Peter Swan: Finest of margins must not deny Hull City in Premier League promotion race
WINNING games in the Championship can often come down to the finest of margins and that’s exactly what Hull City found out in their draw 0-0 against Leicester City.
In a clash between two good teams who will be competing for promotion at the end of the season, whichever side took their chances was always going to win it.
Unfortunately for City, they created the better opportunities and ended up coming away with just a point because they were not clinical enough in front of goal.
Jay Simpson was one of the biggest culprits as he had two great openings which he failed to take and he could now pay the price by being dropped against Leeds on Saturday.
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Having rounded Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel in the first half, all he had to do was lift the ball into the net to make it 1-0. But after opting to roll it in, the clearing defender slid in and did his job and City were left to rue what might have been.
He also had another opening which he could have put away on another day, as well as a few half chances, and it would not be a surprise if he is now dropped for the weekend derby.
When reflecting on the result afterwards, Tigers boss Steve Bruce hinted that he may make changes against Neil Warnock’s men after seeing his side’s Achilles’ heel return to haunt them.
With Nick Proschwitz waiting in the wings, he may be handed his first start for a long while against Leeds if Bruce does opt to freshen up his starting line-up.
If he is given an opportunity, the German striker needs to seize it because he has waited a long time for it to come his way.
Standing at 6ft 4ins tall, he needs to use his frame to get on the end of the great crosses City are creating. If he does show a bit of bravery, he will score goals because the Tigers do throw a high number of balls into the box.
Everyone knows he is decent with his feet on the floor, but he has to use his attributes to fit in with City’s style of play and that means getting on the end of crosses.
Having created numerous chances to break the deadlock, City were nowhere near clinical enough against Leicester and the manager will have been left frustrated by the result.
Make no mistake, Leicester are no mugs and they have enough quality all over the park to be in the automatic promotion race come the end of the season. But their safety-first approach should have been overcome by a more adventurous City outfit.
The game largely reflected the managerial philosophies of the two men in charge. Leicester were cautious and did not want to lose, whilst the Tigers wanted the win from the first moment.
Those contrasting approaches actually led to the two midfields cancelling each other out in what became a game of tactical chess.
On the balance of chances created, no-one would have been surprised to see City win 2-0 or 3-0, but they just didn’t put the ball in the back of the net.
Sone Aluko tried his hardest to make things happen on his return to the side, but it never really came off for him and he looked a little way off match fitness.
Luckily, City will now have him back for a crucial period in the season and his return is a massive fillip for the side.
However, the biggest positive to come out of the match was the assuring presence of goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic.
He was very impressive on his home debut and pulled off a number of good, solid saves in a man-of-the-match display.
His most impressive effort came in the first half when he made himself big to deny Danny Drinkwater with a big left-handed save. A save like that gives the defenders in front of you real confidence and he thrived on his early intervention.
He got a bit of luck at times, with shots taking deflections off him to go wide, but you make your own luck as a keeper and he tipped a fair few shots away in an impressive outing.
It’s probably too early to say if he can be City’s long-term number one, and the Tigers may bring in another loan keeper in January, but he showed great signs that he is good enough to be relied upon. More of the same and City’s fans will not be complaining at seeing his name on the team sheet.