Hull City 0 West Brom 0: Bruce remains confident Tigers will rally after they slip into the drop zone

Hull City's Tom Huddlestone (left) holds off West Bromwich's Craig Gardner during the Barclays Premier League match at the KC Stadium, Hull.
Hull City's Tom Huddlestone (left) holds off West Bromwich's Craig Gardner during the Barclays Premier League match at the KC Stadium, Hull.
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NEVER mind being last on Match of the Day, there was a point on Saturday when it could easily be argued this contest should simply be cut from the famous review show altogether.

As it was, the drab goalless draw, which left almost everyone involved depressingly flat, did get on the running order and somehow it was not relegated to the final spot either.

Perhaps that says something about the overall quality – or lack of it – in the Premier League.

Maybe, too, that is why Hull City manager Steve Bruce is still not overly concerned about the other more crucial relegation: to the Championship.

His side may have dropped into the bottom three following this dire affair but, still, only five points separate them from Everton in 11th.

Granted, the Tigers need to rediscover their bite – this was a second successive draw after ending a four-match losing run with a point at Goodison Park last Wednesday – but there is time and ample chance to ensure their prime goal is achieved.

Admittedly, hopes of delivering only their third league win of the season at Chelsea this Saturday are slim given the irked leaders finally lost for the first time this campaign at Newcastle at the weekend. Undoubtedly, there will be a swift and ruthless response from Jose Mourinho’s men.

There was booing at the final whistle, the Hull faithful obviously disgruntled by a tepid display that produced only a couple of half-decent opportunities and owed plenty to goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who brilliantly stopped Graham Dorrans’s eighth-minute penalty and Craig Gardner’s dangerous second-half free-kick.

“It’s the first time in my two-and-a-half years that I could detect the crowd were upset at the end,” admitted Bruce.

“The supporters, rightly so, are not happy. Apparently they’re all driving off the Humber Bridge.

“What I would say to them is ‘look, it’s always going to be difficult’. This is only our fourth season in the Premier League.

“What you do need is to stay together, stay positive and try not to beat yourself up too much.

“I’m convinced that we’ve got enough here to do better than we did last season.

“West Brom have been in the Premier League for eight years. Everywhere I look, they’ve got good players. That’s the level we’re at. I can understand everybody’s frustration. However, I am sure something will turn for us.

“We’ve had a really difficult start with injuries and late goals and suspensions but when I look at the squad and what we’ve got, I’m convinced we’ll be okay and finish higher.”

Sone Aluko, who scored their goal in the 1-1 draw at Everton, was promoted to the starting line-up with Mohamed Diame absent due to a knee injury.

Abel Hernandez returned after missing two games on paternity leave in Uruguay but strike partner Nikica Jelavic was on the bench due to illness.

For the second game running, there was no Hatem Ben Arfa in the squad but Bruce insists there is no “bust-up” having hauled off the on-loan French midfielder in the first half at Old Trafford recently.

“It’s my job to pick him and if I see on merit that he’s working hard through the week, wants to repair the damage, which he’s got to accept, then okay, fine,” he said.

“When you’re managing 24 or 25 players, you have to be a bit different but the one thing I won’t have is… (you need) just an appetite to go and play the game.”

Conversely, McGregor, the 32-year-old Scotland international, proved invaluable on Saturday.

Bruce enthused: “He’s won us a point there with those two saves.

“The one from the free-kick was the save of the season as far as I’m concerned because of the movement on the ball.”

The powerful Victor Anichebe caused Hull all sorts of problems defensively with his back to goal as West Bromwich ended their own four-match losing streak but central defender Michael Dawson did bring his authority to the City backline.

Stephen Quinn’s arrowed header on the hour mark, well saved by Ben Foster, was the hosts’ best chance of claiming victory.

Bruce says the pressure of “expectation” is the root of his side’s current malaise although, of course, two points in two games is actually progress.

“We won four or five games 1-0 (last season), and never really created a chance,” he recalled.

“Because there’s no expectation on you, it becomes easier.

“We were odds-on favourites last year to be relegated and that’s the motivational thing I used: go out there and enjoy yourselves.

“In my experience, it’s always difficult the second year in. And the third year to make yourself an established Premier League club. We’re not there yet.

“When we went up, my aim was to establish us over four or five years.

“You’re going to come against difficult runs. The bottom eight are separated by two or three points. We’re all in the same boat.

“You’ve got to get yourself out of it and I still think we’re better equipped than we were last year in terms of the squad. I’m still convinced we’ll finish higher than we did last year (16th).”