THIS time last week, Hull City’s trip to Birmingham had all the portents of a season-defining fixture.
With the Tigers still reeling from a performance in defeat to Millwall so bad it seemed to have broken even the spirit of the ever-positive Nigel Adkins, a second relegation in as many seasons was looming large at the KCOM Stadium.
Hull had encounters with Norwich City and Ipswich Town to come before that assignment at St Andrews but, even so, the meeting with the third from bottom Blues looked to have potentially huge ramifications for both clubs.
A week on, however, and the picture has changed dramatically. Back-to-back wins have nudged City up three places to 17th.
More importantly, nine points – or, effectively, 10 when goal difference is taken into account – separate today’s two combatants.
Defeat to Garry Monk’s men, unthinkable in the wake of that 2-1 Millwall loss on March 6, would be no more than an annoyance. Not that Adkins is even contemplating such a result, the Tigers chief adamant that his side will be able to build on those precious wins in the past eight days.
We are not out of it yet. We are a long way from that. It helps that we have won back-to-back games, it is fantastic. But what we have got is not enough.Hull City boss Nigel Adkins
“We need more,” said Adkins, who may recall Abel Hernandez after resting the Uruguayan striker for the midweek win at Ipswich Town. “We will concentrate on the next game, strive to get a performance out of it.
“We have an opportunity. We have to do what we can to win the next game of football. Birmingham are scrapping, we need to go and compete.”
As Hull were taking a couple of huge steps towards safety, Birmingham continued to toil.
Defeat last weekend at Cardiff City, albeit after a second-half fightback, means the Blues go into today’s game on the back of seven straight league defeats.
Even victory will not be enough to lift the Midlands side out of the relegation zone due to fourth-bottom Barnsley’s goal difference being vastly superior.
Clearly, Monk, appointed following Steve Cotterill’s dismissal earlier this month, has a huge job to lift his new charges sufficiently to get out of trouble.
Tigers counterpart Adkins stresses, as City chase a first league double of the season after Leonid Slutsky’s side thrashed the Blues 6-1 at the KCOM in September: “If we don’t win another game between now and the end of the season then we have not got enough points.
“We are not out of it yet. We are a long way from that. It helps that we have won back-to-back games, it is fantastic. But what we have got is not enough.
“We just have to concentrate on the next game. Strive to get a performance out of it and, if we do that, then we have a chance to win the game.”
A further boost for City came when Moses Odubajo, whose last competitive appearance came in the 2016 Championship play-off final, played 45 minutes of his comeback game with the Under-23s.
Last six games: Birmingham City LLLLLL, Hull City LWDWW.
Referee: T Harrington (Cleveland).
Last time: Birmingham City 1 Hull City 0; March 3, 2016; Championship.