STEVE BRUCE last night admitted Hull City must claim at least “six or seven points” from a season-defining festive run of four games or run the risk of being cut adrift in the Premier League relegation scrap.
The Tigers host Swansea City in the first of three matches at the KC Stadium over the next 13 days, the solitary road trip during that period being to Sunderland on Boxing Day.
City are without a win in nine games, a run that has seen Bruce’s men slide from the top half of the table to second bottom.
Two points separate Hull from Burnley in 17th place so, clearly, the stakes are high ahead of a run of fixtures that also include the visits of Leicester City (December 28) and Everton (January 1).
Bruce said: “If we can go out and get six or seven points over Christmas and New Year before we play Arsenal in the FA Cup (on January 4), then we would get to 20 points with 18-19 games played. That would be a far healthier situation.
“If we don’t, then we know we have got a really difficult time ahead of us. But when I look at our fixtures now, they are far more appealing than what we have just had.
“We have arguably played the top six away from home, so it does put the pressure on you at home, and that home form can be crucial.”
Last season’s club record highest place of 16th in the top flight came courtesy of an impressive record at the KC.
Twenty five of the Tigers’ 37 points were won in front of their own fans, a record that contrasts sharply with this time around.
Just one win - against Crystal Palace on October 4 - means Bruce’s men have collected a mere six points from a possible 21.
Bruce said: “We do need to replicate last season’s home form more. It did keep us up last year. There is still a long way to go and I am still convinced that we can win six of them.
“If we do that, we will be safe. It sounds easy when I say it like that. But I am convinced that we can still do it.”
Asked why Hull have not been able to replicate the confidence and belief shown at the KC last season, Bruce replied: “You can say we haven’t, but it is difficult.
“Who have we lost to at home? Southampton to a fluke goal, when we were arguably the better team. The others are Manchester City and Tottenham, who scored in the last minute.
“I have been delighted with the resilience we have shown over the last few weeks and I think we are ready for the challenge ahead.
“The only real disappointment I have had is Burnley. You could say Manchester United but, then again, they are capable of giving anybody a hiding. And it shows you how difficult it is when a club like Liverpool have lost as many games as we have.
“It also hasn’t helped that we kept throwing away valuable leads early on. If we had won three or four of them, we wouldn’t be having this conversation now.
“But I am still confident that we will be okay. I keep saying this, but all we need is to pick up a few results.”
City’s hopes for a very merry Christmas are not helped by both Michael Dawson and Mohamed Diame being ruled out until the New Year and Tom Huddlestone today starting a four-game ban following his dismissal at Chelsea a week ago.
Bruce added: “We are stretched. It has been a really difficult season up to now with injuries, suspensions and sending offs.
“Dawson, Diame, Huddlestone and (Robert) Snodgrass are all big, big players for us. It makes us better if they’re all playing. They are not there, so we have got to rely on our squad because if we didn’t have that depth of squad then we would be in serious trouble.
“But I am convinced this squad can handle it, I still think they can. Lads like Alex (Bruce), (Liam) Rosenior, (Stephen) Quinn and (David) Meyler, you know you can always rely on them because they always give you what they have got. And that can go a long, long way.
“Names on bits of paper mean Jack S*** to me. Instead, the proof is in the pudding, and it is remarkable what you get from these lads. They have got an honesty and an endeavour which endears them to everybody.
“They epitomise the qualities that got us out of the Championship and you know that, when you call on them, you can rely on them because they’ve got a resilience about them. You can depend your life on them.”
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