Togetherness key for Hull City to end frustrating goal drought

A SOLID senior professional and dressing-room leader, Richie Smallwood is exactly the sort of individual who can be counted upon not to feel sorry for himself amid tough times.

DRAWING A BLANK: Hull City's Richie Smallwood tries to engineer a move forward against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park Picture: Bruce Rollinson

That mindset must now come into its own for all Hull City players, most especially their attackers, amid a testing period.

City have not found the net in the league in nine hours and with every passing game without a goal, confidence potentially ebbs.

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Tuesday night was a bittersweet one for Smallwood. Restored to the starting line-up at former club Blackburn Rovers and handed the captain’s armband, the Redcar-born midfield enforcer, 30, a key part of the Rovers side promoted from League One in 2017-18, showed trademark commitment and heart, but it could not end Hull’s winless cycle in a 2-0 loss at Ewood Park.

GOAL-getter: Hull City's Mallik Wilks goes past Blackburn Rovers' Leighton Clarkson at Ewood Park Picture: Bruce Rollinson

It extended the club’s run without a league success to six matches since the opening day of the season.

For his part, Smallwood hopes to have done enough to stay in the side for the weekend game with Sheffield United. If it doesn’t, he won’t let his head drop.

On returning to the side in place of Tom Huddlestone, he said: “I have not let my head get down too much. It is always disappointing when you are not playing, but it is the manager’s decision and we have a good, healthy squad and it’s a long season and I know I will get my chance and I don’t think I did it any harm (on Tuesday).

“Hopefully, I can keep the shirt. But it is the manager’s decision and whatever he goes with, I will be supporting the lads.

“I thought I was playing quite well, but sometimes the team needs a little freshen up. I am man enough and can accept those decisions. You just take it on the chin.”

Hull’s recent goal dearth is stark and while Smallwood accepts that confidence may have been dented, the fact City created more chances in midweek than of late should not be overlooked.

Players will – and are – working overtime on the training ground to put things right and if hard work counts for anything, then a break in front of goal will hopefully not be long in coming.

On pinpointing the problem, he added: “Maybe confidence has been knocked a little, who knows. But we are still believing and working hard.

“I am sure it will all click. We know the quality of the lads, but just need to try and find it now.

“I know Mallik (Wilks) has not had much game time this season and is just getting back up to speed. But we know the quality he has got and he’s a big player for us.”

“Once we get him firing on all cylinders, he will make a big impact.

“I thought we were good for large spells (on Tuesday) and then we had a difficult ten to 15 minutes where we have got to be able to see that out.

“If we had got through that spell, we could have gone onto win the game. From box to box, we were quite good and had about a dozen shots without really troubling them. We know we can mix it, but just aren’t having that final touch.”