Time running out for Tigers: Harper
Published 12/04/2015 | 23:06
Steve Harper knows it is fast approaching "now or never" time for struggling Hull.
Last season's high of a first ever FA Cup final feels a long a time ago for Steve Bruce's side, who have a real fight on their hands to earn Barclays Premier League survival.
City are bottom of the form table after six winless matches and have an unenviable run-in, with Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United all to come in the final six matches.
Fellow strugglers Burnley and revitalised Crystal Palace are the other opponents, with the latter Hull's next opponent two weeks from now.
That break has been brought by Liverpool's place in the FA Cup semi-finals and could well mean they trot out at Selhurst Park in the relegation zone.
"Everybody else's results are irrelevant if we do not start winning football matches," Hull goalkeeper Harper said.
"Work has been put in on the training ground, so credit to the gaffer, Mike (Phelan, assistant manager) and the staff.
"We went back to a four (in defence) today which gave us a better attacking threat.
"The training has been good and since Mike has come in, the tempo has gone up and been good.
"Ultimately, it is a Saturday afternoon when we need to go out there and do it.
"When we play in two weeks' time we may well be in the bottom three and that is when it really is now or never.
"There are some long days and a lot of hard work. We just need to start taking the chances that we created today."
Hull were far from blown away by Southampton and Bruce's men were one again left bemoaning an inability to capitalise on their dominance.
Harper was understandably frustrated by that on his return to the starting line-up after the 40-year-old was preferred to the out-of-sorts Allan McGregor.
"I did not know and I think the manager said before the match he had a decision to make," he said.
"We went for a walk, like we always do, and I saw him having a chat with Allan, but I didn't know until he put the team up at 12.30.
"When the team is struggling, it is hard to watch at the best of times and when the team are having a tough time, you want to be out there.
"So I am delighted to be back involved but, ultimately, we need to start picking up points."
That determination to help Hull get to winning ways means talk about his own future is on the back burner, despite his contract expiring at the end of the season.
"I have had a couple of calls or sniffs about continuing as a player, but I have my level four, my UEFA A licence, and I do enjoy the coaching side of it," Harper said.
"But I am not even remotely considering making any decisions until the end of the season, when hopefully Hull City remain a Premier League team."
Many at the start of the campaign expected Southampton to be in a similar boat, yet they sit just five points off the top-four with six matches remaining.
It has been a remarkable campaign and one which James Ward-Prowse still dreams of ending with Champions League qualification.
"It is not impossible," he said. "We're an ambitious group of players and the club's infrastructure is set for European football.
"We as players want to give everything we can and have no regrets, get us to the highest point we can."
Ward-Prowse has enjoyed a fine few weeks, with Saturday's first ever league goal following the winner for England Under-21s against Germany and talk of a senior call-up.
Roy Hodgson has been impressed by the "big prospect", saying the 20-year-old is part of his plans.
"It is obviously pleasing to see that," Ward-Prowse said. "That's the goal of mine, to reach that level.
"At the minute, I am focused on the Under-21s and making sure we have a good summer.
"As long as I can do that then hopefully that will see me promoted to the first-team, but I obviously have got to doing a good job here as well."