Super sub Niasse finds new lease of life under Silva
(Reuters) - Hull City had been holding out desperately for one New Year hero to lead their fight for Premier League salvation, but now it transpires they may have stumbled across two in the shape of an unlikely manager and a misfit striker.
Marco Silva is the Portuguese coach whose arrival at the club in place of Mike Phelan in January seemed to quite underwhelm fans and pundits alike.
Similarly, less than a fortnight later, the signing on loan of Oumar Niasse, a Senegalese forward who had been packed off to play alongside Everton's youngsters in the reserves, hardly raised a great deal of hope at the Hull City Stadium.
Yet after Silva brought on substitute Niasse to score the brace that inspired a crucial 2-1 win over fellow strugglers Swansea City on Saturday, there could be no doubting this unlikely pair have put a roar of defiance back into the Tigers.
Silva has confounded Premier League watchers who questioned his credentials to lead a relegation dogfight on the back of spells at Sporting and Olympiakos Piraeus, having provided real organisation and reinjected heart into a side that lost its way.
Niasse, for one, has evidently been helped by the manager to rediscover a touch of confidence in front of goal after his dispiriting experience of being sidelined at Goodison Park.
On Saturday, Silva, who had left his 'super sub' on the bench again as he settled for a one-striker approach, had no hesitation in turning to Niasse once Hull looked to be running out of ideas around the hour mark.
Niasse, who scored against Manchester United in the League Cup and came off the bench to net against Liverpool in the league, made all the difference when he replaced midfielder Alfred N'Diaye as Silva gambled on a twin strike force.
Niasse's two excellent finishes in the space of nine minutes proved decisive before Alfie Mawson's late header for the Swans prompted a jittery last couple of minutes for the home fans.
"Niasse knows sometimes you don't start the game -- but I know the right moments to change," Silva said after the win that still left Hull in the bottom three a point from the safety zone but give them hope of clambering out of the relegation places.
"During the January market, we tried to find solutions in the market and Niasse is a different player to the other strikers we have in our squad.
"He feels that we believe in him. That's important for him and the other strikers."
Sadly for the Tigers, the terms of Hull's loan agreement with Everton means Niasse cannot play for them at Goodison Park next week, but he has demonstrated already that he will be a key figure in the Tigers' fight for survival.
(Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Ken Ferris)