Hull City Vs Sunderland, Sat 24 Apr 2010

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Hull boss Iain Dowie will be without Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink for tomorrow's must-win match against Sunderland but Anthony Gardner returns in defence.

Vennegoor of Hesselink was knocked out in a challenge with Richard Dunne in Wednesday's 2-0 defeat by Aston Villa and will not return to training until next week.

Gardner has not played since damaging ankle ligaments in February but he is set to start the match, possibly in place of Steven Mouyokolo, who is a slight doubt.

Dowie has said he will make changes for the KC Stadium clash and he could turn to striker Caleb Folan, who has recovered from a hip problem. Bernard Mendy (hamstring) is also available but Dean Marney is still struggling with illness.

Dowie has described the game as "a game for heroes".

The Tigers will take to the field knowing defeat and a West Ham victory over Wigan would effectively bring an end to their two-year spell in the top flight.

Hull had the chance to move level on points with the Hammers on Wednesday night but were beaten 2-0 by Aston Villa in a game that laid bare Dowie's problems - a lack of goals at one end and defensive errors at the other.

And the former Crystal Palace and Coventry boss knows they cannot afford any more slip ups.

He said: "It's about putting three points on the board. If we do that we're still right in the shake-up. We've got to get some top performances from our top players. It's a game for heroes.

"We've got to make sure that we play with all the enthusiasm we have, we've got to make sure we close them down, we press them, we get balls into their box and make them have to defend.

"We've got to keep our concentration and we cannot afford fundamental errors at crucial times because they're game-defining moments.

"It's about finding a way to win but not forgetting about the things we're doing right. We've got to replicate what we did on Wednesday but show more craft in front of goal, take the chances when they come and deny opportunities to others.

"Being first in both boxes is the key element tomorrow."

The fans made their frustration clear on Wednesday, particularly when Dowie opted to replace youngster Tom Cairney with Geovanni.

"It's the nature of the beast," Dowie added. "The fans care, they're frustrated and they're disappointed to see the team getting beat.

"For the most part of the game they were magnificent so it's churlish to get involved. The support since we've been here has been outstanding."

Sunderland captain Lorik Cana could return. The Albania international missed last weekend's 2-1 win over Burnley with a groin injury, but is expected to be fit.

However, central defender John Mensah (hamstring) and midfielder Lee Cattermole (calf) are struggling, while Andy Reid and George McCartney (both hamstring) are out.

Boss Steve Bruce will end his first campaign on Wearside with mixed feelings.

The Black Cats head for struggling Hull sitting 13th in the Barclays Premier League table and having been set the task of dragging themselves in to the top 10 in their remaining three games.

That would represent a reasonable return on owner Ellis Short's investment and the hard work put in by Bruce and his players - but they will all know it could have been so much better.

Bruce said: "We have done okay, I wouldn't want to say anymore than that at the moment.

"I am disappointed after the season we have had because it could have been so different.

"Five times we have conceded in the last couple of minutes - that's 10 points, and when you think we are only a couple of points behind 10th, it's what might have been.

"However, we have still got a chance, with three games to go, to finish 10th.

"If I am being honest, from a team that was nearly relegated last year, I think there has been an improvement."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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