Hull City 3 Blackburn Rovers 2: Easy on the eye but too easy on the opposition, Tigers eventually get the job done

The year is coming to an end and Hull City's soft underbelly is starting to show. You might know the feeling.

Four December defeats had exposed their lack of ruthlessness for all to see and from a comfortable start to their last game of 2023, it popped out once again at a bad moment.

Fortunately this time Hull were able to tuck it away but it could have been embarrassing.

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Maybe winning 3-2 shows they are learning, but it feels like they need to be a bit more belt-and-braces after making harder work of it than they ought to have given they found themselves 2-0 up inside 18 minutes.

A spirited and talented Blackburn Rovers were a big factor in their discomfort – just as Dominic Hyam's clumsy sending-off helped relieve it – but Hull need to do a bit of soul-searching before they ring in 2024 at Sheffield Wednesday.

The first half showed both sides of the Tigers – easy on the eye in the first 20 minutes, too easy on the opposition after that.

The excellent Liam Delap's opening goal had been coming even if it was the first shot of the game. But once Aaron Connolly added to it with only Hull's second, Blackburn's comeback was equally on the cards.

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Playing a diamond midfield formation which often saw Jean Michael Seri drop in as a third centre-back so Regan Slater and Lewie Coyle could provide the width as wing-backs, Hull split their strikers and Delap was constantly lurking on left-back Harry Pickering's shoulder.

GOALS: Hull City forward Liam DelapGOALS: Hull City forward Liam Delap
GOALS: Hull City forward Liam Delap

Connolly was dropping deeper and looking to link with his distant partner, but his ball was just cut out in the sixth minute, just as a Coyle cross bound for Connolly would be.

But in the 11th minute Delap went outside Pickering, then checked back onto his left foot so he had space to beat Leopold Wahlstedt from a tight angle.

Connolly doubled the lead, bulldozing through only to finish with a delicate shot inside the post but in the intervening seven minutes a Semir Telalovic strike deflected against the post.

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Connolly was as off target as he was off balance when he shot and Delap thumped the ball into Wahlstedt's midriff after getting ahead of Pickering but the Tigers were too shy to go for the throat.

DOUBLING UP: Aaron Connolly added to Hull City's early leadDOUBLING UP: Aaron Connolly added to Hull City's early lead
DOUBLING UP: Aaron Connolly added to Hull City's early lead

Coyle needed to slide in to stop a Sam Szmodics cross picking out Arnor Sigurdssin and Matt Ingram saved well from former Barnsley player Callum Brittain.

So nobody could claim to be surprised when Blackburn pulled one back in the 33rd minute, just disappointed if they were Hull fans with the manner of it. Alfie Jones failed to cut out a fairly routine long ball – Jacob Greaves was converging on it too – and Szmodics lobbed Matt Ingram.

The half ended with Pickering getting into a position where he could choose between shooting and crossing and went for the former, his effort deflecting in.

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After such an entertaining first 45 minutes, the coaches inevitably locked things down a bit in the second half, Coyle and Slater becoming straight full-backs with Delap and Adama Traore spread to the wings as Connolly went central.

Hull struggled to regain their early fluency but Delap was still the most likely spark. The least said about a shot which was a bigger threat to the stadium roof than the goal net the better, but it was his turn and drive inside which set the ball rolling for his side to retake the lead.

Ozan Tufan's touch was poor but he at least won a corner. Traore took it down nicely, spun and produced a shot Wahlstedt did well to turn around his post.

From the next flag kick, Jones wiped his slate clean by finding the net.

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When Hyam followed up his 59th-minute foul with a second yellow card for pulling Tufan back over a quarter of an hour later, Hull were once more in a dangerously comfortable position.

This time, aided by a flood of substitutions aimed at locking the back door rather than simply resting those overworked at Christmas, they were able to get the job done.

The entertainment of an open first half was certainly welcome, but three points is what most of the 21,876 came for.

With a bit of help from Rotherham United, they end the year in the top six. A bit more eye of the Tiger and it can be theirs in May.

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Hull City: Ingram; Coyle, Jones, Greaves, Slater; Seri; Morton, Traore (Twine 76); Tufan (Christie 87); Delap (Sayyadmanesh 87), Connolly (Docherty 81).

Unused substitutes: McLoughlin, Vaughan, Lokilo, Jacob, Lo-Tutala.

Blackburn Rovers: Wahlstedt; Brittain, Hill, Hyam, Pickering; Tronstad, Garrett (A Wharton 68); Markanday (Moran 68), Szmodics, Sigurdsson (Carter 76); Telalovic (Ennis 68).

Unused substitutes: Gamble, Leonard, Gilsenan, Travis, Hilton.

Referee: M Donohue (Greater Manchester)

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