Bruce calls for bright opening to help quell the nerves

STEVE BRUCE wants his Hull City side to fly out of the traps against out-of-sorts Middlesbrough this afternoon to conquer any potential nerves among what will be another expectant KC Stadium crowd.

The Geordie is well aware that edginess among supporters is par for the course during the business end of the season when sides are pushing for promotion – with some of that noticeable in Tuesday’s loss to challengers Watford.

Bruce, whose side have not lost back-to-back games since early October and have followed up their previous five defeats with wins, said: “They are going to get anxious, of course they are. They are going to be as tense as anyone, but my message would be to turn up in their thousands like they did on Tuesday night.

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“They are desperate for the team to get promoted. They want to see Man United, Arsenal and Tottenham next season, don’t they?

“We were never going to do it the easy way, but it is important to stick together.

“If we can get a good start, it always helps. It really settles everyone down.

“The edginess will come from all angles in the last six games, it is all part of what you’re chasing.

“But there is a good resilience about this team. Results have not always gone their way, but they bounce back time after time.”

Boro arrive in East Yorkshire decidedly flat and in major need of a lift with their horrendous form during 2013 having been of the relegation variety after an impressive first-half of the campaign when they looked automatic promotion candidates.

Boro have taken a paltry eight points from the last 45 available, winning two Championship games in the past 15 matches and are without an away triumph in the league since early December.

It has been some fall for the Teessiders, who headed into the New Year just a point and place behind Hull, who are now 16 points and seven positions clear of them.

Bruce admits he expected Tony Mowbray’s side, who beat City comfortably in the autumn, to be firmly in the promotion shake-up.

He said: “On paper, given their form, it looks a good game for us, but I have got a lot of respect for Middlesbrough.

“They have got good players and a good manager but, for whatever reason, they have found themselves on a run that can happen to any side in this league.

“Let us hope that run continues for at least another week, but I thought they would be one of the teams up there challenging.”

Boro chief Mowbray has thanked fans for their support after seeing their side tumble out of contention for a second year running.

He said: “It is been hard for us all, believe me. The fans deserve a huge amount of credit. Mainly because we built the expectations up so high.

“We let that slip away, so however harsh you want to put it, we have put a pin in the bubble of their expectation and that’s frustrating for them. So it is huge credit to the majority who have stuck with us.”