Hull City: Robbie Brady and Liam Rosenior give Steve Bruce food for thought
THE cold wind and heavy rain swirling around the KC Stadium on Tuesday night told you otherwise, but somehow it felt like August 2011 all over again.
In the first start of a second loan spell with Hull City, Robbie Brady produced a performance to wind the clock back 16 months in the 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace.
Brady, playing as a left wing-back, was everything City supporters had remembered from the opening weeks of last season. Direct, tricky and purposeful, his deliveries from out wide were back to the highest of standards.
The Manchester United star will admit he badly lost his way during a season-long loan with the Tigers last term and, as such, left questions to answer upon his second coming.
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A heartening start against Palace can be the first step towards proving himself all over again but the 20-year-old has been warned an ascent of his learning curve will only come with time.
"He's starting to develop as a boy," manager Steve Bruce told the Mail ahead of today's trip to Nottingham Forest.
"You can see him developing as a player and his crossing was fantastic. When we played some of our best stuff, he was key to it.
"There's never been a question mark about his ability, it's just like any young player where they need to develop and learn.
"You only get that by playing week in and week out. You only have to look at James Chester as the prime example of that, he's flourishing with regular football.
"That'll be the next step for Robbie, I'm sure."
Brady's return to the starting XI came at the expense of regular left wing-back Liam Rosenior in midweek, and Bruce admits he faces a dilemma ahead of today's trip to the City Ground.
Where Brady offers invention and dynamism from his natural flank, Rosenior has shown consistency and defensive strength when admirably switching from right to left.
In the backyard of a promotion rival, Bruce has the straight choice between bravery and caution.
"Rosenior has done very well and, of course, gives you that little bit of added defensive quality," he said.
"He's played very well of late and he can count himself unfortunate but he's had a bit of a knock and it was an ideal time for him to get a rest.
"That defensive ability is always one you'll question when a player adapts like Robbie has but if we're at home, we've got to go and get at teams.
"That's our philosophy at home. When was the last time a team came here and played two forwards for example?
"Do we change away from home? That's a decision we'll have to make."
The significance of today's trip to the East Midlands has been heightened by the Tigers' failings on home soil in the last seven days.
A 1-0 loss to Burnley and a 0-0 stalemate with Crystal Palace leaves City vulnerable to a fall out of the play-offs for the first time in a month with anything less than a victory over Forest.
Sean O'Driscoll's men, meanwhile, know a win over the Tigers will see them leapfrog Bruce's men in a tightly-packed top half of the Championship.
Bruce is wary of the challenge facing his men today but knows the passing style of their hosts can play into City hands.
He added: "They've got a lot of players there who have played in the Premier League and plenty who are capable of getting back there. A very decent squad.
"They play a lot of football so it should be a very good game.
"We'll both try and play and that's the way forward for us.
"We've got to go there and take them on because we've shown in the week that our passing game is a match for anyone."