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First Team

Opposition View: Hull City

Rob Staton of BBC Look North previews tomorrow's action

14 December 2018

Owing to a difficult start, Hull have been encamped in the bottom half of the table, though recent improvements have seen them exit them bottom three. How would you sum up the season so far?

I think it was unsettled at the start. They weren’t very active in the transfer market, they lost a lot of players over the summer and it meant that they needed a bit of time at the start of the year to settle down. But I think you’ve got to give Nigel Adkins a lot of credit because that was a difficult summer and he’s brought everybody together, the players are on board; they’ve got a style of play, they’ve been able to beat teams like West Brom in a game they played very well in and they’ve gone to QPR and won, too. Things are very much starting to look up now, so I think they’ve settled down after a tough summer and the club seems to be moving in the right direction on the pitch.

The form away from home has dramatically improved in recent months and Nigel Adkins’ men are now on a four-match unbeaten run – why do you think this is?

They’ve become tougher to beat. They’ve got a very solid defensive look to them; people like Tommy Elphick have come in and had a real impact, Jordy De Wijs has made a couple of mistakes but I think he’s settled into English football. Reece Burke was a good signing, they’ve got a very experienced goalkeeper and I think Dan Batty, the young lad who plays just in front of the back four has done a very good job. So, I think they have just generally become tougher to beat.

They’ve still got players at the other end of the table that can cause a threat, like Kamil Grosicki, Jarrod Bowen and Fraizer Campbell. I think they’ve just become a rounded team; I think in the past they were trying to work out who they were and trying to work out what the best team was but I think they’ve just really settled down now and become a really resolute bunch. 

Based on Hull’s recent history, following relegation, they’ve tended to consolidate in the Championship one season and then launch a promotion bid the following. That looks unlikely this term, so what can they realistically strive for?

It’s changed very quickly because I think if you’d have asked that a couple of months ago, people would have said fourth from bottom would be a decent target for them because they were really struggling. But now you look at the situation and you are thinking that it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that, if they show enough consistency, they could push up towards mid-table and I think that’s realistic. You look at QPR and Preston who struggled early and they have moved in that direction, so I think City should be targeting that.

I don’t know whether they can do what Millwall did last year, for example, and go from the position they are in now to flirting with the play-offs, that might be a stretch too far. But certainly mid-table could be a target for them and it’s not beyond them either – I think they’ve got the talent in the squad, I think the manager has done a really good job there.

Who has been the most impressive player so far this season?

It’s a good question, that, because there’s quite a few that you can single out. I think Dan Batty has been a pillar of consistency and, having come into the side at a difficult time, I think he deserves a lot of credit. I think that Elphick – apart from the Birmingham game at St Andrew’s – has just been a vital signing, having really solidified things at the back and with Eric Lichaj, you know you are going to get a 10/10 from him every week.

Jarrod Bowen has had some moments and Fraizer Campbell has got some goals but if I was going to pick one, I’d probably say Dan Batty just because it’s a difficult job to come in there and screen the defence, break play up and try to get the likes of Jackson Irvine into the game.

What will the Tigers be looking to add to the squad in the January transfer market, if anything?

The problem they’ve got is that there’s a lot of talk about takeovers. There’s no real knowledge about if that’s going to be done and if it gets done, the budget might be different – it might be better, it might be worse, you just don’t know. I think he’d probably like another midfielder; someone who can play the ball in that area might be something that he looks at. He may well look for another striker or even another defender. They’ve not got the biggest squad so depth, overall, could be good but I think if there was one position, I think he’ll be looking at boosting the midfield for the new year.

How is Nigel Adkins likely to set up his side at the KCOM?

It’s changed a bit depending on who they play but they’ve got a few injuries so the likes of Jordy De Wijs, Reece Burke and Eric Lichaj are big doubts. They’ve not been ruled out completely but they are big doubts for tomorrow’s game. If everybody was fit, you’d probably say they’d have Burke, Elphick, De Wijs and Lichaj at the back, and then they’d have Batty in the middle with Irvine and Marcus Henriksen the captain. They’d probably have Grosicki and Bowen playing off Campbell and Marshall in goal. That’s if everybody is fit, but whether or not those doubtful players feature, I don’t know.

The best thing you could stay about their style of play is that they’ll try to shift the ball to Grosicki and Bowen. They like to pass and play, but they aren’t a team that passes for the sake of it and you won’t see a lot of wasted passes at the back. They do like to get it forward but they aren’t a direct team. If Chris Martin plays, he offers a different dynamic and they can play it up to him a little bit more.

What’s your score prediction for the game?

It’s tough because, usually when you ask me this, I’ve gone the way of Brentford. I really like them and the way that they play but they are on a bit of a tough run at the moment and City have improved. I apologise to the people who are going to read this but I’m going to go for a 2-1 City win.

Tickets will be available from the Pitch Side Bar, situated next to turnstiles 1-5 on the East Side of the Ground for those that want to pay on the day.

All duplicates and collections can be collected from the Ticket Zone from 1.00pm. The Pitch Side Bar for sales on the day also opens at 1.00pm.

North Stand £18

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