Hull City discover fine margins of Championship football in defeat to QPR

HULL CITY’s performance against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday afternoon was not one which warranted them ending up on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline.

They certainly were not fantastic defensively, but in open-play, their back-line did okay at the back for the most part. In-between the boxes, they played some nice football.

In the final third they looked bright and inventive and created several good goal-scoring opportunities despite the absence of Mallik Wilks – last season’s top-sorer and arguably their most important attacking player.

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After their stunning 4-1 rout of Preston North End on the opening day of the 2021/22 campaign, anything was possible, but perhaps the way this weekend’s match panned out should come as no real surprise.

A general view of Hull City fans in the stands during the Sky Bet Championship match at the MKM Stadium, Hull. (Picture: PA)

If you look at their side on paper, the two most obvious issues look to be the lack of experience at the heart of their defence and the absence of a number nine who looks fully equipped to do the business on a consistent basis at Championship level.

It would be unfair to point the finger solely at Josh Magennis on this occasion, however as an attacking unit, City failed to put the ball in the back of the net when they were very much on top. At the other end, they twice switched off at set-pieces.

The margins are extremely fine in such an ultra-competitive division and, on another day, the Tigers could easily have come away with a result.

There are times when manager’s can appear to be clutching at straws when they deliver such analaysis post-match, but in this instance, Grant McCann was justified in his comments.

Hull's Callum Elder keeps pace with QPR's Chris Willock (Picture: PA)

Two defensive lapses ultimately cost Hull the game, but the overall picture after a win and defeat to start the season appears reasonably healthy. As the Northern Irishman himself has identified, there is certainly sufficient evidence to suggest that his team will be competitive on their return to the second tier.

“We’ve lost the game on two set-plays, that’s what has happened,” reflected McCann.

“There was nothing much really in the game. I thought we were excellent from the 30-minute-mark up until conceding the second goal.

“What would I have done differently? I’d have made sure our concentration levels were better at set-plays and that’s something we need to be good at in this division. It’s a big area for teams, whether it’s clever set-plays or bigger teams pumping things into your box, we need to be good at that. And this group is. We were the best defensively [in League One] last year, so we have got it in our locker, we just need to have our concentration right.

Flashpoint: George Moncur is sent off with Hull 2-0 down (Picture: Isaac Parkin/PA)

“We’ve got a really good group of boys. They’re hurting in there. They know it’s a game of fine margins and we have to switch on at set-plays or else you get punished. But we’ll bounce back, that’s what this group of players does.

“I’ve seen enough over the two games to know that we’re going to be ultra-competitive in this division and hopefully today will remind us that we just need to be better in certain aspects.”

Just as was the case at Preston last weekend, Saturday saw Hull fall behind early on, leaving McCann with some cause for concern.

“The first 20-25 minutes, QPR were in the ascendancy. We struggled again at the start of the game, so that’s an area of concern for us that we need to make sure we improve on,” added the Tigers head coach.

The Hull City mascots interact with fans during the Sky Bet Championship match at the MKM Stadium, Hull. (Picture:: Isaac Parkin/PA)

“These are fine margins because at the end of day we could have scored ourselves early on in the game. George Moncur had a chance that usually he would put away. Once that didn’t go in, they got the ascendancy and it’s going to happen because we’re in a different division.

“We’re in the Championship, teams are going to have spells against us. At this moment in time, spells are happening in the first 20-25 minutes of games but we’ve come back strong.”

Keane Lewis-Potter and Moncur were both off target with early chances before City fell behind on 16 minutes.

A right-wing free-kick was rolled into the path of Chris Willock and it was all too easy for the former Arsenal midfielder to fire past Matt Ingram, who made a mess of keeping the ball out of the back of his net.

Josh Magennis’ header forced a fine save out of Seny Dieng as Hull threatened to get themselves back into the contest shortly before half-time and the hosts contiuned to ask questions of Rangers’ defence during the early stages of the second period.

Magennis, Lewie Coyle and Lewis-Potter all came close before Matt Smith went through on goal and slotted confidently beyond Dieng, only for Rob Dickie to effect a superb goal-line clearnace.

Disaster then struck in the 68th minute as the Tigers switched off at another set-piece and Stefan Johansen’s short corner was pulled back for Lyndon Dykes to finish.

Moncur was sent off moments later and Dickie then ended the game as a contest when he turned home Lee Wallace’s cross from the left, putting an unfair gloss on the scoreline.

Hull City: Ingram; Coyle (Emmanuel 75), Jones, Greaves, Elder; Moncur, Smallwood (Williams 73), Docherty; Longman (Smith 35); Magennis, Lewis-Potter. Unused substitutes: Baxter, Eaves, Cannon, Bernard.

Queens Park Rangers: Dieng; Dickie, De Wijs, Barbet; Odubajo, Ball, Johansen (Thomas 86), Wallace, Willock, Dykes (Kelman 85), Chair (Dozzell 59). Unused substitutes: Archer, Kakay, Dunne, Adomah.

Referee: M Donohue (Manchester).