EIGHT UN­BEATEN FRO HULL AS SET­TLED ABEL FINDS FORM

Pa­tience in Tigers striker pays off

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

HULL boss Steve Bruce hailed come­back kid Abel Her­nan­dez af­ter the Uruguayan striker’ s eighth goal of the sea­son saw the Tigers sav­age Birm­ing­ham.

Pro­lific for Palermo, the 25-yearold ar­rived last sum­mer for a mam­moth £10m, but scored just four times as Hull were rel­e­gated from the Pre­mier League.

Writ­ten off as a costly mis­take, many ex­pected Her­nan­dez to hit the road but, af­ter be­ing or­dered to “knuckle down” by Bruce, the for­ward is now third in the Cham­pi­onship scor­ing charts.

His goal – a smart swivel and hit just mo­ments af­ter David Meyler had net­ted the opener – show­cased the kind of in­stincts that Hull shelled out for and Bruce reck­ons his “gam­ble” is fi­nally pay­ing off.

“Last year, that would have hit the post, hit the wood­work, been cleared off the line,” said the Hull boss. “That’s the kind of luck he had.

“Yes, we all know it’s a lower divi­sion. But Abel is only a young lad. He found it dif­fi­cult to set­tle in England, which is al­ways the gam­ble with any for­eign player.

“We give them stick but we’re hope­less.The English don’t adapt at all, which is why you don’t get many play­ing abroad. But Abel has stuck it out and, thank­fully, he’s get­ting used to the lan­guage, to the food and the weather.

“He looks con­fi­dent and he looks a good player now. He’s a threat.”

Vic­tory marked Hull’s eighth game un­beaten and ended a run of four straight vic­to­ries for Gary Rowett’s men, who had be­lied a pal­try bud­get and slim squad to be­gin the week­end in sec­ond.

There’s noth­ing flash about Rowett’s Birm­ing­ham; stay solid, hit the mus­cu­lar Clay­ton Don­ald­son, use the pace of De­marai Gray and Jacques Maghoma to pick up the pieces.

Yet plenty of sides have been caught out dur­ing the Blues’ sur­prise as­cent and, with Maghoma twice test­ing Al­lan McGre­gor, it seemed Hull might be an­other.

But the Tigers pos­sess more than enough speed of their own and, once Moses Odubajo and Andy Robert­son sev­ered the sup­ply lines, the vis­i­tors ran out of ideas.

Hull’s re­sponse was swift and ruth­less. Min­utes af­ter test­ing the re­flexes of To­masz Kuszczak, Sam Clu­cas hoisted in a cross that fell to the feet of Ahmed El­mo­hamady.

The Egyp­tian laid off to Meyler and the mid­fielder swept a neat fin­ish into the far cor­ner.

That stiff jab was fol­lowed by a knock­out blow, Robert­son’s 70yard slalom end­ing in a cross that Her­nan­dez turned home.

Game up, Birm­ing­ham dili­gently hung tight – a marked con­trast to the craven, em­bar­rass­ing col­lapses of sea­sons past.

But with Clu­cas a con­stant menace down the left and Meyler con­trol­ling the mid­field, they were al­ways vul­ner­a­ble on the counter and were in­debted to Kuszczak – who made smart saves from Clu­cas and Chuba Akpom – for keep­ing the score down.

“We knew this was prob­a­bly go­ing to be our hard­est away game of the sea­son,” ad­mit­ted Rowett, who was cel­e­brat­ing his

50th match in charge of the Blues. “When you look at their squad, it’s got power, pace, qual­ity – it’s the per­fect blend. It’s al­ways im­por­tant to keep it in con­text.

“I’d like to sit here ev­ery week and say my play­ers were bet­ter than theirs. But the re­al­ity is, we’re a very hard-work­ing, very or­gan­ised side.

“Oc­ca­sion­ally, we’ll get un­done by a lit­tle bit of qual­ity or some­thing we just can’t af­ford in our team. That’s four wins and one de­feat in five games. If I’m say­ing that af­ter the next five games, I’ll be happy.”

And Bruce added: “The most im­por­tant thing for me was lift­ing the doom and gloom that has sur­rounded the club since rel­e­ga­tion.

“Has that neg­a­tiv­ity gone? I don’t know – ev­ery­body is dis­ap­pointed when you come out of the big league. But we’re do­ing our best to put a smile on peo­ple’s faces and I think they’ve en­joyed watch­ing their team there.”

PIC­TURE: Pro Sports Images

CHEER: Hull City mid­fielder Jack Liver­more cel­e­brates David Meyler’s goal

FULL STRETCH: Birm­ing­ham’s To­masz Kuszczak saves

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