Having only completed a permanent move to the Tigers earlier in the day on Thursday, Wilks rewarded that faith with a goal in the first minute of added time to end a run of 13 league games without a win for Grant McCann’s men. Britt Assombalonga had put Boro ahead from the penalty spot after just three minutes, but the home side responded quickly through a Herbie Kane free-kick to level things up.
McCann named an unchanged side for the Sky Bet Championship clash at the KCOM. The only alteration to City’s 20-man squad from the 3-3 draw at Birmingham City the previous weekend was a place on the bench for Martin Samuelsen ahead of Josh Bowler.
A frantic start at the KCOM saw the Tigers fall behind after just three minutes. Jordy De Wijs brought down Hayden Coulson in the box, and Assombalonga stepped up to slot the ball into the top corner and end a 12-match goal drought in the process.
The Tigers responded quickly, though, and were back on level terms just five minutes later. Good play from Mallik Wilks won a free-kick in a dangerous position 20 yards from goal and Kane curled an absolute peach of an effort into the back of the net to score his second goal in as many games following his opening goal for the Club away at Birmingham City at the weekend.
A stop-start period followed before Middlesbrough went back on the attack, with the dangerous Patrick Roberts causing problems for the home defence. The winger first saw an effort blocked before cutting inside from the right flank and firing into the seats behind Long’s goal.
The Tigers were forced into a substitution shortly after the first drinks break of the evening when goalscorer Kane went down with an injury, which saw George Honeyman brought on into the action.
The substitute almost carved out an opportunity with his first real involvement on 35 minutes. Wilks again got the better of Marvin Johnson to win a free-kick in a dangerous position on right just outside the Boro box. Honeyman swung the ball into a good area but, after a few deflections and a goalmouth scramble, the referee blew for a free-kick to bring an end to the attack.
Another enforced changed for the hosts followed on 40 minutes. This time Callum Elder was unable to continue after receiving a blow to the head via the elbow of McNair. Kevin Stewart was brought on as his replacement, with Leonardo Da Silva Lopes filling the void left by the Australian at left-back.
Wilks was booked for a cynical foul on Coulson as Boro looked to counter in what proved to be the final action of a scrappy first half at the KCOM.
McCann made his third change of the evening at the break, with Keane Lewis-Potter introduced into the action in place of James Scott on the left, and it was the Tigers who began the brighter of the two teams after the restart. Wilks saw a low cross blocked before Lewis-Potter cut inside from the left and sent a curling effort wide of the far post.
Djed Spence hobbled off to be replaced by Lewis Wing on 52 minutes before Coulson was off target with a glancing header from Jonny Howson’s right-wing cross and only a brave defensive header from de Wijs prevented George Saville’s goal-bound effort from testing Long.
Roberts made way for Marcus Tavernier as Middlesbrough made their second change of the evening on 62 minutes. Another scrappy period of play followed, although Tavernier did come close to restoring Boro’s lead when whipping a well-struck effort narrowly wide of Long’s right-hand post.
Both sides made changes in the final third in an attempt to find an all-important winner. Ashley Fletcher replaced Assombalonga for the visitors, before McCann made a double switch – with his final substitutions of the game – introducing Jon Toral and Tom Eaves into the action in place of Batty and Magennis.
Toral was quick to try and impose himself on the game, running into open space and at the heart of the Boro defence, playing it wide to Lewis-Potter. However, the youngster saw his progress halted by Howson in the box and Boro managed to clear the danger.
It seemed like the points were destined to be shared at the KCOM, that was until a de Wijs knockdown from a high ball into the box found Wilks, who slotted home from close-range to secure all three points.
Hull City: George Long, Jordy de Wijs, Reece Burke, Dan Batty (Jon Toral 82), Matt Pennington, Callum Elder (Kevin Stewart 40), Josh Magennis (Tom Eaves 82), Leo Da Silva Lopes, Herbie Kane (George Honeyman 27), Mallik Wilks, James Scott.
Subs Not Used: Matt Ingram, Ryan Tafazolli, Angis MacDonald, Martin Samuelsen.
Middlesbrough:Dejan Stojanovic, George Friend, Dael Fry, Britt Assombalonga (Ashley Fletcher 79), Jonny Howson, Paddy McNair, Patrick Roberts (Marcus Tavernier 62), Marvin Johnson, George Saville, Djed Spence (Lewis Wing 52), Hayden Coulson.
Subs Not Used: Aynsley Pears, Ryan Shotton, Adam Clayton, Ravel Morrison, Harold Moukoudi, Lukas Nmecha.