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Football: City’s Halloween horror show

Hull City 1 – Middlesbrough 3 (Tuesday, October 31)

By Roy Woodcock

There were no tricks and precious few treats for City fans in this Halloween game from hell at the KCom, with the Tigers going down 3-1 against Middlesbrough.

It meant back-to-back home defeats for the Tigers and pre-season talk of a top six finish now seems a far off dream. With a tough away game against Sheffield United to come on Saturday, a relegation dog-fight is the more likely scenario.

Frankly it was a horror show, with misplaced passes, poor defending and little in the way of invention meant City rarely troubled the visitors. Two images seemed to sum up the evening: On 52 minutes, captain Michael Dawson had the ball at his feet in the opposition half but little or no choice about what to do with it. He stood, momentarily, with his arms outstretched as if to say: What on earth is going on?

On the touchline manager Leonid Slutsky paced to and fro in the technical area like a frustrated caged animal and at the post-match press conference appeared a broken man, seemingly bemused by the challenge that faced him.

On a  night when Sunderland boss Simon Grayson was sacked, he admitted that 15 games into the season it might be his turn next. He seemed to be pleading for more time to fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of his players and described City as his hardest job in football.

Suggestions that he doesn’t yet know his best team are perhaps born out by the fact that he made three changes for this game, with starts for Tamori, Jackson Irvine and Kevin Stewart, but then a substitution at half-time and another shortly after, saw Dicko on for Stewart and then Grosicki for Larsson.

Before the break, Boro had gone 2-0 up – the second goal a catalogue of defending errors. Wing-back Christie was allowed far too much space on the right flank to whip in a cross and then Dawson failed to deal with the situation, allowing Britt Assombalonga the simplest of finishes, heading in at the back post.

The introduction of Grosicki’s pace and Dicko’s physical presence did briefly seem to make an impact and led to City’s first serious attempt on goal on 59  minutes – Dicko’s under-powered shot, however, was easily saved.

On 66 minutes the last throw of the dice – Campbell off to be replaced by Diomande – and then some hope – on 72 minutes Grosicki scored with a thumping shot into the top corner.

Any thoughts of a comeback were soon dashed, however, with Boro awarded a penalty on 82 minutes; Kevin Hector bringing down a Borough player who was through on goal. He received a  straight red and Middlesbrough increased their lead from the spot kick.

Boro fans were in jubilant mood at the final whistle; City supporters, apart from a few boos, trudging away in almost in silent resignation.

Hull City: Allan McGregor, Fikayo Tomori, Michael Hector, Michael Dawson, Max Clark, Kevin Stewart, David Meyler, Seb Larsson, Jackson Irvine, Jarrod Bowen, Fraizer Campbell

Subs: David Marshall, Brian Lenihan, Ola Aina, Markus Henriksen, Kamil Grosicki, Adama Diomande, Nouha Dicko

Scorers: City – Grosicki (72). Boro: Braithwaite (13), Assombalonga (36), Leadbitter (85, pen)