Bullard gets a warm welcome back to action
Hull City correspondent: Joker Jimmy Bullard returns to provide creative spark
Jimmy Bullard's return to the Hull side certainly made a positive impact as the Tigers got back to winning ways with a 2-0 win at home to a wasteful Derby County.
Bullard's absence from the starting line up at Hull has been the subject of much debate, but the club's record signing made an impressive return to the first team and although he didn't get on the score sheet his performance gave City fans plenty to get excited about.
The Tigers went into this game without a natural ball winner in the midfield as captain Ian Ashbee was dropped to the bench.
The only criticism about Hull's midfield would be the lack of width in the four man formation.
John Bostock and Tom Cairney were tasked with providing wide options but neither looked entirely comfortable doing so and the return to fitness of James Harper will provide a timely boost in the next two weeks.
Bullard played almost like a quarter back in American football, picking up the ball from defence and tucking in behind Robert Koren, looking to provide the creative spark that has been missing for City recently.
The reception Bullard would get from the fans was always going to be interesting, but they were very much behind him and each time he went to take a corner he was warmly applauded by the home fans.
One man who stood out for City was new defender Daniel Ayala on loan from Liverpool, not only did he get his first City goal but he looked comfortable in possession and dominant in the air as Derby struggled to make an impact.
Indeed the Rams main danger man did not appear until seven minutes into the second half, Nigel Clough must be wondering why he left Kris Commons on the bench as he single handedly set about trying to get Derby back into the match and had he shown more composure in the penalty area when a simple chance came his way late in the game, the Rams may well have taken a point back down the M1.
Instead he blazed over and soon Koren was taking a similar chance for Hull to ensure City took all three points. Derby look like they will face a battle to stave off relegation as they seriously lack fire power.
Next up for City are Nottingham Forest and their boss Billy Davies will be highly motivated to get one over on his old chairman Adam Pearson who ended his reign as Derby boss a few years ago.
Davies has bounced back impressively and Forest will surely provide City with a greater test than Derby did. Blackstock and Tyson will not be so shot shy, therefore Ayala and Gerrard in the heart of Hull's defence will have surely have more work to do.
With both teams having secured much needed wins on Tuesday night it promises to be a good battle in front of the Sky cameras. Whether Nigel Pearson can risk going to this game without a natural ball winner is debatable.Up against Forest's talisman Mckenna , a light-weight midfield could come badly unstuck, so I expect Ashbee to return probably at the expense of Bostock.
It will be good to see ex-City player Paul Anderson if he starts on Saturday for Forest he left Hull for Liverpool before moving to the City Ground and will no doubt relish a return to his old club.
It's hard to predict how this game might go and a draw looks most likely as both teams look to consolidate and its a game I very much looking forward to.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.