Pre­mier League sur­vival ad­van­tage re­mains with the Tigers, claims match-win­ner Clu­cas

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - ROBERT GLED­HILL

HULL CITY goal-scor­ing hero Sam Clu­cas be­lieves the psy­cho­log­i­cal ad­van­tage is with them in the bat­tle for Pre­mier League sur­vival.

They were back in the drop zone and down to 10 men at half-time on Satur­day but staged a re­mark­able rally to de­feat Wat­ford 2-0 with goals from Lazar Markovic and Clu­cas and re­main two points clear of Swansea City, who won by the same score at home to Stoke City.

Ou­mar Ni­asse was the un­lucky re­cip­i­ent of a red card mid­way through the first half at the KCom Sta­dium but the way Hull re­sponded will have left spir­its low in the Welsh camp, be­lieves Clu­cas. “You have play­ers that travel to games that aren’t in­volved and they’ll have looked at our game, with us down to 10 men, and they’d have been buzzing to be lead­ing at half­time.

“In the end, though, they’re prob­a­bly gut­ted al­though it would have been nice for us for their re­sult to go our way to make it more com­fort­able. That’s how the Pre­mier League goes and it’s go­ing to be a tight fin­ish.

“I think our win means more than theirs just be­cause of the sit­u­a­tion. We’ve just got to con­cen­trate on our­selves. It’s nice to have it in our hands.”

With four games to go to guar­an­tee sur­vival, Clu­cas con­tin­ued: “Our team spirit is bril­liant. Every­one knows that. We know we’ve got to­geth­er­ness and char­ac­ter, and that home form has been un­be­liev­able as well. We just need to take that into the away games now.”

Un­der Marco Silva, Hull have claimed 19 points from a pos­si­ble 21 at home but their away form has seen them take one from 21.

Ahead of Satur­day’s trip to Southamp­ton the head coach ad­mits: “It is a big chal­lenge for me and for us as a club. It is a chal­lenge to me why we change so much play­ing at home to away.

“We pre­pare in the same way. We do ev­ery­thing in the same way. We need to im­prove. It is a big chal­lenge and we will try to do some­thing dif­fer­ent at Southamp­ton and Crys­tal Palace.”

Silva, whose stock is ris­ing, would not dis­cuss his fu­ture but con­tin­ued: “I am happy here. I am here to do my best to keep this club in the Pre­mier League. We work all to­gether to do this. You never know what will hap­pen in the fu­ture but I am happy and I am happy to go to work ev­ery day. This is the most im­por­tant thing to me.”

AMID all the Con­ti­nen­tal stars flood­ing the Pre­mier League, English foot­ball still man­ages to un­earth its own gems from the lower reaches.

Sh­effield-born Le­ices­ter City and Eng­land striker Jamie Vardy is the most no­table and there were an­other two on show at the KCom Sta­dium in Wat­ford’s Brad­ford City product Tom Clev­er­ley and the Tigers own Sam Clu­cas.

The Hull mid­field player en­joyed dou­ble cel­e­bra­tions on Satur­day and trusts the big­gest knees-up is yet to come – the Tigers achiev­ing Pre­mier League sur­vival.

Hav­ing watched home-town club Lin­coln City ce­ment a re­turn to the Foot­ball League on tele­vi­sion at lunchtime, Clu­cas struck what could be the most im­por­tant and best goal of his ca­reer to leave Wat­ford stunned and the 10-man Tigers still clear of third­bot­tom Swansea City.

He chested down the ball for a tremen­dous left-foot 25-yard vol­ley that rock­eted past a despairing Hornets goal­keeper Gomes, who went full length to his left with­out get­ting any­where near the ball. The strike made it 2-0 in the 71st minute and was Clu­cas’s first in the top level at the KCom Sta­dium.

The £1.3m sign­ing from Ch­ester­field had al­ready net­ted at Le­ices­ter re­cently to cel­e­brate scor­ing at ev­ery level from Con­fer­ence up­wards and he was again buoy­ant af­ter a win achieved with a man short for 65 min­utes:

“I’ve been wait­ing for one of them all sea­son. That’s my po­si­tion at the edge of the box, wait­ing for the ball to have a dig. For­tu­nately, it came today. It was a good time be­cause we were un­der a bit of pres­sure at the time so it was nice for the ball to fly in the net,” said Clu­cas.

