Hull City are winging it in unlikely bid for play-offs - big-match verdict

A REQUEST on the public address system to evacuate the KCOM Stadium at half-time on Saturday proved to be a false alarm.

For their part, Hull City are not vacating the vicinity of the Championship play-offs just yet either.

Not so long ago, home matches in Hull were exercises in stoicism for the loyalists and occasions which were mired in antagonism.

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Issues with the club’s ownership may still remain but on the pitch those in amber and black are doing their level best to provide diversionary tactics by keeping the competitive fires burning.

On target: Jarrod Bowen celebrates scoring his second goal from the spot. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Few can speak with any conviction regarding the make-up of the Tigers side next season, with the sensible money being on star turns Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki and potentially others not being around, should Hull fail to be promoted.

It remains to be seen as to whether Nigel Adkins remains in the dug-out with the Hull chief contracted until the end of this season – and his own long-term future being uncertain.

But, for the time being, those questions are for another day and in the here and now, Adkins and his players are determined to provide a spot of light relief.

This win – and another accomplished one at that – saw Hull eclipse their points tally from last season with two months of the season still to go.

For a side viewed as relegation contenders before a ball was kicked in August and who were in the bottom three in late November, it represents no mean feat.

Form at the KCOM where Hull are unbeaten since November 24 and have won seven of their past nine matches – taking a laudable 23 points from a possible 27 – has been wonderfully reassuring of late, as has the dependability and verve of Bowen.

Should a ‘dubious goal’ panel award him the strike which he claimed in last Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over Millwall, then the Tigers’ top-scorer will have equalled a record set way back in 1958-59 by Bill Bradbury of scoring in seven consecutive home matches.

It would also take him to within one strike of reaching the 20-goal milestone for the season – the sort of statistic that places Premier League clubs on high alert.

The Tigers winger showed instincts of a centre-forward to dispatch his opener midway through the first half before displaying his ice-cool traits from the penalty spot – and it will surprise few that he earned the award himself following a typically probing run.

The supporting cast was also a strong one with Kamil Grosicki continuing to find the soil in East Yorkshire to be fertile, with another accomplice arriving in the shape of Marc Pugh, who produced his second wholesome contribution of the week.

Hull may be four points behind sixth-placed Bristol City, having played a game more – and with tough assignments at Nottingham Forest and Norwich City now on the roster – but rivals are entitled to be a touch wary, given their wing options which are the envy of most in this division.

Todd Kane said: “They (Grosicki and Bowen) are two wide players in form. When you are on the other side and doing analysis on how to stop the opposition, those are who they will be looking at. Jarrod is going to score when you give him chances. He should have had a hat-trick but it is another two goals for Jaz and that gives us confidence.”

On the club’s play-off pitch, reaffirmed by successive home wins following a disastrous afternoon at Brentford last weekend, he added: “Our belief has always been there. You cannot win every game because it is the Championship and it is a long season where everyone beats everyone.

“What I said from day one was that I wanted to get to the play-offs. We are on the right path to try and get that sixth spot. You keep an eye out (on other results), but as long as we keep doing what we are doing, we will keep looking up.”

Grosicki and Bowen – who ran riot in last season’s 6-1 home win over the Blues – again looked in the mood from the off on Saturday, but it was Pugh, operating with aplomb in a No 10 role, who tested Lee Camp early on.

The Bournemouth loan winger then displayed craft and persistence to set up Bowen, who emphatically fired into the roof of the net from close range and spurned a fine chance to grab a second following class from Grosicki – who passed up a good opportunity himself before the break.

Birmingham’s reputation of counter-attackers of note was not overly seen, even if glimpses arrived in the second half.

But only after Hull clinched the game from the spot after Bowen latched onto Chris Martin’s intelligent header and surged clear, only to be caught in full-flight by the onrushing Camp.

Clearly envisaging the positioning of the match-ball on his mantelpiece, Bowen went close to his hat-trick when he fired into the side-netting, and belated Blues pressure arrived at the other end with David Marshall doing well to thwart substitute Jacques Maghoma.

Lent may be approaching, but the Tigers are not proving abstentious when it comes to relinquishing their top-six quest.

Long may that continue.