EIGHT UNBEATEN FRO HULL AS SETTLED ABEL FINDS FORM
Patience in Tigers striker pays off
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.”
CHEER: Hull City midfielder Jack Livermore celebrates David Meyler’s goal
FULL STRETCH: Birmingham’s Tomasz Kuszczak saves