David Meyler's early strike gives Hull City valuable 1-0 win at Millwall
DAVID Meyler's goal after just 37 seconds was enough to rekindle Hull City's automatic promotion hopes as they claimed a 1-0 victory at Millwall this afternoon.
The Republic of Ireland international bagged his fourth goal of the season inside the opening minute to provide a lead that the Tigers fought gallantly to protect.
A stout defensive effort finished the job Meyler began and ensured City could toast their first league victory since beating Leeds United on December 29.
The win was much needed for Steve Bruce and his men. A run of two points from a possible nine had dented their ambitions during January, but a return to winning ways in South London clawed them back level on points with second-placed Leicester.
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Bruce's pre-match message was for no-one in a City shirt to panic and it was heeded with less than a minute on the clock as the visitors grabbed the perfect start.
An abysmal backpass from Mark Beevers failed to account for the advancing Meyler and the City midfielder showed not an ounce of worry to stroke past David Forde with ease.
City had required just 37 seconds to snatch the lead but it was almost surrendered just as quickly as it had come.
Dozy defending between the three centre-halves on the edge of the box was exploited by James Henry and drew the foul from the lunging Paul McShane. Millwall felt it was a penalty but the official awarded a free-kick on the 18-yard line. A shot straight at the wall completed City's let-off.
The game finally caught its breath but both sides would enjoy chances inside an entertaining, albeit scrappy, first half.
The Tigers, with Alex Bruce deployed in an unusual holding midfield role, were well set-up to protect their advantage and twice came close to doubling their lead.
Stephen Quinn's half-volley was inches wide of the upright, while the industrious and effective Jay Simpson shot at the legs of Forde from a tight angle.
Millwall offered threats of their own as John Marquis headed low at David Stockdale. Martyn Woolford, meanwhile, gave fleeting moments of concern when shooting both at Stockdale and wide inside a busy minute.
Frustrations began to grow for the home side into the second half, with most aimed at referee Paul Tierney, but City were relatively comfortable as the game drifted into its closing stages.
Although City defended manfully and in numbers, all of their good work was almost undone.
Robbie Brady's hesitancy on halfway allowed Millwall to counter from a City corner. Only David Stockdale was left for Henry to beat but he ballooned the chance high and wide. Not even a suspected bobble ahead of the wayward shot could spare his blushes.
Henry almost made amends with nine minutes remaining. A sweetly-struck volley was destined for the bottom corner before Stockdale pulled off an excellent low save.
City had a chance to kill off their hosts in the 88th minute when Jay Simpson broke with intent. His pull-back found Robert Koren but Forde pulled off a superb low save to deny the Tigers' captain.
Bruce's men hung on at the death and they will travel to Brighton next weekend with hopes of automatic promotion fully restored.