There’s no doubting that Coach Lee Radford will be disappointed with his side’s surrendering of a 22 -4 lead against Warrington Wolves to eventually draw 22 – 22. On a note of positivity, it’s pleasing to see the Black & Whites building up leads with such ease and fluency but it seems in recent weeks, that the Airlie Birds are falling away as games progress. Hull host a resurgent Salford side on Friday at the KCOM Stadium. I look at five areas the Black & Whites must address if they are to overcome the Red Devils:
Playing the full 80 minutes: For all the praise Hull have received in the last few weeks for their teamwork, this side of their game is concerning as they continue to fall away in the second-half of games. It almost cost them against Wigan in a narrow 22 – 20 win and as Mark Minichiello stated in the week: Saturday’s draw almost felt like a point lost. There’s no lack of effort from the side in any department and creativity remains in abundance but in terms of mind-set, something is slightly amiss. It’s an issue Radford will drill into the players on the training ground and hopefully one Gareth Ellis as Captain will address on the pitch. To use an at best average analogy; The Airlie Birds resemble Lewis Hamilton bursting into a seemingly unassailable lead in a Formula 1 one race, only to be caught on the final lap. It needs to change soon or a side bursting with potential to dominate is going to fall short.
The left edge must not be exploited: I love watching Stevie Michaels play but Warrington’s winger Matty Russell was able to score a hat trick of tries going down his left edge. Replacing the injured Fetuli Talanoa, there’s no doubting Stevie’s impressive work-rate but he was drawn in from the wing on a number of occasions by the Wolves who exploited this. Obviously his understanding with Josh Griffin is probably still developing but Radford must be looking to unleash Fetuli on the wing again, who has been included in the 19-man squad after recovering from concussion. It’s only when he’s absent that you truly appreciate Talanoa’s core strength and metre-making abilities. I would suggest, given Tuimavave’s continued absence, that Michaels will switch to the right wing, linking up with Mahe Fonua at centre to revive a combination that proved so dangerous in 2016. Griffin and Talanoa are a forceful prospect as a pairing and Hull’s defensive line will be stronger if the winger is deemed fit enough to play.
Kelly’s absence needs to be Connor’s gain: Maybe I was a little optimistic in Round 1 when I suggested Jake Connor was going to have a big game in the halves but given that he’s had a few rounds to adjust to his surroundings, now is the time for him to deliver. There’s no doubting losing a player of Albert Kelly’s calibre will leave a huge void, particularly given the form that he’s been in but Jake has another chance to stake his claim at Stand-off. I want to see the player who so professionally dispatched the Airlie Birds away at Huddersfield last season. We’ve seen what he can do before and I suspect with a little bit of confidence, we’ll see it for Hull FC too.
Litten must be allowed to continue his development: We are quietly confident at Up the Cream that this young lad has a very bright future. With Danny Houghton out for at least another week with his calf injury, it makes sense to continue Litten’s development in the first-team. He showed flashes of his ability against the Wolves including his involvement for Jamie Shaul’s try. While he’s still developing, playing alongside so many established pros can only improve his game. He’s also in the lucrative position of playing alongside Danny Washbrook, so sharing the hooking role takes a little bit of pressure off the youngster.
Kicking game must be astute: This isn’t an area that is as readily mentioned amongst FC fans as previous years now we have Marc Sneyd and his magic boot. However, given the enforced absences of Kelly and Houghton, who offer alternative options, Sneyyyd must be precise in his kicking during play. It’s an area where the Black & Whites have looked a little wayward at times in 2017 and has already cost them valuable points. On his day, Sneyd can kick teams into submission and he will probably be doing this on his own against the Red Devils, so it’s imperative he hits top form. In mentioning a good kicking game, this probably broaches the topic of game management once again and if Hull are to defeat Salford, they need to be savvy with the boot and with the ball in hand too.