Abel Hernandez helped Hull City back to the Championship as his second half penalty was enough to overcome a battling Fulham this afternoon – but the Tigers were pushed all the way at Craven Cottage.
Hull’s fifth successive victory was secured in the final ten minutes when Moses Odubajo was brought down by Lasse Vigen Christensen in front of the visiting fans. Hernandez converted the spot-kick to score his seventeenth goal of a superb season and secure a precious three points for Steve Bruce’s side but Andy Lonergan guessed the right way and will consider himself desperately unlucky not to have saved the penalty.
Lonergan did get a hand on Hernandez’s first effort of the afternoon – saving well in a one-on-one on twelve minutes after the Uruguayan striker had sprinted away from a sleeping Fulham defence. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side saw plenty of the ball but penetration of a well-drilled Hull rearguard proved more problematic. A low effort from Tom Cairney surprised Allan McGregor who pushed the shot back into danger, from where Odubajo managed to improvise a clearance ahead of the advancing Alex Kacaniklic.
The hosts kept pressing after the restart. Jamie O’Hara whistled an effort fractionally past the far post and Cairney almost broke the deadlock against his former employers when a wonderfully curling free-kick flashed wide of McGregor’s goal. The experienced Scott Parker almost came close from long range moments later as Fulham began to dominate the midfield battle. In response, Bruce hauled off the ineffectual Isaac Hayden and introduced Tom Huddlestone.
Hull’s best openings came from set plays with Harry Maguire heading a Robert Snodgrass free-kick narrowly over target. Hernandez wasted a wonderful opportunity after some excellent approach play, blazing wildly into the Putney End from just outside the box. But he redeemed himself by scoring from twelve yards after Christensen’s rush of blood had cost a battling Fulham side dear.
Hull could have increased their lead twice in the closing stages. Mohamed Diame missed a free header from a corner before seeing a curler saved by Lonergan at the death, but McGregor made a magnificent save to keep out an O’Hara free-kick from fully thirty yards in stoppage time. This was an agonising defeat for the Whites, but there are certainly signs that an inconsistent side are becoming much more competitive under Jokanovic.
FULHAM (4-5-1): Lonergan; J. Richards, Garbutt, Burn, Ream; Parker (Hyndman 77), O’Hara, Christensen (M. Smith 83), Kacaniklic (G. Williams 73′), Cairney; Dembele. Subs (not used:): Lewis, Hutchinson, Stearman, Fredericks.
BOOKED: Burn (42).
HULL CITY (4-4-1-1): McGregor; Odubajo, Maguire, Davies, Robertson; Snodgrass (A. Bruce 90), Livermore, Hayden (Huddlestone 71), Clucas; Diamé; Hernández (Elmohamady 86). Subs (not used): Jakupovic, R. Taylor, Maloney, Aluko.
BOOKED: Livermore, Hayden, Odubajo.
GOAL: Hernández (pen 80)
REFEREE: Paul Tierney (Lancashire)