Club Focus – Hull City – Hull battle to avoid relegation

It was a case of same old, same old for Hull City on Saturday. The same old being the same old defensive mistakes. Mistakes that have present throughout the season and have regularly cost Hull dearly as their horrendous away form continues.

Stoke City’s home form always meant that it would be hard for the visitors to come away from the Britannia with anything which is exactly what they needed in their fight against Premier League relegation. A point would have been as good as a win for Ian Dowie’s men but that result was cast into doubt early on. Ricardo Fuller’s open summed up Hull City’s defensive performances this season. A long ball flicked on that should have been dealt with by Paul McShane but the Republic of Ireland centre back failed to deal with the threat and Fuller raced away and finished to give the Potters the lead inside the opening ten minutes. Much to the dismay of the traveling Tigers’ fans, young American Jozy Altidore was left on the bench as Caleb Folan started up front alongside Craig Fagan. Folan returned to the starting line up after returning from injury following an impressive return to first team action at Portsmouth were he scored a brace. To drop Altidore after his display in the win over Fulham the week before was somewhat baffling for the majority of the Hull fans. The supporters relationship with Folan is unique and few are impressed with the lanky strikers work rate or performances. Yet the former Wigan forward must have done something to catch Dowie’s eye during training as he was thrust back into the attacking line.

Perhaps the decision could have been a master stroke as it had appeared to be at Fratton park but it was not to be. Hull, along with Folan failed to make an impact throughout the match. Altidore made a little more headway when he eventually made an appearance off the bench but the Stoke goal was rarely tested. More problems ensued for Dowie when Hull were reduced to 10 men. Not for foul play but for brave play in fact. George Boateng appeared to be knocked unconscious after a last ditch headed clearance was met with Tuncay’s boot as the Turk attempted a spectacular over head kick. With no more substitutes remaining, Boateng could not be replaced as the Dutchman left the ground in an ambulance. Stoke made the extra man advantage count when Liam Lawrence struck late on to condemn the Tiger’s to yet another defeat away from home. It could be home that now decides the Yorkshire clubs fate with four of their next six fixtures at the KC stadium. West Ham’s draw with Everton did not help Hull, however, their fate remains in their own hands as they still have a game in hand. Pessimism surrounds the KC stadium following Saturdays defeat but a win over fellow relegation contenders Burnley this weekend would go far to lifting the spirits of the fans and restore some belief that avoiding relegation is still possible.

The absence of Stephen Hunt has been a major factor over the last month or so, the Irish midfielder has been missing from action with an unknown foot injury. Hull have missed the diminutive wingers pace and aggression on the left side of the park and Deam Marney has yet to prove himself as a worthy replacement. Hunt could return to the fray in time for the weekends clash with the Clarets although nothing has been confirmed as specialists continue to try and get to the bottom of the reoccurring injury. Boateng injury at Stoke could see him miss the game ahead with Seyi Olifinjana the likely replacement. The Nigerian became a fans favorite after the midfielders superb long range strike against Stoke earlier in the season. The 29-year-old joined Hull from the Potters in the summer transfer window for a fee of £3 million, but after an impressive start to life in East Yorkshire an injury hampered his appearances. He was then called up to the Nigeria squad for the Africa cup of Nations but rarely featured.

Many fans have called for forgotten man Kamel Ghilas to be called back up to first team action in recent months. The Algerian is a cult hero at the club after scoring the winner against Bolton earlier in the campaign but has since been left out in the cold and rarely made a match day squad. The 26-year-old, who joined from Celta Vigo in the summer, has regularly found the net in reserve games but has been described as lacking the final touch by boss Dowie. This weekends clash against Burnley is a must win game for Hull. Lose to fellow relegation candidates and Championship football will be preparing to welcome the East Yorkshire club to its ranks next season.

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