Hull City's Grant McCann says Gillingham, not training, deciding factor as he plans without Josh Magennis and Gavin Whyte

The absence of Josh Magennis and Gavin Whyte on Northern Ireland duty leaves places up for grabs in Hull City's forward line at Gillingham on Saturday, but even without them, the League One leaders have options, both in terms of personnel and approach.

Coach Grant McCann says he will select his front three purely on the basis of who he thinks will cause Steve Evans's side the most problems, not necessarily who has been performing best in training.

As the most natural choice to replace Magennis's physical presence if McCann goes that way, Tom Eaves will be hoping to get the nod against his old club, and McCann says the 29-year-old can count himself unfortunate not to have featured more this season.

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“Eavesy's not really a targetman as such,” argued McCann. “He's got more to his game than that.

MISSING: Josh Magennis is away on international duty with Northern IrelandMISSING: Josh Magennis is away on international duty with Northern Ireland
MISSING: Josh Magennis is away on international duty with Northern Ireland

“Whether we go with Tom or whatever front three we play, these are decisions we've got to make as a staff and collectively as a group.

“There's a lot of work goes in during the week to make sure we go into the game with everyone understanding what we're going to do.

“It's been stop-start for him this season, he's picked up a couple of ankle problems as well but physically he's in a good place (now), in terms of his numbers and what he's done on an everyday level, he's good.

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“He has just found the form of others as the reason he's not been able to get back into the team as quickly as he'd like. That's the reason why he's found himself on the bench.

OPTION: Tom Eaves will be hoping to face his old club after a "stop-start" seasonOPTION: Tom Eaves will be hoping to face his old club after a "stop-start" season
OPTION: Tom Eaves will be hoping to face his old club after a "stop-start" season

“In any squad you'll have players in good form and it's the same here, particular at the top end of the pitch.

“We know what type of player we've got here and when he's on form he's a very good player and you just have to look at his goalscoring record in this division but he's struggled to get past others because of the form of certain individuals at times, and injuries.”

With 11 goals this season, Magennis is Hull's second-highest scorer this season behind Malik Wilks, whilst Whyte has started all but one of the last seven League One matches, coming off the bench in the 3-0 win at Wimbledon. Both started for Northern Ireland in Italy on Thursday.

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Eaves has made just four league starts this season, scoring his three goals in the competition from the bench.

But the beauty of McCann's stable of forwards is that whichever three he selects, they give him different ways of playing. McCann hinted Ahmed Salam could add to those options. The 20-year-old winger signed a new contract and has put himself in the frame for a league debut with a hat-trick for the under-23s on Monday.

Asked how he will chose Saturday's triumvirate, McCann said: “It's always geared to the opposition. Ideally you have players in form at the top end of the pitch but I think we have that this season.

“You've seen this season we've moved people into different areas of the front three, particularly Malik, Keane (Lewis-Potter) and Gavin. Josh Magennis has predominantly played as a nine but Dan Crowley has played on the right, the left and as a false nine so we've got good options up there. James Scott's another one (who is versatile).

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“I think it's important that if the game's not going our way we've got players on the bench who are different to the ones who started and can play in different areas of the pitch.

“It's nice to have those options, particularly when we're missing Gavin and Josh. It's nice to see people like Tom Eaves, James Scott, Dan Crowley, Ahmed Salam champing at the bit to play.”

As well as no fresh injuries to contend with, Hull had Jordan Flores and Sean McLoughlin back in training this week.

“Jordan had a little bit of tendonitits in his knee so we took him off the pitch for a little bit and Sean had a little calf injury so we'll give them as much time as possible to be involved at the weekend, but it's nice to see them coming off the (treatment) table,” said McCann.

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