Bruce confident that Tigers can last the pace this time

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STEVE BRUCE insists there will be no repeat of last year when a calamitous March effectively de-railed Hull City’s promotion challenge.

The Tigers host Birmingham City today looking to strengthen their push for a place in the Premier League.

Victory over the Blues would represent the ideal start to a month that year ago saw Nick Barmby’s Hull win just once in nine outings, a run that saw the East Riding club slip from the play-off places to ninth in the table.

Despite a late rally that brought three wins and a draw from the final five games of the season, City finished seven points adrift of the top six.

This time around, Bruce’s men are in a much healthier position with 62 points from 34 games and the Tigers chief is adamant there will be no dip in form from his players.

He said: “I don’t think we have got anything to worry about. The squad has been overhauled since last year and they have lasted the course for months on end.

“We are all looking at the table now. We are not going to lie about that. But the good thing from our point of view is we have got a really, really outstanding chance. So have five others and that means it is all to play for. So, let’s make a good fist of it.”

Along with wanting to start the month on a positive note with victory over Lee Clark’s Birmingham, Hull are determined to banish the memory of last week’s trip to Bolton Wanderers. Three goals down inside eight minutes, Hull never recovered and lost 4-1 to allow Watford to leapfrog over them into the second automatic promotion place behind leaders Cardiff City.

Bruce added: “It was a horrible result, let’s not kid ourselves about that. But it felt like a one-off, one of those fluke outcomes. The key now is how we react.

“Bolton last week showed how hard it is. The margins are very tight in the Championship compared to the margins in the Premier League, which are vast.

“The top teams in the Premier League are way above everyone else but in this division they are not. It is important to say, ‘What can you do about it?’

“Usually this season, we have come back from bad results well to put a run of good results together.

“I am pleased to say I can only really count our bad performances on one hand. It is up to us now to get back to what we are good at and I am quietly confident we will do that.”

Today sees the club Bruce managed for six years from 2001 come to the KC Stadium. He twice led the Blues to promotion from the Championship and admits the Blues will be tough opposition.

The Tigers chief, who may hand new signing George Boyd his home debut, added: “They will be disappointed in their league position but at the right time they are making a fist of it.

“Birmingham have had a tough time but when you look at their squad – (Nikola) Zigic, (Marlon) King, (Jack) Butland, (Curtis) Davies, (Steven) Caldwell – they have got a very strong nucleus of a team.”

Interview with Tigers defender Jack Hobbs: Page 3.