Zat eyes Hull revenge
DEFEAT against Hull City in September proved a fatal blow from which ex-Wanderers boss Owen Coyle never recovered – but Zat Knight is now hoping a measure of revenge against the Tigers can kick-start the Dougie Freedman era.
Promotion hopes were still sky high six months ago when a Hull side inspired by former Reebok favourite Abdoulaye Faye crushed the Whites on home turf to prompt angry calls for Coyle’s head from the travelling support.
The Scot was sacked just five weeks later.
But the obvious defensive deficiencies highlighted so clearly under the late summer sun at the KC have been a problem his successor Freedman has been working hard to address.
Wanderers have taken five points from their last nine, and become a more stubborn unit since Knight was teamed up in the centre of defence by on-loan West Brom defender Craig Dawson.
And though progress is not as swift as some would like, the big defender is confident that the team are on the up.
“We need to keep some momentum,” he said. “I’d rather it be slow than not there at all.
“It is sometimes just the little bit of luck like a scramble in the box that ends up in the back of the net. And they are the kind of things that haven’t gone for us recently but they certainly have gone against us.
“But I think the team deserves a bit of credit, not just the back four or five, because we defend as a team and things have been improving.
“We just need to keep going with that. It’s still possible that things can happen.
“Things could look very different after these next two home games. If we can get six points out of that, we could be there or thereabouts.”
There or thereabouts indeed. It is the intangible measure of progress that has been such a source of frustration for Wanderers fans in recent months, following a side that has been bogged down in the bottom half for some time now.
But even the team’s biggest critic would admit strides have been made since that depressing defeat at Hull – a result that also had completely the opposite effect on Steve Bruce’s side, who have not looked back since.
“That game was one of our worst, so it would be nice to turn it around and give the fans something to shout about,” Knight admitted.
“I think at home our performances haven’t been the best this season. That is a disappointment. But I think we have done okay in the last two away games and need to carry that on.
“Hull have been in a rich vein of form. They are a good side but we want three points and that has got to be the aim on Saturday.”
Much has been made about the Whites’ inability to hold a lead this week following Derby’s late goal at Pride Park on Tuesday night.
And Knight believes that performance highlighted the areas that have to be improved if they are to tame the Tigers tomorrow.
“The goal on Tuesday night was a bit sloppy but given 20 chances to put it out for a corner, Sam Ricketts would probably do it 19 times,” he said of the Wales defender’s late error to let in Jamie Ward for the equalising goal.
“It’s just that one time you get lackadaisical and you get punished. That seems to have happened to us a lot this season.
“When we are ahead we get a bit too comfortable. It’s only when we go behind that we seem to start scrapping.
“We do need to start killing people off but we can’t dwell on the Derby result. We didn’t lose the game and I think the boys have done terrifically in the last couple of games. It’s just the little things, concentration in the last five minutes, which needs to improve.”
Knight is also happy with his burgeoning partnership with Dawson, despite it missing one crucial statistic.
“We want the first clean sheet,” he said. “And hopefully that can come against Hull.
“It hasn’t taken too long to gel. There have been a lot of games recently so we haven’t had that much time to work on shape but I think we have been working well together.”