Paul Cooke: Spirited Hull FC will get stronger with time
HULL FC have come away frustrated at full time in both of the last two weeks, but I have seen a real belief in the Black and Whites that gives me confidence in them this season.
Peter Gentle's side appear to have complete belief in their systems, and a real togetherness as a side, which will give them every opportunity of success in 2013.
Last weekend saw Hull eventually succumb to a very impressive Warrington Wolves.
I had backed FC for a win against a weakened Wolves side, but they certainly showed me that they are every bit the favourites to finish league leaders after 27 rounds.
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For me, sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say the better team won. That was the case last week, as the Wolves strangled the life out of FC and in the end ran away to a 24-10 win.
As I say though, I tend to take the positives out of the FC performance.
With very little field position, very little possession in the good areas of the field, the weight of possession in the Wolves favour, and the amount of defending the team had to do, especially in their own danger areas, I think the scoreline is testimony to the excellent attitude and desire at FC.
This was typified by the try-saving tackle of youngster Ben Crooks on big Trent Waterhouse in the final stages of the game, a quite remarkable effort which sums up just what Hull FC have become under Gentle.
I dare say that had the same game been played at this stage in 2012, the scoreline could well have become nasty for Hull FC.
All in all, the Wolves taught the Black and Whites a lesson in patience.
It was also a lesson in being ruthless with the coach's game plan, chipping away at the opposition, kicking for field position and for repeat sets from drop outs, and making your opponents go 90-plus metres to score.
Warrington just ground FC down and depleted their energy stores by keeping hold of possession, waiting for errors, making few errors themselves, and being disciplined in defence and even more so in attack.
I'm certain Gentle will want to rectify his side's unforced errors and ill-discipline to be addressed.
But the two losses the club have suffered in 2013 have been against two of the competition's best teams, and two games which on any weekend would be 50-50 on a win or loss.
So, on the whole, I believe the coach should be over the moon with his team's improvement so far compared to the last campaign.
Moving on to this weekend at Widnes Vikings, they face a tricky test.
This season the Vikings appear to have gone some way to addressing the failings of 2012 with the introduction of senior, experienced stars. Widnes are by no means the whipping boys anymore, but should, by the same token, be beaten by Hull should the club have ambitions of a top-four finish.
After a hammering at the hands of Hull KR last time out, the Vikings will be well rested and champing at the bit to right a few wrongs.
However FC should win this game, and win it well against a team who are still struggling.
Starting this game in a strong manner, with an attitude and determination to work hard, is key to an FC win.
Any ill discipline and cheap turnovers will offer Widnes a chance to grow into the game, and that can't be allowed.
I'm backing an FC win, by 30-plus points.
With a ruthless edge brought to the club by the experienced players, I just can't see FC making the same mistakes as in 2012.