STEVE BRUCE believes Hull City being disappointed to leave Arsenal with “only a point” shows just how far the Yorkshire club have come in a couple of years.
The Tigers led 2-1 going into stoppage time at the Emirates, but were then pegged back by an opportunistic strike from Danny Welbeck.
It was a disappointing end to what had been an impressive performance from the Tigers, who had gone in front thanks to goals from Mohamed Diame and Abel Hernandez.
Bruce was justifiably proud of his players at the final whistle and especially the way they coped with a series of setbacks during the game.
Not only did the Tigers lose top scorer Nikica Jelavic to a knee injury in the warm-up, but they then also saw veteran goalkeeper Steve Harper and inspirational defender Michael Dawson succumb to injury.
All in all, therefore, plenty for Bruce to be pleased about even if Welbeck’s late strike meant a rare victory over the Gunners had been ripped from Hull’s grasp.
The Hull manager said: “I am really pleased with the progress we have made.
“It is quite remarkable for a couple of years.
“For goodness sake, we are disappointed we didn’t win at the Emirates.
“I wouldn’t have thought that was possible two years ago.
“No disrespect (to the Hull squad then) but the squad we’ve got now is unbelievably good. I didn’t think we would be able to attract players like Hernandez, (Gaston) Ramirez, Dawson, (Tom) Huddlestone when I first came here.
“From the outside people can see we’re progressing very well and it is important that we keep progressing because every other team does.
“We have set ourselves some really high standards.”
Hull, of course, are no stranger to heartache against Arsenal with last May’s FA Cup final seeing the Yorkshire side race into a two-goal lead inside 11 minutes only for Arsene Wenger’s men to go on and lift the trophy after extra-time.
Saturday, however, was nothing compared to the sense of dejection that Hull’s players and staff felt at Wembley Stadium, according to Bruce.
He said: “It definitely felt worse at the Cup Final.
“But I did feel for them (at the Emirates).
“I just didn’t see it coming. I felt we were comfortable.
“We made a few mistakes late in the game and gave the ball away.
“But I can’t remember (goalkeeper Eldin) Jakupovic having to make a save.
“That is the frustration.
“If it was like the first 15 minutes when Harper had to make save after save, I could understand it.
“But I felt we were comfortable. Very, very comfortable, in fact.
“I felt we were going to do enough to hang on.
“That said, you have to say it was a marvellous piece of skill from (Alexis) Sanchez (for the equaliser).
“He has gone past two or three of our players in the middle of the pitch and produced a pass as good as that.
“I have to say Welbeck’s finish was exquisite, too.
“Sometimes you hold your hands up.
“If (James) Chester hadn’t have had a yellow card he might have made a tackle. He was a bit wary.”
Adding to Bruce’s pleasure at Hull’s performance was the fact so many of his players had been jetting around the globe on international duty during the week preceding their visit to north London.
He added: “We had four or five who went halfway around the world.
“But even those who played in Europe, there is a mental tiredness where it grabs a hold of you when you have played for your country. It takes it out of you.
“I am always wary of playing against one of the big boys after an international break but we were manful.
“Especially Diame. He didn’t even come to the hotel until Friday night, straight from Heathrow.”
Bruce had said ahead of heading to the capital that Diame might not be in the starting line-up if he detected any jadedness in the Senegal midfielder following his travels.
He added: “Diame had ordered about 20 tickets for Arsenal so I thought he really wanted to play. If he has bought 20 tickets, he wants his mates and his family to see him.”
Bruce, who expects Harper to be out for some time, will spend this week assessing the injuries to the impressive Dawson, who suffered an ankle problem in an accidental collision with team-mate Curtis Davies, and the unfortunate Jelavic.
He said: “I wouldn’t have thought any have got a chance for next week but we will have to see.
“When Jelavic comes off, there is something wrong.
“With Harper it’s a torn muscle and Dawson’s ankle is like a basketball.
“If I was a betting man I don’t think those three will play (at Liverpool on Saturday).”
Match report: Page 3.