THE fourth anniversary of Hull City’s last foray in the Europa League may have brought into sharp focus just how fast the club’s slide has been since those heady days under Steve Bruce.
But a double from Jackson Irvine did, at least, ensure supporters were last night able to set aside the ‘if onlys’ and ‘what ifs’ for a few moments and toast a much-needed first victory of the Championship season.
Fraizer Campbell got the other goal as the Tigers claimed a rare league victory in Rotherham, their first in the town for more than a quarter of a century.
It was a deserved three points, even allowing for Paul Warne’s Millers taking the lead through Richard Wood and then staging a late attacking onslaught after Jamie Proctor had cut the deficit to a solitary goal 15 minutes from time.
In Irvine, City had the best player on the pitch. His movement and vision caused all manner of problems for the home defence, while Evandro and Campbell also shone in attack before being replaced as Hull battled to withstand that late aerial barrage.
All three deserved to be on the winning side, as did Jarrod Bowen after a polished display in attack that was only lacking a finishing touch in front of goal.
This attacking enterprise meant City marked in style the fourth anniversary of their Europa League trip to Belgian side Lokeren, which was lost 1-0 en route to a qualifying round exit on away goals for the FA Cup runners-up.
As for the Millers, this was an evening when there was plenty of honest endeavour and much to build on. The aerial threat posed by Rotherham means few teams will enjoy coming to the New York Stadium this term.
Adkins, however, does enjoy tackling the Millers. This was the fifth time he has come up against the South Yorkshire club as a manager and he boasts a 100 per cent winning record.
Only in the period after Wood’s 16th-minute opener did that proud unbeaten record look under any serious threat.
It was a deserved three points, even allowing for Paul Warne’s Millers taking the lead through Richard Wood and then staging a late attacking onslaught after Jamie Proctor had cut the deficit to a solitary goal 15 minutes from time.Richard Sutcliffe
His side’s vulnerability in the air was clear for all to see as Rotherham’s play-off hero from last May put the hosts in front, albeit with a helping hand from the Tigers.
First, Reece Burke inexplicably conceded a corner when it seemed easier to clear the ball into touch.
Then, after Ryan Manning had curled an exquisite in-swinger deep into the six yard box, Hull’s defence stood and watched as Wood leapt unmarked to head beyond David Marshall.
Wood had netted twice at Wembley in last May’s final victory over Shrewsbury Town, a notable feat for a centre-half made even more impressive by him having netted the all-important opener in the semi-final second leg win over Scunthorpe United.
The Millers captain had come close to breaking the deadlock early on but his header from a Zak Vyner cross bounced just past the post. Manning also curled a shot just wide moments before Hull’s fightback got under way.
Irvine, a big threat to Rotherham all night, brought the Tigers level in the 28th minute with a sweet finish after being picked out by Evandro. Adkins’s relief was evident as he dashed to the touchline with his arms raised.
His night got even better on the stroke of half-time, Campbell this time applying a deft finish to an Eric Lichaj cross after Millers goalkeeper Marek Rodak had failed to clear his lines with a punch.
Hull took just two minutes of the second half to extend that lead. Campbell’s determination proved too much for Semi Ajayi, who he dispossessed 25 or so yards from the home goal.
A quick pass to Bowen was followed by the ball being moved to Irvine, who fired a crisp shot past Rodak.
Further chances followed for the Tigers as Campbell fired just wide and Irvine threaded Bowen through only for the City man to be crowded out.
Rodak then denied Bowen and Will Keane in quick succession, moments after Irvine had squandered an opportunity to grab the matchball when firing over when well placed.
This profligacy almost came back to haunt City, whose advantage was reduced to just a solitary goal when Proctor headed in Vyner’s right-wing cross.
Cue a siege on the visitors’ goal that came oh so close to yielding an equaliser for Warne’s Millers men. Ajayi, pressed into service as a makeshift attacker in those closing stages, went close with an acrobatic overhead kick.
Then Wood headed straight at goalkeeper Marshall after City had failed to clear a Manning free-kick.
As United continued to bombard the visitors’ goal, there was still time for one more glorious chance but Ajayi was unable to capitalise as Hull held on to claim a first league win in Rotherham since the February, 1993, trip to Millmoor.
Rotherham United: Rodak; Vyner, Ajayi, Wood, Mattock; Taylor (Vassell 56), Vaulks, Palmer (Proctor 73), Manning, Williams (Newell 56); Smith. Unused substitutes: Bilboe, Ball, Robertson, Raggett.
Hull City: Marshall; Kane, De Wijs, Burke, Lichaj; Batty (Stewart 77), Henriksen; Bowen, Evandro (McKenzie 80), Irvine; Campbell (Keane 67). Unused substitutes: Long, Dicko, Milinkovic, Curry.
Referee: J Simpson (Lancashire).