Preston welcome a Hull side scrapping for their lives to Deepdale

Jarrod Bowen is Hull's top scorer with 12 goals
Jarrod Bowen is Hull's top scorer with 12 goals

The expectation is on teams relegated from the Premier League to bounce straight back but the reality has been a lot different this season.

While Middlesbrough sit level on points with Preston just outside the play-off zone, Sunderland and tomorrow’s opponents Hull City have found the Championship a tough ask.

Hull come to Deepdale in 21st place, goal difference the only thing keeping them out of the bottom three.

Below them, Sunderland have had a wretched time since dropping out of the top flight last May.

PNE boss Alex Neil knows how tough it can be for teams who have been relegated to the second tier – he experienced that with Norwich.

So to see Hull struggling at the wrong end of the table might not be the surprise it might seem at first.

“The Championship is such a hard level.

“Having been at Norwich and having suffered relegation, I know that turning around a squad which has been relegated is difficult.

“I left Norwich when they were in eighth place but if you look at Hull and Sunderland they are prime examples of how difficult it can be if you are in that negative spin.

“They have found it really tough to turn the negativity of losing games in the Premier League into trying to generate a positive atmosphere needed to move the club forward.”

Hull are without a league win for eight games, although the FA Cup has provided some comfort during that run.

They have a fifth-round tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge later in the month, the Tigers having won 2-1 against Nottingham Forest last week.

For now it is back to the bread and butter of league football as they look to climb the table.

Neil expects a tough test from Hull and history says that should be the case by reason of Preston tending to find things difficult at home against clubs from the lower reaches of the division.

Four of the bottom six teams have drawn at Deepdale this season, Neil’s aim being to make sure Hull do not go down the same route.

Said Neil: “In the second half of the season, certainly in the final third, a lot of team start fighting for their lives.

“Odd results start to crop up and we saw that the other week with Nottingham Forest winning at Wolves.

“Teams can find an inner strength from somewhere which they hadn’t had so far.”

PNE beat Hull 2-1 at the KCOM Stadium in September, Tom Barkhuizen and Callum Robinson on target.

Jarrod Bowen scored for the Tigers, one of 12 goals the 21-year-old has netted this term.

Bowen is their top scorer, followed by Kamil Grosicki with six goals.

Hull bolstered their squad with the signings of Angus MacDonald from Barnsley and Liverpool’s Harry Wilson.

North End were linked with Wilson at the start of the transfer window but they moved to sign Billy Bodin.

The 20-year-old has signed on loan for the Tigers.