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Akwa United miss chance to close gap at the top


Everton model impresses Pulis

Tony Pulis has hailed Stoke City's next opponents Everton as good role models to his club - but admits there's a lot of catching up to do.

The Britannia Stadium boss is content enough with life after seeing his side climb from a position close to the relegation places to one in the top half of the Premier League.

But he insists that the long-term re-emergence following a quarter of a century outside English football's top flight is far from complete.

"We're nowhere near where we want to be," Pulis said. "That takes time. I think we've become a better team and we mix it up a lot more. But evolving takes time.

"David Moyes has some good players. He has his stamp on the club and they are reaping the rewards. We have 15 years of catching up, though, because they were in the Premier League from the very start.

"The way they have built, it always looks from the outside to be a top, top club. They have defenders who can defend well and players who can open you up.

"We want to build it properly over a period of time. We haven't had the time they've had to build foundations. They will be in the top six without a doubt and have a good chance of being in the top four.

"Physically and technically, they are as good as almost any team in the league. They have competed well."

Clean sheets at West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa in their last two matches have extended Stoke's unbeaten run to six matches prior to them performing once more in front of their home fans on Saturday.

There has been criticism, though, of the poor spectacle on each occasion in the West Midlands as they harvested four points out of six.

But Pulis has been returning some of the fire as he ponders whether to play Dean Whitehead or the recalled Andy Wilkinson in place of the suspended Ryan Shotton against Everton - or even recall Matthew Upson.

"If there are critics, there are critics," the manager added. "That's part and parcel of the job.

"It's important we stay in this league because of the money there will be (next season). Building a team and club is very difficult. You have to do it gradually and we've done that. You have to be careful with it.

"We've had a look at the Shotton incidents and it's disappointing. We just want the same, nothing more and nothing less, as other clubs.

"We were disappointed. (Referees chief) Mike Riley always takes your call and he has seen the incidents and will put the refs' point of view to you, which is nice.

"I've never been concerned too much with what people say but what concerns me is the pre-conceptions. People should ref us without pre-conceived ideas. You see incidents where our players get booked and others don't.

"You see (Carlos) Tevez's challenge on Rafael last Sunday and we want to know why one was booked and the other wasn't. If there's a difference, please tell us. We're not all perfect, we're not right all the time. Ryan is disappointed. I'm not even sure he touched him (Fabian Delph) with the second one."

Michael Owen will not feature on Saturday despite his relief at coming through 70 minutes of a friendly this week but Charlie Adam is back after a one-match ban and Peter Crouch is likely to take over from Kenwyne Jones in attack.


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