Timing is crucial to play-off success – Barmby

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AS one of only a handful of veterans from Hull City’s last promotion success, Nick Barmby knows all about the momentum that comes with a late run to finish in the play-offs.

The Tigers were as low as 10th in the Championship at the start of March 2008, but still went on to triumph at Wembley just a couple of months later to end the club’s wait for a place in the top-flight.

Barmby loved every minute of that thrilling late season dash for the Premier League but also realises that leaving it so late is usually a recipe to pull up just short.

So, as Hull go into tonight’s home clash with Birmingham City knowing victory would earn a return to the top six, the former England international has set his players a simple target.

He said: “It is important to keep in that (play-off chasing) group. You tend to find in this league, yes it is always tight, but around the Christmas period and coming into January you get a breakaway group.

“If that happens again we need to make sure we are in that group. That is our main focus in the next month. We are starting to see it at the top of the division so we need to make sure we are around those play-off positions.

“Last season, we were only ever nearly there. Although we went on a good run, we were always chasing it. The most important thing for us is to make sure we are in that group from Christmas onwards and this game against Birmingham is an opportunity for that.”

Birmingham will arrive at the KC Stadium in the bottom half of the table but the Midlands club’s league position tells only half the story.

Due to winning the Carling Cup last February, the Blues have been in Europa League action this season and had to postpone several Championship fixtures as a result. Tonight’s game, for example, should have taken place on October 18.

Birmingham’s European commitments mean they go into tonight’s clash with three games in hand on all but Hull of the sides sitting above them in the table, meaning Chris Hughton’s side have to be taken seriously in the promotion battle.

Barmby said: “It is difficult to be in their position. It is hard enough in the Championship as it is but they are playing Sunday, Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday and that can be very, very difficult with all the travelling involved.

“Birmingham are a good side and we won’t be taking them lightly. But, if you are going to come here and get a result then you’re going to have to work your socks off.”

Last six games: Hull City LLWLLW, Birmingham City LDWDLL.

Last time: Hull City 0 Birmingham City 1; September 19, 2009; Premier League.

Referee: M Naylor (Sheffield).