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Monday April 14, 2014 MYT 3:48:36 AM
Monday April 14, 2014 MYT 3:48:36 AM
by michael hann
LONDON (Reuters) - Hull City manager Steve Bruce hailed the influence of captain Curtis Davies whose halftime team talk inspired his team to come from behind and beat Sheffield United 5-3 in a fluctuating FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Sunday.
Premier League Hull, bidding to reach the final for the first time, twice fell behind against their League One (third tier) opponents as strikes from Jose Baxter and Stefan Scougall gave United a well-deserved 2-1 halftime lead.
In need of a response from his players, Bruce let his captain give the team talk.
"I didn't say much, the captain did it all," Bruce, who won the FA Cup three times as a player with Manchester United, told reporters.
"It's a long time since I've been in a dressing room where the captain takes over.
"It used to happen a lot in my day (as a player), I just had a cup of tea and let him get on with it.
"It (the victory) was down to the captain. He is a proper captain."
Davies's words of wisdom and the introduction of strikers Matty Fryatt and Sone Aluko helped turn the game around as Fryatt and midfielder Tom Huddlestone scored in quick succession.
Jamie Murphy pulled a late goal back for Sheffield United, but David Meyler eased the tension when his stoppage-time strike sent Hull into the final.
"We have been playing two strikers all year and we are better equipped with playing two strikers and playing off the front," Bruce added.
"We had to change and not many people play two strikers these days but we've done it in the Premier League and it has served us well."
Hull, 13th in the Premier League, have enjoyed their first season back in the top division after a three-year absence and reaching the FA Cup final demonstrates the progress they have made under Bruce.
With Arsenal, who needed penalties to beat Championship side Wigan Athletic in the other semi-final, the opposition at Wembley on May 17, Bruce is relishing the prospect of managing in a final for the first time.
"I've been 15 years in management and never been anywhere near (a final)," said the former Sheffield United, Huddersfield Town, Wigan Athletic, Crystal Palace, Birmingham City and Sunderland boss.
"Today was a proper FA Cup tie," he said. "We don't see it very often at Wembley a game like that.
"Hull to play Arsenal, all the pressure will be on Arsenal because they haven't won anything for nine years.
"We will enjoy the occasion and we will gain from the experience that we have seen today."
Sheffield United, who won the FA Cup four times between 1899 and 1925, have now lost their last five semi-finals but manager Nigel Clough hailed his side's performance.
"I am proud and that feeling will grow in the weeks ahead," said Clough.
"I'm glad it was a good game as well for everybody. You don't get many semi-finals with eight goals, it was a good game.
"I just wish we could have got there."
(Editing by Ed Osmond) nL3N0N5094
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