'Robust' Hull City will roll up their sleeves again at Brighton, says Steve Bruce
STEVE Bruce believes Hull City have nurtured a robust togetherness that will ensure their place in the Championship promotion battle will not be surrendered lightly.
This evening's televised trip to play-off hopefuls Brighton will see the Tigers put the division's best away record to the test as they attempt to strengthen their claims on an automatic promotion place.
A seven-game unbeaten run away from the KC Stadium has returned 17 points from a possible 21 and Bruce points towards last weekend's 1-0 victory at Millwall as a sure sign City carry the hallmarks of a leading contender.
He told the Mail: "We're starting to get that spirit amongst this group of lads where they can look around the dressing room and say 'I'm glad he's on my side'.
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"That's vital at this stage of the season. There's an encouraging togetherness about them and we've proved consistently this season that we're a difficult side to beat.
"They were all at it against Millwall and they had to be. They rolled their sleeves up and took the game to them.
"We've been fantastically resilient away from home over the last couple of months. It's seven games unbeaten so on our travels I think we've done terrifically well over a long period."
Although a fall to fourth was confirmed with Watford's 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace last night, City have not lost on their travels since a 2-0 defeat at Cardiff on November 10 and have since claimed victories at Birmingham, Nottingham Forest, Watford, Derby and Millwall.
That heartening record will be tempered by a dismal history at Brighton and not since 1965 have City claimed three points on the Sussex coast.
Brighton have their own promotion ambitions under Gus Poyet and sit in eighth, but Bruce sensed no fear in his troops ahead of their longest away trip of the season.
"Brighton will be tough, make no mistake, they're very good at home," he said.
"I watched the Newcastle game (a 2-0 win in the FA Cup) and they were exceptional.
"There's plenty of decent players there, but I honestly don't think anything fazes us in this division.
"The belief is there every week that they can go anywhere and get a result."
Bruce will be forced to make at least one change from the side that claimed a valuable win at Millwall, with Abdoulaye Faye missing with a calf injury.
Jack Hobbs is standing by to come straight in, but the role of Alex Bruce could also have a bearing.
The manager's son was handed a holding midfield berth at The Den and retained the position when making his Northern Ireland debut in a 0-0 draw against Malta on Tuesday. While he could easily slot back into defence in place of Faye, another midfield role may well be on the cards.
"Alex has played there before for Ipswich many times and he's comfortable in possession," said the City boss.
"He's not played it a lot recently and to play there twice in a week we might just need to assess his fitness. The one thing is he'll never let anyone down."