MANAGER Leonid Slutsky’s problems at Hull City are piling up higher than the Moscow snow in February.
Having seen the squad he inherited from Marco Silva in June plundered time and time again – with Sam Clucas today set to become the latest to head through the exit door – the affable Russian last night had to suffer the indignity of sending out a team of rookies due to the paucity of the resources at his disposal.
What effectively equated to the club’s Under-23s side boasted just six league and cup starts between them in amber and black as all the senior players were left at home with Friday’s home game against Bolton Wanderers in mind.
Those youngsters pressed into action performed admirably, and particularly in an opening half hour when Doncaster Rovers struggled to find any rhythm.
But for Slutsky to be reduced to asking lads to do a man’s job just 18 days into the new season speaks volumes about the mess he and the club are in.
This, let us not forget, is a club whose previous action in the League Cup had been a 2-1 win over eventual winners Manchester United in an enthralling semi-final second leg last February.
To fall so far and so quickly since that night is shocking and the 2,179 travelling fans left no one in any doubt as to who they blame as chants of ‘we want Allam out’ filled the humid south Yorkshire air even during a first half in which the youngsters acquitted themselves well.
A little over a week remains of the transfer window and yet few among Hull’s long-suffering support have any faith whatsoever in the required deals being done.
Sure, reinforcements will arrive with Stephen Kingsley set to join as a makeweight in Clucas’s £15m switch to Swansea City.
Arsenal midfielder Jon Toral also underwent a medical in the East Riding yesterday, but such is the stretched state of the squad that anything but a second season of struggle at the KCOM Stadium looks unlikely.
No wonder former CKSA Moscow title winner Slutsky, a man who as a player once spent 12 months in a Russian hospital after falling out of a tree to rescue a cat, recently described coping with Hull’s current travails as the most challenging of his career.
As for Rovers, their manager Darren Ferguson can look forward – if that is the right way to describe something that will take take place at 4.15am tomorrow – to the third-round draw on the back of having claimed two Yorkshire scalps.
For half an hour or so, Doncaster laboured against a well organised and composed Tigers outfit. Neat and tidy on the ball, the visitors were the first to threaten as Daniel Batty fired an early shot just wide and James Weir brought a decent save from Marko Marosi.
Referee Eddie Ilderton also had a couple of decisions to make when Greg Olley went down inside the penalty area moments after a big appeal from the Hull players for handball.
Eventually, though, Rovers started to assert their authority as Alfie May brought a save from Will Mannion and Robbie McKenzie somehow avoided firing into his own net when trying to clear a drilled cross from Matty Blair.
John Marquis then shot against a post after jinking his way through before Mannion had to get down smartly to deny Issam Ben Khemis.
A goal was coming and, just three minutes into the second half, it duly arrived. Khemis provided the assist for Alfie May, who after taking one touch unleashed a left-foot shot that Mannion got a hand to but could not keep out.
The deadlock broken, Doncaster wasted no time in doubling their advantage as Tommy Rowe rifled a low shot into the net despite the best efforts of Will Mannion.
Hull then had their goalkeeper to thank for keeping the score down with two stunning saves.
First, Ben Whiteman curled an exquisite free-kick that Mannion did brilliantly to tip over at full stretch. So deft was the finger-tip stop, in fact, that referee Ilderton and his officials awarded a goal-kick.
There was no denying Mannion the credit for his next save, another wonderful effort that turned May’s thunderbolt against a post.
The former AFC Wimbledon junior also kept out Andy Williams twice with more routine efforts as Rovers, conquerors of Bradford City in the cup a fortnight earlier, coasted into the third round for the third time in five seasons.
As for Hull, attention now turns not only to the final days of the transfer window and those much-needed additions, but also the impending visit of Bolton.
Doncaster Rovers: Marosi; Alcock, Wright, Andrew; Blair, Khemis, Whiteman, Kongolo (Mason 84), Rowe (Garratt 74); Marquis (Williams 69), May. Unused substitutes: Lawlor, Beestin, Butler, Mandeville.
Hull City: Mannion; Lenihan, Clackstone, McKenzie, Fleming (Barkworth 69); Batty; Hamilton (Hinchcliffe 77), Olley, Weir, Annan; Luer. Unused substitutes: Andrew, Ritson, Edwards, Yates, Dyson.
Referee: E Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).