Steve Bruce is untroubled by Fulham’s mini-revival as the Newcastle head coach insisted the outcome at the end of the season was his only focus as his side look to retain their Premier League place.
Fulham were 10 points adrift of safety a few days ago but a surprise win over Everton at Goodison Park last Sunday was followed by a 1-1 draw at Burnley in midweek, leaving the Cottagers six points behind 17th-placed Newcastle.
They could make further inroads into that gap as they welcome rock-bottom Sheffield United on Saturday night before Newcastle travel to Old Trafford to take on high-flying Manchester United on Sunday evening.
Scott Parker was bullish about Fulham’s prospects of reeling in the Magpies after collecting a point at Turf Moor on Wednesday, but Bruce perhaps pointedly revealed his side would studiously concentrate on the task at hand.
“Let’s see where we are at the end of the season,” Bruce said. “It’s the accumulation of points that you get at the end of the season and that will never change.
“Fulham have obviously closed the gap a bit but they’re still struggling to win as well, they’ve only won one in the last 14 games. It’s all to play for.
“We know we’re in the bottom half of the division which means we have to get to the figure as quick as we possibly can.
“You’ve got to quietly get about your job and get the points on the board and that’s what we’ll be trying to achieve.”
Bruce, who will again be without a number of first-team stars including 10-goal top-scorer Callum Wilson due to a hamstring injury this weekend, pointed out his side are not the only ones casting glances to those below them.
“If you’re in the bottom half of the division, you’re always looking over your shoulder, that won’t change,” Bruce added. “There’s six or seven teams in and around it, we’re a point or two behind two other teams in front of us.
“You’ve got to set yourself a target of whatever that points tally will be and in that bottom five, six or seven at the moment, there’s two or three points separate a host of teams. We’re not alone in it.”
Newcastle’s last two matches against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have ended in 4-1 defeats – with United scoring three times in the last five minutes when the sides met at St James’ Park in October.
Bruce, who spent nine years at Old Trafford as a player but has never won there as a manager, is wary of the threat United possess going forward after watching them put nine past Southampton earlier this month.
However, Bruce indicated no teams are infallible and was particularly heartened by Sheffield United’s 2-1 win over the Red Devils recently.
“Sheffield United went there three weeks ago and won – you can never say never and the beauty for me in the Premier League is there is never a given,” Bruce said.
“Yes, we’ll have to play well and defend well, but it’s the Premier League. We’ve always got a chance.
“(But) Ole’s done a smashing job. Whatever he’s done has helped the team. It’s not an easy job, that’s for sure. But you see them a couple of weeks ago against Southampton, they are breath-taking going forward.”
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