|Hull City 2 v 0 Rochdale|
SkyBet League One
Tuesday, 2nd March 2021 Kick-off 19:45
Match Report: Hull City 2-0 Rochdale
Tuesday, 2nd Mar 2021 21:15 by atthepeake
Dale slipped to yet another defeat on Tuesday night as a Malik Wilks strike and an own goal from Gabriel Osho saw Hull City run out 2-0 winners at the KCOM.
Dale set up in a slightly different shape, with Eoghan O'Connell stepping in at the base of a three-man midfield away from his usual spot in the centre of defence. Gabriel Osho and Paul McShane were partnered there instead, with Jimmy Keohane at left-back and Ryan McLaughlin on the right of the defence.
Ahead of O'Connell in midfield, Brain Barry-Murphy answered fans' calls to play Aaron Morley in a more advanced position and he started alongside Conor Shaugnessy, with Conor Grant on the left of a front three, Alex Newby on the right and Stephen Humphrys through the centre.
The game started slowly, with neither side looking particularly keen on pressing the opposition or taking too many risks in possession. The longer this progressed, the more Dale seemed to grow into the game and they were able to play through the lines to progress up the pitch on a few occasions without much luck in the final third.
Neither keeper had a save to make in the first 20 minutes though and the first stop was made by Bazunu as he did well to hold onto a curling effort from outside the box by Keane Lewis-Potter. In the build-up, George Honeyman had fallen to the ground in the box clutching his face under a challenge from McShane, but the replay showed that there was very little in the challenge.
Just as Martin on commentary mentioned how Hull's star man Mailk Wilks had been quiet in the opening stages, the former Doncaster man was picked out by a cross-field ball and set off on a jinking run past challenges from Keohane, Grant and O'Connell before unleashing a speculative low effort from around 25 yards. He will have hoped for more power - but in the end it mattered not as Gavin Bazunu wasn't quick enough to get down and stop the shot which crept into the bottom corner for 1-0 and Wilks' 19th goal of the season.
That opening goal understandably seemed to give the Tigers more confidence and they had a penalty claim just seconds later as Gavin Whyte was bundled to the ground as a low cross came into the box, but in truth he had little chance of reaching the ball which is possibly why the referee chose to allow play to continue.
The pressure from the hosts continued. A deep free-kick was headed goalwards and pushed into the air by Bazunu, who did well to close down the angle on the replay, but even had the hosts found the net it wouldn't have counted as the flag has been raised for offside.
We won't get into the argument on whether a blocked shot is a shot on target again (sorry Shun!), but Dale's first serious attempt at goal unsurprisingly came through Humphrys just a few minutes before the half-time whistle. The forward cleverly skipped inside his marker to shoot from range, only for it to be blocked behind. The Dale number nine was found with the corner too, but couldn't make a clean connection and headed wide from around eight yards out.
Two more half-chances came for the visitors before the whistle for the break too, with a dangerous cross from Keohane being dealt with by the Hull backline and the resulting corner seeing Osho's knock-down almost finding Shaugnessy before the hosts managed to scramble the ball away.
Contrary to my pre-match expectations, Dale started the second-half still very much in the game and looking to press the Hull backline more. A couple of dangerous set-pieces saw some panic in the hosts' defensive ranks without the ball ever falling for a lurking attacking player, although that was followed by a few similar moments at the opposite end, with both teams seemingly waiting for 'something to drop'.
Conor Grant, enjoying a bright showing, had Dale's next sighting at goal, showing lovely feet to turn towards goal at the corner of the penalty area. His shot was blocked, prompting some half-hearted and ultimately fruitless calls for a penalty kick.
Wilks continued to cause Keohane all kinds of problems down Dale's left and his cut-back to Greg Docherty saw another attempt blocked on the hour mark. Hull tried to turn the screw and a Honeyman through-ball was well smothered by Bazunu before the ex-Sunderland man flashed an effort well wide of the Irishman's left post.
Unfortunately, Dale's resistance was broken on 68 minutes as the Tigers put the game essentially beyond the doubt in the circumstances. A ball from the right came in and as Tom Eaves mis-connected, the ball bounced up off Osho's shin, beyond Bazunu and into the goal.
More panicky defending by Hull's defenders went unpunished from some more Dale set-pieces with a backwards header by Jacob Greaves causing keeper Matt Ingram to collide with the post, but in reality the next goal should also have been Hull's. An inviting cross almost found Wilks unmarked in the box, but the winger's slid attempt at goal didn't result in a clean connection and the ball squirmed wide.
To make matters worse, Dale saw yet another player shown a red card when Conor Shaugnessy jumped into a challenge with his studs showing and was instantly dismissed, leaving Dale with yet another player missing for upcoming games and the game completely out of reach.
Only one more chance was to come in the final minutes when Honeyman did brilliantly to keep a bouncing ball in play and turn it back to Wilks who tried to guide home only for Bazunu to claw the spinning ball away before Tom Eaves fired the rebound over the bar.
In isolation up until the red card, this was one of Dale's better performances in recent weeks. Had this game been in the earlier stages of the season, fans would have been cursing the team's luck and applauding a progressive display. Unfortunately, this isn't in isolation and the defeat means Dale have won just one of their last 15 games, failed to score in their last five and are now second bottom in the table. League Two beckons.
Gavin Bazunu - 5 - Should've done better with the first goal in particular and all the saves he did make you would expect him to.
Ryan McLaughlin - 6 - Struggled to get forward in support of Newby but didn't do too much wrong defensively.
Gabriel Osho - 6 - Unlucky with the own goal and carried the ball out of defence well on a few occasions to bring us forward.
Paul McShane - 5 - Neither goal was his fault, but struggled in playing the ball out from the back and although it's harder to tell on iFollow than in the ground he didn't feel like as much of a presence in this game.
Jimmy Keohane - 4 - Really, really struggled against one of the best players in the division in Wilks and misfired going forward.
Eoghan O'Connell - 6 - Started very brightly with some key interceptions and passes but waned as the game went on.
Aaron Morley - 5 - Standard, insipid display from him. Playing him slightly further forward didn't yield any result.
Conor Shaugnessy - 5 - Actually thought he had improved from Saturday's display until picking up a stupid red card.
Alex Newby - 6 - Looked isolated, had a few nice moments but didn't really offer much.
CONOR GRANT - 7 - The major positive of this display. Some really nice touches, looked far more comfortable out wide. Potential there.
Stephen Humphrys - 6 - You've got to feel for him, no support up there and his best chance of a goal at the moment is from a long-range potshot taking a lucky deflection.
Kwadwo Baah - 6 - The game was gone by the time he came on, didn't do much on the few occasions he had the ball.
Jim McNulty - 6 - I honestly didn't even register him having been on the pitch.
Matt Done - 6 - Was only on for a couple of minutes.
Photo: Action Images
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