THE back to school posters that are festooned in stores across the land possess a certain significance for Hull City.
Classes begin again for millions of children this week following the summer break, but the Tigers have already been on the receiving end of a few lessons and harsh ones at that this season.
The need to pay attention at all times is strikingly obvious and plenty of homework remains.
In the streetwise Championship, lapses in concentration and a lack of ruthlessness at both ends of the pitch are brutally punished, as Nigel Adkins’s side are finding out the hard way.
A rousing second-half of substance after presenting Derby with a first-half gift was spoiled by an unfortunate, but soft late concession as the hosts were floored by a sucker punch – and a third straight loss in a week.
This latest home defeat, a fourth successive defeat in all competitions at the KCOM, may not have been as savage as Tuesday’s 4-0 Carabao Cup pummelling against a rampant Derby, but it will have felt just as wounding.
Florian Jozefzoon’s 88th-minute winner, with his shot deflecting in off Stephen Kingsley, was cruel and undeserved. But it showcased Hull’s failings all the same and need to wise-up fast.
Fortunately, there is some hope in the shape of been-around-the-block deadline-day signings Tommy Elphick and Chris Martin.
The brief of Elphick, an unused substitute on Saturday, will be to provide organisation and nous to a back four whose cohesiveness as a collective unit is deficient.
Another wily campaigner in Martin, ineligible against his parent club at the weekend, will be entrusted with supplying Hull with some badly-needed predatory punch up top and finishing the sort of chances which the hosts spurned in the second-half.
He is one of my idols and any time I see him, we have a good conversation and he has always helped me in my career.Hull City midfielder Todd Kane
That said, the goal they did register was clinical, but arrived from a midfielder not known for his goal-scoring in Todd Kane.
It was an equaliser right out of the top-drawer, with an Evandro pass weighted to perfection, with the Chelsea loanee producing an instinctive finish that would have had a watching Stamford Bridge legend nodding his head in appreciation – if he was not the manager of Saturday’s opponents.
Derby chief Frank Lampard was rather happier with late developments, which took the shine off Kane’s first goal for Hull.
Kane said: “He (Lampard) just said: ‘What are you doing scoring against my team!’ I said: ‘You taught me’.
“I remember when I was younger and I used to watch him after training doing whatever.
“He is one of my idols and any time I see him, we have a good conversation and he has always helped me in my career. He was there when I was 16 and 17 and around the first team every day.
“He told me to keep on working hard and said my work ethic and effort would get me a long way.”
On his sweet strike, he added: “I was very happy with the goal, considering I am not the type of guy who gets a lot of goals. I think the second-half performance was probably our best of the season. But we have still conceded a goal and lost.”
Derby’s winner was the latest blow in a start to the Championship season which has been as uncomfortable as Theresa May’s dancing for the Tigers. An unquenchable optimist, Adkins put on a brave face afterwards, but how he would have loved to talk about a scrappy display and three points and not a fair showing with no reward. The fact that Lampard acknowledged that Hull were unfortunate not to pick up a point after dominating the second half may have provided a spot of consolation to Adkins, but not too much.
You can afford to be charitable when you have just seen your side register their fourth straight win. After Tuesday’s punishing events, Hull inflicted another self-inflicted wound on 23 minutes when Jordy De Wijs, hoodwinked by the clever movement of David Nugent, panicked and felled the striker in the area.
South Shields-born Martyn Waghorn again showed his liking for the east coast air by following up his maiden Derby strike in midweek with another goal, confidently sending David Marshall the wrong way from the spot.
Hull’s appetite was there, but the cutting edge was not, with Marshall making key saves to deny Mason Mount and Scott Malone before the break, Nugent’s header also hit the bar. Nugent hared away on the restart before firing wide – the cue for Hull to instigate an impressive and sustained rally. Jarrod Bowen fired into the side-netting before Kane’s fine leveller restored parity. A loose ball was then steered wide by Evandro, and Scott Carson did well to beat away Markus Henriksen’s fiercely-struck drive, with a second goal stubbornly refusing to arrive for the hosts.
At the other end, the lingering impression remained that this was a Hull back four who will always give teams a chance.
That was reinforced when substitute Mason Bennett found space down the left before pulling the ball back into the danger zone, with Jozefzoon being the first to react, his deflected strike soon nestling in the net.