Hull City 0 Portsmouth 2 - Tigers knocked off top spot for Christmas

Portsmouth's players celebrate their second goal.  Picture: Jonathan GawthorpePortsmouth's players celebrate their second goal.  Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Portsmouth's players celebrate their second goal. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
BEFORE this game, Grant McCann stressed that he was not concerned about the kudos of his side potentially being top of League One at Christmas.

It is May when it matters as the Hull City chief rightly said.

On this evidence, not sitting at the summit for the festive season is the least of his concerns, given his team’s third defeat in a week.

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The fact that two Hull players in Jacob Greaves and Josh Magennis were credited with own goals suggested this was a game which bordered on the bizarre.

Hull's James Scott takes on Portsmouth's Sean Raggett.  Picture: Jonathan GawthorpeHull's James Scott takes on Portsmouth's Sean Raggett.  Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Hull's James Scott takes on Portsmouth's Sean Raggett. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The fact that both goals arrived before each side produced an effort on target added to the sense of incredulity, you may also think.

There was early controversy when Greaves diverted Cameron Pring’s corner into his own net under pressure from a high boot from Sean Raggett, with referee Michael Salisbury – who had an unconvincing evening – eventually letting the goal stand after a considerable delay.

Another tough televised date for Hull was compounded by events 10 minutes after the interval.

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Magennis, in attempting to clear under pressure from John Marquis, only proceeded in looping the ball towards the goal and diverting the ball into the net.

Hull found themselves 2-0 down, five minutes before the game’s first on-target attempt when Regan Slater’s drive was turned away by the under-worked Craig MacGillivray.

Yet ultimately, there was nothing outlandish about this result with points heading back to the south coast with ease. Even without the services of key defender Jack Whatmough, Portsmouth were rarely troubled.

Two preventable concessions from Hull’s backline was something that should have irked McCann, whose side have now conceded six goals in a week.

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His side’s lack of potency on patched home soil was something which is just as significant with Hull having now scored just eight goals in 10 home matches.

Time will at least be afforded McCann before his side reconvene at home to Lincoln in 10 days time, where they will be seeking to avoid a third home defeat on the spin.

Portsmouth arrived with a reputation for proficiency on the road and it was easy to see why in a game in which their commitment, appetite for the battle and organisation shone through on a difficult surface.

Aside from a spell before the break and a few morsels in the second half, Hull could not get going as they limped to a third successive defeat to provide them with food for thought before they return to action after being given Boxing Day off.

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McCann saw the danger signs at the break and threw on their bright young thing in Keane Lewis-Potter, who has reportedly been informed that he will not start another game for his hometown club until he agrees to the fresh terms offered by the club, who have tabled a new deal.

His verve and energy could overly not trouble a sturdy Portsmouth backline, who did a job on their fellow high-fliers. It was the sort of result and performance that sides managed by Kenny Jackett have delivered on a frequent basis during his many years of management in the EFL.

With midfielders Tom Naylor and Andy Cannon dominating the middle ground, willing runners further forward in Ryan Williams and Marcus Harness and a work-horse up front in Marquis, Pompey provided Hull with a fair bit to think about towards the end of a forgettable week.

The best spell from the Tigers – who missed the craft of George Honeyman – came after the half-hour mark when they finally started to find some tempo and assert themselves briefly.

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It did not yield much in the way of chances, but the sight of them finally taking the game to Portsmouth was encouraging.

Hull’s best first-half chances arrived early, yet the control came from Pompey. Their opener was controversial, but it would have been churlish to deny the merit of their interval lead.

Wilks causally spurned a good opportunity when he steered wide from point blank range after enterprise from Josh Emmanuel while Cannon threw himself into the way of goalbound shot from the Tigers’ top-scorer.

It was emblematic of the resolve shown by Pompey on the night.

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The visitors’ second goal arrived after Hull could not clear a free-kick from Ronan Curtis. It reinforced the impression it would not be their evening.

A consolation almost arrived when Magennis headed against the bar from Greg Docherty’s cross, but it was Portsmouth’s night as they moved to the top of the third tier for the first time in almost two years.

One Yorkshire side can stop them being top for Christmas, but it is not Hull City, but Doncaster Rovers, if they win today and on Tuesday.

Hull City: Ingram; Emmanuel, Greaves, Burke, Elder; Slater (Eaves 62), Smallwood, Docherty; Wilks, Magennis, Scott (Lewis-Potter 45). Substitutes unused: Long, Coyle, Batty, Adelakun, McLoughlin.

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Portsmouth: MacGillivray, Johnson, Raggett, Nicolaisen, Pring, Cannon, Naylor, Harness (Jacobs 88), Williams (Close 87), Curtis; Marquis. Substitutes unused: Bass, Morris, Harrison, Hiwula, Mnoga, Jacobs.

Referee: M Salisbury (Lancashire).

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