Cup-tied strikeforce shouldn’t hurt Hull against giant-killing Blades
Some 22 years ago, almost to the day of this season’s FA Cup semi-final clash, the managers of Hull City and Sheffield United played directly against one another in a Wembley showpiece.
Nigel Clough, under his legendary father Brian, and Nottingham Forest lost a League Cup final 1-0 to Manchester United, who were captained by Steve Bruce.
Heartbreak on the hallowed turf is something the former and his Blades have endured more than their fair share of.
It is the gulf of two divisions between the Steel City side and the Tigers, plus perpetual play-off disappointment, which results in Sheffield United being 9/2 outsiders for a win in 90 minutes.
However, Coral make them a shorter price to reach the FA Cup final at 9/4, because of a giant-killing run to this penultimate hurdle that contained teams of a similar standing.
Aston Villa and then Championship promotion hopefuls Forest act as blueprints for Clough, which could help him get one over the man who marked him out of the 1992 League Cup final.
Hull have a similarly English element to their spine like Paul Lambert’s team does, with playmaker Tom Huddlestone, 5/1 to score, set to return for Bruce.
Parallels can be drawn between the Tigers and East Midlands outfit Forest, because both cannot field prolific strikers. Punters must remember January signings Shane Long and Nikcia Jelavic are cup-tied, so Bruce cannot call upon them here.
Nonetheless, Hull are odds-on favourites for victory in 90 minutes (8/11), and to reach the final (1/2). Without their marquee men in attack, look to Matty Fryatt to find the net.
He has three goals in as many starts in the competition this term, plus two in his last three against this opposition, so odds of 5/4 on him scoring anytime, and 5/1 to get the opener, are worth considering.
Set pieces have been a likely avenue for both the Tigers and Blades throughout this campaign, so back centre halves Curtis Davies (11/2 anytime) and Harry Maguire (8/1) to net from free kicks or corners for their respective clubs.
Ignoring play-off pain at Wembley is essential if United are to upset Hull. Blades fans will remember only too well how agonisingly narrow the margins of defeats were on their last two trips to the ‘home of football’.
Ghosts could be laid to rest here, and Clough will be expecting scoring heroes from their fantastic run to step up.
Labouring striker Chris Porter made a decisive impact off the bench against Forest. It’s a tactic United will go to again if they can keep it tight. Odds of 11/4 say the former Derby County frontman will be on target anytime.
This one looks like being close, with Clough using ex-Everton attacker Jose Baxter nominally up front from the start. History repeating itself – Bruce beating the Blades boss by a goal to nil – is a tantalising 17/4.
Consider how terrific the Tigers’ defensive record has been in the cup too – just two goals conceded. A win to nil is less definite, but a safer shout at 6/4.