Big-match verdict: Disjointed Hull City give cause for concern going into tough run

THERE can be few more pleasant strolls to a football ground than the one from Putney Bridge tube station to Craven Cottage

Hull City's Abel Hernandez, left, looks dejected after missing two penalties during the FA Cup defeat at Fulham (Picture: Paul Harding/PA Wire).

Bishop’s Park, even on a grey and damp January day, is a delight with the Thames bringing an air of tranquillity rarely found on the approach to a match.

Yesterday, that walk was as good as it got for the Hull City fans who had ventured to the capital for their team’s FA Cup fourth round tie against Fulham.

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Marco Silva’s men were well beaten by the Championship side and, worst of all, it was a former Tiger who helped bring about their downfall.

Sone Aluko, whose four years in the East Riding never quite fulfilled their early potential, fired in the opening goal and then played a pivotal role in the move that led to Chris Martin restoring the Cottagers’ lead early in the second half.

If that was not bad enough for the travelling fans, they also had to suffer the indignity of Abel Hernandez having two penalties saved by Marcus Bettinelli inside fewer than 60 seconds during the closing stages.

Slavisa Jokanovic’s men are no stranger to missing from 12 yards themselves, seven of the nine awarded to the London club this season having been squandered.

“Are you Fulham in disguise?” chanted the gloating home fans after Bettinelli’s second save and being the butt of the joke just about summed up the Tigers’ day in the capital.

It was their second exit from a cup competition in four days but, unlike the aggregate loss to Manchester United, there were precious few positives for Silva to glean this time.

His team looked disjointed throughout and the ease with which the visitors were opened up time and time again down their right flank is a huge worry considering FA Cup holders United, Liverpool and Arsenal are the Yorkshire club’s next three opponents.

There will have to be a huge improvement if that daunting trio of fixtures is not to bring a level of embarrassment similar to that suffered yesterday on the banks of the Thames.

That Aluko should open the scoring was perhaps inevitable. The ‘rule of the ex’ dictates that a former player often makes a big impression on the first meeting with a former employer and Aluko certainly did that with his 17th-minute strike.

Also predictable from a Hull perspective was that the goal should come courtesy of a set-piece. The club have now conceded 22 times from either corners or free-kicks this season, the highest tally in the top five European leagues.

Yesterday’s was particularly lax, Hull switching off defensively to allow Tomas Kalas to divert Stefan Johansen’s free-kick into the path of Aluko.

He did not require a second invitation, the former Tigers man hitting a first-time volley that gave Eldin Jakupovic in the visitors’ goal no chance.

Aluko went close to adding a second just after the half-hour, the forward showing great skill to leave Harry Maguire trailing before weaving his way into the penalty area.

Tom Huddlestone, playing in the centre of defence as Marco Silva made wholesale changes with Wednesday’s trip to Old Trafford in mind, looked to have been beaten in a similar vein to Maguire but, just as Aluko prepared to shoot, he stuck out a leg and got a vital touch.

A couple of Hernandez efforts aside, Hull offered little in the first half. Silva’s stern expression as he headed to the dressing room told its own story and harsh words were no doubt delivered during the break.

The response came four minutes into the second half, as Evandro nodded in at the back post after being picked out by Andrew Robertson’s searching left-wing cross.

Parity lasted five minutes and Aluko was again the man who hurt Hull with a sublime pass to play Ryan Sessegnon clear down the left flank.

He in turn looked up and rolled a pass to Martin, who could not miss from six yards out. The loanee had been jeered all afternoon by the home fans after it had been revealed on the eve of the tie that he had signed a new contract at Derby County.

What so infuriated the Craven Cottage faithful was that Martin, who last month refused to play against Reading in an attempt to force through a return to the East Midlands, told the Rams’ website that he was “looking forward to playing for Derby as soon as possible”.

Once he had restored the London club’s advantage yesterday, all may not quite have been forgiven, but the locals were certainly feeling much better disposed to Martin.

This happiness was added to by well-taken goals from Sessegnon and Johansen before Hernandez’s two late penalty misses ensured the Tigers’ visit to Bishop’s Park, a location for scenes in The Omen film, had taken on horror show proportions.

Hull must hope that yesterday does not prove to be a portent of what is to come in the rest of the season.