Hull City held to a goalless draw at Grimsby Town
HULL City’s pursuit of a third friendly win in five nights met a frustrating conclusion as Grimsby Town held their Humber rivals to a goalless draw.
Eight goals had come in victories over North Ferriby United and Winterton Rangers earlier in the week, but the Tigers rarely looked like continuing their free-scoring start to pre-season last night.
Robert Koren’s shot against the Grimsby crossbar was as close as either side came to a goal late in the first half as the Slovenian gave a reassuring show of his quality and commitment.
In a week where manager Steve Bruce accepted he is “powerless” to hold on to Koren should a £500,000 bid trigger a buy-out clause in his contract, the Tigers’ playmaker fully warranted his night wearing the captain’s armband.
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Koren was as good as anything on the pitch. Cool and cultured, there was not even the slightest hint that a summer of speculation has chipped away at his focus.
A game of few chances will perhaps be best remembered for the debut of £2.6m striker Nick Proschwitz.
Introduced to English football as a 73rd- minute substitute, the Tigers’ new attacking hope met his appreciative new followers but could not find the moment to mark his bow with a goal.
Despite the optimism generated by this week’s advances in the transfer market, Bruce was forced to select from a badly depleted squad. As well as the continued absence of Jack Hobbs and Liam Rosenior, City’s ranks were trimmed further by minor knocks to Andy Dawson, Corry Evans, Paul McKenna, Matty Fryatt and Seyi Olofinjana.
Opportunity knocked for several first-team hopefuls – most notably Paul McShane, Jamie Devitt and Jay Simpson – but City found a host unwilling to offer an easy pre-season ride.
The Tigers started as much the better side with Koren orchestrating their best football from an uncharacteristically deep-sitting midfield role.
The Slovenian almost delivered the opening goal after just three minutes.
A lay-off from Devitt presented an invitation to shoot but his low right-foot drive was narrowly wide of the Grimsby goal. Unperturbed, Koren turned provider soon after when slipping a pass into the feet of Simpson.
A neat turn engineered the in-form striker a half-chance but he could only direct his effort into the side netting.
City’s bright start fizzled out as the first half wore on.
A high tempo will have pleased Bruce but the Tigers’ ball retention left room for improvement.
Grimsby, who will embark on their third season in the Conference next month, enjoyed a decent spell midway through the half.
A header from Andy Cook was as good as it got but Eldin Jakupovic saved comfortably in front of a boisterous gathering of away supporters.
The surprise arrival of Rosenior, sidelined for up to four weeks with an Achilles problem, in the away end offered an overdue cause for applause but City at least were able to finish the half strongly, again thanks to Koren.
Devitt and Simpson had both unsuccessfully tried their luck from distance before City’s playmaker showed the quality that was needed.
Collecting possession 25 yards from the Grimsby goal, Koren fired a crisp drive that deflected off the top of the crossbar.
Had it gone in, it would have been a goal befitting a far greater occasion.
Liam Cooper joined Koren in threatening just before the break but the centre-half’s near-post header whistled narrowly over.
City continued to produce the more enterprising football after the break and spurned their best chance of the game as the hour mark approached.
A defence-splitting pass from Aaron Mclean was perfectly weighted for strike partner Simpson, but as he chipped the ball over the grounded Greg Fleming, a lack of conviction allowed Ian Miller to clear comfortably.
For all their superiority, City almost fell behind with 20 minutes remaining.
A right-wing corner was met by a towering header from Greg Pearson and only a goal-line clearance from Tom Cairney spared the Tigers.
Proschwitz, City’s most expensive recruit for three years, eventually emerged off the bench in the 73rd minute and late adventure almost paid off when Simpson’s hold-up play in the area created space for Koren to shoot over from 10 yards out.
Jakupovic gave City a fleeting moment for concern in the fixture’s dying embers.
Flapping at a cross, not for the first time in pre-season, he was bailed out by his defenders clearing the Grimsby danger.
There would be no breakthrough for either side, though, as City relinquished their 100 per cent record in pre-season on the Cleethorpes coast.
Seven days of rest stand between the Tigers and their next pre-season game at Rochdale, but Bruce will be hoping his ranks have been significantly bolstered.