JUST 40 days will have elapsed since Derby County inflicted the heaviest league defeat of Steve Bruce’s reign as Hull City manager when the two teams meet again this Saturday lunchtime in the play-offs.
It means memories will be fresh of what proved to be a chastening night for the Tigers, as the Rams ran riot to triumph 4-0 and end any lingering hopes the Yorkshire club still harboured of making a late push for automatic promotion.
Robert Snodgrass is well aware of that point, as he is that Derby were the only team to complete a league double over Steve Bruce’s men during the regular season.
That is why the Scot insists the key to success against not only the Rams but also in a potential May 28 final clash with Sheffield Wednesday or Brighton & Hove Albion is to treat the upcoming games almost as if starting over afresh.
“We will go into the game believing we can win it,” said Snodgrass, “It is as simple as that. That has been our downfall at times this season. We have got players who want to hurt opponents and it had been like that up until the last two months.
“But now we have got to forget about that. We can’t let any of that creep into our heads. It is gone. The season is over and we have to look to the play-offs.
“It is all about the second chance now and everything we do on Saturday and Tuesday.
“We can’t even speak about Wembley until we get through the first phase. Derby are a terrific team and we know we are in for a tough game.”
Bruce is expected to stick with the same starting XI that rounded off the season last weekend in style with a 5-1 hammering of Rotherham United.
That will mean Snodgrass starting on the left flank and Ahmed Elmohamady, who has been back to his best in the past couple of weeks, on the opposite side. With Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore patrolling central midfield and Abel Hernandez leading the frontline with support from Mohamed Diame, City have plenty of big-game experience.
“I don’t think these lads will be fazed, but you never know,” said Snodgrass when asked how Hull will cope with what is likely to be a highly-charged atmosphere.
“Whichever team turns up, it needs to be the right one. The one that needs to get out of this league.
“We have got a second chance but after this there are no more chances. We are working very hard as a unit to get a result. We have got big-game players and that is the key if you are going to get any result there.
“You need your players to show individual bits of brilliance. You need the lads who put their bodies on the line to block a shot, make a save, run 90 yards for the team. It is everything combined.”
Picking a potential winner from the four combatants in this season’s Championship play-offs is tough. All have a reason to believe 2016 is to be their year, be it Hull’s big-game experience, the consistency of Brighton for vast swathes of the season, Derby’s expensively-assembled squad or the match-winners at Carlos Carvhalhal’s disposal.
Snodgrass, for his part, was unequivocal when asked who he considered to be favourites to join Middlesbrough and Burnley in next season’s Premier League.
“There is no such thing,” fired back the Scot. “All the teams who are in there have had good seasons. Brighton have just missed out on automatic promotion. The league doesn’t lie and the play-offs won’t either. Whoever wants this the most will get promoted.”