Hull City manager Steve Bruce has expressed his satisfaction at his side reaching 20 points this term but has also stressed that their job is only half done.
The Tigers, who were promoted to the Premier League in May and widely tipped ahead of this season to be relegated straight back to the Championship, made it to the milestone points tally on Saturday when they drew 1-1 at West Brom, their 17th fixture of the campaign.
At this stage they look on course for survival, given 40 points is generally viewed as the total that will guarantee safety and Hull – currently 12th in the table – still have 21 games to play.
Bruce is certainly not about to take anything for granted, though.
After the game at The Hawthorns, in which the hosts equalised in the 86th minute, he said: “It would have been lovely to have 22 points. But getting 20 points by Christmas – if someone had said that to us at the start, then we would have been delighted.
“We are halfway there, but we have to repeat the whole thing in the second half of the season.”
He added: “It is always difficult for a newly-promoted club, but we are making a fist of it and you can see from the way they (his players) play that they are a delight to work with.
“They roll their sleeves up, have a go and they are enjoying playing in the Premier League.
“Hopefully, we can bring in one or two to give a bit of quality in January. But, overall, I am delighted.”
One player Hull may look to recruit in the forthcoming winter transfer window is West Brom striker Shane Long, who had appeared set to make the switch on the final day of the last window.
Talks took place over a deal, but it failed to materialise and Bruce has indicated he may well try again to sign the Republic of Ireland international.
But with Albion having recently sacked head coach Steve Clarke and Long therefore set to be soon working under a new manager, Bruce is keeping an open mind on the subject.
He said: “A new head coach will come in and who knows?
“If he became available, then I would love to try to do something. But we thought we had a deal on deadline day and it didn’t quite happen.
“We’ll see what the situation is, but we’ll respect the fact that he is a West Brom player.”
Hull took a deserved lead in the 28th minute of Saturday’s contest when Jake Livermore, who is on loan from Tottenham, finished off a counter-attack.
During his celebration, the midfielder kicked a camera set up behind the goal and he was subsequently contacted via Twitter by the owner of the equipment, photographer Richard Heathcote.
Heathcote’s message included a picture of the broken “£6k” camera and said: “Wwhere do you want me to send the repair bill?”
Livermore responded with a message saying “apologies mate will sort camera no problem”, adding that he would donate the same amount it cost to the charity fund-raising efforts of his Hull team-mate Tom Huddlestone.
The late leveller for West Brom – playing for the first time since Clarke’s dismissal and overseen by caretaker head coach Keith Downing – came from the boot of substitute Matej Vydra.
It was Vydra’s maiden Albion goal and Downing later paid tribute to the Czech Republic striker, who joined on loan from Udinese over the summer, saying: “He’s waited a long time.
“He’s been persevering in training. He’s had a few niggles here and there and it’s a big step for him, a massive boost.
“I’m pleased for him because he’s a good lad and works hard during the week.
“He took his opportunity to score very well.
“Once he gets in those one-v-one situations he is a very good finisher.”
The point was Albion’s first in five games and they remain 16th in the table, three points above the relegation zone.
Bruce also admitted he had been left at the final whistle feeling like his side had been defeated.
“The dressing room is devastated that we didn’t hold on,” said Bruce. “It (the goal) is the only time really in the game that Shane Long (who fed the ball to Gera) has got down the side of us. It feels as if we have been beaten.
“I think a big turning point in the game was the chance for Elmohamady, where Foster makes the double save.
“It could have been a different scenario, but there you have it – that is where we find ourselves, and we will move on.”
West Brom looked short of confidence in a first half that was low on entertainment and saw them fall behind in the 28th minute when Livermore struck.
But after leaving the field to the sound of boos from their own fans at half-time, Albion improved in the second half, with substitutes Saido Berahino, Vydra and Zoltan Gera giving them fresh impetus.
Hull had a good chance to make it 2-0 in the second half but were denied by goalkeeper Ben Foster – who was making his first appearance since sustaining a stress fracture in his foot in August – as he pulled off a smart double-save to keep out Huddlestone and the follow-up by Ahmed Elmohamady.
Asked what he had expected before the contest, Downing said: “I envisaged that it was going to be a tight game, and I envisaged that the team would be short on confidence a little bit, with a little bit of edginess and tension to them.
“Obviously the crowd got like that as well in the first half, and rightly so, but I thought in the second half we got some sort of momentum to our game.
“I know from working with these boys for four or five years that they have big hearts and that they really want to do well, and they kept going right to the end.
“The day I took over, I was prepared to try to enjoy it, but also get a response off the players, and I feel I have done that. I would have liked three points, but under the circumstances, we can’t be too greedy.”
As for his prospects of becoming a full-time manager, Downing continued: “I don’t think it will be here.
“I’m here to support. I’m just trying to pave the way for the new regime. I don’t expect anything to be honest. I’m really just taking it on a daily basis.
“I’m conscious that the club is looking for a new manager. I’m planning for Christmas – we have the game against Tottenham (on Boxing Day) and then less than 48 hours later we play West Ham. So I’m just conscious of trying to get that right.”
West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Billy Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell (Gera 79), Brunt, Mulumbu, Sessegnon (Vydra 69), Morrison, Sinclair (Berahino 46), Long. Unused substitutes: Yacob, Myhill, Lugano, Amalfitano.
Hull City: McGregor, Chester, Bruce, Davies, Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler, Figueroa, Sagbo (Fryatt 89), Graham (Boyd 80). Unused substitutes: Rosenior, Koren, McShane, Harper, Faye.
Referee: J Moss (W Yorkshire).