Pulis relieved as cavalry push Stoke to safety

Stoke manager Tony Pulis dismissed talk of vindication after his side ended a four-game losing run in the Premier League with a 2-0 win over Swansea at the Britannia Stadium yesterday.

Pulis was furious with the reaction to his decision to leave nine first-team players at home for the midweek trip to Valencia, where a 1-0 defeat sent them tumbling out of the Europa League.

All those players were back in a starting line-up yesterday that showed 11 changes from the Mestalla, and first-half headers from Matthew Upson and Peter Crouch earned all three points.

Pulis praised the players who did play in Valencia, arguing it was the performance in the home leg, when they lost 1-0 despite fielding a much more familiar team, that was not up to scratch.

“If there’s a criticism levied at me, then it should be for the first team I picked against Valencia, because we didn’t play well that night,” said the Potters manager.

“But the team that went to Valencia did smashing and created more chances and gave them a better game.

“We went there to have a go, but whichever way you do it you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, and that’s football.

“I’m big enough to take it. My chairman was really pleased with the teams I picked in both games and he’s the one I answer to.”

One thing Pulis did not argue with was the importance of putting an end to their poor run against Swansea, with Stoke in danger of being dragged into the scrap at the bottom of the table having spent most of the season in the top 10.

The result lifted them back above their opponents and into 12th place, and Pulis said: “It’s very important we get the points on the board as quick as we can.

“It’s a tough league and I don’t care what anybody says, as soon as you start taking your foot off and think that you’ve got a right to be in this league, that’s the time you’ve got to pack in and get out.”

Both goals came from set-pieces, Upson heading in his first for Swansea in the 24th minute before Crouch got his head to Ryan Shotton’s long throw 15 minutes later.

Swansea probably should have gone ahead in only the second minute but Scott Sinclair fired well over from Nathan Dyer’s cut-back and they did not test Asmir Begovic until injury-time, when the keeper somehow tipped Steven Caulker’s powerful header onto the bar.

Pulis added: “The way Swansea play is a credit to (manager) Brendan (Rodgers) and the coaching side. They’re a very hard side to play against because they keep the ball everywhere.

“They’re patient, they go backwards, sideways – I’m not so sure our crowd would like the way they play, our lot like it up and at ’em.

“So we had to make sure we stayed very compact and that people worked their socks off, and I thought the effort and commitment of the players was absolutely first class.”

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