Mark O’Haire’s Championship Playoff Semi-Final Tips – Derby v HullStats
Derby v Hull
The Championship play-off semi-final between Derby and Hull has been a long time coming but the pair finally go head-to-head in the first leg on Saturday lunchtime.
Derby v Hull, Saturday 14th May 2016, 12.30, Sky Sports 1
These two teams have as good as known they’d be meeting at this stage for a few weeks now and it is Derby who go into this home match at the iPro Stadium as marginal 29/20 favourites.
The Rams led the second-tier on Boxing Day but a peculiar season saw novice manager Paul Clement sacked in early February following an eight-match winless streak. Led by Darren Wassall, County eventually found their feet again to cement their place in the top-six.
Derby started the season as ante-post favourites but for the third successive season the Rams fluffed automatic promotion and find themselves in the Championship playoffs. Having dispatched Hull by 6-0 across their two regular season meetings, confidence should be high in the home camp.
But the hosts concluded their campaign with a disappointing 1-0 home loss to Ipswich that saw influential holding midfielder George Thorne break a leg. Wassall’s side never got going despite playing a full-strength XI last weekend although that result did interrupt a five-match winning streak at the iPro.
Derby have shipped just four goals in their last nine on home soil and returned W2-D4-L0 when playing against play-off rivals
but there’s an accusation that Wassall’s preferred possession-centric 4-3-3 system can see his side struggle to break down teams who defend deep and put numbers behind the ball.
In both previous contests with Hull, the Rams have had the upper hand in midfield because their energy and movement was better, allowing a well-stocked side to feed Tom Ince, Johnny Russell and Chris Martin in their three-pronged attack. But the visitors are sure to offer more resistance this time around.
Both Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore are experienced and competent performers patrolling the Tigers midfield but those Derby defeats weren’t the only matches in which the Humbersiders have been second best this season.
Steve Bruce’s troops saw 15 of their 24 league wins arrive on home soil and they managed just one goal in six at fellow play-off sides (W0-D3-L3). On their travels, Hull have W1-D1-L4 coming into this clash and kept just two clean sheets in 14 across all competitions.
The Hull boss has tinkered with his team in recent weeks but played his best XI in the 5-1 thrashing of Rotherham, serving notice to fellow play-off candidates that the Tigers are ready to do business. But I’d be surprised if Bruce let his squad off the leash on Saturday.
City tend to alternate between a 3-5-2 and 4-4-1-1 formation with 20-goal man Abel Hernandez leading the line, one of many experienced internationals in the group. Hull are a compact in the middle and versatile on the flanks but you’d assume they’ll look to keep things tight in the first leg.
Like in the majority of the Tigers’ matches against leading Championship lights, the visitors may wish to drop deep and focus on keeping their sheets clean before backing themselves to get the job done in the second leg. Having scored just 22 goals in 23 away games and losing eight of their last 14 on the road, perhaps that’s not such a bad idea.
Bets, Bets, Bets
First legs of Championship play-off semi-finals do tend to be tight affairs and with Hull firing blanks in four of their last six games as guests and a huge 17/23 (71%) of their away dates delivering fewer than three goals, it’s difficult to support a goal-heavy game here.
Derby have also been shy on goals at the iPro with nine of their last 11 falling below the 2.5 Goals line as well as 15/23 (65%) overall as the Rams shipped just 16 goals in front of their home supporters.
The wisest option may well be to select a goalless first-half with the 0-0 half-time correct score a 13/10 shot – Hull have managed just five first-half goals on the road whilst Derby have led at the interval as hosts on just eight occasions.
Half-Time Correct Score 0-0 (13/10)