HAVING waited the best part of a month for a place in the Hull City starting line-up, Alex Bruce was hoping to use Wednesday’s trip to East London to nail down a place for the rest of the season.
For 20 or so minutes, that is exactly what the 29-year-old did as a holding midfielder tasked with protecting the back four.
One double block, in particular, that kept out, first, Andy Carroll and then Matt Taylor showed that Bruce was up for the fight.But the dismissal of goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who spent Wednesday night in hospital with a suspected damaged kidney, brought a re-jig that saw Bruce sacrificed as dad Steve switched to a three-man defence.
“It was a frustrating night for everyone,” said the former Leeds United defender. “I thought we played really well and deserved something out of the game.
“Instead, we got down by a penalty and an own goal. That was the only clear-cut threat West Ham posed to our goal, to be honest.
“Obviously, from a personal point of view, it was especially frustrating that I finally got a game but then had to come off after 25 minutes.
“As we went to play three at the back and with me being a little bit in front, I had to give way. It is a squad game and you do your job. But it was frustrating.”
Bruce’s frustration was shared by every City player who had contributed so magnificently when the odds had been against the Yorkshire side.
So unlucky were the Tigers to lose, in fact, that the home team was booed by their own fans at the final whistle. Hull, in contrast, were afforded a standing ovation by their 1,000 or so strong contingent of supporters.
Bruce added: “We were talking in the dressing room afterwards about how we played a lot better against West Ham than we did at the weekend, yet we win against West Brom and lose this one.
“I suppose that is just how football is, sometimes. But we can take a lot of confidence out of the game. It was a really good performance and, if we play like that for the rest of the season, we will win more than we lose.”
Along with the manner of Hull’s performance, another plus point from Wednesday evening came courtesy of Sunderland losing at Liverpool.
It means the Tigers will travel to Stoke City tomorrow sitting eight points clear of the relegation zone with seven games remaining, a position that Bruce admits the players would have taken before a ball was kicked.
He said: “We are nearly there but no-one believes we are safe yet. Not at all. We can’t because football can be a strange game.
“There are some big games coming up but if we play like we did at West Ham then I am sure we will be okay.
“We had worked really hard on handling their threat and I thought we coped really well.”