AFTER finishing his final Press conference with a knot of reporters in a connecting corridor at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, Hull manager Steve Bruce turned to leave and found himself opening a door leading onto the Premier Concourse rather than back into the heart of the building, writes GRAEME ANDERSON.
It was the first wrong move he had made all afternoon.
Managerially, he had played a blinder with his aggressive, attacking formation paying dividends from the start and the two strikers he persuaded Hull to ambitiously invest in last month, each getting a goal in the 2-0 win.
His team was given an enormous helping hand by Wes Brown’s fourth-minute sending off, but it was former Sunderland midfielder David Meyler’s persistence which pressured Phil Bardsley into his early mistake.
Bruce had gone two up front and opted for a five-man midfield.
And after Gus Poyet chose to withdraw Fabio Borini and bring Adam Johnson infield – a move the Hull boss described as “ambitious” – Hull simply flooded down the flanks and swamped Sunderland were able to find no way back.
It was a good day for Bruce, but he wasn’t kidding himself that it was a definitive one.
When the Black Cats were beaten at the KC Stadium in November, to drop 10 points behind Hull, Bruce (pictured) did not claim the job was done and he wasn’t he at the Stadium of Light on Saturday either.
He believes the two clubs could be locked in one of the tightest relegation battles in Premier League history and says no side in the bottom half of the table can afford to feel safe with so few points separating them.
“I’ve never known it so tight,” he admitted, with 13 games remaining this season but just seven points separating 10th from 20th. “Usually, there’s someone gone at this stage, sometimes more than one,” he continued.
“And credit to Sunderland for how they’ve performed recently, because some thought it might be them.
“Sunderland and Crystal Palace both looked at one stage as though they could be cut adrift and they have done terrifically to get out of the bottom three.
“But, having said that, you look at the bottom three and think those teams have it in them to put a run together too.
“I always say you have to win 10 games to stay up and we’ve won seven and it’s still all to play for.
“I think 38 points could keep a side up this season and we’ve got 27, so we just have to look to press on from here.
“It just reinforces the need to get results all the way through and not give up on any game.”