recovered from a rib injury, replaced the injured Jacob Mellis, with Kelvin Etuhu, who came on in the second-half against Forest, in for Marlon Harewood, who reverted to the subs bench.
Jim O’Brien and Toni Silva, yet to feature this term, were on the bench, along with Jim McNulty.
With no recognised forwards starting, it was interesting exercise to observe just how Barnsley would line-up and in the event, Matt Done and Etuhu were handed attacking roles, with Tomasz Cykwa playing just behind them.
After a tepid opening, the Tigers drew first blood on 16 minutes, with the strike another concession that the charitable Reds won’t have been particularly pleased about.
Following a short corner, John Stones’ poor clearing header failed to alleviate the pressure and put the visitors on the back foot, with Aluko cutting inside before seeing his low drive beat Steele, who couldn’t stop the effort going into the far corner.
Two minutes later, Hill was forced to make a change with David Perkins – one of their better players last weekend - coming off with a knock to be replaced by Chris Dagnall, utilised just behind Done and Etuhu, with Cywka moving into the centre of midfield with Cranie and Stephen Dawson.
But the tinkering failed to yield a Reds renaissance, with City having the better of proceedings and controlling matters, despite not creating substantive chances.
The hosts did manage to piece together a quality move on 33 minutes with Robert Koren afforded plenty of space with his probing run ending with a precision low shot, which was parried away for a corner by Steele.
At the other end, Barnsley brought little attacking threat to the table with Ben Amos exceedingly underemployed.
Referee Mark Heywood then received the derision of the home crowd for wrongly booking Jay Simpson for a challenge on Steele after chasing a throughball – with the striker clearly getting a touch on the ball before colliding into the onrushing Tykes keeper.
City then went close to taking in a two-goal buffer at the interval with Koren’s sharp header blocked following a well-delivered inswinging corner from Aluko.
Soon after the interval, Simpson profited on a loose ball from Dawson before firing over, ahead of the former having a more telling effect at the other end, seeing his strike fly off target in a rare attacking raid from the visitors.
Liam Rosenior then fired wastefully over after being supplied by Koren, the beneficiary of an error from Stephen Foster as the Tigers sought a decisive second, which would in all likelihood kill off Barnsley.
Scott Golbourne got his name in Heywood’s notebook for kicking out at Quinn just before the hour.
Despite the hosts being the dominant team, the narrowness of the scoreline was enough to give Barnsley a degree of encouragement going into the final half hour.
And the Reds fired a warning on with a perceptive pass from Dagnall setting up Cywka, whose low shot flashed inches wide on 65 minutes.
A fine last-ditch tackle from Corry Evans then denied Dagnall as he was about to pull the trigger before Koren’s fierce low shot was blocked by Steele at the other end.
City almost extinguished all hope for the visitors 12 minutes from time, with Elmohamady’s inviting centre met by top-scorer Simpson, whose near-post effort brings on an impressive reaction save from Steele.
Barnsley boss Keith Hill admitted he was “really pleased” to have been linked with the vacant Blackpool manager’s job after watching his side slip to defeat at Hull, but that does not mean he is about to jump ship.
“It pleases me no end,” Hill said about the reports linking his name with Blackpool, who have lost Ian Holloway to Crystal Palace.
“People might start respecting the job I’m doing on limited resources - and I mean really limited.
“It doesn’t mean I’m interested, but I’m really pleased. It’s very difficult on limited resources in the Championship where there’s so much money swishing around. We have to develop players, and then we sell them.”
Barnsley have now won only once in their last seven games, and Hill admitted: “We were beaten by a better side. Especially in the first half, we couldn’t match the opposition and gave the ball away too much.
“We looked nervy in the first half, and it did look like we had lost a bit of confidence - and that is not something I have seen before. But to get to half-time with the score at 1-0 gave us hope.
“The goal was self-inflicted to be honest. It’s a misplaced header from John Stone and he’s made a mistake, but he will get better and better.
“We could not get a foothold in the game in the first half. Their three midfield players dominated and did not allow us to get our strikers into the second game.
“We did get the strikers into the game in the second half and we did better.”
Hull manager Steve Bruce hailed match-winner Aluko, but bemoaned his side’s inability to kill off Barnsley.
He said: “Aluko is a good player and was a delight to work with when he was 16 [at Birmingham, where Bruce was manager at the time].
“Perhaps it has taken him time to develop and time to grow, but he’s a naturally gifted footballer who has been great for us so far and could perform at the highest level.
“The better team won, thankfully, but we just needed a second goal, and that has been our Achilles heel at times this season.
“To be fair to Barnsley, in the second half they had better possession, but I still think that we had the better chances.
“It often happens that when you are chasing a second goal things can get a little bit anxious.
“But the defenders have won us the game today, and the clean sheet has delighted me. In the end Ben Amos did not have a shot to save.”
Hull: Amos, Chester, McShane, Bruce (Dawson 66); Elmohamady, Koren, Evans, Quinn, Rosenior; Aluko (McKenna 81), Simpson (Mclean 86). Subs not used: Jakupovic, Olofinjana, Faye, Proschwitz.
Barnsley: Steele; Stones, Foster, Wiseman, Golbourne, Dawson, Cranie, Perkins (Dagnall 18); Cywka (Harewood 81); Done (Silva 71); Etuhu. Subs not used: Alnwick, Hassell, J O’Brien, McNulty
Referee: Mark Heywood (Cheshire).