Bruce seeking more experience to plug Tigers’ leaking defence

STEVE BRUCE is busy working overtime to bring in a new defensive enforcer to fix his malfunctioning back-four ahead of Saturday’s derby at Sheffield Wednesday.

The Tigers’ attacking verve may have won many plaudits among the claret-and-amber faithful so far this season, but their polished start to the Championship campaign is increasingly being blighted by their goals against tally.

City’s leaky rearguard have shipped three goals in each of their last three outings which have all ended in error-ridden losses to drop them down the table, with Bruce now ready to act.

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The Tigers chief’s options at the back were already stretched before Tuesday’s 3-2 defeat to Blackpool, with the situation made worse when his son Alex came off with a groin problem just before the interval which is expected to rule him out of the Hillsborough trip.

With last season’s tried and trusted central-defensive partnership of James Chester, out for three weeks with a hamstring strain and Jack Hobbs – not expected to return until November at the earliest following a serious knee injury – sidelined Bruce is increasingly thin on the ground when it comes to defensive options.

Paul McShane is short of match-time, having made his first start since January 7 in the midweek loss to Pool, while Liam Cooper is yet to appear under Bruce, with his last start coming at the end of April.

Bruce said: “You just cannot accept these mistakes. The only thing I can do about it is shake it up a little bit.

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“Certainly with the injuries we have got, we will probably have to bring someone in for the weekend at Sheffield and bring that little bit of experience in which we probably need at the moment.

“Overall, we played really well against Peterborough and Blackpool, but we kicked ourselves in the foot by making silly mistakes.

“We have been punished for some real elementary mistakes, which is horrible. You cannot win games making the mistakes we have made, whatever level you are at.”

City’s early-season form is pretty much a volte-face from last term, when they kept the back door shut impressively, but laboured on the scoring front.

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This time around, they have plundered an impressive 15 goals in nine Championship matches – after managing just seven in the same amount of games at the start of 2011-12.

But conversely, they have conceded 14 times in their opening nine matches – it took them 15 games to leak that amount of goals last term.

The likes of Jay Simpson, Sone Aluko and former Sheffield United midfielder Stephen Quinn, in scintillating form in the past month, have particular cause to rue the defensive deficiencies, given their exploits at the other end.

Summer signing Aluko scored a stunning 40th-minute equaliser for the Tigers against Ian Holloway’s Pool, but insists that his memorable strike meant nothing after seeing the visitors plunder the points after being gift-wrapped two goals in the final 20 minutes.

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Boss Bruce has vowed not to sacrifice his side’s attacking instincts for a defensive-minded approach and it is a view Aluko supports, with elementary mistakes and not team shape being the problem.

Aluko, who has now hit three goals this season, said: “It is always empty scoring and not winning. It feels a bit pointless.

“I would rather us be at the top of the league rather than scoring another goal.

“With the players we have got, we are always going to play half-decent stuff and usually in most games, we have periods where we are dominating and scoring goals with our quality.

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“But we have got to keep clean sheets and get back to being defensively minded at times and tough to beat.

“It is not like we are an open team and teams are coming to carve us open. It is just slight mistakes here and there or a loss of concentration here and there. It is just small adjustments and we need to eradicate those mistakes.

“We have got to turn it around. The good thing about this league is that games come thick and fast and before you know it, there is another game.

“We have got to pick ourselves up and go again on Saturday. But with the quality of players we have got, we cannot keep making, as a team, these errors. It is just poor decision-making, really.

“It is not been a great week – no-one likes losing games.

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“We are disappointed to lose three games on the bounce and two at home and everyone has been disappointed by that. Especially with our home record and being so good at home.

“But we are a confident team and we will go again.

“The aim of the game for us is not conceding goals as we are as good as any team coming forward in this league. We have really opened teams up.”