Hull City got off to an absolute flier at the start of the season and in their first season back in the top flight, they have been impressive.
Although they have started to feel the strain of their FA Cup run and started to drop off from their top 10, they are still a dangerous prospect. In Steve Bruce they have a very tactically astute manager and when things were going wrong, they were very astute in the January transfer market, bringing in two top class strikers in Shane Long and Nikita Jelavic. They remind me of us from last season, they rely on their home form and like West Ham last season, they’ve began to drop off towards the end of the season.
Their recent form hasn’t been great and it is something West Ham will have to capitalise on. Their recent form has shown they are better away from the KC stadium as their new found formation with Long and Jelavic, allows them to counter quickly as they soak up the home team’s pressure. What helps the deadly duo are the fine passing abilities of Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone, who both have an unbelievable eye for a pass. Again like West Ham last season with Noble playing a key role in the Hammers midfield.
It is a little known fact in football that clubs that come up from the Championship tend to have a fine first season, and for me it is next season that Hull have to worry about. Looking at the game, the key battle the Hammers have to win is in midfield where Mark Noble will have to dictate play far better than Livermore and Huddlestone. season. You fear that if West Ham fall into the long ball trap that it will play into the hands of Hull City as they have one of the best headers of a football at centre half in Davies. I feel that the Hammers would have far more success getting the ball to the by-line and firing the ball across goal, rather than floating balls into the box to allow the Hull defence to head clear.
In fact that is how the Irons came closest to breaking the Tigers down at the KC stadium earlier in the season. The final crucial battle will be Long and Jelavic vs Collins/Reid and Tomkins who will have to be alert to the clever runs of Long and the power and strength of Jelavic if the Hammers are to do well and win. It is a game that both sides must win and it should be a great game under the lights.
this is our game in hand over the teams below them. If the Irons can win their individual battles, it will go a long way in deciding the outcome of the contest. In truth the Hammers can’t afford to lose to the teams below them, as they will be dragged back into the relegation dogfight with defeat against Hull.