Preview: Hull City

The 100% home record has ended and it’s now three games overall without a win for the Sky Blues. The team remains in a strong position in the league, but that could very quickly change if this run continues for another couple of games. This would be the perfect moment to end the current winless streak away from home, against a Hull City side struggling for form and confidence, there won’t be many better opportunities to do so.

The week’s rest should benefit more than a few Coventry City players, who looked leggy over the past couple of games, but it may take a fresh injection of ideas on top of that energy to turn around this mini-slump. Hull City will be desperate for anything they can get from this game and this will be yet another Championship away day where anything less than maximum intensity will be punished.

Expected Line-Up

Possible Line-Up (3-4-1-2): Moore; Hyam, McFadzean, Clarke-Salter; Dabo, Kelly, Hamer, Maatsen; O'Hare; Gyokeres, Godden.
Possible Line-Up

For the first time in a while, Mark Robins may end up changing things up with his team selection in order to coax a response from his players. Being dramatic, only Simon Moore in goal and Ian Maatsen at left wing-back who can be completely sure of their places in the side right now, due to a lack of viable alternatives, realistically, swingeing changes to the line-up are unlikely to happen.

At the back, the trio of Kyle McFadzean, Dominic Hyam and Jake Clarke-Salter is probably the most effective right now, although, Michael Rose could end up slotting in for anyone one of them if Mark Robins feels a change is needed. At right wing-back, Fankaty Dabo hasn’t been playing at his highest standards over the past few games but is an important enough player to be backed to play himself back into form.

One of the biggest selection decisions for Mark Robins for this game is just who makes up his first-choice central midfield. It will be a case of finding who is the most effective partner for one of the team’s star turns, Gustavo Hamer, with Ben Sheaf, Liam Kelly and Jamie Allen all offering something different alongside Hamer, along with drawbacks of their own. It will probably a decision between Ben Sheaf and Liam Kelly, while Allen could come into contention if a decision is made to take a striker out of the team to stiffen things up in the middle of the pitch given recent struggles on the road.

In attack, Tyler Walker can count himself as unlucky to have been dropped for the Derby County game in favour of the returning Matt Godden. Walker may come into contention ahead of Viktor Gyokeres, who has struggled since returning from international duty, but the Swede may be another who will be backed by the manager to improve off the back of a week’s rest.

Last Time We Met

It has been a long old time since Coventry City and Hull City have been in the same division. It was back in 2012, when the Sky Blues were looking to stay in the Championship under Andy Thorn, travelled to a Hull side who were in contention for the play-offs under the management of Nick Barmby. With Coventry City winless on the road up to that point, in late March, an own goal and a Cody McDonald finish gave the team a crucial victory that put them in a decent position to survive.

No highlights of this game, instead, here’s an image of the celebrations of Cody McDonald’s goal with a certain midfielder prominent.

The Opposition

The Manager – Grant McCann

Having had a point to prove at Championship level following Hull City’s relegation under his charge in 2020, Grant McCann has struggled thus far to make the case that he is a capable manager in the second-tier. Hull were imperious on their way to promotion last season – scoring the most and conceding the fewest in League One – but, aside from a dominant opening day win over Preston North End, have found the Championship considerably harder.

In McCann’s defence, he hasn’t been aided by the club being forced to operate under a soft transfer embargo – limited to loans and free transfers – over the summer, that meant Hull couldn’t really add the Championship experience required to improve a very good League One side. However, it is starting to look like McCann is getting less out of this Hull squad than the total of the individual parts, with a handful of players at his disposal that would get into most top-half sides in this division. Having banned sections of the media from interviews recently, Grant McCann looks like a man buckling under the pressure and is in desperate need of a result to keep himself in the job.

Who To Look Out For?

Possible Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Ingram; Coyle, Bernard, Greaves, Elder; Docherty, Smallwood; Wilks, Honeyman, Lewis-Potter; Magennis
Possible Line-Up

It is Hull City’s attacking line-up that makes them a dangerous team to underestimate. Wide-forwards, Mallik Wilks and Keane Lewis-Potter, are direct goalscoring threats, while target-man, Josh Magennis, does a lot of good work in facilitating Wilks and Lewis-Potter getting into scoring positions. Wilks can be especially hard to contain due to the combination of his physical stature, pace and ability to produce the spectacular, while Lewis-Potter’s excellent off-the-ball movement and skill are his strengths.

Furthermore, Hull have decent, albeit not quite of the same standard, options in support of Wilks, Lewis-Potter and Magennis. Tom Eaves is another target-man who offers a good rotation option from the bench for Magennis, while Randell Williams and Ryan Longman are direct wide players who can provide some extra creativity. Additionally, Tyler Smith is a quick striker who gives the team another decent attacking option. These aren’t the forward options of a team that should be struggling at the wrong end of the table.

Behind that attacking line-up, Hull have been boosted recently by the return of key creative player, George Honeyman, who offers drive and some excellent set-piece delivery when at his very best. Greg Docherty is a box-to-box midfield player who has excelled at League One level and is capable at Championship level, while McCann can opt for the possession control of Matt Smith or the defensive solidity of Richie Smallwood alongside the former Rangers midfielder.

In defence, Callum Elder and Lewis Coyle are useful overlapping options from either full-back position. Jacob Greaves and Di’Shon Bernard form a talented, albeit inexperienced, centre-back duo, while Matt Ingram in goal has been a solid presence, keeping the impressive Chelsea loanee, Nathan Baxter, out of the side.

Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost

The battle between the Sky Blues’ back three and Hull City’s front three will be key in this game, Josh Magennis has the ability to occupy Kyle McFadzean, potentially leaving Dominic Hyam and Jake Clarke-Salter one-against-one versus Mallik Wilks and Keane Lewis-Potter. That could leave Mark Robins with a decision to make as to whether to instruct the wing-backs to drop deep in order to help out the back three, or push them on and look to avoid the battle by attempting to control the game.

This could make it a game for Liam Kelly to start in central midfield, so that he can drop back and help out the back three, rather than the wing-backs, but it will be that space between the wide centre-backs and wing-backs that Hull City will look to target and the Sky Blues will have to find ways to protect, without ceding control of the game. If Hull can get on top, their attacking full-backs will further compound that issue by exploiting an area of the pitch not really covered out of possession by the current preferred 3-4-1-2 system. This really isn’t a game to take lightly.

If the Sky Blues can find the right balance between looking to contain Hull City’s attacking threats and getting into a rhythm of their own, there will be elements of the game in favour of the away side. Hull’s midfield has really struggled this season to get a hold on games and should be an area that Gustavo Hamer and Callum O’Hare can look to dominate. If Viktor Gyokeres is back on his best form, he will be able to cause Hull’s young centre-backs problems and help create space in the final third for the Sky Blues’ other attacking players.

Finally, while Hull City’s goalkeeper, Matt Ingram, has been in decent form this season, he tends to struggle when it comes to commanding his area. That is why it’s important that Coventry City find some quality and threat in their deliveries into the penalty area in an attempt to make the most of this.

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