It has been an up and down start to life in the Championship for Grant McCann’s Hull City, kicking off the campaign with an epic 4-1 win against Preston North End but following it up with back to back losses.
The Tigers were imperious on the opening day, albeit benefitting from some questionable goalkeeping and all round defending to score three second half goals at Deepdale. However, 3-0 and 1-0 defeats to Queens Park Rangers and Derby County respectively mean expectations that were maybe raised after the opening day have regressed once more.
A trip to face Marco Silva’s Fulham is an intimidating prospect this Saturday after conceding four unanswered goals but a challenge McCann will relish, after a troublesome summer at the MKM Stadium.
The Tigers have been working under transfer restrictions and therefore have a maximum squad size of 25, limiting their depth in some positions and increasing the difficulty of building a second tier squad.
Here, then, are three things we have clearly learnt about Hull City so far this season…
Reliance on Mallik Wilks
The ruthless 22-year-old scored 22 and assisted nine in all competitions as the Tigers roared their way to the League One title, and his presence in a front three or four this season is sure to wreak havoc on Championship rearguards.
The Leeds United youth product was substituted after 80 minutes against Preston and has not been involved since having sustained a calf injury, in which time Hull have not scored.
Keane Lewis-Potter and Josh Magennis have not looked anywhere near as dangerous as they did on the opening day, maybe because the North End backline were so preoccupied with the threat of Wilks.
Matt Ingram was at fault for Chris Willock’s opener last Saturday and Sam Baldock’s winner on Wednesday evening, costing the Tigers a point against Derby County.
Serial loanee Nathan Baxter has joined until the end of the season from the Chelsea, and the 22-year-old will not be content with a season on the bench.
Baxter impressed in a spell at Accrington Stanley last term and represents fierce competition for Ingram’s current spot between the sticks.
It will not be a surprise to see him step in for the trip to Fulham, a baptism of fire, with Matt Ingram dropping to the bench due to his poor form.
Lack of depth
Wilks’ absence would not have exposed a toothless frontline in another second tier side as much as it has with the Tigers.
Summer signings Randell Williams and Matt Smith have struggled to acclimatise with limited experience at the level, though it must be said Smith was unlucky to see a potential equaliser remarkably cleared off the line by Rob Dickie in the QPR game.
Lewis-Potter and Magennis are amongst the first names on the team sheet, but their supporting cast is questionable in terms of their capability at Championship level, it will be hard to address this issue before the window slams shut.