Hull City 0 Huddersfield Town 1: Harry Toffolo claims vital goal as Terriers beat 10-man Hull
“Ooof!” was Carlos Corberan’s reaction when asked about the chance Hull City put wide with almost the last touch of the game.
It had taken 80 minutes for the weight of Huddersfield’s pressure to tell, and to have failed to win would have been a killer blow to the Terriers.
They went into the match on the back of consecutive Championship defeats, a result Corberan argued with some justification of the way they threw away two points at West Bromwich Albion.
On another Friday night in front of the television cameras, this could easily have been a repeat.
Huddersfield might be regularly on television in April, but they are not about to overly-concern themselves with entertaining.
Given a head-start with play-off wannabes breathing down their neck, they did what they had to, even if goalscorer Harry Toffolo knew little about it.
Just because the only goal was unlucky on Matt Ingram did not mean it was a sheer fluke by Toffolo.
The left-back followed in as he should when Tom Lees forced the latest in a number of good saves. The ball hit the defender and went over the line because he was in the right place.
Victory looked on the cards when Tom Eaves was sent off at the end of the first half, but the visitors made heavy weather of it, frustrated at times by Ingram, preferred in goal to the fit-again Nathan Baxter.
When they had 11 on the pitch, Hull looked capable of the home win they need not to avoid relegation – that job looks done – but just not to completely lose the feel-good factor frittered since Acun Ilicali’s January takeover. That the fans sang Shota Arveladze’s name at the end was telling.
For a team on the back of five straight home defeats, Hull would have been pretty pleased with their first-half performance right until its final minute, when Eaves was sent off.
The centre-forward put himself at risk clattering into Levi Colwill, preferred to Matty Pearson, after just 12 minutes. When he fouled Lewis O’Brien just outside the area in stoppage time, referee Jeremy Simpson showed a second yellow card.
Shota Arveladze had no complaints but called it “an accident”.
The Tigers had given a decent account of themselves up to that point. Keane Lewis-Potter curled wide after being allowed to carry the ball a long way in the seventh minute, then forced an excellent Lee Nicholls save a minute later.
Jon Russell, the anchorman in Huddersfield’s 4-1-4-1, was caught in possession by Richie Smallwood, and Ollie Turton fouled Lewis-Potter to stop him getting into the area.
The free-kick was heading for the top corner until the goalkeeper intervened.
Left-back Brandon Fleming was lively for Hull, doing brilliantly to nutmeg his way along the byline and pulling the ball back invitingly, only for Alfie Jones to hit his shot against a defender.
A minute later, Duane Holmes waited what felt like an eternity to half-volley Toffolo’s cross when it dropped on his right foot, and Sean McLoughlin got back to scramble the ball off the line.
The game was spiced up by Holmes’s reaction to a Fleming foul, and Lewis-Potter’s reaction to that, triggering a frank exchange of views between a number of players from either side.
About five minutes later, shortly after Eaves handled the ball behind in the area to Huddersfield anger, Eaves went in on O’Brien and off the field.
Of course the second half was one-way traffic, but Ingram was defiant, twice saving low to deny Josh Koroma in its early minutes.
Koroma thought he had a penalty after 62 minutes but Simpson ruled it just outside the area, too close for Jordan Rhodes, starting in place of the ill Danny Ward, to put clear the wall with his free-kick.
When Toffolo bundled, it looked like that was that.
Fraizer Campbell’s shot, in his first appearance since December, blocked, and O’Brien shooting wide in stoppage time.
Sayyadmanesh should have punished their profligacy but his header bounced wide to Hull’s agony and Town’s relief.
Hull City: Ingram; Jones, McLoughlin, Greaves, Fleming (Allahyar 83); Smallwood, Slater; Longman (Elder 65), Honeyman, Lewis-Potter; Eaves. Unused substitutes: Docherty, Baxter, Smith, Huddlestone, Bernard.
Huddersfield Town: Nicholls; Turton (Pipa 74), Colwill, Lees, Toffolo; Russell; Thomas, Holmes (Campbell 58), O’Brien, Koroma (Sinani 74); Rhodes. Unused substitutes: Pearson, High, Blackman, Eiting.
Referee: J Simpson (Lancashire).