THE BEATLES’ A Day in the Life referenced ‘4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire’ – but gaps of different sort were occupying the thoughts of Grant McCann and Tony Mowbray.
Contingency planning – and nothing to do with storm prevention – is seeing both managers grapple with grave injury issues, with the devout hope being that they would not bite any further on a raw Red Rose night.
Hull City head coach McCann is contending with a scarcely-believable defensive selection crisis, while Blackburn’s paucity in terms of attacking-midfield options – headlined by the long-term absence of Bradley Dack –has led to some head-scratching for Mowbray.
Given the Tigers’ double-digit injury count, compounded by the recent sale of the ‘family silver’ in Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki, Mowbray’s worries truly paled into insignificance with those of his counterpart.
Without 12 players – including five centre-halves – McCann administered the Elastoplasts to his ‘battered and bruised’ side, in his words and was entitled to cross his fingers.
Unfortunately, this was the sort of night he would have inwardly feared.
The first 70 minutes at Ewood would have satisfied him to some degree as Hull, give or take one or two rough moments, displayed the organisation and guts that saw them chisel out a praiseworthy weekend draw at Reading and hung in there.
Sadly, the final quarter was a different story as Hull’s rookie rearguard disintegrated after Darragh Lenihan’s scruffy close-range opener on 73 minutes.
Significant damage saw the Tigers concede three times in a punishing seven-minute spell as their late-winter battering took another turn for the worse.
It extended their winless sequence to six league matches, with the realists among the Tigers support entitled to be grateful that a relatively healthy run to the start of 2020 saw them amass enough points to provide them with insurance against a potential relegation fight.
The initial evidence pointed to a long night with Rovers – with Adam Armstrong positively ravenous in his intent to grab a goal on his 150th league appearance of his career.
It came later than he would have desired, but when it did, it was truly spectacular with his blistering angled long-ranger making the outcome safe six minutes after Lenihan’s opener.
On another day, Armstrong could have taken home the match-ball.
An opener almost arrived just 10 seconds in when a misjudgement by Sean McLoughlin, subject of high praise from McCann on Saturday, let in Armstrong, but George Long sensed danger and made an alert save.
Armstrong was the chief irritant for Hull’s makeshift back four, who also had their hands full with the wily movement of veteran forward Danny Graham, with Mowbray’s decision to opt for his experience looking a wise one.
Armstrong soon tested Long again and bent an effort narrowly wide before Long made a key save to tip away Bradley Johnson’s goalbound header after a smart set-up from Graham.
Much like at the Madejski Stadium, Hull – whose best first-half moment saw Marcus Maddison’s low shot grasped by Christian Walton – dug in and produced some moments of mini-pressure at the other end amid Rovers’ failure to conjure a breakthrough. Ultimately it proved false hope.
They were indebted to an excellent saving block from Robbie McKenzie to get in the way of Armstrong’s point-blank effort just before the break after the visitors were opened up.
The longer the scoreline remained the same, the more emboldened Hull were likely to become and while Rovers had their moments, their play was lateral, slow and predictable at times.
After biding their time, the chance that Hull craved did arrive on the restart with a pinpoint curler from captain-for-the-night Jackson Irvine hit the woodwork in front of the small enclave of Tigers supporters among the sparsely-populated crowd.
Sensing trouble, Mowbray soon made a double change –sacrificing the seniority of Graham and Bennett for the younger limbs of Dominic Samuel and Ben Brereton – and it pepped up Blackburn.
Armstrong went solo before seeing his deflected shot fly into the side-netting before Tosin Adarabioyi’s header from the resulting corner was a whisker away.
Brereton glanced a header wide before the breakthrough arrived when Lenihan forced the ball home in a goalmouth scramble Johnson’s header was blocked following Downing’s corner.
It broke Hull’s will with Armstrong’s wonder strike doubling their lead before Samuel seized on the loose ball after Long made a hash of a clearance to clinically fire home a third.
Blackburn Rovers: Walton; Nyambe, Lenihan, Adarabioyo, Bell; Downing (Buckley 83), Travis, Johnson, Bennett (Samuel 60); Armstrong, Graham (Brereton 60). Substitutes unused: Leutwiler, Williams, Chapman, Davenport.
Hull City: Long; Lopes, McKenzie, McLoughlin, Elder; Honeyman, Batty (Berry 83); Maddison, Irvine, Wilks (Lewis-Potter 70); Magennis (Eaves 70). Substitutes unused: Ingram, Kingsley, Bonds, Smith.
Referee: J Simpson (Lancashire).