Grant McCann and Hull City show Acun Ilicali there is plenty to work with, even in FA Cup defeat to Everton
With their owner-in-waiting Acun Ilicali in the stands, Hull City needed to impress on Saturday night, and that is exactly what Grant McCann did.
The Tigers were playing in the sort of prime-time Saturday television slot which is Icali's natural habitat in Turkey, and in front of the MKM Stadium's biggest crowd of the season but it was the man in the director's box they really needed to impress and they did,16,282 supporters (apart from the idiots who threw objects onto the pitch), players and coach giving a good account of themselves. They fought from their first-minute opening goal to George Honeyman's last-ditch tackle to stop a 120th-minute counter-attack.
It was a reminder that for all the new owner will be itching to make changes, he must not lose sight of what he already has. Mind you, he might have noted that both Hull's goalscorers and their excellent goalkeeper Nathan Baxter are all on loan.
Honeyman was terrific, Tom Eaves played above himself as he seems to do in the FA Cup, but there were plenty of heroes in amber and black.
They might well have won the game in normal time, Keane Lewis-Potter hitting the post at 2-2, but in the end lost 3-2 in extra-time to an Andros Townsend thunderbolt.
No one needed that performance more than McCann. New owners often mean new managers and the Northern Irishman has never been particularly popular by the Humber but he has revived this team after a slow bedding-in process on their return to the Championship and their confidence showed as they went toe-to-toe with Premier League opposition.
After Hull's bright start, taking the lead through Tyler Smith, Everton appeared to have woken up in the 21st minute and for a period looked as though they would pull comfortably clear but McCann kept a lid on it and brought on the three substitutes who combined to equalise.
The way the game started, a shock looked very much on the cards. Everton had picked a strong side, but Hull's looked stronger when the match got underway.
It was only 43 seconds old when Honeyman delivered a free-kick to Smith, the on-loan Sheffield United striker who won it, and he headed his side into the lead with his first goal for them.
Hull were having particular joy down their right, where Randell Williams was making only his third start for the club in the unfamiliar position of right wing-back. He got in behind Toffees debutant Vitaliy Mykolenko and crossed for Tom Eaves, only for Asmir Begovic to tip over.
Everton were giving Richie Smallwood and Greg Docherty the time to pick passes and they were making good use of it, the latter picking out Eaves to shoot at the goalkeeper, who beat the ball away.
Left wing-back Lewis-Potter popped up in the inside-right channel and shot over.
It was all Hull, Everton fans joining in as the home supporters began chanting to Rafael Benitez that he was going to be "sacked in the morning".
Then from nowhere Anthony Gordon played a lovely pass for Demarai Gray to slide in the 21st-minute equaliser.
Suddenly Everton had clicked. Many teams who play 3-4-3 these days have a narrow forward line but Benitez has built this side around width, and Gray and Gordon began causing the same problems down the sides of Hull's back three which theirs had been suffering, making Lewis-Potter and Williams do the side of the game which does not come naturally to them.
Gordon turned Jacob Greaves inside out but shot just wide of the near post and Baxter turned a Gray shot around the frame of his goal. He needed a good hand to keep out Michael Keane, up from the back in a sign of his team's confidence. Solomon Rondon volleyed over.
So it was no shock whatsoever when Jonjoe Kenny got to the byline and Andre Gomes ran onto his cross unchecked to thump a header Baxter could not keep out.
It actually livened Hull up, making the game two-sided for the first time.
McCann's tweaks helped with that, switching Lewis-Potter to the right in the second half, only to move him back when Ryan Longman came off the bench in a triple substitution which added the fresh legs of Tom Huddlestone - who played for Hull in the 2014 final - and George Moncur.
For all that it was an entertaining game, goalmouth action had been thin on the ground until then - although Greaves was perhaps fortunate video assistant referees only watch FA Cup third-round ties at Premier League grounds after his apparent penalty-area handball.
Hull changed that in the 71st minute, Huddlestone winning a block tackle, Moncur carrying the ball forward and laying it off for Longman, on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion, to produce a wonderful curling finish.
Both teams had chances to win it before extra-time - a third-round first (and despite what they say, unlikely to be a last) - but Hull's was the best, Lewis-Potter cutting inside and striking the post.
As Hull tired, Everton had the magic in substitute Townsend's boot to dig them out of hole.
The Tigers overplayed in their right channel, Moncur turning the ball over, and when it was worked to the former England winger he unleashed a rocket from outside the area. Baxter got a hand to it but the pace and the swerve made keeping it out of the net very difficult.
Josh Hinds nearly equalised again immediately after coming on at an 108th-minute corner, leaping n the rebound when Begovic saved from Eaves, but it was not to be. As at Wembley in 2014, they had done themselves huge credit but the favourites had scraped through 3-2.
Despite the result, there is real cause for optimism in East Yorkshire. Ilicali just has to finally get this takeover, months in the making, rubber-stamped now.
Hull City: Baxter; Bernard, McLoughlin, Greaves; Williams (Longman 63), Docherty (Moncur 63), Smallwood (Huddlestone 63), Honeyman, Lewis-Potter; Eaves, T Smith (Hinds 109).
Unused substitutes: Ingram, Cannon, M Smith, Fleming, Mills.
Everton: Begovic; Coleman, Keane, Godfrey; Kenny (Doucoure 74), Allan, Gomes (Gbamin 88), Mykolenko; Gordon (Townsend 65), Rondon (Tosun 111), Gray (Dobbin 105).
Unused substitutes: Pickford, Patterson, Holgate, Onyango
Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire).