Hull City 0 Aston Villa 0: We’re all fighting for the cause stresses Tigers stand-in Quinn

DESPITE all the talk of footballers lighting up after Jack Wilshere was spotted having a crafty fag last week, it is safe to say no-one was anywhere near smoking-hot at the KC.
Aston Villa's Antonio Luna (right) and Hull City's Sone Aluko battle for the ballAston Villa's Antonio Luna (right) and Hull City's Sone Aluko battle for the ball
Aston Villa's Antonio Luna (right) and Hull City's Sone Aluko battle for the ball

There were only exhales of frustration as two well-organised and ultimately well-matched sides played out a tepid draw with the only health warning likely to have been issued to supporters in the form of an advisory message telling them not to fall asleep through boredom.

But there was good news if you dug deep enough. Hull City might not have scored against their Midlands rivals since August, 1987, but at least ended a grim seven-match losing sequence and maintained their unbeaten start to the season on home soil – the last time the Tigers were beaten here was in early April.

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The not so good? Still on the numbers front, Danny Graham has now gone over 24 hours – 23 league games – since netting in the top-flight.

The sight of Villa in town, with the Geordie’s last Premier League goal coming against Paul Lambert’s side for Swansea City on New Year’s Day, failed to herald an end to his famine.

The theory in football, more especially in the top division is that if you do not play well, at least do not lose. That pretty much summed things up in a nutshell for Hull on a somnolent Saturday.

As Steve Bruce rightly ventured, it was the worst the Tigers have played this season. But to be below par and still pick up something is a distinctly good sign with his side having been beaten just twice in their opening seven league encounters heading into the second international break.

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It was a day when honest graft and effort shone through, typified by the likes of Stephen Quinn, who put in a good shift in the absence of top-scorer Robbie Brady and provided further proof that Hull are all about the sum of their parts as a team and not superstars.

On a pretty unedifying spectacle, Quinn, who got the nod ahead of George Boyd to replace Brady, succinctly said: “At the end of the day, we just cancelled each other out.

“It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but it was a point for each team and I think maybe they will be happy with it as well.

“We’d have taken this position at the start of the season. It’s a really good start. Other than the Chelsea and the Manchester City games, we have picked up points. We just need to get as many on the board as possible and try to get a place in this league for next season.”

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Without two of their early-season success stories in Brady and central defender James Chester, Hull still found a way and contained Villa perhaps better than anyone else has managed this season, with their much-vaunted threat on the break minimised pretty efficiently.

Granted, another chance to secure back-to-back home wins in the Premier League for the first time was passed up, but a third clean sheet in four at the KC was still not to be sniffed at, with Quinn and other dependable foot soldiers such as Abdoulaye Faye and Liam Rosenior doing their bit for the collective cause to help claim another point towards where the club want to be come the Spring.

On standing in for Brady, Quinn added: “Robbie has been brilliant scoring the goals that he has. It’s up to me to step in and try to do well in his absence. But we know the whole squad is needed.

“It’s not the biggest squad in the league that we’ve got. But all the lads are a tight unit and whoever gets injured, we’ve got some good quality to fill in.

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“Big Abby, Abdoulaye Faye, showed that on Saturday – and in the last two games actually, since James Chester got injured. He showed he can stand in. He’s got the knowledge and can read the game so well, even at 35.

“So we’ve got good squad of players and everyone is fighting for the cause and, hopefully, we can keep pushing up the table.”

In a game of few chances, the best fell to the returning Gabby Agbonlahor, who steered an effort wastefully wide after good play down the right from Leandro Bacuna and Andi Weimann undressed City defensively for perhaps the only time on 53 minutes.

The pre-match fear that the express pace of Agbonhalor and Weimann might expose Hull proved pretty groundless with Villa’s quest to claim a trio of Premier League victories – something that they last achieved in April, 2011 – never getting out of the blocks.

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At the other end, though, ex-Tigers loanee Brad Guzan was not overly exerted either, with the likes of Sone Aluko and Graham having to feed off scraps, with the best half-chances falling at the feet of Ahmed Elmohamady, whose radar was off beam.

That said, the Egyptian did serve up a good chance on a platter for Graham on 21 minutes, but the misfiring striker, around 15 yards out in front of goal, lacked conviction and technique under pressure from Ron Vlaar.

It was perhaps Hull’s most clear-cut opportunity, with their most dangerous moment after the break also involving Graham, who could not get a telling touch to a dangerous low free-kick from Aluko before the panicking Villa eventally cleared the ball to safety.

Other than that, defences reigned with Curtis Davies outstanding against his former club. At the other end, Ciaran Clark also had a good day in a visiting rearguard which snuffed out the threat of the quiet Aluko – word is obviously getting around regarding the Nigerian international.

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Quinn added: “They (Villa) knew Sone was the main threat so they tried to cut him out. Maybe we do need to try to create a few more chances at home, but I think we got in good positions to get the final ball in and maybe that wasn’t quite good enough.

“But the manager came in at the end and congratulated the lads because he knows how hard we are working and how honest a group we are.”

Hull City: McGregor; Rosenior, Faye, Davies, Figueroa; Elmohamady (Meyler 85), Livermore, Huddlestone, Quinn (Boyd 69); Aluko, Graham (Sagbo 69). Unused substitutes: Harper, Bruce, McShane, Proschwitz.

Aston Villa: Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar, Clark, Luna; El Ahmadi, Westwood (Tonev 74); Delph; Weimann, Kozak, Agbonlahor (Bowery 75). Unused substitutes: Steer, Baker, Bennett, Herd, Sylla.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Co Durham).