Hull City 2 Reading 1: Tigers strike late to stay in touch with promotion rivals

Jake Livermore, centre, is mobbed by his Hull City team-mates after scoring a late winner against Reading on Wednesday night. Picture: Tony Johnson.
Jake Livermore, centre, is mobbed by his Hull City team-mates after scoring a late winner against Reading on Wednesday night. Picture: Tony Johnson.
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NEVER mind ‘the Force’ awakening courtesy of the latest instalment in the Star Wars film series being released, Jake Livermore’s own rebirth was the only topic on the lips of Hull City fans last night.

The midfielder, a footballing outcast earlier this year during a five-month ban that followed a failed drugs test, chose the optimum time to net his first goal of 2015.

Just seconds of normal time remained when Livermore swept the ball into the net to cap a remarkable comeback by the Tigers.

Following on from Abel Hernandez cancelling out Nick Blackman’s first half strike for Reading just after the hour, it meant City’s wait for a win in front of the live TV cameras was over after 14 painful games.

Not as long a wait, of course, as those Star Wars devotees who queued at midnight to catch the return of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker to the big screen more than three decades on from the Return of the Jedi.

Nevertheless, there was no denying the sense of relief that City had finally done themselves justice in their own screen test to claim a first win in front of the live cameras since beating Sheffield United in the 2014 FA Cup semi-final.

Not that such a happy ending from a Hull perspective looked very likely during a first half in which the visitors had dominated to such an extent that the locals in the North Stand were moved to chant ‘this is embarrassing’ at one stage.

Reading – bearing the look of a marauding band of stormtroopers thanks to their predominantly white shirts – found the KC Stadium very much to their liking.

Moving the ball at pace and with purpose, the Royals made a mockery of City going into the game with a defensive record that only leaders Middlesbrough could better.

But for Allan McGregor, the visitors would have been two goals ahead inside four minutes. Wretched mistakes by Harry Maguire and Moses Odubajo presented Reading with the first opening, but McGregor proved equal to Daniel Williams’s shot.

A neat pass from Matej Vydra then created the second of those two early openings as Blackman fired goalwards only for the Tigers’ goalkeeper to touch the ball round the post at full stretch.

Those two early let-offs should have galvanised City but it was Reading who continued to dominate.

It took a last-gasp tackle from Odubajo to deny Vydra a clear shot on goal before a quite wonderful passing move saw the Royals break the deadlock just before the half-hour.

Oliver Norwood, once of Huddersfield Town, was involved twice before Vydra exposed a lumbering home back-line by playing in Blackman and the former Sheffield United striker did the rest with a clinical finish.

Hull’s night almost went from bad to worse just before the break as Blackman curled a 25-yard free-kick that glanced the top of the crossbar with McGregor well beaten.

Finally, City woke from their slumber and Jonathan Bond had to save smartly from Curtis Davies following a Maguire knock-down.

Hernandez was also agonisingly close to reaching an enticing Ahmed Elmohamady cross, but the locals would not be fooled and the Tigers left the field to a chorus of boos at the break.

Hull legend Billy Whitehurst, wheeled out to conduct the half-time draw, summed up matters even more succinctly with the reply ‘crap’ when asked what he had made of those opening 45 minutes.

Any of the home fans in the 15,149 crowd must have wished one of football’s most fearsome competitors could have donned a black and amber shirt in the second half.

City, though, didn’t need him as a much-improved effort saw Bruce’s men fight their way back into the game.

Bond did well to deny Odubajo an early chance before Hernandez fired narrowly wide after expertly controlling an Andrew Robertson cross.

Jake Livermore also brought a save from the Royals goalkeeper before the equaliser finally arrived on 62 minutes when Hernandez fired in from close range after Clucas and Elmohamady had been denied in quick succession.

Chuba Akpom then drilled a low shot narrowly wide before the Arsenal loanee brought a stunning one-handed save after latching on to a pass from Hernandez.

Elmohamady was the next City player to go close with a back-post header as the visitors retreated deeper and deeper into their own territory.

The goal Hull craved finally arrived at the death as Shaun Maloney’s shot was blocked and Livermore swooped to fire into the net and finally end the East Yorkshire club’s TV jinx.

Hull City: McGregor; Odubajo, Davies, Maguire, Robertson; Elmohamady, Livermore, Meyler, Clucas (Maloney 76); Akpom (Snodgrass 78), Hernandez (Diomande 83). Unused substitutes: Jakupovic, Huddlestone, Diame, Hayden.

Reading: Bond; Gunter, McShane, Ferdinand (Cooper 64), Taylor (Fernandez 51); Hector; McCleary (Robson-Kanu 75), Norwood, Williams; Vydra, Blackman. Unused substitutes: Al-Habsi,, Piazon, Quinn, Keown.

Referee: O Langford (West Midlands).