Norwich City this afternoon looked the proverbial gift horse in the mouth and duly walked away from the KC Stadium, Hull, with nothing to show for their untidy efforts as a ten-man Hull City held out for a 1-0 win.
A goal to the good following a first-half penalty from Robbie Brady, a moment of madness from Yannick Sagbo in the 27th minute gave Chris Hughton’s expensively-assembled men 70 minutes to break the Tigers down courtesy of that one man advantage and prise at least a point out of their first Premier League away day of the new season.
In the event, however, the Canaries never really unduly troubled the home side courtesy of a fitful, sloppy display littered with unforced errors and poor decision-making.
By the end of the contest, City were virtually camped in the Hull half but bar a sharp save from a Ricky van Wolfswinkel header, keeper Allan McGregor barely had a save of note to make as Norwich huffed and puffed with little effect.
The more they tried – and failed – the more their frustration grew; six minutes of added on time almost let substitute Wes Hoolahan in; equally it almost saw Hull double their advantage as they countered with spirit and determination.
It wasn’t what the travelling Faithful would have been hoping once Sagbo had seen red so early.
With Hughton unable to call on both skipper Sebastien Bassong and Gary Hooper – coupled to the long-term injury blow for Elliott Bennett – so those that shone against Everton last week were given another opportunity to impress.
An opportunity that Nathan Redmond, in particular, initially took up with relish as he tore into the Tigers back four from the outset and would force keeper McGregor into a sharp save on the ten minute mark.
By when Dutch Under-21 international Leroy Fer – handed his debut ahead of Hoolahan – had already demonstrated his potent, attacking threat by using all of his 6ft 1in frame to meet a fourth-minute Steven Whittaker cross at the far post only for him firm, downward header to rear up and wide of McGregor’s right upright.
The home side were not without their moments in a bright and open starting spell; Jake Livermore sweeping a decent effort just over John Ruddy’s bar as Hull began to hit their stride.
And earned less than their due reward in the 20th minute with a penalty as Sone Aluko and Michael Turner tangled beneath a hopeful, long cross from Ahmed Elmohamady. The ball would sail high over the pair of them, but somewhere in said tangle of arms and elbows, officialdom saw a foul.
Brady would convert with grateful ease as Norwich’s best-laid plans fell foul of six of one and half a dozen of the other; either way, it was hardly the dream return for ex-Tigers star Turner.
Whether or not referee Mike Jones felt he had to even the decisions up, come the 27th minute mark and Hull were a goal up and a man down after Sagbo was deemed to have aimed a head-butt at van Wolfswinkel on the edge of his own penalty area and was duly shown a straight red.
A gift horse had just been delivered to the visitors as Hull faced up to the prospect of playing the final hour of the contest with a one-man disadvantage. If Norwich were to prise at least a point out of their unexpected good fortune, however, they would have to tidy their game up. It was all-too sloppy for many a liking.
Alternatively, City could just give the ball more often to Master Redmond. The teenager was on it; carving big in-roads into the Tigers’ defence every time the opportunity arose until his legs and his decision-making tired after the interval.
Come said break and Hughton was of a mind to open the game out and sacrifice the defensive attributes of a Bradley Johnson for the greater attacking threat posed by a Robert Snodgrass. As ever against ten men, patience would be at a premium.
As would keeping mistakes to a minimum.
Jonny Howson would twice chance his arm from distance as Norwich slowly started to turn the screw; helped by Howson being pushed into a more central role by Snodgrass’ arrival.
The second change of the afternoon arrived in the 65th minute as Johan Elmander made his debut at the expense of the misfiring Tettey; Norwich were going more direct in a more traditional formation.
Van Wolfswinkel was finally handed a sight of the Hull goal on the 67th minute; his sharp header off an inviting Javier Garrido cross forcing McGregor into an equally sharp save.
And that was about as good as it got as City’s final ball proved as ill-considered and ill-hit as all-too much of their movement. There wasn’t a man amongst them that didn’t give away a sloppy pass or fail to take advantage of a half-decent position.
Room for considerable improvement would be the polite way of putting it. Chance lost.