Hull v Ipswich: We must give Hernandez more help, insists Bruce

Manager Steve Bruce wants his Hull City side to move the ball with more pace when opponents sit back and let them have possession (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA).
Manager Steve Bruce wants his Hull City side to move the ball with more pace when opponents sit back and let them have possession (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA).
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MANAGER Steve Bruce admits Hull City may have to wait until the new year to discuss new contracts with the big name players already well into the final year of their existing deals.

The Tigers will return to the top six in the Championship with victory over Ipswich Town tonight at the KC Stadium.

With Bruce’s men on a six-game unbeaten run and well placed to launch a push for the Premier League, optimism is growing in the East Riding that the club can bounce back at the first attempt.

However, with the disparity in income for clubs in the second tier and the top flight, planning for next season is difficult with much resting on whether Hull can win promotion.

This means David Meyler, Tom Huddlestone, Ahmed Elmohamady, Curtis Davies, Allan McGregor and Sone Aluko – whose deals all expire next summer – will have to be patient.

Speaking ahead of tonight’s home game, Bruce said: “The problem that the club has got is that the four or five out of contract are the big earners. Those are the cold facts.

“Thankfully, we have got a parachute payment but my job is to balance the books. I would love to tie them down for two or three years. It is a difficult situation so we have got to try and wait until we know where we are in the new year.”

Five of those whose deals are into the final year featured against the Owls, while David Meyler and Eldin Jakupovic were on the bench.

It adds up to a major headache, not least because Hull must abide by Financial Fair Play rules that restrict losses and the club’s parachute payments are set to drop from £24m this year to around £19.3m in 2016-17 if promotion is not won come May.

For now, the focus is on pushing up the Championship table. Back-to-back home games this week against Ipswich and Birmingham City offer a great chance for the Tigers to build on taking four points from the trips to Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday that book-ended the international break.

That said, Hull were held to 1-1 draws by QPR and Blackburn Rovers in their two most recent outings at the KC.

On both occasions, the visitors came to frustrate Bruce’s men by getting men behind the ball.

It is something that Hull will have to learn to overcome if a concerted push for automatic promotion is to become a reality.

“Teams are coming to the KC Stadium and letting us play,” said the Hull chief, “but only a long way from goal. Sheffield Wednesday did something similar after they had scored on Saturday.

“We got sucked into the trap of keeping possession and moving the ball. We didn’t move it quick enough.

“We have to get used to that. We have to be a bit patient at times. We have enough attacking weapons, but I do believe we have to improve.”

Hull carried much more threat at Hillsborough following the introduction of Chuba Akpom from the bench shortly after the break in place of the ineffective Mohamed Diame.

The loanee from Arsenal had scored for England Under-21s on debut four days earlier and he played a major part in Abel Hernandez equalising with his sixth goal in eight Championship starts.

Bruce added: “What we can’t do is keep relying on Abel to score goals. Someone else has to do the same. Akpom made a big difference when he came on. He has a hell of a future.

“He had a big week, too, scoring for England Under-21s on his debut. He will be involved on Tuesday, that is for sure.

“As for recent results, four points is a decent reward from two away games but we have to capitalise at home. We are unbeaten in six games now. That is 14 games and only lost twice.

“We are going nicely but there is more to come. I do believe we look a good side at times.”

Huddlestone also believes there is more to come from the Tigers despite a solid start to life in the second tier that has helped clear away the doom and gloom that inevitably accompanies relegation.

“The best we have played is probably Cardiff away,” said the midfielder about Hull’s 2-0 win in south Wales on September 15. “Other than that, we have only played well in patches of games.

“I don’t think we have gone through a whole 90 minutes at 100 per cent. Hopefully, there is a lot more to come. We are still in a decent position in the league to say we don’t believe we have fully realised our potential this season.”

Akpom is likely to be Hull’s only change for the visit of an Ipswich side who have not won in five outings and that will be without winger Tommy Oar, who suffered concussion in Saturday’s draw with Huddersfield.

Last six games: Hull City WDWDWD, Ipswich Town WDLDLD.

Referee: C Kavanagh (Manchester).

Last time: Hull City 2 Ipswich Town 1; October 20, 2012; Championship.

Huddlestone, of course, is one of several players in the Hull camp to have made their name in the Premier League. As such, this has helped make City one of the more fancied sides in the second tier - something that is in stark contrast to last term when the Yorkshire club was considered as underdogs in the Premier League.

“We probably get a bit more time on the ball in deep areas and equally that makes it hard to break teams down when they have got nine or 10 men behind the ball,” said Huddlestone. “We have got to be patient in our play and look to be more creative, especially from midfield.

“The manager has good options throughout the team but it is just about finding the right balance. Against Sheffield Wednesday, he went to me and Jake (Livermore) with two strikers and we looked a little bit more threatening.

“But then you have got Mo Diame, who is probably one of the top two or three players in the league.

On the challenge of taking six points from this week’s matches at the KC Stadium, Huddlestone added: “We have found it difficult but if we take the lead I would like to see us go and look for a second, rather than sitting back and giving teams the chance to nick a point like Blackburn did.

“We have got five games in 14 days so it is a busy period. Thankfully, we have got depth in this squad.

“We know the ins and outs of the Championship now and we know that if we play well we’ll stand a good chance of beating most teams.”

Akpom is likely to be Hull’s only change for the visit of an Ipswich side who have not won in five outings.

Last six games: Hull City WDWDWD, Ipswich Town WDLDLD.

Referee: C Kavanagh (Manchester).

Last time: Hull City 2 Ipswich Town 1; October 20, 2012; Championship.