Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Pulis senses lift in Stoke spirits

Stoke City manager Tony Pulis has hailed his side's fans after their 0-0 draw against West Brom

Stoke manager Tony Pulis has praised the club's fans for creating a "very positive feeling" around the Britannia Stadium during his side's 0-0 Barclays Premier League draw with West Brom.

The Potters went into the Albion contest off the back of three straight defeats and having suffered a total of seven losses in their last nine top-flight fixtures, and there has been some discontent from the Stoke supporters in the wake of the 1-0 defeat to West Ham on March 2.

But Pulis said: "What you need when things are not going very well is people to support you and get behind you, and they were fantastic on the terraces."

Pulis has stressed the importance of the crowd - even if they are criticising him - giving their backing to the players, and was delighted with the level of support. The manager, whose team moved up to 10th, said: "We played very well at Newcastle last week (in a 2-1 defeat) and two outstanding goals cost us the game, which was disappointing.

"But I thought the response from the crowd was brilliant (in the West Brom match). There has been a lot of people moaning and groaning, or so I have been told, but they turned up and right from the first whistle to the last there was a very positive feeling around the ground, and that was very good for the players.

"It has been seven years that we have been pushing on, and you get good times and you get bad times."

Those who were watching the match did not get much in the way of entertainment. After West Brom captain Chris Brunt had a fifth-minute strike saved by Asmir Begovic in a fairly bright start for the visitors, Stoke were the better side for the remainder of the first half.

But they struggled to create any real clear-cut opportunities, with a deflected Jon Walters shot that spun wide being their closest attempt. The standard improved slightly after the break, but neither side looked likely to break the deadlock as Baggies frontman Romelu Lukaku and Stoke's Peter Crouch failed to convert headers, before Potters substitute Kenwyne Jones passed up a good chance in stoppage time by prodding straight at Ben Foster.

Foster has returned to the England squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifying double-header against San Marino and Montenegro, almost two years after making himself unavailable for national team selection.

West Brom boss Steve Clarke said: "After Ben came back (in December) from the second groin operation he had, it took him three or four weeks to get himself up to speed, but I think since then his performances have been top-level. He has made himself available for England, which can only be good news for them."

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