Hull City 1
Just a few months ago, two divisions separated Argyle and Hull City. The only difference on Saturday was an early goal from Hakeeb Adelakun.
Despite falling behind to a side looking to extend their 100% start to the Sky Bet League One season, the Pilgrims retained their composure through a testing first half against a side packed with Championship experience.
After the break, Argyle were relentless in their pursuit of a leveller, battering the Tigers into virtual submission, but the equalising goal refused to arrive.
Argyle boss Ryan Lowe made three changes from the 1-1 draw at home to Shrewsbury last weekend, handing a debut to Jerome Opoku following his loan move from Fulham, with George Cooper dropping down to the bench.
Lewis Macleod is still nursing the knee problem that forced him off early against the Shrews, meaning a start in the engine room for Panutche Camara and Ryan Hardie was preferred to Dom Telford in attack.
There was also some shuffling around on the Pilgrim bench, where Klaidi Lolos, Brandon Pursall and Adam Randell, who has joined Torquay United on loan, made way. Ben Reeves was given his first squad outing, new loan signing Tyrese Fornah was also among the replacements and Will Aimson made his return after isolation from a positive Covid test.
Hull City manager Grant McCann opted for just one change to the side that secured a 2-0 victory at Northampton seven days, a third straight success in the league for the Tigers, promoting Daniel Batty to the midfield ahead of Alfie Jones.
It was a first visit to the KCOM Stadium in 13 years for the Pilgrims, a happy recent memory when goals from David Norris, Rory Fallon and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake secured a 3-2 Championship triumph in the August sunshine.
In a very different era, and far gloomier weather, Argyle started the game full of confidence and a positive early combination between Hardie and Frank Nouble was only just thwarted by a lunging recovery tackle by Batty as the Greens threatened a break into the penalty area.
A customary jinking run inside from Danny Mayor led to a shot headed clear by Reece Burke and the impressive opening continued with a sustained period of Pilgrim possession, but disaster then struck on the counter.
Hull won the ball in midfield and a swift pass released Keane Lewis-Potter on the left wing. The cross was instant and measured perfectly for the far-post run of Adelakun, who neatly controlled a volley back across the scrambling Mike Cooper and into the corner of Argyle’s net.
The Tigers were suddenly looking very sprightly in attack and a second strike from Adelakun was well blocked by Niall Canavan before it could continue its journey toward the same corner found moments earlier.
Argyle responded with a wonderful sweeping move through the midfield and Mayor picked up a pocket of space to feed the ball wide for Opoku, who steered a low cross to the near post and Hardie was only just pipped in the race by a retreating Burke, clearing the danger in emphatic fashion.
Cooper warmed his hands with a comfortable save to deny an ambitious effort from Lewis-Potter but the Pilgrims were still giving more than their fair share as an attacking force, with Camara particularly prominent in the midfield battle.
Lewis-Potter forced another save from Cooper on 21 minutes but Argyle were generally edging the territorial scrap, without testing Hull’s former Wycombe custodian Matt Ingram. The Tigers, on the other hand, were trying their luck from anywhere, with Greg Docherty’s long-ranger easily snaffled by Cooper.
A sharp spell from the Tigers around the half-hour required some disciplined defending from the Greens, with Lewis-Potter sneaking behind for a cross that was marshalled away from danger by Canavan and Scott Wootton.
The game descended into a scrappy affair as it approached half-time, with Canavan producing some excellent positional work to snuff out the danger from a cross by Adelakun, while Nouble was enjoying a strong afternoon of hold-up play in an Argyle attack just missing the reward of a clear-cut chance.
The Pilgrims increased their probing tempo just before the interval and Conor Grant very nearly added to his collection of superb early-season goals, rifling a sweetly-struck 25-yard drive narrowly over.
Cooper underlined a tight first period with solid handling after a Wootton challenge had skewed goalward. Although a goal behind, Argyle had shown more than enough to enter the second half full of belief.
The fightback plan begun with willing runs into the channel from Hardie earning a corner delivered by Grant but the Tigers cleared the danger, and responded with a cross from Lewis-Potter on the break, met by the towering head of Canavan.
A crisp passing move from Hull had Argyle briefly on the retreat and a covering block from Kelland Watts prevented the ball reaching the run of Josh Magennis. The subsequent corner was delayed by a disagreement between Canavan and Jordy de Wijs, with the eventual set-piece cleared by Opoku.
It was the final act for Opoku, withdrawn for the fresh legs of George Cooper on the hour, although Argyle’s next foray came down the opposite flank, where the strength of Nouble created room for a Byron Moore cross cleared at the near post by de Wijs.
A fine challenge from Camara in the midfield then allowed Mayor to embark on a surging break and his cross was cleared to the edge of the box, where Camara had continued his run, but the shot spooned high on to the KCOM roof.
The Greens were increasingly pushing their hosts back into defensive mode and a low corner from Cooper led to their best chance on 68 minutes. The initial shot from Watts was charged down but he instantly rifled the rebound through the crowd and Ingram just about kept the ball out.
Hull tried to relieve the pressure with a weaving run from George Honeyman and his low cross was turned in by Lewis-Potter but the offside flag came to Argyle’s rescue. Mayor instantly turned defence into attack and his threaded pass found Nouble, who was bundled over in the box, only for polite penalty enquiries to be waved away by referee Robert Lewis.
Austrian winger Thomas Mayer replaced Adelakun on 73 minutes for Hull, quickly followed by a double Pilgrim change, with Hardie and Grant removed for Telford and debutant Reeves, while Regan Slater came on for Batty in the home midfield.
A brilliant move involving Cooper and Mayor scythed through the Hull defence as the game became more stretched, but credit to Burke for a brave block on the Argyle substitute just as he shaped to shoot.
Camara then powered through the midfield, fed a pass to Moore for a low cross cleared by an increasingly desperate Hull backline. Argyle were all over their hosts and Cooper was causing mayhem with his slick passing alongside the searching runs of Mayor and Nouble.
Hull sought to change the dynamic by introducing Martin Samuelson for Lewis-Potter, but the Green bombardment continued with a cross from Moore seeking Telford, who was denied a clear effort on goal by responsible covering from Burke.
The Pilgrims continued piling forward until the final second, including a shot from Cooper held by Ingram, but Hull held on for the win, just.
Hull City (4-3-3): 13 Matt Ingram; 12 Josh Emmanuel, 5 Reece Burke, 4 Jordy de Wijs, 3 Callum Elder; 8 Daniel Batty (18 Regan Slater 76), 10 George Honeyman (capt), 33 Greg Docherty; 16 Hakeeb Adelakun (22 Thomas Mayer 73), 27 Josh Magennis, 19 Keane Lewis-Potter (14 Martin Samuelsen 88). Substitutes (not used): 1 George Long (GK), 2 Lewie Coyle, 15 Alfie Jones, 34 Callum Jones.
Argyle (3-5-2): 1 Mike Cooper; 5 Scott Wootton, 6 Niall Canavan (capt), 2 Kelland Watts; 17 Byron Moore, 15 Conor Grant (14 Ben Reeves 76), 28 Panutche Camara, 10 Danny Mayor, 24 Jerome Opoku (32 George Cooper 59); 7 Frank Nouble, 9 Ryan Hardie (11 Dom Telford 76). Substitutes (not used): 26 Jack Ruddy (GK), 4 Will Aimson, 8 Joe Edwards, 18 Tyrese Fornah.
Booked: Opoku 57
Referee: Robert Lewis