Bruce sure Hull have the necessary spirit to respond to Forest setback

George BoydGeorge Boyd
George Boyd
No one can predict results at either end of the Championship with any certainty. But Tigers boss Steve Bruce is certain his team have what is required to succeed overall. Richard Sutcliffe reports.

Even given the Championship’s usual propensity to shock, last weekend was something else.

In a 24-hour period the teams who went into Saturday sitting second, third, fourth and fifth in the table all slid to defeat.

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And, at the other end of the standings. six of the bottom eight claimed the maximum three points with only rock-bottom Bristol City, who played the team immediately above them in Wolves, and Sheffield Wednesday, beaten by leaders Cardiff City, on the receiving end of a loss.

It was a crazy, crazy weekend and further proof, if it was needed, that the Championship really is impossible to predict with even the slightest degree of certainty.

There were so many upsets, in fact, that the international break has probably come along at a good time, as it will give all 24 teams a chance to catch their breath before the final push gets under way over the Easter holiday.

One manager who admits he has never seen anything like this season’s second tier is Hull City’s Steve Bruce.

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His side came off the 
KC Stadium pitch shortly before 5pm on Saturday wondering just how they had lost against a Nottingham Forest side forced to weather a storm of pressure in the closing stages.

By the time the players had reached the dressing room, however, news had filtered through that the Tigers were still sitting second thanks to Watford having lost unexpectedly at relegation-threatened Barnsley.

There was even better news to come in the tea-time kick-off as Leicester City lost at Derby County and then, the following day, fourth-placed Crystal Palace crashed to a 3-0 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion.

All in all, therefore, a much more satisfying weekend than had seemed the case when referee Graham Scott blew the final whistle to confirm a 2-1 win for Forest.

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“I’ve never ever known a division where a team at the bottom has got more points than the games played,” said the 52-year-old, whose career in management is in its 15th season.

“The teams at the bottom are making just as big a fist of it as the teams at the top. That is why the division is so concertinaed.

“There will be many twists between now and the end of the season, I am sure of that. You only have to look at what happened this weekend to see this.

“Who would think Barnsley would win back-to-back games against Brighton and Watford? But they have done.”

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Hull’s run-in starts with a trip to Huddersfield Town a week on Saturday before third-placed Watford come to the KC the following Tuesday for a potentially pivotal clash.

After that, the Tigers are due to face just two teams in the current top 10 during their last half dozen outings – Middlesbrough (ninth) and leaders Cardiff.

The four fixtures in between the home clashes with Boro and Cardiff seem, on paper, less arduous as Hull face trips to Ipswich (18th), Wolves (23rd) and Barnsley (20th) along with the visit of Bristol City (24th) to the KC Stadium.

For Bruce, who has said farewell to six of his players on international duty this week, the key is how Hull react to the Forest loss.

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He said: “You get over a defeat, you simply have to. That is what I mean when I say it is huge how we respond. There are always going to be setbacks along the way.

“When you are going for promotion, whoever you play can be difficult. But the one thing we have shown all year is a resilience and an ability to bounce back from results like Forest.

“We played really, really well. We could pick fault with the two goals and say we should have done better but, then again, most goals fall into that category. It just wasn’t our day, but we will bounce back.

“I am convinced of that because there is enough quality and enough endeavour to come back again. There is a great spirit among the squad.

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“Sometimes, you need a bit of luck and it abandoned us (against Forest). It was the first time we had lost when we had been in front. Knowing footballers as I do, I doubt they were aware of that statistic.

“I was aware of it, but I doubt they were. The key now is remaining confident and getting ready for Huddersfield, which is our first game after the break. We are just hoping that all our internationals come back all right.”

Egyptian trio Ahmed Elmohamady, Gedo and Ahmed Fathi have flown back to their home country ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Zimbabwe, while Robbie Brady and Alex Bruce will team up with the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland squads respectively ahead of the World Cup qualifying double-header.

George Boyd, Hull’s goalscorer against Forest, has joined up with Scotland and hopes to make his debut at home to Wales this Friday. Hull boss Bruce added: “We have quite a few away on international duty so they are the ones I hope to see next week coming back all right.

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“As for the rest, we will work them as normal this week before giving everyone a long weekend. They deserve a rest and I believe three or four days off will do them the world of good.”

One Hull player who has not flown off as planned, to join up with the Republic, is Paul McShane, who was forced out of the Forest defeat just before the half-hour mark with an ankle injury.

X-rays over the weekend confirmed no break, but the defender was sent for an MRI scan yesterday to discover the full extent of the problem. Hull are awaiting those results, making McShane a doubt for the derby at Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium a week on Saturday.