Hull City boss Steve Bruce challenges side to maintain promotion pace
STEVE Bruce has challenged his Hull City side to set the platform for a promotion challenge as the Championship takes centre stage in the final months of 2012.
With the second international break of the season now complete, the Tigers return to action today when hosting lowly Ipswich Town, aiming to build upon a start that has left Bruce's side within touching distance of the top six.
The visit of Paul Jewell's men this afternoon marks the start of a hectic end to the calendar year and, with 15 league games to come in the final 10 weeks of 2012, it promises to be a critical period in City's season.
A 1-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday two weeks ago served to endorse the Tigers' promotion hopes after three consecutive defeats, and Bruce now wants to see his men build on their promising foundations.
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"We've got to deliver those basics like we did against Sheffield Wednesday and look at the next stretch of games up to Christmas," Bruce told the Mail.
"The next challenge is the same again, to go and get 18 or 19 points from the next 10 games.
"I said we needed 18 points from our first 10 and we're two points behind that. Let's see if we can make them up before Christmas."
The opening months of Bruce's reign have seen City climb as high as fourth in the Championship following three consecutive wins in September, only for a sobering series of three straight losses to stifle their progress.
An encouraging return of 16 points from a possible 30 leaves the Tigers in 10th as the quarter-mark looms, and Bruce believes his new-look side are showcasing their potential.
"From the opening couple of months I've learned that we've got a chance in this league and that we've got some very good footballers," he said.
"I felt when I came here that we had a chance of getting to where we want to be and, by looking at what we've got, we've got that chance.
"I'm not saying we're going to be outstanding but when you see the 10 or 12 teams who are up there, we're up there with them.
"We've got to maintain it now. From now, right through until March, that's the crux of it.
"Can we, in 25 games time, still be in and around it? That's got to be our aim, but we know it'll be an absolute slog."
City host Ipswich as firm favourites to register their sixth win of the season against visitors without a win since the opening week.
However, the Tigers' recent stumbles on home soil have left Bruce wary of the Tractor Boys.
A 3-1 loss to Peterborough three weeks ago was followed up by a 3-2 loss to Blackpool four days later, and Bruce knows any complacency could invite a third consecutive home defeat.
"The last two at the KC were awful really, but we've just got to go and play," he added.
"We know it'll be a tough game. We'll be in for a rude awakening if we take Ipswich lightly."