Hull City 2 Middlesbrough 1 - Mallik Wilks celebrates new deal with late winner

Hull City’s sleepwalk towards League One was finally halted on Thursday evening as the Tigers claimed what could prove to be a priceless victory over Middlesbrough.

Hull's Mallik Wilks celebrates with Keane Lewis-Potter at full time as Middlesbrough's George Saville sinks to his knees. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

Grant McCann’s men ended a 13-match winless run to record their first Championship success since New Year’s Day in what can only be described as a smash-and-grab raid at the KCOM Stadium.

The hosts were second best throughout the contest, but ultimately did just enough to secure a crucial result against one of their relegation rivals, climbing out of the bottom-three and up to 19th place in the process.

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Their match-winner, in stoppage-time, was Mallik Wilks, a man who, up until the morning of the game, looked to have already made his final appearance in a City shirt.

Hull's Mallik Wilks scores the winning goal. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

The 21-year winger’s loan deal from Barnsley expired on Tuesday, however Hull exercised a buy-out clause in their arrangement with the Tykes to tie up a permanent transfer just hours before kick-off.

If the capture of Wilks boosted City then it didn’t show out on the pitch for 90 minutes, but his decisive act in front of goal will surely breathe new life into their survival bid.

Yet, while the outcome of the game could potentially prove to a be a huge turning point, there is still a long way to go before the Tigers can begin to relax.

Victorious they might have been – at long last – but their overall performance left plenty to be desired and improvements are still required all over the park in their remaining six fixtures.

Middlesbrough's Dejan Stojanovic can't stop Hull's Herbie Kane's free kick. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

That said, a team that has looked so bereft of confidence during a large part of the second half of 2019/20 and hasn’t won in the league in seven months does deserve credit for hanging on in there and finding a way to 
prevail – particularly after making such a bad start to proceedings.

A side in the position which Hull found themselves at the start of the evening could really have done without gifting away an early goal, yet that is precisely what they did.

Marvin Johnson’s third-minute strike from outside the box was parried unconvincingly by George Long, forcing Jordy De Wijs to foul Hayden Coulson as he looked to pounce on the loose ball.

Referee Geoff Eltringham pointed to the penalty spot and Britt Assombalonga stepped up and did the rest from 12 yards.

Credit where credit is due, the hosts did not waste time feeling sorry for themselves and were back on level terms on eight minutes.

Herbie Kane’s raking pass found Wilks advancing down the right flank and the former Leeds United youngster cut inside and won a free-kick on the edge of the Boro area.

After his fine dead-ball strike against Birmingham last time out there was no debating who would take responsibility for the set-piece, and former Doncaster Rovers loanee Kane managed to better his effort from the weekend, curling a superb finish into the top corner for 1-1.

Boro could have been back in front shortly afterwards as Dan Batty’s carelessness in midfield afforded Paddy McNair the chance to sprint past De Wijs and in on goal, but he failed to find a finish.

Kane then limped off injured, and with him went City’s ability to string more than three passes together, while, by contrast, Boro kept probing away.

Despite working a number of promising openings, the visitors failed to seriously extend Long, though there was no doubting which team was in the ascendancy as the teams left the field on the half-time whistle.

The second period again saw Hull offer almost nothing as an attacking force, with Middlesbrough continuing to look the more likely.

Keane Lewis-Potter did send a strike past the post shortly after arriving as a half-time replacement for the ineffective James Scott, but that was about as good as it got for the hosts, whose play was disjointed for the most part and severely lacking in conviction.

At the other end, Long had to stick out a leg to divert Johnson’s dangerous low cross to safety before Coulson headed a decent opportunity over at the near post.

Substitute Marcus Tavernier sent a long-range blast narrowly the wrong side of Long’s upright, then did put the ball in the back of the net, but only after clearly fouling Leo Da Silva Lopes from behind in the build-up.

Then with 91 minutes on the clock and the spoils seemingly set to be shared between the two rivals, City landed a late sucker-punch.

De Wijs, up from the back, met a hanging left-wing delivery and nodded down for Wilks to instinctively stab the ball into the roof of the net and decide matters.

Defeat leaves Neil Warnock’s Boro 21st, just one place and one point above the Championship relegation zone with six games remaining.

Hull City: Long; Pennington, Burke, De Wijs, Elder (Stewart 41); Lopes, Batty (Toral 82), Kane (Honeyman 28); Wilks, Magennis (Eaves 82), Scott (Lewis-Potter 46). Unused substitutes: Ingram, Tafazolli, MacDonald, Samuelsen.

Middlesbrough: Stojanovic; Spence (Wing 52), Fry, Friend, Johnson; Saville, Howson; Roberts (Tavernier 63), McNair, Coulson; Assombalonga (Fletcher 79). Unused substitutes: Pears, Shotton, Clayton, Morrison, Moukoudi, Nmecha.

Referee: G Eltringham (Durham).

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