Improving their home form and and nailing down some consistency are key to Hull City’s chances of breaking into the Championship’s top-six, according to manager Grant McCann.
Back-to-back away wins meant that the Tigers went into Saturday’s game with Fulham – fifth at the start of play – knowing that victory would take them level on points with their opponents.
Yet a below-par display at the KCOM Stadium saw City beaten 1-0 as they once again failed to capitalise having got themselves within touching distance of a play-off berth.
“The frustration is probably back-to-back defeats at home,” said McCann, whose side lost 2-0 to Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day.
“We’ve been on a decent sort of a run at home leading into that Forest game. I still believe that we’re about the seventh or eighth best team in the league at home, but that’s not good enough if we want to finish in the top-six.
“We need to try and find a bit more consistency at home. For us, what is really, really important at home is to score first.
“If he (Tom Eaves) had scored the chance in the first half when he went through one-one-one, it might have been a different story.
“It’d be nice to try and get a bit more consistency, of course, but it’s very difficult. Everybody is searching for consistency, everyone from Brentford downwards, to try and get themselves in that top six.”
Defeat leaves City 11th, three points shy of a play-off spot, instead of seventh and breathing down the necks of the teams in fourth, fifth and sixth.
While the fact that they are in contention for promotion this term owes much to the attacking threat that they carry, on this occasion they failed to make much of an impression in the final third of the pitch.
“We were slow in our tempo and build-up play,” continued McCann.
“Jarrod (Bowen) was quiet, Kamil (Grosicki) was quiet. Eavesy had one or two half-chances.
“The attacking players were a wee bit quiet and Fulham scored a worldie to win the game. A moment of quality has won the game, it’s as simple as that.
“We’ll just keep going. With 19 games left, there’s a long way to go.
“This is a bit of a dent for us, but one thing about this group is that they can respond.
“They’ve shown it all year and they’ll have to do it again next week.”
There was not too much wrong with the way Hull started proceedings on a cold, blustery afternoon in East Yorkshire, and they could have been ahead with just four minutes on the clock.
Referee Matthew Donohue ignored an offside flag raised by one of his assistants and allowed play to continue as Bowen picked out Eaves inside the area.
However, with just Marek Rodak to beat, he pulled a poor finish well wide of the mark.
Eaves then released Grosicki down the Hull right where he skipped past Michael Hector with ease, only to then drag an effort past the near post.
With the half-hour mark approaching, the visitors had offered almost nothing, and the Tigers were playing the better football.
Yet, a 29th-minute moment of magic by Ivan Cavaleiro was to check the hosts’ momentum.
The initial danger looked to have been dealt with when a cross into the area was cut out. However, the loose ball broke to the Portuguese winger on the left-hand edge of the area and he curled a beauty past a motionless George Long and into the far corner.
City struggled to offer anything by way of a response having fallen behind, though they began the second period with a flourish.
Eaves sprinted down the left channel and reached what initially looked like a lost cause, pulling back for Grosicki in a dangerous position. However, his terrible attempt at a pass to Bowen was easily intercepted.
A flying Eaves then just failed to get on the end of Jackson Irvine’s delicious cross from the right, but aside from one tame header by Hull’s No 9, chances remained at a premium with Fulham appearing very comfortable protecting a one-goal lead.
Indeed, it took until the ‘92nd-minute’ for City to finally ask a question of Rodak. The big Slovakian was forced to claw away Bowen’s effort, before Eaves saw his goalbound follow-up expertly blocked by Alfie Mawson.
With just seconds remaining. a mini spell of pressure ended up with George Honeyman’s strike being diverted into the back of the net by a team-mate but the raising of the assistant referee’s flag quickly curtailed the home celebrations.
“I thought the game was scruffy, I thought it was two teams playing nowhere near their best,” McCann added. “We didn’t deserve anything, really.”
Fulham manager Scott Parker, whose side had never won at the KCom, expressed concern for talisman Aleksandar Mitrovic after he was stretchered off. The Serbia international striker twice went down with an ankle injury before he was replaced after 80 minutes by Joe Bryan.
Parker said: “It doesn’t look great, at this present moment in time. He’s injured himself pretty badly. If you lose someone who’s scored 18 goals, it’s never going to be easy.”
Hull City: Long, Pennington, Burke (Lewis-Potter 70), De Wijs, Lichaj, Da Silva Lopes, Kane (Honeyman 61), Irvine (Bowler 84), Grosicki, Bowen, Eaves. Unused substitutes: Tafazolli, Batty, Ingram, Fleming.
Fulham: Rodak, Christie, Hector, Ream, Odoi, McDonald, Onomah, Knockaert (Mawson 90), Decordova-Reid, Cavaleiro (Arter 86), Mitrovic (Bryan 80). Unused substitutes: Johansen, Cairney, Norman, Stansfield.
Referee: M Donohue (Sale).