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The Toe Poke

Pulis delighted with Stoke's festive form

Tony Pulis is urging his buoyant Stoke City players to build on Wednesday's thrilling victory over Liverpool and underline their Christmas programme as a huge success.

• ESPN Bloggers' mid-season review

Stoke have continued their climb up the Premier League by drawing at Tottenham and then hitting back to defeat Brendan Rodgers' side 3-1 at a vibrant Britannia Stadium.

Now they have the chance to make it seven points from three festive games when they welcome Southampton to the Potteries on Saturday.

"The way the players worked for one another and the spirit within the group is absolutely fabulous and they have to make sure they continue that," Pulis said.

"Saturday will probably be more difficult than this game and they have to turn up again and play as a team.

"We played really well [against Liverpool] and the response of the players was the greatest thing. To go a goal behind after 30 seconds and then respond as they did was absolutely fantastic. Full credit to them.

"The supporters have played a massive part as well. We've been helped by 28,000 again."

Pulis found a place on the bench last night for Charlie Adam, who recently lost his father, but Michael Owen was once more on the outside of the match-day 18 looking in.

With the relegation-threatened Saints next up, Stoke have the chance to cement a place in the top eight by the end of the year but the manager is not looking too far ahead.

"The aim is to get to 40 points as quick as we can," he added. "It's our fifth year in the division after 23 years out and we've had to spend a lot of money on the infrastructure, like building a new training ground.

"We have to take it gradually. We have to make sure we have a better team again next year and the year after that, and do it at our pace, within the budget we have.2


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