Stockdale and ‘mean machine’ have Tigers eyeing promotion

Gedo’s explosive start to his career in English football has meant a vital part of Hull City’s armoury has tended to be overlooked.

Namely, how mean Steve Bruce’s side have become at the back with the club’s defensive record now the envy of all but a couple of their Championship 
rivals.

The Tigers have conceded just a goal a game this season – a record only Leicester City can beat, while Cardiff have also let in 33 – and there can be no denying just what an important part this new-found defensive resolve has played in keeping the East Riding outfit on course for a possible Premier League return.

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David Stockdale, back at the KC Stadium after initially being recalled by parent club Fulham in December, has played a leading part in Hull’s new defensive solidity with his calm handling giving confidence to his team-mates.

The 27-year-old is not one to bask in personal glory, however, as he made clear in the wake of Tuesday’s impressive 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers when the Yorkshire Post suggested what a big impact he had made since returning to his native county midway through the January transfer window.

“I am not one for individual praise,” came the modest reply from Stockdale, who, instead, chose to focus on the role of the entire Hull team.

“We did well as a team defensively. You need the right people in front of you as a goalkeeper and playing at their best.

“At the moment, the lads are outstanding. Okay, we need to score goals, but we also need to stop them as well. So, all credit to all five defenders and the rest of the lads.

“We are defending as a team. If the lads feel confident in front of me then all well and good, but it is the team that makes the difference.”

Perhaps the most heartening aspect of Hull’s defensive record is how it is getting better all the time with Stockdale beaten just twice in five games this month.

Going back to mid-November, Bruce’s men have conceded just 10 goals in 16 games – and that includes the aberration that was January’s 3-1 defeat at home to Sheffield Wednesday.

Tuesday’s victory over Blackburn underlined just how solid Hull have become with Jordan Rhodes, the Championship’s in-form striker, left to forage on scraps with Stockdale called into action just once to keep out a long-range effort from Colin Kazim-Richards.

Stockdale said: “It has been a good week, but no one is getting carried away as we still have another game to play on Saturday.

“We have a hard run-in. This is the tickly-feely bit that the gaffer talks about. He says we have to stand up to be counted and that is exactly what we have done in the last two weeks.

“We have won four in five this month and that is something to build on. There is a confidence running through the club, but we must be ready for a good team like Bolton as anything can happen in this league. But, by beating Blackburn, the lads can be proud.”

Saturday’s trip to the Reebok continues a busy period for Hull, who sit three points clear of the chasing pack in the Championship and just five points adrift of leaders Cardiff City.

Stockdale added: “This run of four games (that ends with Bolton away) was something we always thought could be a defining part of our season so we have to be satisfied with three wins so far.

“But there is still work to do if we are to make it maximum points. We always knew we could play like we did against Blackburn. To be able to pass it like we did under pressure just about summed up how we are going about our job.

“Blackburn was a massive game. How many years had they been in the Premier League? Hull were obviously in there once, too, and it would be great if we could get back.”

Asked about the current Championship table and Hull’s chances of emerging from the run-in in possession of an automatic promotion place, the Leeds-born goalkeeper said: “I never like to say too much about other results or what we are going to do. If you do – or, for example, start looking at what points were needed last year – then you get distracted.

“It can become a fixation. We just want to get points on the board. Leicester had two games in hand (ahead of the Blackburn game), but we weren’t thinking about if they win them.

“If we win our games, it doesn’t matter what anyone else does. That is the mentality we take into games. What can definitely help, though, is if people don’t talk about us. No one (outside Hull) seems to expect much of us so we just go out in front of our great fans and do well for them.

“Hull want to get back. The lads are passionate about getting back, so is the manager. We are hungry and want to play in that league.

“The manager is great. If you need shouting at, he shouts at you. But, luckily enough we are all doing our job.”