Bruce be­wil­dered by tame Tigers

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Mark Wil­liams

STEVE Bruce was left rue­ing a slow start as pro­mo­tion-chas­ing Hull City were held to a draw at home by lowly MK Dons.

Antony Kay’s header pow­ered the vis­i­tors in front af­ter the break be­fore Sam Clu­cas’ won­der­ful free­kick gave City a share of the spoils at the KC Sta­dium.

And while com­ing from be­hind to earn a point is never a bad thing, Bruce ad­mit­ted he was strug­gling for an­swers as to his side’s poor first 45 min­utes.

“We are hugely frus­trated but we didn’t play any­where near like we should be play­ing,” he said.

“We kept giv­ing the ball away in bad ar­eas, which is ob­vi­ously dis­ap­point­ing.

“At the end of the day I pick the team and I am left scratch­ing my head as to why we func­tioned like we did – es­pe­cially in the first half.

“If our at­ti­tude was the same in the first half as it was in the se­cond, I think we win that match. We are kick­ing our­selves but it is still all to play for.

“We have to dust our­selves down and go again be­cause it’s a big week ahead for us.”

MK Dons looked bright in pos­ses­sion dur­ing the early stages be­fore City fash­ioned the first gen­uine op­por­tu­nity af­ter 19 min­utes.

The lively Ahmed El­mo­hamady cut in­side from the right and his low cross-cum-shot was de­flected inches wide of the far post.

The Tigers al­most took the lead again on 32 min­utes. A long ball by Andy Robert­son sent Cur­tis Davies through but the cen­tre-half could only blaze over on the half-vol­ley. The game burst into life af­ter the break. From a Josh Mur­phy cor­ner, Kay broke the dead­lock on 51 min­utes.

But hold on to a cru­cial lead MK Dons could not. Two min­utes later and Clu­cas ex­e­cuted a quite-bril­liant free-kick to draw the home side level.

Abel Her­nan­dez then squirmed his way through but was de­nied by a last-ditch tackle by Kay. And soon af­ter, Chuba Akpom headed hor­ri­bly over the bar fol­low­ing im­pres­sive work by Mo Di­ame on the left.

It was all Hull at this stage and chances were com­ing thick and fast. Clu­cas’ sweet left foot was be­com­ing more and more in­flu­en­tial – his long range half-vol­ley forc­ing David Martin into a div­ing save on 69 min­utes.

Shortly af­ter that the vis­it­ing keeper fell awk­wardly while strik­ing a goal kick and had to be re­placed by Cody Crop­per.

Bruce went all out for the win late on – play­ing four strik­ers up top. But try as they might, MK Dons hung on to an in­valu­able point and boss Karl Robin­son de­liv­ered a warn­ing shot to any­one who thinks they will be a soft touch in an in­ten­si­fy­ing rel­e­ga­tion scrap.

“I have seen a lot writ­ten in the me­dia re­cently about Premier League clubs get­ting rel­e­gated and then not look­ing for­ward to go­ing to lit­tle MK Dons on a Tues­day night,” said Robin­son.

“Let’s get it right, we don’t have a hor­ri­ble sta­dium and we are not lit­tle MK Dons. So it’s fair to say my team talks have been writ­ten for me.

“I use stuff like that to mo­ti­vate my play­ers and they were su­perb.

“I am very proud of our per­for­mance. We dom­i­nated to start with but then we came up against one of the best teams in the divi­sion.

“They have so much pace and power and for me, they are the best.

“My play­ers worked so hard and, with­out us­ing the word they did in the dress­ing room, it’s fair to say they are knack­ered.”

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