Hull City registered an important win at the weekend against AFC Wimbledon after a couple of disappointing results. They let two points slip against Doncaster Rovers last weekend, and were kept at bay by an impressive Ipswich Town side who came away with a 1-0 victory from the KCOM.
Grant McCann has had injuries to deal with since Christmas, with Gavin Whyte, Richie Smallwood, Alfie Jones and Callum Jones to name but a few all missing a large number of games. League One Editor Luke Flanagan goes through the team that he thinks should be used as McCann's starting XI over the next few weeks to see Hull City consolidate their place towards the top of the League One table.
Admittedly, there is not an awful lot to choose between Matt Ingram and George Long. The only reason I have opted for the former rather than the latter is how verbally commanding he his in comparison. Even at the top of the West Upper stand at the KCOM, you can hear instructions being bellowed out by Ingram and his defenders usually look all the better for it.
This feels incredibly harsh on Josh Emmanuel, who has been outstanding during the first half of the season. I personally think that right back is the only position where rotation is possibly needed, with both players there showing excellent ability.
The only reason I feel McCann will stick with Coyle is that he is captain of the side currently with Richie Smallwood out injured. George Honeyman could have the skipper's armband if Emmanuel were to play, however.
Now adding goals to his game, Reece Burke has become an ever-present at the heart of the Tigers defense and often looks very comfortable at the back as well as being a threat from set-pieces going forward. Starting to look like one of the best central defenders in the League.
So accomplished at the left side of defense that Jordy De Wjis moved to QPR to get game-time, Greaves has been very impressive in his debut season for his home-town club. The only thing the youngster needs to do is start scoring from set pieces - he has the height to threaten, but after his first goal was awarded to Josh Magennis against Doncaster Rovers he does have a point to prove going forward.
The left back has had an excellent season, with a large amount of assists from both corners and free kicks. His free-kick routines with Honeyman often produce chances in the area, and whilst at home the side are not taking their chances in front of goal, the opportunities are still being created.
Pivotal for the Tigers to start to convert chances at home. In the absence of Smallwood, City play much better with a holding midfielder in front of the back four that is calm and can pick the right pass. He is coming back from injury which may be a slight concern, but a side without Jones in it is certainly a weaker one.
Played well at the start of the season, and then was dropped for a few games at the end of 2020. Since he came back into the side he has looked excellent, finally adding goals to his game as well as some stand-out performances in midfield.
Leading in terms of assists, the ex-Sunderland midfielder has been surprised many Tigers fans with superb performances and an excellent attitude. He is much more settled in the area and this shows in his game - he is one of the first names on the team sheet every week. His set pieces in particular often lead to opportunities and his availability is crucial.
Much was made of Lewis-Potter's dip in form over recent weeks, as well as the uncertainty around the contract dispute a couple of months ago. However, he was back to his best against AFC Wimbledon and was very unlucky not to score after being flagged offside before a truly special finish over the keeper.
The big forward has had an impressive season so far and the Tigers certainly look a better team going forward with him up front. Much was said by City fans in January about signing another striker, but nothing materialised - he will have to be at his best to make sure the Tigers keep firing up the table. It seems he is almost back to full fitness after his COVID scare over Christmas.
A player that Grant McCann can often get the best out of, and the penalty debacle at Plough Lane showed that he at least cares about getting on the scoresheet, no matter if his actions were commendable or not. A potential match winner on his day.
Options off the bench to change the game
A very talented player but does not seem to fit into McCann’s system. A very good option to have off the bench, however - but he does often seem to unbalance the side somewhat. Hopefully more to come from him.
Started well in City colours but an injury derailed that. Ineffective against Ipswich but will be important - particularly off the bench - for the next few games if McCann needs a spark or bit of pace down the wing.
Many may feel Emmanuel may have been slightly harshly treated in recent weeks, but he kept Coyle out of the team for large periods of the first half of the season. Definitely a player who needs game time, so expect McCann to swap these two regularly.
A massively disappointing season so far for the Scotsman, and there is clearly a player in there somewhere as shown by his excellent goal against Grimsby Town in the Papa John’s Trophy. Very much a confidence player, and that seems to be low at the moment.
Missing for the last few months due to injury, Callum Jones would be competing with his name sake Alfie for a midfield spot with Smallwood currently injured. He looks a talent, and as the season progresses he will certainly be a positive option if injuries start to prove to be a factor in the middle.
Breaking through this season as well as impressing at FC Halifax, Billy Chadwick feels to be very much a star of the future but is being used by McCann on the bench most weeks. Pacey and raw, he could be an unknown quality to throw on in a close game.
The Ex-Gillingham front man has had a torrid time with injuries this season, but now he is getting back to full fitness he could prove himself to be an important option in the forward line - just like he did back in December at home to Doncaster when he scored a late winner at the KCOM.
Ones for the future?
Played against Fleetwood Town in the Papa John’s Trophy win back in January, and did very well for his debut. Looks to be a player very much in the Jacob Greaves mould and will probably not get much game time except for injury to others ahead of him.
Again, played first team minutes against Fleetwood and was very impressive. The fans always love to see a Hull-born Academy graduate come through the ranks and there has been plenty of appearances from Hull natives this season.
Injured in the later part of 2020, James Berry was very impressive in the U23 game at Gainsborough Trinity (the last game Hull City fans could actually attend) and played first team minutes in the 2019/20 campaign in the FA Cup. He has started to play U23 football again and when he is back up to full fitness, he may feature on the bench as an option going forward.