Hull City 1 Gillingham 1: Wasteful Tigers have themselves to blame after draw

SHOULD HULL CITY not be promoted automatically by a narrow margin and face the lottery of the League One play-offs in May, they will rue this particular afternoon.

Hull City striker Tom Eaves heads the hosts in front against Gillingham. PICTURE: TONY JOHNSON.
Hull City striker Tom Eaves heads the hosts in front against Gillingham. PICTURE: TONY JOHNSON.

It was a game noteworthy for a goal against his former club Gillingham from striker Tom Eaves - against the manager who once signed him during his time at Rotherham United in Gillingham chief Steve Evans.

But this was an occasion when Hull were forced to lament the chances they missed and not the one they scored.

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Eaves, on his first start since January 9, produced a deft header to put the Tigers in front following Malik Wilks’s looping ninth-minute cross.

Hull failed to add to their advantage, with Jacob Greaves producing a contender for miss of the season when he somehow headed against the bar from a couple of yards out on 58 minutes.

Gillingham cashed in when substitute Olly Lee levelled from Thomas O’Connor’s corner and despite a glut of chances to retake the lead, Hull fluffed their lines and lacked ruthlessness and require a trip to finishing school.

On an afternoon when Peterborough romped home 7-0 and Sunderland continued their upward momentum with victory at Bristol Rovers, Grant McCann’s side carelessly tossed two points away at a critical juncture.

No one would have been more disappointed than George Honeyman who set up a number of opportunities which were not taken by his colleagues.

The teamsheet pointed to issues at both ends of the pitch for Hull, who were not just without their international duo of Josh Magennis and Gavin Whyte, on duty with Northern Ireland.

Eaves got the nod up top, but the Tigers were forced into a change at the back with Alfie Jones moving from midfield into defence with Reece Burke sidelined.

Regan Slater stepped into Jones’s position in the engine room and both he and Eaves came to the party in a first half in which Hull produced some neat exchanges and confident football at times.

It only yielded one goal, courtesy of Eaves’ header, but their tempo, movement and vestiges of quality link-up would have convinced Grant McCann that more goals would arrive if they persisted.

Gillingham, to their credit, also contributed to a decent contest with another of the division’s form sides having their own pockets of pressure..

An opportunistic half-volley which flew over inside the first 15 seconds from John Akinde was an early signal of the Gills’ intent before Eaves produced his first contribution of a prominent first half when he fired over after slick build-up play from Slater and Lewie Coyle.

The eye-catching start continued when Sheffield-born Vadaine Oliver, who had scored eight goals in his previous seven outings for the Kent outfit, diverted an effort from Kyle Dempsey onto the post after Hull failed to clear their lines from a corner.

Soon after, the Tigers had their opener and they controlled much of the half, while having to be alert from set-pieces at the other end and the long throws of Ryan Jackson.

Eaves almost added a second when he clipped the outside of the post from close range after being set up following a driving run from Honeyman, who profited after Gillingham coughed up possession close to the half-way line.

Quick-thinking from Honeyman also delivered a presentable chance for Hull ahead of the break with his short corner picking out Greg Doherty, who blasted over when well placed and plenty of time on his hands after the visitors switched off momentarily.

It was a narrow interval and Gillingham had enough to be enthused about, while mindful that the concession of a second goal would probably be the precursor of another three points for Hull.

For their part, the hosts had to keep on message defensively, more especially from set-plays.

Gillingham pressed in the early part of the second period, but Hull were manful at the back and spurned a golden opportunity to seal victory shortly before the hour mark.

A fine inswinging corner from Honeyman was flicked on by Keane Lewis-Potter, but Greaves somehow contrived to head the ball against the woodwork from a few yards out.

Wilks then spurned a half-chance from Lewis-Potter’s pullback as Hull passed up the chance of making the game safe.

That was punished when substitute Lee stayed alert to follow in and power the ball home from close range after Tucker won the air miles from O’Connor’s corner.

By way of a reply, Hull knocked on the door when Wilks did well down the right with his pull-back almost diverted into his own net by Ogilvie before Eaves’ back-post header flew straight at Gills keeper Jack Bonham after good work by Honeyman.

The influential midfielder soon set up a chance for Lewis-Potter whose header flew wide and the same axis soon came to the fore again, but it was the same outcome and the young Hull striker fired off target.

Alfie Jones came off late on following a fair bit of attention after going down in a heap and there was no winner for Hull, although it almost came at the other end with substitute Dominic Samuel hitting the post after a long throw from Jackson caused consternation.

Hull City: Ingram; Coyle, A Jones (McLoughlin 90), Greaves, Elder; Honeyman, Docherty, Slater; Wilks, Eaves (Scott 79), Lewis-Potter. Substitutes unused: Long, Emmanuel, Crowley, C Jones, Salam.

Gillingham: Bonham; Jackson, Tucker, Ogilvie, O’Connor; Graham (Samuel 85), Dempsey, O’Keefe, MacDonald (McKenzie 82); Oliver, Akinde (Lee 61). Substitutes unused: Bastien, Willock, Johnson, Woods.

Referee: M Coy (Durham).