IT may be the season of goodwill, but Grant McCann’s festive message to his Hull City players arrives with a warning.
The Northern Irishman has just celebrated six months in charge of the Tigers, with the club’s relatively healthy league position of 11th, just four points behind sixth-placed Brentford, pointing to an encouraging first half of the campaign.
Yet the demanding and fastidious Hull head coach is striving for much more after professing to a certain amount of annoyance that his side are not higher in the table – although he believes he knows the reason why.
McCann, whose side are chasing a fourth straight home win as they entertain Forest, said: “We are one of the best attacking teams in the league.
“We are very threatening when we go forward, but the reason why we are not in the top six is because we do not react quickly enough when we have not got the ball.
“That is something we have continually tried to work on – our energy and application. We have got no time for sulkers or people throwing their hands up in the air.
“We have only got time for people wanting to react and be a good team-mate.
“We have drummed that home to the boys because we are very close.
“The teams at the top, West Brom and Leeds, are excellent going forward and excellent defensively.
“We are excellent coming forward and a touch away from being strong defensively.
“It’s the little things that have to improve from us if we are going to have a chance of the top six – and we will. It is everyone’s job to understand this is what needs to happen.”
Hull claimed one of their stand-out results this season in the reverse fixture against Forest at the City Ground, with goals from Josh Magennis and Jarrod Bowen giving them a 2-1 success in late October.
Forest also head into this particular game with a point to prove on the back of a five-match run without a win, incorporating losses to White Rose sides Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday and a disappointing home draw to lowly Middlesbrough.
McCann said: “You look at it week by week and game by game, and each team you are playing against has got quality all the way through it.
“The boys know that we are getting close and now it is all about knocking on that door and making sure that we can stay up there.”
Last six games: Hull WLWLDW; Nottingham Forest WLDDLL.
Referee: G Eltringham (Tyne and Wear).
Last time: Hull 0 Nottingham Forest 2, November 24, 2018; Championship.