Saturday’s second-half comeback against West Ham United was another ringing endorsement of Marco Silva’s home record as the Tigers showed great spirit to claim the three points. Results from relegation rivals may not have completely gone in Hull’s favour but crucially they remain in the mix. A side that’s probably lacking quality in certain departments is proving to be resourceful in its approach. Wednesday’s fixtures see the Tigers take on Middlesbrough; a side who have found goals desperately difficult to come by since the turn of 2017. Any degree of complacency and Hull can expect a Boro backlash; a poor first-half against Hammers could have easily left the home side with a difficult hill to climb. I take a look at five areas that City must focus on to claim an important win:
Grosicki the Galvaniser: The Polish winger would be the first to state that his form has been inconsistent since joining the club in January. Saturday marked a potential turning point for Kamil. Coming on as a second-half substitute, Grosicki proved to be the catalyst for a stirring comeback. Full of energy and ideas, he (inadvertently perhaps) rolled the ball into the path of Andrew Robertson who fired home. Followed on by narrowly placing a shot wide of goal, before delivering a superb cross for Andrea Ranocchia to head home the winner. The key here is that he made things happen. A long as he maintains this style of play then Hull will inevitably create opportunities against a Boro side lacking in confidence. I feel he deserves a chance to start the game and thriving on new-found confidence, he could prove to be a danger.
Keep calm and play 4-4-2: Cliches make their way into football all the time but the pundits do say it’s a simple game. Silva may have struggled with his wing-back approach in the first-half but at least he had the tactical nous to change things. Curtis Davies was sacrificed as part of the tactical changes and I don’t feel he’ll receive an immediate recall. As stated in my preview, Harry Maguire and Ranocchia depict a comfortable centre partnership. If anybody is going to join them in a back three then I would select Michael Dawson, who is a ball-playing centre-back. Hull need to remain bold against opposition that they should be confident in beating without the onset of complacency, so keeping a basic but direct formation is key.
Bombard the opposition down the wings: There’s no denying Boro have their own speeder in the ranks with Adama Traore but City seem to be creating a lot of their chances through direct wing play. During Mike Phelan’s reign the Tigers just didn’t have the personnel in their armoury to play that way. January’s reinforcements have injected more pace into the team. Maintaining a 4-4-2 will allow Grosicki & Markovic to roam more freely, without the fullbacks neglecting their duties, as Elmohamady has been guilty of on several occasions this season. With two strikers up front working together, Abel Hernandez and Oumar Niasse in particular have more than enough natural instinct to make the most of an opportunity should it come their way.
Tigers must start the game with a flourish: There’s no denying that City have been guilty of beginning some games in a sluggish manner and switching off at times. It’s something they must nip in the bud soon or such margins could prove crucial come May. Against the Hammers it didn’t cost them but inevitably it will against more clinical teams. In the reverse fixture in December at the Riverside, City were turned over in a poor 1 – 0 defeat. Although I don’t expect a similar performance tonight, the warning signs are there and in a relegation 6 pointer, the home side must be on the front-foot from the beginning.
Form at the KCOM should breathe quiet confidence: Hull’s form at home has been nothing short of impressive under Marco Silva. Taking 13 points from a possible 15 since he arrived, it could go a long way to securing their Premier League status. While Hull’s away form remains poor, the fact that Silva has helped make the KCOM a fortress in recent months makes Boro’s task all the more intimidating. Rightly so, City should go into the game full of confidence in an environment they’re clearly comfortable playing in. On a side note it’s a great for the fans too given the contrasting, early-season match-day protests. The old adage is that football matches are won on the pitch but there’s no denying that statistics like the above all help with a positive mind-set going into games like tonight’s.
By Callum Thompson