If Hull don’t wish to find themselves detached from the automatic promotion race, they need to do something about their wretched away form. Since returning from the November international break as Championship leaders, they’ve taken just one point from four away trips, all of them against bottom-eight opposition at the time.
Combine that trend with the fact QPR have only lost one of their 12 home matches and we should first establish, above all else, that the away win is way too skinny here at 13/8. Based on the respective performance data, all three outcomes should be competing for favouritism with implied probabilities ranging between 32.5 and 34.5 per cent.
Setbacks at Bristol City (1-1), Leeds (1-2), Rotherham (0-2) and Preston (0-1) just go to show the current Jekyll & Hyde nature of a Hull team unrivalled in its abundance of Premier League pedigree. The problem is purely motivational. With another transfer window looming, the most feasible explanation is that prospective moves elsewhere are leading to some level of cognitive dissonance that manifests in testing surroundings.
Bruce might only lose one or two players next month but at the moment it’s any one or two from about six, and while those half-a-dozen contenders have half a mind on staying injury-free, then fluidity, cohesion and attacking inspiration are likely to suffer. As such, there’s value in backing QPR to keep a clean sheet at 11/5. The R’s have managed six shut-outs in their last 13 outings and it’s a 13/8 shot on my tissue.
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When similar accusations were being levelled at Hull around the August window, they picked up just one point from their first three away matches. But then Bruce drew a line under the matter, imploring his players to put all the speculation behind them and focus collectively on the club’s objectives, and they responded with four successive away wins.
Now it’s the elephant in the room again. From a man-management perspective, it would be folly for Bruce to question the desire of his players at this stage, so the Geordie gaffer is paying lip service to alternative reasoning and happily entertaining questions from local reporters that maybe a change of formation might be the answer.
Hull haven’t played 3-5-2 since these two sides drew 1-1 on Humberside in September, and injuries to Michael Dawson and Alex Bruce mean they would have to drag full-back Moses Odubajo out of position to make that happen here, so we should probably take those musings with a pinch of salt. But that’s not to say the Tigers can’t tighten up.
QPR must contend with a similar problem, albeit there’s is more clear cut. They expect to lose Charlie Austin in January and must find an alternative route to goal with their 26-year-old striker likely to be sidelined for a fourth successive match since demonstrating his worth to potential suitors with a point-saving brace in the televsied 2-2 draw with Brighton.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink deployed Matty Phillips as a false nine in the 1-1 draw with Huddersfield on Monday, a game that remained goalless for 80 minutes. Indeed, the first goal time across QPR’s last seven home games has averaged at 76 minutes, so it’s not much of a stretch to see the mileage in backing the 0-0 correct score at 7/1.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.