Hull City's Southampton trip ideal time to end Premier League away woes
It was 1951 when Hull City last returned home from Southampton with three league points and there has been no better time to end that wait than this weekend's meeting at St Mary's Stadium.
Beating Claude Puel's side might just be enough to secure the Tigers' Premier League survival. Nothing would be certain, far from it, but an overdue victory on the south coast would take City within touching distance of safety.
A two-point lead over 18th-placed Swansea City could become five ahead of their greatest rivals in the relegation fight travel to Manchester United on Sunday. And from there it would seem an awfully long way back for Paul Clement's side.
This could be the weekend for Hull. With a doomed Sunderland side next up at the KCOM Stadium the following Saturday, collecting a win at Southampton would be enormous. Swansea's fight would continue but their spirit could be broken if Marco Silva can inspire a first away win over the Saints in 66 years.
Much has been made of the Tigers' remarkable home record -- quite rightly so -- but there is still a need to pick up something, anything, from their final two away games. Although beating Sunderland, as they will be expected to do, will take Hull up to 36 points, Swansea would still fancy their chances of finding the two wins needed from their last four games to overturn that deficit.
No one will want to leave hopes hanging on the final day visit of Tottenham Hotspur, who might yet arrive at the KCOM Stadium chasing the Premier League title, so Saturday's trip to Southampton and then the one to Crystal Palace can ill afford to end in defeat.
This has become an increasingly curious record for City. A side that has taken 19 points from a possible 21 on home soil has mustered just one from a possible 45 on their travels. The win at Swansea on Aug. 20 remains the one away victory in the Premier League, decorated only by the draws at Burnley and Manchester United.
Fourteen defeats on the road have left the Tigers in this pickle and they must head to Southampton with a plan to break the current sequence of five straight losses outside of East Yorkshire.
There were promising signs when defeated 3-1 at Stoke City a fortnight ago, a challenge not too dissimilar to the one they will face at St Mary's. After recovering from a torrid start, at one stage Hull looked good for at least a point after Harry Maguire's equaliser.
Then came those familiar failings. Chances were not converted and soft goals leaked. The stats tell their own sorry story. The Tigers have conceded 41 goals on their travels this season and scored only nine. That's not to say Silva will lead his side down to Southampton without hope or confidence. Last weekend's magnificent win over Watford, where the Tigers played with 10 men for over an hour, ought to have done wonders for belief.
Events of this week have even ensured there was no damage inflicted at all. Oumar Niasse had his three-match suspension correctly overturned on Tuesday, ensuring the striker will be eligible for Saturday's game at St Mary's instead of being a victim of Bobby Madley's ridiculously soft red card. Hull need all the bodies they can get during the run-in and Niasse has become a focal point in Silva's plans. His hold-up play encourages Kamil Grosicki and Lazar Markovic to attack down the flanks, offering a major threat on the counter.
Southampton have been a solid, if unspectacular, outfit this season but City have already beaten them once. The 2-1 win in November proved to be Mike Phelan's last Premier League win in charge yet still offers up some kind of blueprint.
Although City can expect to be under pressure for long spells, just as they were at the KCOM Stadium, taking chances when they come along can make all the difference. Southampton could count themselves unfortunate to be beaten six months ago but it was City, somewhat unusually, who found the killer instinct with the second-half goals of Robert Snodgrass and Michael Dawson.
The value of a league double would be almost priceless in these circumstances. As Swansea make their way to Old Trafford, hearing of a Hull City win at Southampton would be a dagger through the heart. That has to be the aim for Silva and his side.
Philip Buckingham is ESPN FC's Hull City blogger. Follow him on Twitter: @PJBuckingham.