MIKE PHELAN admits to growing tired of Hull City’s hard luck stories.
The Tigers host Everton tomorrow night needing to kick-start a season that has gone badly off the rails due to a 16-game run yielding just six points.
Performances, certainly in the last four of those matches, have been better than results with the Boxing Day loss to Manchester City typical in that Hull’s inability to score when on top was followed by basic individual errors that meant Phelan’s men once again were left empty-handed.
Ahead of hosting Ronald Koeman’s men in front of the live Sky cameras, Phelan said: “This league is about fine margins, we are seeing that every week. Hard work and endeavour sometimes isn’t enough, at this level you have to be clinical as well.
“You have to take the opportunities in front of goal when they come along. We did a lot of good things against Manchester City, I had no problems at all with the players’ efforts. It is just those moments when you get caught up in things or lack that bit of concentration or experience. At this level, it costs you.
“I thought the fans could do what I did (after the Manchester City loss), go away quietly pleased but also very disappointed in the final result because I didn’t think it was a 3-0 game.
“Our problem is we have had too many of them. I don’t want to get into this regular situation of everyone saying to me: ‘Your team has done okay, you worked really hard but you lost again’. That can become a problem.”
City’s back-to-back losses at Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United were very similar to the Boxing Day encounter with Pep Guardiola’s men in that the Yorkshire club had spells on top but were unable to capitalise. They were also denied a much-needed victory at home to Crystal Palace on December 10 by a last-minute equaliser from Fraizer Campbell.
These setbacks mean huge importance is attached to both tomorrow’s game and the January 2 trip to West Bromwich Albion. Hull simply have to start collecting points or risk being cut adrift in the bottom three.
“Every game is a big game simply because of the position we are in,” added Phelan. “But all we can do is give our all. That is paramount.
“The supporters have seen that and they appreciate it. It is just the fine line we are not crossing to take the chances and scoring goals.
“We need to go in front. When you score, it gives you belief because all the hard work has been rewarded. But, if you are not careful, you get hit with the sucker-punch of high quality. Manchester City had the players to do that on Boxing Day.”
Tomorrow’s game being selected for live broadcast means less recovery time for both sets of players. The upshot is Phelan may make a couple of changes, albeit with a squad that in certain positions is dreadfully threadbare.
“It is a quick turnaround and we have to look at freshening things up a little bit,” he added. “All the players in the squad know roughly how we want to go about our business.
“When they do step into the fray, they know what is required. They can’t let the side down through lack of effort but we do need that little bit of luck and guidance in front of goal. If we get that, we can string a few results together.”
The lure of Boxing Day football brought Hull’s second highest crowd of the season and Phelan hopes for more of the same tomorrow night.
“I thought the atmosphere was terrific against Manchester City and I would love to see that every week,” said the Tigers head coach. “We are in the Premier League and I thought people turned up with a real positive mindset. The players are having a go. If we are good enough, we will stay up. There is still enough to go into the New Year with confidence.”