Hull City’s top-six ambitions remain intact despite defeat to West Bromwich Albion

West Bromwich Albion's Grady Diangana (left) and Hull City's Eric Lichaj battle for the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at the KCOM Stadium, Hull. (Picture: Simon Cooper/PA Wire)
West Bromwich Albion's Grady Diangana (left) and Hull City's Eric Lichaj battle for the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at the KCOM Stadium, Hull. (Picture: Simon Cooper/PA Wire)
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REECE BURKE insisted that Hull City deserved at least a point from Saturday’s encounter with Championship leaders West Bromwich Albion.

For a good chunk of what was a showdown between two of the division’s form teams, the hosts played the better football, yet the combination of their own poor finishing and a stunning strike by former Tiger Jake Livermore meant that Grant McCann’s side’s three-game winning run came to an end.

As a team, the staff, the players, we all believe that we should be top six. Hopefully, we can bounce back after the international break.

Reece Burke

“We played against a top team and we feel like we should’ve got something from it,” reflected City centre-back Burke.

“It’s very disappointing to lose the game. First half, I don’t think we were up to scratch, we maybe showed them too much respect.

“Second half, I think the work-rate from the lads was much better and we did have a few chances to get back in the game, but overall we’re disappointed.

“I do feel like we’ve had better performances, we know they are a top team, but we look at ourselves as a top team as well.”

Burke and his City team-mates may consider themselves one of the better sides in the division, but their current league position of 12th suggests that they are more middle of the road.

That said, the Tigers sit just four points off a play-off spot, and Burke says that there is belief in the camp that a place in the top six is attainable.

“As you could see last week, getting a big result at Fulham, we’ve got a good team and we do believe in ourselves,” added Burke, referencing City’s impressive 3-0 triumph over a side who were playing in the Premier League just last season.

“As a team, the staff, the players, we all believe that we should be top six.

“Hopefully, we can bounce back after the international break.”

On Saturday, the difference between one side leading the promotion race and another trying to break into it was, in the end, a super 25-yard strike from Livermore.

As pleasing as it was on the eye, that 29th-minute goal should, however, have been one which drew West Brom level, not decided the outcome of the contest.

Just five minutes earlier, following a very even start to the game, Jackson Irvine had strode through midfield before showing fine vision to send Kamil Grosicki scampering in on goal.

The Pole raced towards goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, who seemed strangely reluctant to come off his line, and looked a certainty to break the deadlock, only to stab his finish wide.

Prior to that, Grady Diangana had twice gone close for the visitors at the other end before Matty Phillips’s long-range strike drew a fine save from George Long.

From the resulting corner, the ball fell for Livermore some distance from goal, and he let fly with a lovely effort that put the Midlands outfit ahead.

Despite that setback, Hull steadied themselves and finished the opening period strongly.

Josh Bowler cut in off the right flank and stung the palms of Johnstone, before Jarrod Bowen converted from close range after the goalkeeper pushed away Irvine’s close-range effort, only for home celebrations to be cut short by a linesman’s flag.

City began the second half with real intent and some tenacious play by Eric Lichaj down the right led to him pulling back a dangerous cross but with home players queuing up, the ball bounced off Kevin Stewart and into the arms of a grateful Johnstone.

Half-time substitute Tom Eaves made a good burst down the right to find Grosicki inside the area, but he was crowded out.

The hosts continued to press, but the Baggies defended well and enjoyed a favourable bounce of the ball on numerous occasions.

Having weathered the storm, West Brom began to threaten themselves as the half wore on, Diangana beating both Long and the far post with a shot across the face of goal on 73 minutes.

Matheus Pereira fired wide as the visitors sensed an opportunity to kill the game, though there was to be one last chance for McCann’s side.

With 90 minutes on the clock, a free-kick was headed back across the area for the unmarked Jordy de Wijs but he got his back-post volley all wrong to leave the Tigers with nothing.

Hull City: Long, Lichaj, Burke, De Wijs, Elder, Da Silva Lopes (Lewis-Potter 89), Stewart (Honeyman 71), Bowler (Eaves 46), Irvine, Grosicki, Bowen. Unused substitutes: Tafazolli, Batty, Ingram, Pennington.

West Bromwich Albion: Johnstone, Furlong, Ajayi, Bartley, Townsend, Livermore, Sawyers, Phillips (Krovinovic 63), Matheus Pereira, Diangana (Edwards 78), Robson-Kanu (Zohore 90). Unused substitutes: Brunt, Austin, Bond, Hegazi.

Referee: J Linington (Isle of Wight).