Hull City 0 Aston Villa 0: KC Stadium stalemate

HULL CITY ended a run of seven successive defeats to Aston Villa with a hard-fought point - on a day with both sides left their shooting boots at home.
Hull City's Curtis Davies (behind) and Aston Villa's Leandro Bacuna battle for the ball in the air during the Barclays Premier League match at the KC Stadium.Hull City's Curtis Davies (behind) and Aston Villa's Leandro Bacuna battle for the ball in the air during the Barclays Premier League match at the KC Stadium.
Hull City's Curtis Davies (behind) and Aston Villa's Leandro Bacuna battle for the ball in the air during the Barclays Premier League match at the KC Stadium.

It proved an occasion when each knocked on the door sporadically, but failed to charge it down with a draw about right as the Tigers and Villa continued their healthy starts to the top-flight campaign going into the international break.

Both teams had their moments, but pretty much cancelled each other out.

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It was City’s first tangible reward of any sorts against Villa since August 1987 when they beat them 2-1 at the old Boothferry Park and while it wasn’t the win they had been craving to turn a fine start to the campaign into a dream one, it was a decent point.

Stephen Quinn got the nod ahead of George Boyd to start in place of the crocked Robbie Brady, while for the visitors, their key change saw Gabby Agbonlahor return to the starting line-up.

Plenty of effort was on show throughout the first period, but little by way of goalmouth action with both defences largely on top.

Hull’s first threat arrived on 15 minutes when tidy build-up play involving Sone Aluko and Danny Graham ended with the latter sending over an inviting cross in the direction of the onrushing Quinn, but the covering Leandro Bacuna saved the day with a vital intervention.

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Villa, fielding a fluid 4-3-3 line-up with the front trio of Agbonlahor, Libor Kozak and Andreas Weimann often inter-changing positions, then had a bit of a let-off when a fine cross from Ahmed Elmohamady on the right was seemingly destined for the boot of Graham in front of goal.

But the misfiring striker - in the midst of 22-game goal drought having not netted in the top-flight since New Year’s Day - ironically against the Midlanders in the colours of Swansea - could not get a connection under pressure from Villa captain Ron Vlaar and the chance was gone.

Paul Lambert’s side then manufactured their best chance of the half on 21 minutes when speedster Agbonhalor slalomed his way past a couple of Tigers challenges before firing in a low shot which was turned away impressively by Allan McGregor for a corner.

A late challenge from Ashley Westwood, on his return to the Villa side from injury - on Elmohamady then brought words from referee Mark Clattenburg but no caution, with the County Durham official a bit less lenient on Liam Rosenior moments later after his trailing leg brought down Agbonlahor on 33 minutes.

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Westwood did incur the wrath of Clattenburg soon after, booking him after he man-handled Huddlestone and pushed him away by the face, strictly speaking his second cautionable offence.

The half ended with a second home player in captain and ex-Villa defender Curtis Davies being yellow-carded for a foul on Kozak before Huddlestone fired a shot straight at ex-Tigers loanee Brad Guzan on the stroke of half-time after some home endeavour.

On the restart, two efforts which flew wide - one deflected - from Elmohamady, seeing plenty of the ball down the right, provided the early moments of enterprise from the hosts, but the best chance fell to the Midlanders.

Bacuna skipped past the challenge of Maynor Figueroa and with City stretched momentarily, he fed Weimann, whose cut-back arrived in the path of Agbonlahor, but his low curler lacked direction and flew past McGregor’s left-hand post when he could - and should - have done better.

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Graham and his Tigers team-mates then failed to get a decisive touch to a dangerous low free-kick from Aluko before Karim El-Ahmadi flew straight into the arms of McGregor, with the lack of cutting edge from both sides in the business end of the pitch pretty self-evident.

In a bid to pep up his side and clearly in an offensive move designed to win the game and not sit on his laruels, Steve Bruce made a positive dual change with Yannick Sagbo and Boyd coming on for Aluko and Quinn.

On 74 minutes, Lambert also made a brace of changes, with ex-Chesterfield forward Jordan Bowery and Aleksander Tonev replacing Agbonlahor and Westwood, with the latter staking on thin ice following his first-half caution.

Both sets of changes failed to inspire a significant turnaround and in keeping with a pretty low-key ninety minutes, no grandstand finish was forthcoming.

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El Ahmadi did strike an effort at McGregor, while Tonev saw his cross-shot drift off target, but it was far from threatening stuff.

Hull’s last half-chance saw Davies, named as the sponsors’ man-of-the-match, glance a header wide against his former club.

Hull City: McGregor; Rosenior, Faye, Davies, Figueroa; Elmohamady (Meyler 84), Livermore, Huddlestone, Quinn (Boyd 68); Aluko, Graham. Substitutes not used: Harper, Bruce, McShane, Proschwitz.

Aston Villa: Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar, Clark, Luna; El Ahmadi, Westwood (Tonev 74); Delph; Weimann, Kozak, Agbonlahor (Bowery 74). Substitutes not used: Steer, Baker, Bennett, Herd, Sylla.

Referee M Clattenburg (Co.Durham).

Attendance: 24,396 (2,530 Villa supporters).