IF MIKE PHELAN did not put his midweek Lottery numbers on, then he really should have done
The Hull City caretaker manager’s spell – now into a ninth week – has already contained several moments to remember and last night’s unlikely denouement was right up there.
Having seen his side labour and be second best for most of the evening, Phelan would have been forgiven for contemplating an unwelcome extra half-hour – only for Markus Henriksen to have other ideas.
The Norweigan emphatically fired home in the first minute of stoppage time to pile more misery upon sorry Stoke as the Tigers sealed the ultimate smash-and-grab raid.
It proved a moment to savour for the midfielder on his first club appearance, while his fellow recent recruit Ryan Mason was also able to bask in the glow of his maiden goal for the Tigers on his full debut, which cancelled out a splendid 24th-minute opener from Marko Arnautovic.
Hull’s win may have been fortuitous, but when your luck’s in, your luck is in with their latest visit to the Potteries being far removed from their previous foray here in the grim depths of winter in 2015 when a narrow loss started the descent to relegation.
Fast forward to now and the problems are heaped upon the shoulders of Mark Hughes, with his former Manchester United team-mate Phelan making the most of his first foray in management.
With a trip to Anfield looming on the immediate horizon, Phelan was sensibly pragmatic, with it being no surprise that all six of his pre-deadline captures lined up from the start.
David Marshall, James Weir and Henriksen stepped out for their bows, while Mason, Dieumerci Mbonkani and Will Keane were handed full debuts.
Hughes was far more sparing in his changes, understandably mindful of the need to replenish ebbing levels of confidence after a torrid start to the season.
On the evidence of the first half, Hughes’s decision to field a strong line-up paid off with Stoke being dominant, only for a brilliant leveller from Mason to wind them somewhat moments before the interval.
It was the second delectable goal of the half, with the mercurial Arnautovic having earlier fired home an unstoppable left-footed strike from distance.
The Austrian international – not too far away with an early volley – cut inside before firing home a thunderous left-footed shot which flew into the top corner.
The debutant keeper also did well to prevent further damage before the break, tipping over a fierce rising shot from Glen Johnson.
But there was still time for one significant development at the other end, with Mason – operating in the ‘number 10’ role – showing wonderful technique to steer home a cushioned volley following Henriksen’s right-wing cross.
It was truly out of the blue and a real moment of quality from Hull not in keeping with their passive display as Mason paid back the first instalment following his £12.5m move from Tottenham.
Hitherto, the visitors, utilising a 4-2-3-1 formation, had lacked conviction and struggled to gain a foothold in proceedings and were also guilty of sloppily giving away the ball on a number of occasions.
The Tigers’ only other chance saw Henriksen drill wide early on, with Stoke almost exclusively posing the questions and gorging on possession.
Despite the blow of conceding that leveller, Stoke carried off from where they had left off and held territorial rights again on the restart, only to struggle to piece together clear-cut chances.
The best they could muster was a deflected Arnautovic free-kick which flew into the side netting.
The hosts needed a lift and it came with the introduction of Charlie Adam, who almost made an immediate impact with his crashing strike beaten away by Marshall.
It lit the bluetouch paper for a stirring home spell, with the Hull backline starting to lead a charmed life.
Marshall earned his keep by superbly saving a header from Mame Diouf before a frenzied goalmouth scramble saw Indi’s shot blocked and the Hull custodian get in the way of Ramadan Sobhi’s follow-up.
It was increasingly not looking like Stoke’s night and so it proved at the death.
Weir’s cross found Shaun Maloney, who teed up Henriksen and he blasted the ball home past Lee Grant as Hull reached the fourth round of the League Cup with an away win for the first time.
Stoke City: Grant; Johnson, Shawcross, M Indi, Pieters; Cameron, Allen, Imbula (Adam 69); Arnautovic, Bony (Diouf 69), Ramadan. Substitutes unused: Given; Bardsley, Muniesa, Crouch, Verlinden.
Hull City: Marshall; Weir, Maguire, Davies, Robertson, Meyler (Huddlestone 79), Henriksen; Keane, Mason (Elmohamady 68), Maloney; Mbokani. Substitutes unused: Kuciak, Tymon, Olley, Bowen, Diomande.
Referee: C Kavanagh (Lancashire).