Can Long and Jelavic fire up the strike partnership to keep Hull in the top half?

Shane Long

Steve Bruce’s new strike duo will be looking to find their best form at the KC Stadium.

With a fee agreed with West Bromwich Albion for Shane Long, and the services of Nikica Jelavic already secured from Everton, just how good can the new-look Hull City strikeforce become?

With Sone Aluko out injured with an achilles problem since October, Bruce has largely preferred the combination of Yannick Sagbo and Danny Graham, although he has started Sagbo as a lone striker in the last three league games.

The arrivals of Long and Jelavic will surely see that change with both signings expecting to start regularly, in contrast to their situations at previous clubs.

Sagbo and Graham only have three league goals between them this season for the team currently occupying 10th place, a major factor in Hull only scoring 22 goals in 21 matches so far.

That is a figure embellished by the stand-out 6-0 victory over Fulham recently, so to improve on the tally of 16 goals from the 20 other games, it was clear Bruce needed reinforcements.

Long faced stiff competition at the Hawthorns, with the summer arrival of Nicolas Anelka, emergence of exciting youngster Saido Berahino and the presence of both Victor Anichebe and Stephane Sessegnon.

The Irishman has managed three league goals, including a stunning brace against Aston Villa in November, but had been in and out of the team, only completing 90 minutes six times.

Now, he will be looking to rekindle the consistency that saw him net 25 times in 50 appearances for Reading in 2010-11.

His best tally for West Brom was 11 goals in 37 appearances last season but Bruce will be hoping to get more out of the 43-cap Ireland international.

Croatia international Jelavic has had a difficult time at Everton this season, with Romelu Lukaku leading the way as Roberto Martinez has chosen to only play with one striker.

However, it is only two years since he hit the ground running at Goodison Park.

Having joined for a fee of £5m from Rangers on January 31st 2012, the former Rapid Wien striker enjoyed a phenomenal run of form, nabbing 11 goals in 16 appearances.

That included a brace at Old Trafford as Everton arguably cost Manchester United the title with a thrilling comeback from 4-2 down to 4-4.

His form tailed off in David Moyes’ last campaign with the Toffees though, and he could only net eight times in 43 appearances before being sidelined under Martinez.

A recent brace in the FA Cup against QPR reminded fans of what he could do, with a drilled long-range effort and a poachers’ finish from three yards, and he was unlucky not to complete a hat-trick when his chipped penalty kick hit the bar.

Jelavic has the added motivation of the upcoming World Cup to help him rediscover form, as he will be planning on adding to his 31 caps with an appearance in the tournament’s opening game against Brazil.

With Jelavic’s short-passing link-up play and Long’s hard-grafting work ethic, Bruce could be on to a winner with the new combination if he can get at least one of them firing regularly.

With the Tigers playing a back three and five in midfield, the new front pair should be provided with plenty of service from the likes of Tom Huddlestone, Maynor Figueroa and Ahmed Elmohamady.

For the rest of the Premier League, it’s starting to look more and more like Hull City are here to stay.

image: © Michael Kranewitte, CC-by-sa 3.0/at

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