Hull v Stoke
Sunday January 16, 12:00
Sky Sports

Hull impress despite cup defeat

Hull boss Grant McCann felt the Tigers’ 3-2 FA Cup defeat at home to Everton shows his side are making good progress in their quest to remain a Championship club. City pushed the Premier League outfit all the way, with the Toffees requiring an Andros Townsend winner in extra-time to scramble their way into the fourth round after a pulsating tie last weekend.

Tyler Smith‘s header 45 seconds in lit the blue touch paper for what became an absorbing contest in front of Hull’s owner-in-waiting Acun Ilicali. Everton rallied and came back to lead 2-1, only for Ryan Longman curl in a sensational equaliser 19 minutes from time. However, Townsend’s 99th minute goal settled matters in extra-time.

Speaking post-match, McCann said: “We gave it a really good go and had some big opportunities that we just couldn’t take. Our form has been really good and we are starting to show what we are about. The performance was really good and is something we can definitely build on. There are a lot of positives to take out of that.”

Stoke overcome Orient resistance

Tom Ince scored the first and set up the second to secure Stoke‘s first FA Cup win in six years as they beat League Two outfit Leyton Orient 2-0 last weekend. The midfielder broke Orient’s resistance by rifling in Alfie Doughty’s cross just before half-time and then played in substitute Tyrese Campbell for a late strike to seal the Championship side’s success.

Despite spells of pressure, the O’s failed to make the most of their chances in both halves with the Potters never completely in control of proceedings. Nevertheless, the City faithful were pleased to end a run of two straight home defeats with Michael O’Neill also handing a debut to 16-year-old Emre Tezgel off the bench, the youngest player in Stoke’s history.

It wasn’t all good news though. Midfielder Mario Vrancic is the latest first-teamer added to the treatment table with the Bosnian suffering a hamstring injury in the victory. O’Neill is already having to make do without a number of key personnel, including the likes of Harry Souttar, Joe Bursik and Nick Powell, and admitted Vrancic’s issue “was another blow”.

Hull and Stoke have crossed paths regularly this century with the Tigers posting only four triumphs across the duos 21 league meetings (W4-D6-L11) at all venues. Even so, Hull have taken top honours in each of the last two contests at their MKM Stadium base, with the away side actually only succeeding once in the last 13 renewals of this fixture.

Hull 2.942/1 have made positive strides this season. The hosts have gone from looking like relegation fodder to possible mid-table marvels as the injury-forced abandonment of the club’s preferred 4-3-3 system to a three-man defence has given the group a more robust and resolute framework. The Tigers have W4-D2-L2 in league action since early November.

The top-six has always been Stoke’s 2.608/5 aim and the Potters are in a reasonable position after a strong start to the season. However, Michael O’Neill has been frustrated with the inconsistency of his side with key injuries playing a part in the club’s recent downturn in fortunes (W1-D1-L4). The visitors have scored multiple goals just twice on their travels.

Neither Hull nor Stoke are accustomed to high-scoring affairs this season. Collectively, the duo have delivered Under 2.5 Goals 1.608/13 in 31/48 (65%) of combined Championship matches with the average goals per-game coming in at 2.13. At least one time has failed to score in 29 (60%) of those tussles making the 1.855/6 on Both Teams To Score ‘No’ of interest.

Considering the same selection has paid out in 10 of Hull’s 13 encounters with the current top-half, as well as six of Stoke’s last nine Championship clashes, plus the reverse meeting in September, I’m happy to be involved again. The price implies just a 54% chance of success in Sunday’s early kick-off, at odds with the various data points across both sides this season.

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