Strap in and hold tight, the pace is about to pick up in a big way.

If the Championship is a war attrition, then the next six weeks bring the most sapping sequence of battles.

Over 39 days Hull City face 10 games. Six away and four at home. Thirty points will be up for grabs between now and New Year’s Day and once the Tigers have faced Sheffield Wednesday in the opening fixture of 2020 they will surely know a lot more about where this campaign is headed.

Grant McCann’s focus “from day one” has been locked on the top six and the deficit on the play-off places currently stands at six points.

Hull City players form a huddle at the John Smiths Stadium, Huddersfield
Hull City players form a huddle at the John Smiths Stadium, Huddersfield

Can City close the gap before the FA Cup third round finally grants respite? Repeating the form of the last 10 games, when 17 points were collected, would give them every chance but the strength of McCann’s squad promises to be vital.

Here’s a detailed rundown on the challenges lying in wait for City through to the dawn of a New Year.

Sunday 24 November

Middlesbrough (A)

Fifteen days after seeing a three-game winning run ended by a 1-0 loss to West Brom, City return to action chasing what would be a third consecutive away victory after the excellent displays at Nottingham Forest and Fulham.

Hitting those standards again would give City every chance of piling further pressure on Middlesbrough. Jonathan Woodgate’s men are without a win since September 14 and that barren nine-game run leaves them third bottom of the Championship.

The concern? City have one only one of their last 21 league games on Teesside.

 

Wednesday 27 November

Preston North End (H)

If every Championship season has a surprise package, Preston are looking most likely to assume that title this season. Alex Neil’s men are flying after one defeat in 13, with West Brom the only team above them in the league.

Alex Neil, manager of Preston North End
Alex Neil, manager of Preston North End

There’s been no let-up from Preston but a chink in their armour has been a patchy away record this term.

City’s home form also has room for improvement. Only Stoke have lost more games in front of their own fans this season and to date the Tigers have only found 11 points from a possible 27. 

Saturday 30 November

Barnsley (A)

Last season’s League One runners-up have endured a miserable return to the Championship so far, winning only one of 16 games. That form swung the axe on Daniel Stendel but a new era has begun this week with the appointment of another German boss, Gerhard Struber.

City’s visit to Oakwell will be Struber’s first home game as Barnsley boss on Saturday week.

They’ve got trips to Blackburn and Middlesbrough to come first and the wins have to start coming quickly for the Tykes. City, though, will afford them no sympathy.

 

Saturday 7 December

Stoke City (H)

Another newcomer to the Championship will be in the Stoke dug-out when they visit the KCOM Stadium for the first of six games in December and for McCann it will be a very familiar face.

Michael O’Neill was McCann’s last Northern Ireland boss and he’s now stepped down from international football with the remit of sparking Stoke’s season into life.

None can doubt the pedigree of the players he has inherited but their consistent failings this season will have the Tigers eyeing up three points on home soil.

Tuesday 10 December

Leeds United (A)

The toughest fixture of them all? Quite possibly. Marcelo Bielsa’s side are currently third in the Championship and have so far lost only three of 16 games. Most impressive is their defensive record, with just nine goals conceded all campaign.

Marcelo Bielsa manager of Leeds United
Marcelo Bielsa manager of Leeds United

City, though, have history at Elland Road. Last Christmas brought the stand-out result of the entire campaign when winning 2-0 through Jarrod Bowen’s double and plenty of survivors will aim to repeat the trick in a couple of weeks.

 

Friday 13 December

Charlton Athletic (A)

A congested week concludes with a televised trip to Charlton, an opponent currently level on points with the Tigers.

Charlton’s best came in the opening weeks of the season when riding the crest of a post-promotion wave and they return to action this weekend aiming to find a first win in five games.

Lee Bowyer’s men have upset a number of big-hitters this season and you also have to go back to 1985 to find the last time City returned home from the Valley with three points.

Saturday 21 December

Birmingham City (H)

The final Championship fixture before Christmas will be one McCann and his players will target for another victory.

Birmingham have quietly gone about their business this season to stay within striking distance of the play-off places but they’ve been poor travellers. Six defeats have come in eight away games this season.

The Blues are no soft touch but City will want to arrive at the halfway mark of the campaign on a high.

 

Thursday 26 December

Nottingham Forest (H)

The second half of the Championship season commences on Boxing Day and begins with a testing clash against promotion candidates Nottingham Forest.

Jordy de Wijs celebrates as Hull City take the lead at Nottingham Forest
Jordy de Wijs celebrates as Hull City take the lead at Nottingham Forest

City might have got the better of Sabri Lamouchi’s men last month but they’ve responded well to cement themselves in the top six and within three points of the automatic promotion slots.

A big crowd will be expected, as will another big test for the Tigers.

Sunday 29 December

QPR (A)

The final game of 2019 brings City a trip to the capital up against a QPR team that has already beaten McCann’s men once this season. That 3-2 victory was as impressive a performance witnessed by an opposing team but the Hoops have struggled to keep up those levels since.

Four games without a win has slowed their momentum but Mark Warbuton believes he has assembled a group of players capable of lasting the distance. City have won three of their last four trips to Loftus Road.

Wednesday 1 January

Sheffield Wednesday (A)

There will be a few hangovers nursed at Hillsborough, where City will aim to boost their promotion credentials by completing what would be an excellent league double over Sheffield Wednesday.

A 1-0 win at the KCOM Stadium, courtesy of Tom Eaves’ late header, arguably first showed City’s capabilities against the top teams this season but the Owls have not been easily conquered on home soil.

Garry Monk’s men have lost only one of eight games, leaking just five goals in the process. Bringing three points home from South Yorkshire really would be the perfect start to 2020.

Hull City players celebrate the team's win over Bristol City in the Championship play-off at Wembley

15 years ago the Hull Daily Mail conducted a poll of Hull City fans to find the greatest-ever side.

The poll took place to mark the 100th birthday of the Tigers.

You can see the results of that poll by clicking here.

In the years that have followed City have been to an FA Cup final, played in Europe and won promotion to the Premier League three times, with a host of names etching their place into the club's folklore in the process.

What has been the impact of those players and where do they sit in the list of greatest players?

That's what we want to know. So we are launching a new poll to find the greatest Hull City players of all time.

Click the link here to vote: https://forms.gle/jc3jX94m5N7mu89z5

Or pick your first, second and third choice in order and name your greatest manager. Then send an email to [email protected]

Make sure your subject line is Greatest Hull City players. The results of the poll will be published later this year.

 

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