Aaron Connolly, Liam Rosenior and Acun Ilicali bringing good times back to Hull City in entertaining draw with Coventry City
For so long a half-empty stadium marked by apathy under the Allams, Friday night in Hull is now party time with flame bursts and disco music blaring out before kick-off in a scene reminiscent of an evening down the local night club The Welly.
Acun Ilicali is bringing the good times back in the stands and on the pitch he is starting to get it right as well.
Hull could have gone top of the embryonic Championship table with a three-goal margin of victory last night.
That they only inched up to fifth courtesy of Aaron Connolly’s 86th-minute equaliser to cancel out Joel Latibeaudiere’s first-half header should not detract from the general feelgood vibe emanating from the banks of the Humber.
Liam Rosenior’s side played with purpose and poise, Scott Twine so often at the heart of it and Connolly the focal point up front.
It took nearly the entirety of a second half to get the equaliser they deserved but they never once looked panicked, a sure sign of a team comfortable in its own ability.
And the fans are buying in as well.
Inspired by a win at Leicester before the international break, a crowd of 21,888 - the biggest of the season eclipsing the away following brought by Sheffield Wednesday that swelled the MKM Stadium attendance back in August - cheered their team off at the end for an entertaining performance.
There were still cracks, a loss of concentration in the first half that saw Coventry take control, but by and large Rosenior and Ilicali can be pleased with the strides they are making.
With Liam Delap, Twine and the lively Jaden Philogene behind Connolly up front, Rosenior had enough dancing feet at his disposal to cause problems.
Yet for all their neat play in that opening venture onto the dancefloor they fashioned only one good scoring chance when Connolly flashed a volley across the face of goal after Lewis Coyle had kept the play alive with a clever cutback.
Coventry repelled Hull’s thrusts like the dude at the bar who thinks he’s above everybody else and as Hull grew frustrated, sloppiness crept into the hosts’ game.
First goalkeeper Matt Ingram was caught playing out from the back when his pass to Jean Michael Seri put the midfielder in trouble, both players thankful Matthew Godden slipped when he would almost certainly have scored.
Then a failure to clear their lines led to a corner from which Coventry took the lead,
Joshua Eccles whipping a dangerous ball into the area for Latibeaudiere to meet with a powerful header inside the near post. Two days earlier Latibeaudiere had been in Kingston playing for Jamaica.
Hull should have had an instant response when from their own corner shortly before the break, Alfie Jones headed towards an unmarked Connolly on the back post but he could only steer his shot wide on the turn.
And then Twine should have backed himself to shoot when played in on the left side of the penalty area but cut back inside looking to play in Connolly and the chance was lost.
Twine wasn’t so hesitant at the start of the second half, forcing Ben Wilson into his first save of the night with a 20-yard shot.
The game was opening up and Coventry were still dangerous.
Eccles flashed a long-range shot wide and then Hull were indebted to Jones for putting his body on the line to block a goalbound Godden shot.
From there, though, Hull took charge. Twine had another shot from distance, this one straight at Coventry goalkeeper Wilson after Philogene had weaved in from the left.
Cyrus Christie, a half-time replacement for Ruben Vinagre, then curled a shot just over after being teed up by Twine .
Those two combined again, this time Christie playing Twine in with his back to goal, the Burnley loanee forcing Wilson to save with his feet.
Twine had another chance when Philogene teed him up on the edge of the area but his shot was blocked.
Hull finally levelled four minutes from time. Tyler Morton, a deadline day loan capture from Liverpool and a debutant from the bench in the second half, dinked a ball into the box and Connolly flicked a header past Wilson.
Hull surged forward in search of a winner that would have sent the fans partying into the streets, but Coventry held firm.
Hull City: Ingram; Coyle (Lokilo 77), Jones, Greaves, Vinagre (Christie 46); Slater, Seri (Morton 59); Philogene, Delap, Twine; Connolly. Unused substitutes: Allsop, Mcloughlin, Allahyar, Traore, Vaughan, Smith.
Coventry City: Wilson; Binks, McFadzean, Latibeaudiere; van Ewijk, Eccles, Kelly, Dasilva (Bidwell 74), Ayari (Palmer 63); Godden, Wright (Simms 74). Unused substitutes: Collins, Thomas, Sakamoto, Allen, Kitching, Obikwu.
Referee: T Harrington (Cleveland).