Exeter v Hull City: Mike Phelan sees Cup as chance to continue winning momentum

IN the wake of Hull City's stunning start to the season, the Premier League's smallest squad could have been forgiven for fancying a night off tonight, but instead attention turns to the EFL Cup and a near 600-mile round trip to Exeter.

Harry Maguire comes back into the equation to help ease the injury problems at Hull City
Harry Maguire comes back into the equation to help ease the injury problems at Hull City

Despite Jose Mourinho and Manchester United laying in wait this weekend in a mouth-watering clash between two of the four top flight clubs still boasting a 100 per cent winning record, Mike Phelan plans to take all his senior players to St James’ Park tonight for a second-round tie against the Grecians.

“Everyone has to go to Exeter,” said the Hull caretaker chief. “They will all travel. It is important because we are in a groove that they all get there and carry on this momentum of togetherness. We may make changes, we may not. But everyone is happy with the performances and they probably all want to play.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

When the draw was made a fortnight ago, Hull were still a couple of days away from kicking off their own league campaign.

The mood among supporters was black, with Steve Bruce’s shock resignation and the lack of signings having left the majority fearing what torment lay ahead.

Two games in, however, and Hull are sitting third in the fledgling table after following up a stunning opening-day triumph over champions Leicester City with a deserved 2-0 victory at Swansea City.

Through necessity, the same XI players started both games and Phelan made just one of six possible substitutions against the Foxes and Swans.

It was, therefore, expected that the 53-year-old might turn to the club’s youngsters to put out a team in an attempt to preserve energy levels that had been drained by two Herculean efforts in the league.

Instead, Phelan has chosen to take the same squad plus fit-again Harry Maguire to Devon – though he does admit there may be changes to the starting line-up.

Maguire seems certain to start, while third-choice goalkeeper Dusan Kuciak will also be hoping to make his debut seven months after joining Hull from Legia Warsaw.

Others who could make their debut include Josh Tymon, Jarrod Bowen, Greg Luer, Greg Olley and Josh Clackstone, who have all been unused substitutes in Hull’s two league outings.

“We have to be realistic,” added Phelan. “We do have other younger players who fancy their chances. They want to get into a winning team.

“There will be a couple of changes because we can’t take a risk with anyone. But, all in all, they (the senior players) want to carry on.

“We can’t rotate anyone, to be fair. We could give Dusan a game outfield maybe.

“No, seriously, these players are all in a happy place at the moment. They have done their job and that is pleasing.

“We know it will be tough and that you can take nothing for granted in this game. But now is an opportunity to say to one or two of the youngsters – and we have one or two talented ones – there you are’.”

Tonight’s tie will be Hull’s first visit to Exeter in 14 years and Phelan admits the Premier League club will have to be wary against a home side that took Liverpool to a replay in last season’s FA Cup third round.

He said: “We will be a scalp and Exeter haven’t done bad in the cups. Of course, we go there with one eye on Manchester United at home and then after that most of my players will go away on international duty. Probably 10 of them. That is when it will be a fingers crossed job. But, hopefully by then, our squad will be bigger.”

Adama Diomande is a doubt with a knock. Shaun Maloney is likely to start tonight.

Last six games: Exeter City LLWLLW, Hull City WWLWWW.

Referee: A Woolmer (Northamptonshire).

Last time: Exeter City 3 Hull City 1; August 17, 2002; Division Three.