Steve Bruce’s Hull City successfully defended their spot at the summit of the Championship table on Wednesday, with a routine 1-0 victory over play-off hopefuls Ipswich Town at Portman Road.
The home side had the better of starts, and came close to opening the scoring in the first half, but Daryl Murphy’s snapshot could only find the post.
However, Hull came flying out of the blocks after half time, and four minutes after the restart, powerful midfielder Mo Diame grabbed what would prove to be the winner with a well-executed chip over Town ‘keeper Bartosz Bialkowski.
The result saw the Tigers keep their place at the head of the pack, while Ipswich dropped to 10th after a win for Preston North End, who moved above them in the table.
FLW’s Archie Griggs takes a look at THREE conclusions we can draw from Wednesday’s game……
1) Hull will be there or thereabouts
The league leaders went into the fixture as the favourites to prevail, and they didn’t disappoint as they deservedly took three vital points off Mick McCarthy’s side.
Their squad, the vast majority of which have Premier League experience, were simply too good for Ipswich and their class showed last night, particularly in the second half, in which they looked a significantly stronger side.
Hull have shown time and time again this season that they will not give up their place at the top without a fight, and their on-field quality, along with the leadership of experienced boss Steve Bruce, should see them bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt.
2) Ipswich should have used the transfer market more wisely
Mick McCarthy has built himself a reputation for working on a ridiculously tight budget, and despite the wishes of fans, he did business no differently during last month’s transfer window.
Many Blues supporters thought that it was the time to invest in some real quality for the promotion run-in given their league position, but management at Portman Road disagreed, with the boss claiming that he was happy with his squad.
However, post-January form has seen the club lose in their last three successive league games and drop four places in the league to tenth.
As Town’s playoff rivals Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton continue to surge towards a top-six finish after adding to their ranks in January, the Blues find themselves in danger of getting left behind, and it leaves many supporters to wonder if the lack of transfer window action at the Suffolk club will come back to haunt them in the months to come.
3) The race for promotion will go down to the wire
The Sky Bet Championship has thrown up some highly entertaining seasons in the past, and this year it will be no different.
With just over ten games left, a mere three points separate league leaders Hull City and fourth-placed Brighton and Hove Albion.
And having seen all of the top four pick up maximum points from last night’s fixtures, we are still no closer to knowing which two will grab the coveted automatic promotion spots, and who will be forced to settle for the end-of-season lottery that is the Championship playoffs.
The battle for the Premier League is hotting up nicely, and all the ingredients are there for a dramatic and exhilarating final part to the season that will live long in the memory of those involved.