Bruce stresses more work ahead as injury crisis eases

FOUR points clear of the Premier League drop zone and basking in the after-glow of claiming their first back-to-back victories in 18 months, Hull City are on a high right now.

Manager Steve Bruce, however, is as aware as anyone of the potential pitfalls that can await a side in the Premier League and is stressing to his players that plenty more work lies ahead if survival is to be assured.

“February has been a good month for us,” said the Tigers manager of a month that has so far yielded wins over Queens Park Rangers and Aston Villa plus a battling draw at champions Manchester City.

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“Just at the right time, too, because we needed some points. We are in a healthier place than at the start of the month, that is for certain.

“But we are not out of the woods yet, far from it. We are still in it (the relegation fight). A result or two the other way and we could be right back in it.

“The only time we will not be in trouble is when we get to a certain level of points. We have given ourselves a hell of a good chance now and, obviously, that’s important.

“It is a big, important week coming up and if we could put back-to-back results together again, then that would be enormous for us. But we are not out of the woods yet, definitely not.”

Hull’s upturn in form has coincided with an easing of the injury crisis at the KC Stadium.

Mohamed Diame may still be a fortnight away from a possible return and central defender James Chester’s own recovery is delayed by an infection in his dislocated shoulder, but Bruce has more options to choose from.

Nowhere is this more apparent than up front, where Hull ended last week’s win over QPR with an attack-minded formation that included £20m worth of strikers in Nikica Jelavic, Abel Hernandez and Dame N’Doye along with Sone Aluko and Gaston Ramirez. “I always said that we had been given a raw deal with injuries,” said Bruce ahead of this afternoon’s trip to Stoke. “We were playing teams without six or seven big players.

“That went on for too long. I was talking to (Manuel) Pellegrini and he was saying what a difference Yaya Toure made to Manchester City. That was one player and this was one of the biggest clubs in the world. When you take five, six or seven out then it means you never settle.

“That is not my way of doing things at all. Anyone who has studied me over the last two years knows I don’t make many changes.

“I stick with teams and players, maybe to a fault at times. But when you are constantly going week by week to see who is unavailable on a Saturday then that is not great.

“It has been a struggle. In my eyes, we have done well to stay with it. If you had taken seven or eight players out of anyone in the bottom eight, believe me they would struggle.”

Hull have been fined €200,000 by UEFA for a breach of Financial Fair Play rules over the past three season.

The Yorkshire club, who competed in the Europa League this term, have also been given until the end of this year to show full compliance or risk a further fine of €400,000 (£290,000).