Darren Wassall has called on his Derby players to show character and resilience as they set about saving face in the wake of a crushing 3-0 first-leg home defeat. The only problem is, those players haven’t shown enough of those qualities over the past 18 months and Wassall is now an easy fall guy - the first-time manager who was simply out of his depth.
So don’t be too shocked if the Rams capitulate for the second time in four days. Their intentions might be honourable to begin with, but if they go behind, even the pride incentive could diminish quite rapidly. And with 11 days between this game and the final, there’s nothing to stop Hull from going to town as a confidence-builder after such a frustrating campaign.
The Tigers stuck five past Rotherham in their last home game to overshadow pre-match protests regarding the club’s new membership scheme and Steve Bruce, always quick to jump to his chairman’s defence and decry the negative effects of supporter discontent, will be keen to turn this into another occasion to savour, rather than a passive crawl to the finish line.
There’s also the small matter of that 6-0 aggregate score across the two regular season meetings, mentioned incessantly throughout the build-up to both matches. If the Hull players are even remotely affronted by that statistic, then they have every incentive to keep going and put the record straight with another handsome victory here.
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Wassall has come in for stinging criticism over the past few days, his like-for-like substitutions causing consternation among the iPro faithful who wanted a switch to 4-4-2 much sooner. Darren Bent was eventually introduced on 87 minutes and moments later the Rams conceded the killer third, partly due to a lack of midfield cover when defending the counter from their own corner.
If Wassall reacts to the criticism and deems it necessary to be more expansive this time around, he might just be play himself into deeper trouble. Hull have numerous options on the bench who can all make an impact, with the likes of Sam Clucas, Chuba Akpom and Sone Aluko sidelined due to their lack of big-game experience. They should all be eager for a taste of the action.
All of which in mind, take the 17/5 available on Hull to clear the -1 handicap and split an additional point between the Hull 4-0 and Hull 4-1 correct scores, both chalked-up at 55/1. The 90-minute market might be difficult to contest but the standard conversions don’t adequately factor in the potential snowball effects should the Rams fall further behind.
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