Peter Swan: Hull City's strength in depth means Bruce can tinker to get best from players
I don't think the significance of Hull City's win at Burnley – and in particular the manner in which it was secured – can be underplayed as the pressure cranks up in the promotion race.
For me, it was a significant night for the Tigers, and one which emphasised the great strength in depth at the club this season, as well as the strength of manager Steve Bruce.
Bruce knew he had to tighten things up after the heavy loss to Crystal Palace the previous week, and having built not just a strong side, but a solid squad since his arrival in the summer, he had the options he needed.
The change he made was simple, keeping the same 3-5-2 formation that suits his side so well, but bringing in Paul McShane at the back to employ Alex Bruce in a midfield role, protecting the back four.
CAR KEYS AND REMOTES "FREE REMOTE KEY FOB BATTERY" 01482 423414 ...View details
FOR ALL YOUR CAR KEY NEEDS CALL US NOW ON
SNAPPED KEYS, LOST KEYS, KEYS LOCKED IN VEHICLES,
WE ALSO REPAIR 90% OF ALL REMOTES AND KEYS, NO FIX NO CHARGE.
Terms: FREE REMOTE KEY FOB BATTERY ONE PER CUSTOMER
Contact: 01482 423414
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
The change worked wonders, as despite Bruce not being particularly comfortable in the role, he is a very disciplined player, and he sticks to the duties he has been given and does the job asked of him.
McShane does just that too. He is someone Bruce knows he can rely on to come in, steady the ship and sweep up everything at the back, using all his experience.
With the job done in terms of shoring up his leaking defence, Bruce was then able to call upon players who could change the game when he went looking for all three points after the break.
That saw him bringing on Robert Koren and Jay Simpson, with the pair combining to set up the winner for Stephen Quinn within moments of arriving on the field.
That for me summed up what a great job Bruce has done this season, and at a stage when all sides at the top are starting to have the odd wobble, it is the fact that City have a man with Bruce's experience that keeps me confident they will be one of the two to take an automatic promotion spot.
From day one, Bruce has nurtured a tremendous team spirit at the Tigers.
All players have been given their chance to come in and play, and if they have taken their chance, they have stayed in the team.
Look at how he has handled McShane this season, and more recently, his captain Koren.
I had said for a couple of weeks that I thought Koren could be the man to make way to toughen up the Tigers midfield, and that proved to be the case.
Koren will know it is nothing personal though, it never is with Bruce. It was a decision for the good of the team and one which will have the captain determined to take his next chance and win his way back into the side.
One player who has been doing that off the bench is Simpson.
He was superb once again when coming on at Burnley on Monday, and for me he is now putting pressure on Gedo up front for a starting spot.
Again, I think this is down to the way he has been managed by Bruce, who brought him in at the start of the season and got him playing well and scoring goals again.
Despite some calling for Simpson to be handed a new deal, Bruce did not rush into any decision, something which now looks a wise move, as following a barren spell, Simpson is now playing for a new contract again in the final stages of the season.
No doubt that will bring the best out of him again, and at this stage of the season, that is a major plus for the Tigers.
Heading into the final nine games, Bruce has a squad of around 20 players all capable of starting and doing a job for him.
They are all pushing one another, ensuring players know they have to be at their best to keep their place. That's down to Bruce and a wonderful strength to have at this stage.