Pulis senses lift in Stoke spirits

Tony Pulis praised Stoke fans for creating a "very positive feeling" during their goalless draw with West Brom.

Last Updated: 17/03/13 at 15:22 Post Comment

Pulis: Watched his side draw 0-0 with West Brom

Pulis: Watched his side draw 0-0 with West Brom

Stoke manager Tony Pulis praised the club's fans for creating a "very positive feeling" around the Britannia Stadium during Saturday'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.

The discontent among Stoke supporters had been clear from the boos that came from the stands at the previous home match, a 1-0 defeat to West Ham on March 2.

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 yesterday.

Pulis, 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.

"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."

Those who were watching yesterday's 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.

And although the goalkeeper was largely untroubled yesterday, West Brom boss Steve Clarke felt he performed well in a good all-round defensive display from his side, who are eighth in the table.

"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," Clarke said.

"He has made himself available for England, which can only be good news for them.

"In difficult conditions, particularly in the last 15 minutes when I think somebody was trying to tell us something, his handling was excellent. But the team in front of him defended well.

"I think he is another key element of a good defensive unit.

"I thought the four defenders were outstanding, Claudio Yacob in front of them gave good cover and the more attacking players did their jobs defensively."

Asked if he considered Foster to be a genuine challenger to England's first-choice goalkeeper Joe Hart, rather than just a back-up, Clarke said: "That is for (England head coach) Roy Hodgson for decide - all Ben can do is what he has done.

"He made himself available and he is a really good goalkeeper. It is good for England that they have good competition for places."

Clarke confirmed that Albion midfielder Graham Dorrans, missing from the squad yesterday, had sustained a calf strain but said he expected him to still link up with the Scotland squad.

Clarke said: "I wouldn't expect him to be involved in the first game (against Wales on Friday), but I think he has an outside chance of being involved in Scotland's second game (in Serbia the following Tuesday), which means he should be available for us at West Ham (on March 30)."

Meanwhile, Pulis revealed that Stoke's Republic of Ireland midfielder Glenn Whelan had had to come off at half-time due to an ankle injury.


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