Hull City v Leeds United: Players must rise to big derby occasion, says Steve Bruce
STEVE Bruce is urging his promotion-chasing Hull City side to rise to the derby occasion once again and complete a famous league double over Yorkshire rivals Leeds United today.
The Tigers ended a 25-year wait for a victory at Elland Road when beating Leeds 3-2 in September and can seal a first double since 1987-88 with a win in the return fixture this lunchtime.
A near sell-out crowd is expected for the all-ticket clash at the KC Stadium as City attempt to maintain their grip on second spot in the Championship. Leeds, meanwhile, know a victory could propel them into the play-offs.
Bruce admits the stakes are high in the final fixture of 2012, but knows three points against their rivals could provide an enormous lift heading into the New Year.
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"It's a great fixture, arguably our biggest game of the season," Bruce told the Mail.
"It's always a big game when Leeds United come to town and our supporters will be looking forward to it. It should be a cracking atmosphere
"We've got to make sure we play well first and foremost, that's the key to coming out on top in derby games.
"That's exactly what we did at Elland Road and it's something we must look to do again.
"That was one of our best performances of the season to come from a goal down to win there.
"That win really started us off. To go there and win for the first time in 25 years gave everyone a little bit of belief."
Goals from Ahmed Elmohamady, Abdoulaye Faye and Robert Koren gave City victory in the corresponding fixture at Elland Road earlier this season, one of the Tigers' 14 wins under Bruce this term.
City's unbeaten run was extended to six games by a 0-0 draw with Leicester on Boxing Day and maintained their foothold in the automatic promotion places, but Bruce is wary of the threat posed by Neil Warnock's men.
"Leeds are always going to be tough," Bruce added.
"Neil Warnock has been there and got the t-shirts, he knows how to get teams promoted. We know what to expect. They'll be up and at us, and will be a tough opponent.
"I've got a lot of time for Neil Warnock.
"He might not be everyone's cup of tea but I've got a huge amount of respect for someone who's been in the game as long as him and enjoyed a lot of success.
"But we are one of the form teams at the minute with four wins and a draw in our last five games and go into the game with a lot of confidence."
City will put the longest unbeaten record in the Championship on the line today. Four wins and draw inside December has helped the Tigers take 13 points from a possible 15, but Bruce is not yet satisfied.
"It would be great to finish December and look towards a New Year with a win," he added.
"I usually go month by month and it's nine points for September, nine points for October, 10 for November and already we're up to 13 in December with a game left. It would be great to add to our tally."