Opposing View: Hull City

HAVING A BALL: Hull City boss Nick Barmby
HAVING A BALL: Hull City boss Nick Barmby

SOMETHING incredible happened last week when I backed Hull City to win at Reading - and they duly obliged.

Predicting football matches has proven to be a slightly problematic pastime this season, as borne out by the rather embarrassing Free Press Prediction league table.

Hull's James Chester

Hull's James Chester

Over to you this week Mr Hoden, see how you fare.

Needless to say, the other results on my weekend coupon were nowhere to be seen.

But I just had a good feeling about Hull, and it is fair to say that the whole of Hull is currently gripped by a similar feel-good factor.

There was certainly no gamble involved when the Hull directors decided to offer Nick Barmby the Tigers job on a full time basis.

And the decision is paying off big time.

Barmby got a head start as caretaker boss purely on the basis of his Hull roots. It always goes down well with the locals.

He also inherited a lot of good work and a more than useful squad from his predecessor Nigel Pearson, who hotfooted it back to Leicester after a slow start to the current campaign at the KC Stadium.

But under Barmby, City have kicked on dramatically.

And with seven wins out of their last ten in the Championship, they have the momentum to achieve a top six finish or even better.

Barmby’s successful start has been based on the solid defensive foundations he already found in place.

City’s goals against record is bettered only by league leaders West Ham United - and the outstanding form of young centre back James Chester has been central to that.

Chester (pictured below) was one of several young players plucked from Manchester United by Pearson and the commanding 23-year-old has really stepped up to the plate in the Championship this term.

Ahead of Chester, lies arguably the main difference between Pearson’s and Barmby’s Hull.

Whereas Pearson might have been perceived as slightly negative in his approach, Barmby is just the opposite.

The former Tottenham and Liverpool forward is filling his attacking players with belief, confidence and the freedom to express themselves.

Barmby has found himself a flexible formula, while he has had the luxury of very few injuries and consistency in selection.

Matty Fryatt and Aaron McClean pose a real threat up front in a traditional 4-4-2 formation.

But Hull are equally dangerous when widemen Robbie Brady and Cameron Stewart - players who also served their apprenticeship at Old Trafford - are left to roam in support of a lone front man in a 4-5-1.

The Tigers’ attacking bite does not stop there either.

Former Red Devil Corey Evans is enjoying his most consistent season in the middle of the park, where he is ably assisted by Slovenian international Robert Koren.

Koren is joint top scorer with Fryatt on eight goals - not many of which have been tap-ins.

Hull might just have hit the jackpot with Barmby, who has got his players playing with smiles on their faces.

The Tigers are a good bet for the play-offs - but I’ll be keeping my money in my pocket come Tuesday night.

Rovers might have a lousy record on the road but home bankers just do not exist in the Championship.

Ask Reading.

GOODWIN’S VERDICT: Rovers simply have to take their chances in front of goal against the watertight Tigers.