MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) tackles Wednesday night’s Championship match-up between Hull and Cardiff.
Hull v Cardiff | Wednesday 19.45
A New Year’s Day victory at QPR has kept Hull in touching distance of the Championship top-two despite a rocky five-week spell that saw the Tigers return W3-D1-L4.
Steve Bruce’s boys have often been guilty of their Jekyll & Hyde displays between home and away fixtures, and although there was a degree of fortune about that Loftus Road success, the Humbersiders have remained almost immovable at their KC Stadium home.
Hull’s impressive record at the KC, taking 29 points from a possible 36, has laid the foundations for an automatic promotion challenge and Derby, who won 2-0 in late November, remain the only away team to have escaped with a victory in the last nine months.
Such a return means the Tigers boast one of the best home records in English football this season. Twelve home wins in all competitions this season can only be bettered by Manchester City, winners of 13 games at the Etihad, across all four divisions.
City’s defensive record on home soil is also particularly impressive. Including the Capital One Cup and FA Cup ties staged at the KC, the Tigers have only leaked seven goals in just over 24 hours of action. Five of the most recent seven visitors in Championship football have been shutout.
On Saturday Hull overcame Brighton thanks to Robert Snodgrass’ late penalty but Bruce’s boys should have been out of sight as they spurned a number of chances. Without Abel Hernandez on the pitch, the hosts lacked anyone to put the ball into the net during a match they dominated at the KC.
Sixteen players have notched for City this season – a league-high – but they remain more impressive at the back than going forward, even without Michael Dawson through injury.
The hosts have claimed five wins from seven against top-half visitors and each of those five triumphs were delivered by a two-goal margin or better – the Humbersiders have also claimed seven of their nine home wins ‘to nil’ this term as well as 11 of their 14 overall. So naturally, I’m keen to keep them onside.
Cardiff have a day’s less rest to recover and arrive on the back of an embarrassing home defeat to Shrewsbury in the FA Cup. Sources close to the club believe that loss is likely to be the beginning of the end for the under-fire Cardiff manager as Vincent Tan is urged by people inside the club to axe him.
The former Leyton Orient manager will probably be in charge for their midweek away day but various high-ranking officials in the Welsh capital have recommended Tan ditch the capped crusader. Dwindling crowds and an unflattering style of football has been identified as the root cause for Slade’s removal.
Cardiff have endured record low Championship crowds throughout the campaign and only 4,782 supporters turned up for cup clash. Slade’s side are just four points off the Championship play-offs (prior to Tuesday’s games) but failure to to score against a Salop that was annihilated 7-1 the previous weekend invoked plenty of anger and frustration from the stands.
A lack of goals has continued to be an issue for the Bluebirds. Alex Revell and Federico Macheda were ineffective on Sunday and the capital club lacked creativity in the final third, seemingly running out of ideas to penetrate a resilient Shrewsbury defence. Too many crosses were meaningless and wasteful, several long-range efforts sailed hopelessly off-target and poor decision-making was frequent.
Sean Morrison’s injury at the back is crucial and although the Blurbirds have only lost five on the road (W1-D3-L5) it’s telling that they’ve managed just W0-D2-L3 at clubs in 13th and above, notching just once.
I jostled with the idea of backing Hull to win ‘to nil’, to win with Under 2.5 Goals and just the simple 1-0 and 2-0 correct scores. But I’m going to invest in SkyBet’s reasonable 6/4 on a home victory by either 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 correct scores.
Eleven of the Tigers’ 14 triumphs have arrived by any of those three scorelines and Cardiff haven’t conceded more than two goals in a game this term. In fact, all six of the Welsh outfits defeats would have seen this selection collect.
Hull v Cardiff – Hull to win 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 (6/4 SkyBet)
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