Hull City's defensive problems highlighted once again in defeat at West Brom

Hull City's defensive frailty once again proved their undoing as they went down 4-2 on the road at West Bromwich Albion.
Hull City lost 4-2 at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday. Picture: Getty ImagesHull City lost 4-2 at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday. Picture: Getty Images
Hull City lost 4-2 at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday. Picture: Getty Images

The Tigers played some tidy football and created plenty of chances against their title-chasing hosts, but were found wanting at the other end of the field in Sunday's Championship encounter.

A defeat for relegation rivals Middlesbrough earlier the same afternoon means that Grant McCann's team remain a point clear of the drop zone, but they have little chance of keeping their heads above water if they do not shore up their leaky back-line between now and the end of 2019/20.

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The four they conceded at the Hawthorns means that City have now shipped 12 goals in their last three away fixtures.

When you consider that, prior to lockdown, they also lost 4-0 to Leeds and 5-1 to Brentford either side of a 4-4 draw against Swansea, it comes as little surprise to see that the East Yorkshire club have the second-worst defensive record in the division.

The January departure of their two most influential players - Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki - has undoubtedly been a big factor in their slide down the league table, but both of these men were attackers.

Hull's inability to keep a clean-sheet since the turn of the year - they are now 17 games without one - is more puzzling, but it is an issue that McCann must address immediately.

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As badly as his side have played in a lot of matches during the second half of the season, they performed well enough with the ball to have beaten Birmingham last weekend and taken at least a share of the spoils at West Brom.

But, they are far too easy to get at, cannot defend their box properly as a collective, and are guilty of making too many individual mistakes - with the inability to stay with men or track runners probably their greatest failing in recent weeks.

That they overcame Middlesbrough last time out to record a first victory in 14 attempts owed much to grit and determination, but more to the fact that their opponents failed to make the most of a host of promising attacking positions.

Just as was the case against Boro, the Tigers found themselves behind on four minutes at the Hawthorns, Charlie Austin finishing off Matheus Pereira's low cross.

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The visitors didn't let their heads go down, however, responding fairly well to that early set-back and drawing level after 24 minutes.

Not for the first time, West Brom failed to deal with a George Honeyman corner and the ball broke for Kevin Stewart to ram home a strike which took a deflection on its way into the back of the net.

Buoyed by their equaliser, Hull briefly claimed the ascendancy, but were trailing once again eight minutes before half-time.

Ex-Tiger Grosicki won a corner down the home left when he forced George Long into a save at his near post, and the resulting set-piece saw Pereira pick out Ahmed Hegazi, who escaped Jordy De Wijs to nod in.

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Slaven Bilic's side dominated the remainder of the opening period and could easily have gone into the interval out of sight.

A swift counter-attack ended with De Wijs making a fine last-ditch challenge to divert Pereira's shot from Grosicki's left-wing centre over the top, before Rekeem Harper skied an even better opportunity for 3-1.

Austin then volleyed wide and Pereira was denied by the feet of Long as the Baggies piled on the pressure during the closing stages of the first 45.

It was City who were to strike next, however, Mallik Wilks heading in an inviting Leo Da Silva Lopes cross to make it 2-2 just two minutes into the second period.

But, parity was to last less than a minute.

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Almost straight from the re-start, Pereira slid in Grosicki, who had the freedom of the penalty area to restore the home team's advantage.

The chances continued to come and go in an end-to-end affair, Wilks doing superbly to burst through on Sam Johnstone's goal, only to clear the cross-bar when it looked easier to score.

Jon Toral then saw a long-range effort clawed out of the top corner, before the Baggies stopper produced an even better to save to deny the Spaniard.

And the Tigers passed up another fine opportunity to draw level when De Wijs missed the target after meeting Honeyman's free-kick.

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The visitors were made to pay for not finishing off one of those chances in the 76th minute.

And it was once again all too easy for the Black Country outfit to breach the visiting back-line, Grady Diangana strolling into a shooting position on the edge of the box and slotting a low finish past Long.

That goal effectively ended City's hopes of taking anything from the contest and although Hegazi was sent off for a second bookable offence late on, it was too late to make any difference to the outcome of the match.

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