Bruce believes 'bright and lively' Simpson can play another big role after goal
JAY Simpson has been challenged to end the season in the same vein it began after calling time on his four-month goal drought.
The 24-year-old provided the most uplifting tale of a disappointing night when Hull City slipped to a 4-2 loss at Crystal Palace last week, scoring his first goal since November 6 during a bright cameo off the bench.
A seventh goal of the season finally came at the 21st attempt to end a painful wait for Simpson in the Tigers' attack and reminded manager Steve Bruce of the striker's worth as the season straightens out for home.
City's on-loan strike-force of George Boyd and Gedo are expected to retain their places at Burnley this evening, but Bruce wants Simpson to rekindle the fires that brought him five goals in the first nine games of the season.
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"Jay looked bright and lively, the rest has probably done him good," said Bruce, who has overlooked Simpson in City's last four games.
"He's been involved in the majority of games this year and he's probably played more football this year than he's done in his life.
"The rest came at the right time and hopefully it's worked a treat. Let's hope he can go on a bit of a run and finish the season as well as he started it.
"He reminded us of what a good player he can be and he certainly gives us another great option.
"A striker, no matter what you say to them, thinks about the goals they score.
"Jay has led the line manfully for us over the course of the season and although he's not scored as many as he'd have liked, he's played a big part for us."
Simpson's seventh of the season, a clever header evocative of an audacious attempt he scored at Ipswich two years ago, sees him heading to Turf Moor this evening bettered by only two players in City's scoring charts.
Sone Aluko, who has missed the last two months with an Achilles injury, has been joined by Robert Koren at the top of the list after the captain scored his eighth of the season in the 5-2 rout against Birmingham nine days ago.
The arrival of Boyd and Bruce's hint towards playing a tighter midfield leaves Koren's place in some doubt at Burnley this evening, but the City boss remains content with the Slovenian's contributions.
"He's had 33 starts out of 36 games and if I have got a weakness in management, I'm not inclined to leave people out as much as others would," said Bruce, discussing the two-time promotion winner with West Brom.
"I've asked him to play out of position for long periods and his best position is to come from deep.
"But he's still got eight goals and on course for 10. He always gives you that value and in my eyes he's had a good season.
"He can be a big player for us. He's been here, done it and got the T-shirt so I would hope nothing's going to faze him in the last few weeks."
City travel to East Lancashire this evening knowing victory would see them reclaim the initiative in the Championship's automatic promotion race and lift them to within three points of league-leaders Cardiff.
Weekend defeats for Watford and Leicester, as well as just a point for Crystal Palace, have left the door wide open and Bruce is calling for another show of character from his men.
"We've got a stat where it's something like 80 per cent of the times you score first, you win the match," he said. "It sums this league up. One week we've got one of the best defences in the division and then we go and concede 10 in three games.
"We've responded brilliantly this season and the onus must be on us to produce the same sort of reaction as we did after the Bolton defeat (a 5-2 win over Birmingham)."