“It was a great feeling. I’d just missed with a free-kick a cou­ple of min­utes be­fore and I thought that was my chance gone. As soon as I hit it, though, I knew it was go­ing in.

“I haven’t scored a bet­ter goal than that for a while. I used to play up front when I was younger and scored a few de­cent goals but that’s cer­tainly my best as a pro­fes­sional – to do it in the Pre­mier League at such an im­por­tant time.

“It’s not like we were 4-0 up and it was ir­rel­e­vant. It came at an im­por­tant time for us, set­tling every­one down.”

It also en­sured a dou­ble day of cel­e­bra­tion for the Clu­cas fam­ily af­ter the Imps, thanks to Terry Hawkridge’s dou­ble against Macclesfield Town, sealed their re­turn to the Foot­ball League af­ter six years away.

“I watched a lit­tle bit in the ho­tel and it’s bril­liant for them,” con­tin­ued Clu­cas.

“They’re a Foot­ball League club again and they de­serve it. I’ve been to a few games this sea­son and I’m de­lighted for the play­ers, the staff and, more im­por­tantly, the city. They’ve all been be­hind the club and, hope­fully, they can build on this in League Two.

“They’re my home-town club. I played for them when I was younger and al­ways look out for the re­sult. I still live there and all my fam­ily still go to games so it’s a great oc­ca­sion. Hope­fully, we can do the busi­ness at Hull and stay up to make it a great sea­son all round.”

Lazar Markovic had put Hull ahead in the 62nd minute fol­low- ing a school­yard-type charge out of de­fence which ini­tially had the hosts with a three on one sit­u­a­tion.

Andy Robert­son led the counter down the right, Kamil Grosicki sped past him onto the pass and curled a cross which saw the ball bounce invit­ingly for Markovic to dive in front of Gomes and head the ball against the bar from eight yards. It bounced down onto the line but Markovic was first to re­act and he slammed it home from in­side the six-yard area.

Clu­cas’s strike came af­ter a cor­ner had been headed out and pro­duced a re­sult few would have ex­pected af­ter the 25th-minute dis­missal of Ou­mar Ni­asse.

Wat­ford cleared and the Sene­gal striker went in for the bounc­ing ball with M’Baye Niang, who went down clutch­ing his leg af­ter the Hull player’s in­step had brushed him be­low the knee.

Ref­eree Robert Madley hardly gave it a sec­ond thought be­fore reach­ing for his red card when many would have ques­tioned him if he had de­cided to bran­dish even a yel­low.

Hull coach Marco Silva, who has now gone a re­mark­able 50 games un­beaten at home in all com­pe­ti­tions in charge of four clubs, con­firmed the Tigers would ap­peal the send­ing-off.

It was backs to the wall be­fore the break with Eldin Jakupovic palm­ing the ball over the bar from Se­bas­tian Prodl’s snap back­header from a cor­ner be­fore fel­low Wat­ford cen­tre-back Miguel Bri­tos headed wide from eight yards.

Jakupovice also kept out a close-range stab af­ter the in­ter­val but al­lied to their ef­fi­cient de­fend­ing as a unit, Hull’s swift counter-at­tack­ing was the key to vic­tory, sparked by the half-time in­tro­duc­tion of Abel Her­nan­dez.

The striker, brought on as the re­called Evan­dro, given the nod ahead of Tom Hud­dle­stone, was sac­ri­ficed is a ready-made re­place­ment for Ni­asse should the ap­peal fail and he gave Hull an at­tack­ing fo­cus as Kamil Grosicki and Markovic stretched Wat­ford out wide.

PIC­TURES: RICHARD SELL­ERS/PA

JUMP­ING FOR JOY: Hull City cen­tral mid­field player Sam Clu­cas cel­e­brates his dra­matic goal against Wat­ford, who were de­nied the lead early in the sec­ond half when goal­keeper Eldin Jakupovic, in­set, stuck out a boot to thwart the grounded Eti­enne Capoue.

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