Hull City v West Bromwich Albion; MKM Stadium, Friday 3rd March 2023, 8pm
I said in my preview to the home game with Coventry City four weeks ago that February could be a defining month for Albion. It started and ended well, but the less said about the three games in between the better, and Baggies fans will hope that the mid-February blip is just that and that March and April will be much better.
The fixtures in February were always going to be tough and, at the Hawthorns at least, Corberán’s team came though OK. They have extended their unbeaten home record to nine games, an almost perfect record that is marred only by the late equaliser against Blackburn. Away from home, it has been a different story as the Baggies have lost their last four games on the road in all competitions since the comeback victory at Luton in mid-January. It is now time for that to change.
Hull City would seem like a good bet for Albion to end their poor travelling form – the Tigers are down in 16th place and the Baggies have won on their last two visits to what is now called the MKM Stadium – but Liam Rosenior’s side have not lost a home league game since mid-November, a run of six games, and have not conceded in their last three at the MKM. Admittedly, only two of those six matches have been victories, both against struggling sides (QPR and Cardiff City), and they could only manage a 0-0 draw with Preston North End last time out.
However, while it will be by no means a straightforward victory for Albion, it should be one that they are more than capable of achieving. The performance against Middlesbrough should give the team huge confidence ahead of this game, the first of a run of four matches against teams in the bottom half of the table. With Sheffield United having progressed to the FA Cup Quarter Final on Wednesday, it means that Corberán’s team will most likely have an extended break between their match at Cardiff City on 15th March and the visit of Millwall to the Hawthorns on 1st April.
So while February could have been a defining month, if Albion do not pick up a significant haul of points from their four games in March, it is likely that their play-off hopes will be very slim. The current gap of six points is more than we had hoped for a month ago, but the Baggies do have a game in hand over all the sides above them bar the Blades, a game that will be played on Tuesday when current bottom side Wigan Athletic visit the Hawthorns.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, however, as Friday’s opponents will put up a good fight. While it has not been as dramatic as Albion’s, Hull City have also enjoyed something of a resurgence following the appointment of a new head coach. Liam Rosenior took charge of his first game in early November, a week or so after Corberán, when the Tigers were just outside the relegation zone. In the Championship form table since then, City are in a comfortable 11th place having picked up 22 points from 16 games in comparison to the 20 points from 18 games before Rosenior’s appointment. Back to back home wins had them as high as 12th on 4th February, but failure to win any of the four games since then has seen them drop to 16th.
Rosenior does have a number of injury problems at the moment with the likes of Dimitrios Pelkas, Matt Ingram, Ryan Woods, Jean Michaël Seri and Aaron Connolly ruled out of Friday’s game and Cyrus Christie a doubt with a knee problem. Adama Traoré (not that one) made his debut last week having joined the club last summer but was then ruled out with a long term injury from which he has only just recovered, while Malcolm Ebiowei and Benjamin Tetteh have also recently returned from injury lay-offs. Iranian forward, Allahyar Sayyadmanesh, is also available for Friday having recovered from a hamstring injury.
Óscar Estupiñán, who scored both of Hull’s goals in their defeat at the Hawthorns in August, remains their chief threat with twelve goals this season although his scoring record is a little streaky. He scored seven goals in four games in August, including the brace against Albion, and then only one in his next 14 league games. He then scored a goal in each of his next four from Boxing Day but hasn’t found the net since mid-January.
As for Carlos Corberán, he was evidently delighted by the performance of the team against Middlesbrough, and that of Daryl Dike in particular as he not only scored twice but also put in an excellent all round display. Assuming Erik Pieters is recovered from the injury he picked up in that match, I expect, and hope for, an unchanged line up on Friday. The balance of that eleven is excellent with each player in the position that provides the most positive impact to the overall team. Albighton and Thomas-Asante can certainly offer further attacking options from the bench while Chalobah is another good option to help protect a lead, as he did last weekend.
As Corberán said, it was “back to basics” last weekend, and those basic principles need to be carried forward to the MKM Stadium and Albion should be confident of being able to return to the Black Country with all three points.
Albion have a good record against Hull City in recent years losing just one of the last twelve meetings, a 1-0 defeat at the KC Stadium in November 2018 thanks to a first half goal from Fraizer Campbell. The Baggies have won on their two visits since with Jake Livermore scoring the only goal of the game in November 2019 and a Karlan Grant brace securing the points in March last year.
Since the Tigers moved to their new stadium (now called the MKM Stadium) in 2003, they have only beaten Albion twice at home. As well as the 2018 fixture referred to above, they also won 2-0 in a Premier League fixture in March 2014 with their current head coach Liam Rosenior and former Baggie Shane Long finding the net on that occasion.
Albion’s biggest win at Hull came in January 2008 when goals from Kevin Phillips, James Morrison and Roman Bednár secured a 3-1 victory for Tony Mowbray’s team despite ending the game with ten men after the dismissal of Paul Robinson. Future Baggie, Boaz Myhill, was in goal for the hosts that day.
At the end of the 1990/91 season, Hull City shared the two-team drop zone with Albion when the Baggies were relegated to the third tier for the first time. Both games between the sides had finished 1-1 that season with the Hawthorns fixture one of the seven draws in the nine-game unbeaten run with which Albion ended their campaign. The game in Hull, at Boothferry Park in September 1990, was watched by less than 6,000 people as Bernard McNally’s opener was cancelled out by a strike from Andy Payton, the scoring done and dusted before half time.
The Baggies’ last game at Boothferry Park came in October 1992, with less than 6,000 in attendance once again. Simon Garner gave Ossie Ardiles’ swashbuckling side the lead just before half time but Leigh Jenkinson grabbed an equaliser in the 87th minute for the hosts. A minute later, however, Darren Bradley popped up with the winner for the visitors. The Tigers’ would be Albion’s last third tier opponents in a regular league game the following May as the Baggies concluded their league programme with a 3-1 victory at the Hawthorns thanks to a 37th and final goal of the season for Bob Taylor (he did not score in the play-offs) and a brace from Andy Hunt.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
20 Aug 2022 – League Championship
West Bromwich Albion 5 (Elder (o.g.), Swift, Furlong, Grant (pen), O’Shea)
Hull City 2 (Estupiñán (2))
Last meeting at Hull City
5 Mar 2022 – League Championship
Hull City 0
West Bromwich Albion 2 (Grant (2, 1 pen))
Albion’s Record against Hull City
If you cannot see the tables, click here.