Hard work playing off for Hull
Assistant manager Steve Agnew believes simple hard work is the reason for Hull's exceptional defensive record at the KC Stadium.
After Saturday's goalless draw against Stoke, the Tigers have conceded the fewest goals at home in the entire Barclays Premier League - shipping just three in eight matches in front of the their own fans.
It is a statistic that few would have predicted at the start of the season and a point of some pride for a defensive group comprising a handful of cut-price summer signings and several survivors from last season's Championship promotion campaign.
Table-topping Arsenal, by comparison, have been breached twice as many times at Emirates Stadium, while seven teams are already in double figures.
With a celebrated centre-half such as Steve Bruce as boss, Hull might be expected to keep things tight at the back, but Agnew puts most of the credit on those putting in the hard yards.
"Credit to the players because they work at it every week," said Agnew.
"Our shape and our discipline behind the ball is really, really good and it does frustrate the opposition at times.
"We're really, really pleased with them. It's not just the defenders but the front two and all through the team as well.
"They just work at it and they get the reward for putting that work and effort into their defensive record.
"It's pleasing and it's very rewarding."
Hull's most recent shutout would not have happened without two fine saves from Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who intervened twice to deny Peter Crouch in the second half.
The former Rangers man has proved a bargain buy at £1.8million from Besiktas and Agnew was duly thankful for his efforts.
"McGregor kept us in it with two terrific saves," he admitted.
"We were a little loose in the second half and consequently Stoke gained momentum. Players like Crouch are always going to create chances when crosses come in but Allan made fantastic saves."
The Potters started slowly and needed their own goalkeeper, Asmir Begovic, to be at his best to keep Ahmed Elmohamady and Yannick Sagbo out in the first half.
But they dictated terms in the last 25 minutes and looked favourites to come away with a win.
Despite that, manager Mark Hughes admits the spectre of a hit-and-run defeat at Craven Cottage last year was hovering in the background.
"We had the scars of the performance at Fulham earlier in the season," he said.
"We'd played exceptionally well - even better than at Hull - and ended up losing the game with a counter-attack late in the game.
"We were mindful of that at the end and we didn't want it to happen again, so all in all I was happy with what we did as an away side."
Stephen Ireland did manage to put the ball in the net in the 70th minute, only to see his celebrations cut short by a marginal - but correct - offside flag.
He was back in the starting XI following a starring role in last weekend's 3-2 win over Chelsea and Hughes has been encouraged by his recent efforts.
He said: "Stephen was always a threat. He came on early in the Chelsea game, scored a goal and was at the heart of everything we did.
"I thought he played really well again."
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