SUCH has been the desire of Leonid Slutsky to embrace life in the East Riding since arriving during the summer, he has regularly been seen exploring the area on his bicycle and even popped into Hull Fair last month.
Had Hull City not been tackling Middlesbrough last night in the Championship, maybe the Russian would have even been tempted to discover more about what the locals get up to when trick-or-treating on Halloween.
Garry Monk’s men were full value for the points, after marrying together a disciplined defensive display with the ability to hit Hull quickly and hard.Richard Sutcliffe
As it was, by full-time Slutsky bore the look of a man who could not have been more spooked if a mob of ghosts and ghouls had come knocking at his door.
Hull, even allowing for Kamil Grosicki’s fourth goal of the season giving Boro a late fright, are in trouble and their head coach’s expression at the final whistle suggests he knows it. A second successive summer of questionable and, perhaps most crucial of all, delayed recruitment is coming home to roost with the Tigers increasingly looking a mish-mash of individuals.
Sure, there is talent in this side. But there is a worrying lack of cohesion that shows no signs of improving.
Only the bottom three have let in more goals than the 26 Hull have conceded. Soft goals have become a recurring theme, with slack marking and individual mistakes occurring on an almost weekly basis.
Martin Braithwaite, Britt Assombalonga and Grant Leadbitter were just the latest beneficiaries from this generosity as Middlesbrough clinched back-to-back away wins for the first time this season.
Garry Monk’s men were full value for the points, after marrying a disciplined defensive display with the ability to hit Hull quickly and hard.
Never was this more apparent than when Boro netted twice in the first half. The opener came on 12 minutes, Kevin Stewart fatally hesitating after taking collection of a pass when 30 yards from his his own goal.
Braithwaite, alert to the opportunity, quickly nipped in and darted forward before drilling a low shot across Allan McGregor.
The Scottish international could do little to keep out the Dane’s shot and it was a similar story when Monk’s men doubled their advantage nine minutes before half-time. Cyrus Christie, left all alone on the right flank, whipped in a cross that left the Tigers’ backline horribly flat-footed and the unmarked Assombalonga headed in from six yards out.
The home players left the field at the interval to the accompaniment of jeers from the stands.
Such frustration on the part of the locals was understandable, not least because Hull had proved before Braithwaite’s opener that they were capable of causing problems for the visitors.
An incisive passing move saw Boro cut open to such an extent that when Fraizer Campbell slipped a disguised reverse pass to Jackson Irvine, the Australian had a clear route to goal.
His low shot was kept out by Darren Randolph, but it still took a desperate clearance from Fabio Da Silva to prevent Campbell sliding in the rebound.
It proved to be the Brazilian’s last action, the clattering he took from Campbell seeing him replaced a couple of minutes later.
Frustratingly for the locals in the 15,454 crowd, that let-off for Boro in the ninth minute proved to be the last time the visitors were unduly troubled by their hosts until well into the second half. The reason for this was Hull being far too laborious in possession. If one touch would do, the hosts invariably took three and all this served to do was allow Boro to get back in numbers.
Slutsky made his now customary half-time substitution by bringing Nouha Dicko off the bench. Seven minutes after the restart, the striker was joined on the field by Kamil Grosicki and, at last, Hull carried an attacking threat. Dicko, after being picked out by David Meyler, was the first to threaten with a shot that Randolph kept out.
After Ben Gibson had brought a stunning save from McGregor at the other end, Hull finally reduced the deficit through a piledriver from Grosicki that gave the Boro goalkeeper no chance.
Seventeen minutes remained, but any hopes of Hull rescuing a point did not last long and, once again, it was self-inflicted damage. Michael Hector, after getting the ball caught under his feet when facing his own goal, could only bundle Ashley Fletcher to the floor.
Referee Tim Robinson had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Hector, after initially being booked for the foul, was dismissed. Leadbitter sent McGregor the wrong way to ensure it was a miserable first Halloween in Hull for Slutsky.
Hull City: McGregor; Tomori, Dawson, Hector, Clark; Meyler, Stewart (Dicko 46); Bowen, Larsson (Grosicki 53), Irvine; Campbell (Diomande 67). Unused substitutes: Marshall,, Henriksen, Lenihan, Aina.
Middlesbrough: Randolph; Christie, Ayala, Gibson, Da Silva (Friend 10); Leadbitter, Howson; Downing, Braithwaite, Tavernier (Johnson 71); Assombalonga (Fletcher 79). Unused substitutes: Konstantopoulos, Fry, Forshaw, Traore.
Referee: T Robinson (Sussex).