The Imps progressed to the EFL Trophy semi-final this evening, and in doing so found a level of redemption from Saturday’s penalty misery against Doncaster.
Both teams made changes from their games at the weekend, but still looked very strong on paper. City welcomed back Lewis Montsma, Harry Anderson and James Jones, whilst Brennan Johnson started through the centre with Howarth coming into the midfield.
Even as the early pictures from the ground came across, it was clear the game wasn’t going to be the fine advert for League One teams we hoped to get. The torrential rain was casing huge puddles to gather on the pitch, with the goalmouth area looking particularly treacherous.
It took a while to get the game underway, with a minute’s silence for Captain Sir Tom Moore, who passed away today. Eerily, when the whistle blew to end the minutes silence, it continued in the absence of a crowd. The players then took the knee too, as the rain kept coming down in bucketloads.
There was little to shout about in the opening five minutes, with the first chance of the game bringing the first goal. Anthony Scully shifted to his right in the wide position to buy an inch, delivered a cross, and Harry Anderson netted on his return to the side. Anderson timed his run into the area perfectly and got on the blind side of Reece Burke to give the Imps the lead.
The game was both entertaining and a little scrappy at the same time. It is clear to see why Hull are doing well, Keane Lewis-Potter, in particular, looked a real danger, as did Callum Elder. The latter delivered a cute cross into the box on nine minutes, but it bounced in front of the six-yard box and away for a City throw.
Greg Doherty, a former Rangers midfielder, made the first real chance for Hull a minute later. Again, a nice move down the attacking left saw him cut inside and curl and effort over the crossbar and into the empty stands. Hull were beginning to find some good possession, but it was the Imps who narrowly missed out on doubling the lead on the 15-minute mark.
Edun, looking as lively as ever on the left, knocked a nice ball into Johnson, who played it back out of the area to James Jones. Just as he did in the League Cup against Bradford, he looked up and launched a drive at goal, this time narrowly bouncing past the post.
Dan Crowley was the one player who looked very creative, and he fired wide after some neat build up play after 24 minutes. Often, the passages of play seemed stunted and slow because of the pitch, and Hull were certainly handling it better. As the half progressed, City seemed to be penned in, without any serious danger. One shot Hull did manage on target came from Elder, but his mishit ball may have been an attempted cross. Either way, Palmer gathered with ease.
If Hull were going to get a breakthrough, it looked like it might come for Lewis-Potter, who really impressed me. He stripped Joe Walsh for pace in the right channel on 25 minutes, but was forced wide in doing so and his effort was palmed clear by Palmer from a tight angle.
The Imps next chance came from a quick break, all through Johnson. He dispossessed Burke in our defensive half, then stripped the centre back bare for pace as he strode into the area with only the keeper to beat. Sadly, the pitch got the better of him and what should have been a routine touch flew off his boot on the wet surface like a pass, with Matt ingram advancing and dealing with ease.
Despite the increasing pressure, Hull only managed one more decent effort in the first half. Crowley’s whipped free kick beat everyone except Lewis-Potter at the far post, but it bounces nastily up on the wet turf and all the youngster could do was lift his effort high and wide.
The quality began to break down in the final 15 minutes, with the Imps passing game clearly hindered by the heavy pitch. In places, the ball stuck, but where the surface was only wet rather than boggy, the ball fizzed at pace. It made the game very unpredictable, but it couldn’t be to blame for our final missed chance of the half on 42 minutes. City got a free kick 25 yards out, almost in line with the edge of the box, but Grant’s delivery was awful and a low diving header cleared the danger.
Whilst City took a lead into the break, it wasn’t a fair reflection of a first half of which Hull deserved to be at least level, and it felt with the pitch cutting up badly, it probably wouldn’t be the last of the scoring.