Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Pulis not bowed by survival scrap

Tony Pulis is up for the relegation fight facing Stoke
Tony Pulis is up for the relegation fight facing Stoke

Stoke manager Tony Pulis is not shaken by the prospect of a nervy relegation battle.

The Potters are in danger at the bottom of the Barclays Premier League after winning just one of their last 14 games. It is a new situation for the current squad, with the club having generally made positive strides since winning promotion to the top flight in 2008, but Pulis feels he has enough experience to call on to handle the predicament.

Most notably, he remembers back to the first season of his first spell at the club, 2002-03, when safety in the second tier was unsure heading into the final game. Pulis said: "If it means going right to the wire, it will go to the wire. It won't be the first time I have had to go there to get the job done."

He went on: "The first year, keeping the club up in the last game of the season against Reading was an enormous feat and an achievement that is underestimated by people. If we hadn't stayed up I'm not sure what position the club would have been in now.

"That was when the club was really on its knees and that was a massive game. But we are playing for bigger stakes now and we are desperately keen to stay in the Premier League."

Last week's loss to Manchester United, a third defeat in succession, has left the Potters just three points above the relegation zone. They travel to the apparently doomed QPR this weekend anxious to improve on an away goalscoring record that has seen them strike a paltry nine times.

In total they have mustered just 28 Premier League goals all season, the lowest in the competition, and only two in their last seven games. After also conceding five in losses to Aston Villa and Manchester United in the past fortnight, Pulis has plenty of areas for concern.

He said: "It has been both boxes where we have struggled. Lately we have given poor goals away and we have got to stop doing that. At the other end there have been games where we have had great opportunities and not taken them.

"You do struggle if you struggle in both boxes. We have got to eradicate that and make sure we get the points we need to stay up.

"We need a break, we need to turn it around. We have to stick together. The next five games are vital for the football club and we need to show our true colours. Everybody is focused and we need to get the job done."

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