Hull City 2 Wolves 1: Robert Snodgrass hits late winner but Tigers toil again
A REDISCOVERING of the spark that not so long ago took Hull City to the summit of the Championship was the pre-match call from Steve Bruce along with a demand to build up some momentum ahead of the play-offs with a much-needed victory.
He got the latter, right at the finish, courtesy of a quite sublime free-kick from Robert Snodgrass deep into stoppage time that struck the underside of the bar and went in off goalkeeper Carl Ikeme.
It meant a happy end to the night for the locals in a crowd of 15,504 and the likely clinching of a play-off place by the Tigers.
Cardiff City, the only member of the chasing pack with a realistic chance of gatecrashing the top six, now sit 10 points behind Bruce’s men with just five games remaining.
Factor in a vastly superior goal difference and the Bluebirds will not be overhauling the Yorkshire club any time soon.
That is the good news from a Hull perspective. What was less encouraging, however, was the manner of last night’s performance.
Having been gifted a goal through calamitous defending inside five minutes when Adama Diomande was able to tap into an empty net, the home side gradually lost their way.
Far too hurried in possession, Hull’s play had neither rhythm nor fluidity for long periods with the default mode of far too many players being to lump aimless balls into the box.
Snodgrass’s fourth goal of the season did, at least, bring only a second win in nine outings, but there can be little doubt that drastic improvements are needed if Hull are to be truly competitive in the play-offs.
When a team has been on the kind of run that has, over the past six weeks, effectively killed off Hull’s automatic promotion hopes, they gratefully accept any help offered.
Wolves were certainly in generous mood when Kenny Jackett’s men contrived to present the hosts with the sort of chance that is nigh on impossible to miss.
A flick on by Ahmed Elmohamady to a long punt forward should have been dealt with by Dominic Iorfa, but the defender could only get the slightest of touches as the ball ran through to his goalkeeper.
Ikeme still had the opportunity of making a simple catch but, instead, he made a total hash of things and the ball span towards Diomande, who rolled his shot into an empty net.
Such a fortunate start just had to be capitalised on but, after Sam Clucas had shot wide following excellent closing down play by Elmohamady and Jake Livermore, Hull began to struggle.
This was particularly the case down the Tigers’ right flank, where Moses Odubajo struggled against Jeremy Helan.
The Sheffield Wednesday loanee, who made a point of hugging the touchline, was afforded far too much space and he duly took advantage by sending over a steady stream of high quality crosses.
Jack Price should have capitalised on one such delivery on 17 minutes, but he headed over when well placed.
It was a let-off for the hosts, but one they failed to heed as, less than 60 seconds later, Helan again received possession following an awful first touch from Alex Bruce.
He then whipped in an inviting cross that the unmarked Dave Edwards powered in from close range.
Helan was at it again just after the half-hour with another delightful delivery that Curtis Davies did very well to head clear under huge pressure from Bjorn Sigurdarson.
With Allan McGregor also having to react smartly to collect a James Henry cross from the opposite flank just ahead of Sigurdarson, it was clear the Tigers needed a lift.
It looked to have come when Elmohamady, having nicked the ball past Sylvain Deslandes, was bundled to the ground by the left-back only for referee James Adock to indicate a corner.
Elmohamady was furious, and with good cause as replays indicated that Deslandes’s only contact had been with the Egyptian’s ankle and not the ball.
Hull did create one early chance in the second half, when Diomande’s acrobatic volley flew from a Clucas corner flew just over.
But it took until the 74th minute for the next decent chance to come along, illustrating just how flat proceedings had become in front of the live Sky cameras.
When that effort came along courtesy of a deflected drive from Abel Hernandez, Ikeme in the Wanderers goal proved its equal with a fine one-handed save low to his right.
At the opposite end, McGregor had to be equally alert to tip over a thunderous shot from Sigurdarson as the game finally came to life in the closing stages.
Hernandez then fired wide from 20 yards for the Tigers before Sone Aluko brought another smart save from Ikeme. That seemed to be that, but then Snodgrass stepped up and curled in the winner from 22 yards – albeit in off visiting goalkeeper Ikeme’s back after striking the woodwork – to all but seal a place in the play-offs.
Hull City: McGregor; Odubajo (Snodgrass 68), Davies, Bruce, Robertson; Elmohamady, Livermore, Meyler, Clucas (Akpom 73); Hernandez, Diomande (Aluko 73). Substitutes (not used): Jakupovic, Huddlestone, Maguire, Maloney.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Ikeme; Doherty, Iorfa, Hause, Deslandes (Coady 75); Price, Saville (Enobakhare 89), Edwards; Henry, Helan, Sigurdarson. Substitutes (not used): Martinez, Mason,, Le Fondre, Hunte, Hayden.
Referee: J Adcock (Nottinghamshire).