IT is a favourite observation of former Hull City manager Steve Bruce that the business part of the season only begins when the daffodils and tulips start to sprout.
That much may be true. But bellwether games of immense psychological importance which set the tone of campaigns take place long before then.
One such encounter was staged at the KCOM on Saturday, a day which will have begun with Nigel Adkins and Paul Hurst wondering just what was in store as they munched their morning muesli.
On a day which many traditionally view to be the best of the week, these two rival managers would have begged to differ.
Adkins had not seen his Tigers side win on a Saturday since April 7, also the previous occasion when Hull had last triumphed at home and secured a clean sheet.
For Hurst, meanwhile, his previous Saturday success was way back on March 24 with former club Shrewsbury Town – and the Yorkshireman had yet to savour that winning feeling with his new employers on any day of the week, never mind just Saturday.
The gaffer gave us a little talk on Friday afternoon and said we have got a great balance and blend to the squad with some great, young and hungry talent and some senior pros that can steady the ship at times.Tommy Elphick
Something had to give and it did, as Hull ended their wretched bout of homesickness and avoided the embarrassment of a club record fourth straight home league loss at the start of a season.
That they did so in relative comfort was equally consoling.
The sight of Jarrod Bowen rediscovering his mojo and netting his first league goal on home soil in 2018 to crown a strong performance was like being reacquainted with an old friend.
Fraizer Campbell’s leadership up front was also a reassuring constant, while a late strike from bonafide goal-scoring midfielder Jackson Irvine – the sort of goal that was in Hull’s minds when they signed him – displayed an exquisite sense of timing.
Most Championship observers would rightly suggest that Hull are not short in the match-winning department, with their substitutes bench on Saturday – which featured Chris Martin, Kamil Grosicki and Nouha Dicko – crystallising that viewpoint.
But displaying the requisite defensive resolve, concentration levels and discipline required to chalk off wins on a regular basis is another thing entirely.
On that score, Saturday was a welcome step in that right direction, even if Ipswich were fitful.
But given that Hull were forced to field a centre-back in Reece Burke at right-back and that they also lost Stephen Kingsley to injury with 20 minutes to go, a clean sheet was not to be sniffed at.
Brought in to provide direction to a back four who had failed to convince this term, Tommy Elphick – the sort of worldly centre-back who would not look out of place in most Championship defences – could also look back on a productive first day at the office.
After netting in old club Aston Villa’s win at Hull on August 6 Elphick endeared himself rather better this time around and said: “It is nice to get a bit of life again. It has been a frustrating 18 months and, hopefully, we can kick on a bit.
“The gaffer gave us a little talk on Friday afternoon and said we have got a great balance and blend to the squad with some great, young and hungry talent and some senior pros that can steady the ship at times.”
Among the youthful crop is Bowen, with his first goal of the season providing the perfect tonic.
“He has unbelievable talent and has everything to play at the top level,” observed Elphick.
“We need to get the best out of him and he has to keep trying to improve on what he did last year. He will get there because I believe he has got everything.”
A transfusion of confidence for Hull arrived nice and early.
Campbell’s pass down the right channel was wonderfully incisive and Bowen seized upon it in a flash, with Matthew Pennington only managing to help his dinked effort into the net.
Enthused by the sight of a hesitant Ipswich defence, Hull plainly looked in the mood for more.
None transpired in the first half, but the willingness was there, at least. At the other end, the only major scare saw the unmarked Jon Nolan nod wide.
Stubbornly, that second goal required to put the game to bed on the restart would not come. But Hull persisted and ended the game strongly and nerve-free.
Campbell went close twice and Pennington hacked Evandro’s lob away from danger before Dean Gerken showed good reactions to deny Bowen twice.
But he was powerless to prevent Irvine from sealing it with the substitute cashing in on hesitancy from Jordan Spence as Hull extended their unbeaten streak against Ipswich to 12 matches.
Hull City: Marshall; Burke, Elphick, De Wijs, Kingsley (Irvine 69); Henriksen, Batty (Stewart 41); Bowen, Evandro, Kane; Campbell (Martin 87). Unused substitutes: Long, Dicko, Grosicki, McKenzie.
Ipswich Town: Gerken; Spence, Pennington, Chambers, Knudsen; Skuse, Downes (Jackson 72); Edwards (Rowe 79), Nolan; Graham (Harrison 86), Walters. Unused substitutes: Bialkowski, Chalobah, Ward, Edun.
Referee: T Harrington (Cleveland).