Steve Bruce hopes to call on big-match experience as Hull begin play-off charge

Steve Bruce hopes the big-match experience in Hull’s dressing room will see his side past Derby in the Sky Bet Championship play-offs.

Hull: Steve Bruce hopes to call on big-match experience as Hull begin play-off chargeHull: Steve Bruce hopes to call on big-match experience as Hull begin play-off charge

The statistics show little to pick between the two, with Derby winning both league meetings with an aggregate score of 6-0 but Hull finishing five points and one place higher in the table.

Derby have home advantage for Saturday’s first leg but Bruce expects the knowhow in his camp to be a factor.

Bruce is expected to stick closely to the XI that beat Rotherham 5-1 last weekend, 10 of whom have significant stints in the Premier League on their CV.

Allan McGregor, Curtis Davies, Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone and Ahmed Elmohamady also started the 2014 FA Cup final, as did Alex Bruce and David Meyler, who are likely to feature among the substitutes.

“This is what we’re all in football for, to be involved in the big occasions and there’s none bigger than the play-offs because of the prize at the end of it,” said Bruce.

“It’ll be tough, nervy, edgy…but the play-offs are a great spectacle and great games to be part of.

“I know I’ve got big players here, who’ve played on the big stage and the big occasions before. I’m really hoping that will stand them in good stead, the fact they’ve played at the big stadiums and in those big games.

“We have a lot of Premier League experience in the XI, plenty of players who’ve played there and five or six who’ve played in finals.

“They are used to these occasions and I’m hoping that gives us the advantage which everyone looks for.”

It is hard to imagine the side that dismantled Rotherham last time out to finish on 83 points being anything other than serious promotion contenders.

But Bruce is at pains to point out the journey his side have been on since being relegated last term.

Burnley may already have guaranteed their own return at the first attempt, but there is a reason that so many clubs fail to bounce back.

“Some of our supporters were thinking we were going to get relegated again at the start of this season,” said Bruce.

“When a club gets relegated there’s the misery of it, the fall out of it, the building of a new squad.

“We hadn’t done anything in the transfer market, because we had to balance the books and let players go before we brought anyone else in.

“It was difficult to get people out of that mindset of doom and gloom. But we are here in the play-offs, the third highest this club has ever finished in the division, and we can look forward now.

“We’re just thinking about getting past Derby first, but in terms of achievement if we could do it (win promotion) it would rank right up there.”

Hull captain Michael Dawson is hoping to replace his only memory of play-off football with something more positive, having been red carded at the same stage for Nottingham Forest in 2003.

“I’ve only had one experience of them before and it was not a nice one, getting sent off in the first leg and missing the second,” he recalled.

“Hopefully this one will be a good experience.”

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