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Apr 8, 2013

Pulis confident of Stoke survival

Tony Pulis has refused to go into the reasons for Stoke fading away in the second half of the season for a second successive year, insisting he remains focused on avoiding the first relegation of his managerial career.

• Blog: Car crash football

The Potters boss once more endured booing of his team during the 3-1 home defeat against Aston Villa on Saturday but preferred to dwell on the backing that came from the stands around the time of Michael Kightly's 80th minute equaliser.

Stoke are now precariously placed in the table in 15th position, with Manchester United visiting the Potteries next Sunday. Their run of one win in 13 Premier League games since Boxing Day mirrors their 2011-12 finish of one win in the last 11.

Pulis recognised a parallel, but said: "There are certain reasons but this isn't the time to make excuses. This is the time when we stick together and get on with it.

"We had a good chat at half-time, and I spoke about confidence and togetherness. I thought we came out for the second half better but we looked a bit open. We're not usually open at our place. We usually make it a very tight compact game."

Midfielder Ryan Shotton suffered the bulk of the negative crowd reaction, his 77th minute departure in favour of Charlie Adam leading to a brief comeback from the home side.

That was snuffed out in the final minutes, though, by a stunning volley from Matt Lowton and a bizarre four-on-one break that brought Christian Benteke his 24th goal of the season for clubs and country.

"'Shots' is a local lad," Pulis added. "He has had stick ever since he got in the team. Andy Wilkinson's a local lad too and they love him.

"You can't legislate for the crowd liking you, disliking you, having a moan or cheering. They pay their money, they have a right to express their opinions. It's always my theory that if they're part of it, they're part of it. You have to accept it.

"Charlie sparked a bit of life. So did Cameron Jerome. They were two good subs but what we need is a break - not Lowton scoring the goal of the season. We have to keep working hard and believe. As a manager, I'll keep fighting on.

"This was the first time I'd seen a confidence problem, after Villa had scored. Whether that was just because it came out of the blue and was a soft goal, I don't know.

"I thought we were better in the second half. When we got the goal, it brought the crowd up a level - then Lowton does that."

Pulis insists this isn't the biggest crisis of his two-part career in the Potteries and is determined to keep the crowd on-side to the end.

"The first two seasons were difficult, very difficult," he said. "The first season I was here...we stayed up in the last game of the season against Reading (in the Championship).

"I've been in this situation before but the most important thing is to look after the players and give them the confidence to go out and play. It was disappointing to lose Peter Crouch and Glenn Whelan (through injury), then Matt Etherington having to come off. It disrupts things.

"That was only the third home game we've lost all season. The disappointing thing is it's West Ham and Villa that have beaten us here at the back end of the season. The rest of the time, we've looked really good at home.

"We've not won as many games as we'd like to, that's the biggest worry - to make sure we get the mentality when we're playing here that we have a go at teams. The result is a big kick in the teeth for everyone connected with the club.

"The positives were that the crowd were very good. They could have been bad but they were good. We need them to be like that for the next three games here.

"We have to make sure we are what we are. The important thing is getting the players' confidence together."

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