WITH Boxing Day beginning for Steve Bruce with an accidental head-butt from his beloved pet dog that left the Hull City manager with a bruised eye, he could have been forgiven for fearing further pain was heading his way courtesy of a true Championship heavyweight.
However, while the Tigers were unable to deliver a knockout blow of their own against big-spending Leicester City, Bruce was at least able to reflect on another precious point having been claimed in the push for the Premier League.
“Leicester and Cardiff are the two teams to beat in this division,” said Bruce. “They have both had huge investment over the past couple of years.
“A draw was probably a fair result against Leicester but I am frustrated, if I am honest. I thought we had the more clear cut chances.
“We have to score when the big chances come along. Anyone who has seen us over the past five months will know that is a frustration for us all.
“In the big games, you can’t expect to create eight or nine chances a week. Against Leicester, we had four or five opportunities and we have to take at least one.
“We have to be more clinical and it is gnawing away at us. I hope it is not going to be our Achilles heel because some of our football at times is terrific to watch.”
As Bruce acknowledged while also airing his frustration at Hull having failed to convert one of several gilt-edged chances, a draw was, on the balance of play, a fair result.
Certainly, both teams enjoyed spells on top in a contest that, while far from being the Christmas cracker many were hoping, was never dull.
Former Tigers manager Nigel Pearson had won the tactical battle when the two teams met in September by switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation that clipped Hull’s attacking wings.
Unsurprisingly, the Foxes chief opted for the same set-up in the return and for long periods it once again worked a treat.
Leicester certainly started the better of the two teams and really should have gone ahead inside the opening quarter.
That they didn’t owed everything to some wasteful finishing on the part of the visitors, most notably Anthony Knockaert who despite having five efforts in the early exchanges managed to get only one target and that was dealt with comfortably by Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic. Knockaert had scored two stunning goals on a previous visit to Yorkshire in October when Leicester beat Huddersfield Town 2-0. But his miss on 18 minutes, when he side-footed wide after exchanging passes with Paul Konchesky, just about summed up the French winger’s afternoon.
It was a massive let-off and one Hull seized upon to belatedly take the game to the visitors for the rest of the first half.
Chief among the reasons behind this turnaround was wing-backs Ahmed Elmohamady and Robbie Brady being able to get forward in support of the attack after having previously been too busy dealing with defensive duties.
Corry Evans taking more of a lead role in breaking up any promising Leicester moves in the centre also helped as Hull enjoyed what proved to be their best period of the afternoon.
The first of the spurned chances that so frustrated Bruce came just before the half-hour when Abdoulaye Faye rose high to meet a Robert Koren but could then only head into the side-netting.
Bruce admitted afterwards to believing a goal seemed certain when the big Senegalese defender met the ball and the Tigers manager was left scratching his head in bemusement again just two minutes later when Jay Simpson skipped past Kasper Schmeichel only to then see his shot cleared off the line by Ritchie De Laet. Former Leeds goalkeeper Schmeichel then denied a thunderous strike from Sone Aluko before repeating the trick to beat away a Koren free-kick.
Any hopes, however, that the home fans in a crowd of 20,321 harboured about the flurry of chances proving to be a springboard for the home side to push on after the break were wide of the mark with a torrential downpour turning the second 45 minutes into something of a damp squib.
Both sides had chances to win it with Faye fortunate to see a sliced clearance from a Liam Moore cross squirm inches wide of the Tigers post and Jakupovic just doing enough to nudge a Ben Marshall shot over the crossbar.
Hull twice went close as Simpson was denied by Schmeichel but a winner for either side would have been harsh on the other to leave Bruce to reflect on a day that started badly but ended with the comfort of a hard-won point.
He said: “The day didn’t start great as my dog stuck the nut on me. But it is a good sign that we are disappointed not to have beaten one of the best sides in the divisions.”
Hull City: Jakupovic; Chester, Hobbs, Faye (Proschwitz 84); Elmohamady, Evans (Cairney 71), Koren, Quinn, Brady; Aluko (Rosenior 84), Simpson. Unused substitutes: Amos, Mclean, McShane, Olofinjana.
Leicester City: Schmeichel; De Laet (Moore 46), Whitbread, Morgan, Konchesky; James, Drinkwater; Knockaert, King (Gallagher 83), Marshall; Nugent (Waghorn 67). Unused substitutes: Logan, Dyer, Schlupp, Futacs.
Referee: C Pawson (South Yorkshire).