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Crouch could play with protective brace

Peter Crouch is still in with a chance of playing in Stoke City's game at West Bromwich Albion - if he can be fitted with a satisfactory protective brace.

The club's leading scorer went off in the first half of Wednesday's victory over Newcastle after an accidental clash with Fabricio Coloccini left him minus two teeth and with two others pushed into his gum.

On Friday, he saw a specialist while his team-mates assembled ready for an overnight stay in the West Midlands and will be fully assessed in the morning, with an 11am fitness check scheduled.

"We're going to see if he's comfortable enough to wear a brace," Pulis said. "We haven't given up hope that he can play. He's very keen to be involved. Apart from that, he feels fine but, if he got a knock on it, it could cause more problems."

The striker is facing dental work next week whatever but has earned the praise of his manager for making it clear he would like to play.

"Just for him to want to be involved is something," Pulis added. "He has stayed away so far since Wednesday but will come to the hotel before the game so we can see him. And he will have to have surgery when it settles down.

"The (medical) people are looking at it and seeing if they can find a suitable brace. It's like a gum shield really. If they think it could be too much of a risk, it's up to them. But if there's a chance, he will put himself up."

Stoke have enjoyed a remarkable stranglehold over Albion for the last two decades and have lost to them only twice in 29 League games. They won at The Hawthorns early last season with a late goal but were then beaten 2-1 at the Britannia Stadium in January by a side under the management of Roy Hodgson.

Steve Clarke is the latest Albion manager to attempt to end the jinx and Pulis is expecting a formidable challenge.

"I have known Steve a long time as a coach and assistant, doing well at good, big clubs," he said. "He's a smashing fella and has now been given this opportunity and taken it with both hands. I think the chairman has to take credit as well for appointing him. It's a bit like Newcastle last season. Albion's work ethic is first-class and they have played exceptionally well. I'm very pleased for him.

"It will be a good atmosphere in a great stadium. They deserved to beat us in January and we won't take anything for granted. We know it will be difficult tomorrow.

"They are the surprise package and are playing smashing football. They are a very well balanced and well coached team. It's our toughest test there. But some of the away performances we have produced this season have been as good as anything we have displayed in the Premier League.

"We scored two very good goals on Wednesday and they will give us confidence for this really tough game. We should have more away points than we do have. We were very pleased to come back and win late on. I thought we were unfortunate not to score in the first half."

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