Hull City could be without nine first-teamers for tonight’s Championship game at home to Huddersfield Town, but Grant McCann is relaxed about it after a “good window”.
McCann has been able to add Herbie Kane, Martin Samuelsen and Mallik Wilks to his squad in January, and in Saturday’s FA Cup defeat to Chelsea right-back Robbie McKenzie marked himself out as someone who could play an important role.
So even with his injury list perhaps extended by a hard-fought Cup tie, McCann is upbeat about taking on the Terriers.
Samuelsen picked up a minor calf problem during his weekend appearance from the bench, and is a doubt tonight. Josh Bowler missed the game and Hull were already without defenders Matthew Pennington, Callum Elder and Jordy de Wijs. Jon Toral, Kevin Stewart, Norbert Balogh and Angus MacDonald remain long-term absentees. Midfielder Dan Batty has recovered from illness and left-back Stephen Kingsley could return after watching from the bench in midweek, but McKenzie’s form means he might not be needed. Kamil Grosicki is ready to start after scoring as a substitute on his return from a knee problem.
“Martin Samuelsen has had a little bit of a problem with his calf but we are hoping he may be okay,” revealed McCann.
“We had a problem with Josh Bowler the day before the Chelsea game, we are just waiting to hear back from the scan to see what that is, a little problem with his heel. He just twisted in the training session and felt something underneath his heel.”
We have seven or eight players out but we are okay.Grant McCann
De Wijs joined by Elder and Pennington may be back to face Reading a week on Saturday, with the first two resuming light training yesterday.
“That is why we have got a good squad,” said McCann. “We have seven or eight players out but we are okay.
“Kamil is good, it was good to get him on the pitch. Jon Toral is coming on well, he is probably three or four weeks away and Kevin Stewart is a bit further than that.”
McKenzie has made only one Championship start this season, but the 21-year-old took his chance well against Chelsea, where Eric Lichaj was needed at left-back to cover Elder and Kingsley.
“I was very impressed and that is how quickly it can happen,” said McCann. “You can see how quickly he can come into the team, he showed confidence with his play early and he built on it. It is now down to him to keep up those performances and he will stay in the team.
“I bought Pennington in not to play right-back but as it happens, he has done well there. If McKenzie starts, we hope it is another good performance from him.”
Wilks has brought something too, and was a lively presence on the left wing in Saturday’s first half before running out of steam and being substituted. It was his first start since joining from Barnsley, where he had been frozen out by Gerhard Struber.
“I thought he did well,” reflected McCann. “It has been tough because he has been training with the under-23s at Barnsley. There was a little bit of rustiness but he showed what he can do.”
Hull have two home games this week, with Brentford in East Yorkshire on Saturday, and although they have lost all three matches at the KCOM Stadium since Christmas, McCann and goalkeeper George Long are targeting two wins to narrow the seven-point gap to the play-off places.
“They’re massive for us really, I think we will be looking to take maximum points, especially being at home as well,” said Long. “It is an opportunity for us to make a statement to get back up in the mix.
“In the Championship you can be out of it one week and back in it the next week. We are gradually creeping towards the play-offs, we’ve not quite got in that yet, so that is our aim. We want to get promoted this year and it is well within our grasp, we have just got to be consistent.”
McCann insisted: “We are not getting too worried or flustered about (our home form), we are calm and composed about what we have to do, like in the Chelsea game.
“How calm we can be? How good we can be?
“We have had some really good performances at home in recent weeks and we will see if we can do it again.”
Hull will be for a few extra supporters at the gate after their first sell-out since they last played in the Premier League.
“We obviously all want to get to the Premier League and if we do so, I hope that would be what is coming week in, week out to home games,” said Long. “It is a big incentive for us that if we get there and achieve our goal, that is the crowds we would be getting every week.”
Last six games: Hull City WWWLLL; Huddersfield Town LWLLLD.
Referee: S Martin (Staffordshire).
Last time: Hull City 2 Huddersfield Town 0, August 8, 2015, Championship.