It could be argued that the Championship title has just about been tied up. After all, Cardiff City have a game in hand and, being seven points ahead of their nearest rivals, it is hard to see that they would concede the top spot at such a late point in the season.
owever, below Cardiff there is a tight battle for second place with Hull City, Watford and Crystal Palace all fighting for automatic promotion.
If City had won against Nottingham Forest at the weekend, they would be five points clear of third place, but unfortunately for the Tigers, Forest came back from behind to win the tense encounter 2- 1.
Thankfully for Hull, Saturday also turned out to be a bad weekend for Watford. The Hornets, just two points behind City, unexpectedly slipped up against Barnsley failing to take full advantage of Hull’s poor result against Forest.
As Crystal Palace played a day later than Hull and Watford, they knew a win would take them into second place. However, the London side failed to capitalise on their promotion rivals’ defects and, instead of moving up the table, they stayed in fourth position thanks to a 3-0 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion.
Though it seems the battle for second place is only between Hull, Watford and Crystal Palace, it would be naïve to write off Nottingham Forest.
Forest, currently in fifth position and eight points away from second place, have been impressive since their managerial shake-up which saw Billy Davies return to the City Ground. ‘King Billy’, as he is affectionately known by Forest fans, has led his side to a six-game unbeaten run. Forest’s impressive form will prove to their promotion rivals that they will be no pushover going in to the closing stages of the season.
Over the season, Hull has played better at home. In the nineteen games they have played at the KC Stadium, the Tigers have amassed 38 points out of a possible 57 compared to the 30 out of 57 that they have collected on their travels. This bodes well for the team as they are yet to play host to some tough teams, including Watford, Middlesbrough and Cardiff, this season.
On paper, City’s away games don’t appear to be as challenging as their home games. Hull still have to travel to Huddersfield, Bristol City, Wolves and Ipswich but all of these teams are currently positioned in the bottom half of the table. I’m not suggesting for one minute that Hull will bag a maximum of twelve out of a possible twelve points from these matches, but I am certain that they will be more confident going into games against lower positioned teams than they would be going into matches against highly positioned opponents.
Watford still have some tricky fixtures including matches against Championship leaders Cardiff and sixth placed Leicester, as well as their away game to Hull. Although their remaining fixtures are arguably harder than City’s, Watford currently have a very good goal difference. Watford’s goal difference is +24 whereas Hull’s is +10. This obviously swings in Watford’s favour because the league is so tight and if Hull were to finish level on points with the Hornets, Watford would surpass the Tigers and move into second place.
Hull City’s goal difference may be a worry, especially as Crystal Palace also have a better ratio of goals for to goals against, but Steve Bruce is taking steps to address this issue by securing the loan deals of George Boyd and Gedo. Boyd, on loan at Hull until the end of the season, has scored an impressive three goals in five games since joining from Peterborough, while Gedo has also been very influential and contributed five goals in eight appearances.
Hull City has not yet got the job done but they are well on their way to a strong finish and, with these two players showing great form, this can only be good for their push for promotion.