22 May 2024

Never-say-die Tigers take play-off chase to final day

By William Young, To Hull and Back Podcast

Hull City took their chase for a Championship play-off place to the final day as they drew with Ipswich Town, who themselves are battling for promotion, in a pulsating 3-3 draw on Saturday night at the MKM Stadium.

A total of 24,298 fans of both sides packed into City’s home ground and created an atmosphere that hadn’t been seen or heard in many a year around these parts, and the players certainly made sure to match it with one of the best games seen around these parts too.

City needed a point to at least keep themselves in the play-off chase, after West Bromwich Albion and Norwich faltered earlier in the day, while Ipswich wanted the win to overtake Leeds United and put themselves in pole position for a place in the Premier League.

While the Tigers, clad in their all-amber away kit in a change of tack, started bright, the Tractor Boys, maybe unsurprisingly, soon showed why they’re on the brink of an automatic spot, as captain Sam Morsy took aim from range early on to test Ryan Allsop, but he was equal to it.

That pressure finally did come good just before the 20th minute, as a cross from Wes Burns was missed by Tyler Morton and fell to George Hirst, in his first appearance since Boxing Day, who slotted home from close range. First blood to the visitors, and their fans in the north-east corner of the ground went berserk.

However, where in previous games this season, the City faithful may have gone quiet, this was not a night for that, and they quickly resumed the immense cacophony of noise to push the team on. And Fabio Carvalho nearly responded, as he had a curling effort go just wide.

Conor Chaplin saw a shot deflect over for the visitors, before Massimo Luongo would send one wide. At the other end, Jaden Philogene blazed a strike on the volley well over the bar, but City kept pushing, and with five minutes left until the break, they finally struck, to the delight of the City faithful.

Ipswich’s keeper Václav Hladký played a poor pass out to Morsy, and, just like against QPR a couple of weeks earlier, Jean Michaël Seri stole the ball from the defender, before squaring it to an open Ozan Tufan, who duly obliged and curled the ball into the roof of the net – and the home fans duly blew the roof off of the stadium in response.

Unfortunately, though, City would let the visitors back in front just before the break, as Omari Hutchinson cut inside and struck a beautiful curling effort into the top corner, Allsop having no chance to save it. It felt like a knife in the heart, but seeing Liam Delap warming up during the break soon brought confidence back into those in attendance.

And, in replacing Morton, he soon was in the thick of it, as he played Philogene out wide, and his cross was headed over from close range. A couple of minutes later, the same happened again, as a corner caused mayhem in Ipswich’s box before Tufan again headed over.

But, with chances at both ends, it wouldn’t take long for another goal to be scored, and it would be the Tigers getting back in it, as Abdüş Ömür played Carvalho in. He drilled a cross perfectly to Delap, who poked the ball home. Cue pandemonium once again around the ground.

Ipswich again went on the offensive, as Morsy hit the bar on a crossed free kick, before Kieffer Moore forced Allsop into another solid save, but sadly City would be broken yet again soon after, as Hutchinson scored a carbon copy of his first goal, curling in from range once more to put Ipswich back in front for the third time. It felt like that finally might’ve been the death blow, but the City players and fans were not going to go down without fighting.

Noah Ohio, fresh off the bench, forced Hladký into a good save, before Ipswich had a golden chance to kill the game as the Tigers were caught on the break, leaving Jeremy Sarmiento one-on-one with Allsop, but the City man yet again pulled off a great save to keep hopes alive.

And soon after, it was a good thing he had done so. With three minutes left, Philogene was fouled out wide on the right. Carvalho played a deep cross to the far post, which was headed by Matty Jacob. Hladký parried his effort into the middle of the box, where Ohio was waiting, and he duly fired a rebound in off the crossbar, causing absolute mayhem across the ground and creating one of the loudest noises I’m pretty certain ever heard at the MKM Stadium.

But that would not be the end of the drama, as deep into stoppage time, Hutchinson made a run forward, forcing Allsop into another save. The ball then fell to Sarmiento a couple of yards out, only for him to be denied by a superb block by Alfie Jones, before yet another rebound from Morsy was superbly blocked by Jacob Greaves – showing just how much the team were willing to put into the game at the death to keep the season alive.

The full-time whistle blew on an incredible footballing contest – both sides, fans and players alike, taking in the adulation following what will likely go down as an all-time classic at the MKM Stadium.

It was a fantastic fighting performance from the Tigers, full of passion and determination, coming from behind three times, showing their never-say-die attitude at the most crucial stage of the season.

All this means that, come Saturday, May 4, City will need to beat Plymouth Argyle, and hope that Preston North End beat West Brom.

Any other permutation either requires a miracle, or will see City finish in seventh place. Whatever happens, Liam Rosenior and his team have done themselves proud, and have given everyone a reason to believe, not just in the play-off chase, but in a positive future ahead.