February key to Hull City's Premier League dream, says Steve Bruce
STEVE Bruce is refusing to be bogged down by Hull City's stuttering run of form as he focuses on clicking the club's automatic promotion bid back into gear at Millwall this weekend.
After seeing their FA Cup run ended with a 1-0 defeat at home to Barnsley on Saturday, the Tigers have flown off to Portugal for a short warm-weather training camp designed to galvanise the squad ahead of 18 final league games.
Occupying third spot in the Championship, level on points with second-placed Leicester, City's hopes of a top-flight return remain encouragingly strong ahead of a hectic February.
Back-to-back away games at play-off hopefuls Millwall and Brighton will be followed up by three home games inside eight days against Derby, Charlton and Blackburn, before next month is completed by a trip to Bolton.
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City's demanding schedule allows no time for self-pity and Bruce is certain their FA Cup disappointment will not be allowed to linger during this week's break in Portugal.
"It's a huge month coming up but we've given ourselves a right good chance," said Bruce.
"We're disappointed because we've gone out of the cup but at least now we've got no distractions.
"As you've seen, there's a question mark over whether the squad is big enough to cope with two competitions. We'll dust ourselves down but we'll go again."
This Saturday's trip to Millwall will see City resume their promotion drive and begin a sequence of 10 games inside six weeks leading up to the March international break.
The loss of top goalscorer Sone Aluko to an Achilles injury has left the Tigers with limited attacking options ahead of Thursday's transfer deadline and Bruce accepts his troops need a break.
He said: "The big thing in any football match is a goal and at the moment we can't buy one. That's got to change for us to turn around again.
"I don't think it's a confidence thing.
"After a bright first half against Barnsley we didn't have too many in the second half play well enough.
"That brightness ebbed away after we missed the chances we missed.
"We didn't deserve to lose the game but we went a bit too gung-ho towards the end, rather than being a bit more calculated.
"We were in complete control in the first half and that was more like us."
City will stay in Portugal before flying back on Thursday and, after a weather-interrupted schedule over the last fortnight, Bruce is pleased to be enjoying time with his squad.
"Our preparation was difficult all of last week," he said. "That's not an excuse by any means but this week away with a full week of training will do us the world of good."
In-form Watford have the chance to seize the initiative in the promotion race tonight when they head to rock-bottom Bristol City searching for a victory that would lift them above City and Leicester to second in the Championship.
Gianfranco Zola's Hornets have taken 16 points from a possible 21 since losing 2-1 to City on December 8 and climbed up fourth with a 3-0 win at Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
• City's trip to Burnley, initially planned for Saturday, March 9, has been rescheduled for Monday, March 11 (7.45pm) for Sky TV coverage.