Hull City’s Christmas and New Year programme certainly kept their fans on the edge of their seats with two 3-2 away wins at Portsmouth and Sheffield United and exciting 1-1 draw with Reading and a disappointing home defeat to Leicester.
Suddenly City are only six points away from the play-offs and with the additions of strikers Matty Fryatt and Aaron McLean look more equipped to make a challenge on the top six. James Chester of Manchester United looks set to join this week after an impressive spell on loan with Carlisle this season and he will bolster a defence looking a bit stretched after the return of Daniel Ayala to Liverpool.
Whether City will make more additions to the squad is unclear but they have moved out Kevin Kilbane on loan to Huddersfield and terminated the contract of Peter Halmosi. The Hungarian never reproduced the form he had shown with Plymouth at the KC Stadium.
Kilbane’s versatility could be missed though, as evidenced at Portsmouth on Monday, when Illness, suspensions and injury left City unable to name a full subs bench. Kilbane can play in a variety of roles and could have filled in at the back where numbers were very thin.
One player who really caught the eye in recent games has been Cameron Stewart, on loan from Manchester United to the end of the season, Stewart had an unsuccessful spell on loan at Yeovil earlier in the campaign but has really blossomed under Nigel Pearson. His pace is a huge advantage but also his willingness to take on defenders and get shots on goal has led to goals and penalties.
None more so than the winner at Bramall Lane when latching onto a quick throw from keeper Vito Mannone Stewart’s pace took him virtually the full length of the pitch before his shot was palmed away into the path of Jimmy Bullard who fired home the winner for the Tigers.
Stewart has linked well with Liam Rosenior, who signed after having being without a club and looks the snip of the season as he has impressed regularly in his right back role. It’s no co-incidence either that Jay Simpson started to find the net once Stewart was pushed up alongside him.
Many City fans were sad to see Vito Manone have to return to Arsenal with injury after a successful spell between the posts for City but Brad Guzan has been brought in on a months loan from Aston Villa and had a good game down at Fratton Park making some crucial saves late in the game to ensure City took the three points.
Another plus is the return to fitness of Jimmy Bullard after injury, the midfielder has netted twice since his return and his range of passing can’t but help to benefit City’s push up the table. This weekend Bullard’s former club Wigan arrive at the KC Stadium in the FA Cup, the Tigers with a number of players cup-tied and injured may well go with a strong team believing rightly they have every chance of beating their Premier League opponents.
How important the fixture is to manager Nigel Pearson remains to be seen, city did flop out of the Carling Cup earlier in the season with a whimper at Brentford but are in much better form for this cup tie and with the club having reduced prices for under 10’s to just £3 will hope to be rewarded with a good gate for the match and a place in Round 4 and keep the upwards momentum going.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.