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By ESPN Staff

Etherington: Pulis return inspired us

Matthew Etherington claimed the appearance of bereaved boss Tony Pulis on the sidelines at half-time inspired Stoke as they came from behind to beat Aston Villa 2-1 with a dramatic injury-time goal.

Pulis announced he would miss the match following the death of his mother earlier in the day, but with Stoke trailing 1-0 at half-time, Pulis came out for the second half to a huge response. Etherington revealed Pulis had come in as he was so unhappy with what he had seen in the first half.

"Obviously he wasn't happy at half-time," he told Sky Sports. "He was very disappointed about what was happening. He had thought it would be too much to be with us but after the first half and the way we played he came in.

"They were on top and he wasn't happy, so he came in and I think we were better in the second half."

Stoke assistant manager Dave Kemp said: "I knew he was going to get here at some time but I didn't know when because he travelled up from south Wales. I knew during the first half he was here because he was phoning down to the bench.

"He has obviously had a very sad day but typically for him he wanted to get straight into it, put his overalls on and get on with his work. That is why he has been a great manager for this football club. He is desperate, with all else he has got going on, to have an impact.

"His appearance gave the players and the fans a boost and I think you saw that."

Kemp said that, despite Pulis' personal tragedy, he did not hold back in his criticism of the players during the interval.

"He was in the dressing room for the half-time team-talk and he took the paint off the walls," he added. "The result's not going to change what has happened to him today but hopefully it will give him a boost that the team is up and running and got three points."

Villa caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald - continuing to stand in as Gerard Houllier works out his release from the France Football Federation - downplayed the effect of Pulis' arrival.

"I feel very sad for Tony but he is a wonderful man. I don't think it would have changed the way his team played," he said. "We still had chances in the second half as well and I thought we played some good football in both halves, so it's obviously disappointing that we lost 2-1.

"We're always confident in the way we play, passing it, moving it around and creating chances but Stoke are always very difficult to beat as they showed in the second half."

Villa were left fuming with a free-kick decision in the build-up to Stoke's winner, as Jermaine Pennant appeared to go down easily under a challenge from Stylian Petrov, who was booked after the final whistle as his protests continued.

"They felt that Jermaine fell over rather easily for the free-kick, and we were very disappointed with a referee's decision that ended up conceding the winning goal," MacDonald said.

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