Hull City 2 Fulham 1 reaction: Tigers continue to set the pace in the Championship after nervy win

Hull City 2 Fulham 1: Ahmed Elmohamady and Sone Aluko fire Tigers to second win of the season

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The Independent Football

Steve Bruce, the Hull City boss, is experienced enough to know that it’s always in a manager’s best interests to create the impression that he has a mountain to climb.

Often heard bemoaning summer departures, the 54-year-old will be all the more appreciated in East Yorkshire should he eventually restrict the Tigers’ confinement in the Championship to one season.

In an intriguing phenomenon north of the Humber Bridge, the former Sunderland boss has expertly managed to dodge the sort of scrutiny often afforded to managers who suffer relegation.

Following a decent, if unremarkable, return to life in the second tier, picking up four points from their opening two outings, Sone Aluko handed Hull a narrow victory over Fulham after Ahmed Elmohamady's first half header had been cancelled out by Tom Cairney.

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Steve Bruce watches on as Hull City return to the Championship

Across his 17 years in management – which has included spells at Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic – the Tigers boss has been forced to swallow the bitter pill of relegation three times.

Often the underdog, Bruce can be forgiven for harbouring a sense of injustice after a succession of injuries and off-field disquiet disrupted the seemingly unstoppable upward trajectory of his tenure at the KC Stadium.

When asked by reporters at his weekly media briefing for his thoughts on the offside decisions which cost Bournemouth so dearly against Liverpool on Monday night, the phlegmatic boss replied: “Welcome to the Premier League.”

While it would be incorrect to say he bristled at the mention of the top flight, it’s clear that Bruce considers himself to have unfinished business in a division which continues to toss him out to the wolves.

Tom Huddleston, Michael Dawson and Nikica Jelavic et all, too, are undoubtedly keen to ensure their stay among the likes of Rotherham United and MK Dons in the second tier is a short one.

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Michael Dawson will be invaluable to Hull this season

Allan McGregor, however, was given a lesson as harsh as it was timely into the trials and tribulations of Championship life last week. The Scotland goalkeeper, who has 33 caps to his name, is one of the wise heads who Bruce will be relying heavily on this term.

Despite an almost comical mishap at Molineux last weekend, leading to James Henry’s equaliser during a 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers, the 33-year-old represents one of the reasons why Hull are among the most fancied sides for promotion.

Some Hull supporters may point to McGregor as the culprit for Fulham's 69th minute equaliser as former Tigers midfielder Cairney benefited from his indecision to drive home from distance in front of the modest visiting contingent.

So long as the former Rangers man can prevent this bout of early-season indigestion from becoming a symptom of something more serious, though, he will surely maintain his status as their first choice shotstopper.

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Kit Symons, the Fulham manager, knows all too well how tough life in the Championship can be

The visit of Fulham, who suffered relegation in 2013/14, presented the Tigers with an opportunity to climb to the summit of the Championship table and to subsequently continue blowing away any cobwebs left behind from a turbulent pre-season.

Whatever Bruce may say to the contrary, the squad at his disposal look ready to mount a challenge for the top two spots rather than merely settling for a play-off berth.

"If we've got what we've got now then I'm very, very confident we'll mount a challenge," he said at full-time.

"If we lose another four or five then we're goosed, that's my fear. That's being brutally honest and that's what we need to guard against."

His response to the recent upheaval was to sprinkle his squad with youth, adding Sam Clucas from Chesterfield before loaning Isaac Hayden and the impressive Chuba Akpom from Arsenal. Moses Odubajo, a £3.5m capture from Brentford, completes the enigmatic foursome.

But it was a member of the old guard who put them ahead as Elmohamady, one of just three starters to remain from the promotion-winning campaign of 2013, opened the scoring.

 

A smart cross from the left channel by Andy Robertson, a menace throughout, was duly nodded home by the Egyptian just after the half-hour mark.

Despite rattling the woodwork on two separate occasions, through Curtis Davies and Abel Hernandez, the hosts were unable to double their advantage and ease the tension.

Cairney, who Bruce offloaded in 2013 despite his stellar efforts during the earlier promotion-winning campaign, returned to haunt his former boss by firing past a dumbfounded McGregor to set-up a grandstand finish.

But the lead was invariably restored through another remnant of Bruce's first season at the club, as Aluko slid a shot past Andy Lonergan with four minutes to spare. The Championship is nothing if not frantic but Hull continue to set the pace.

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