GLENN WHELAN is convinced that Stoke City have turned a corner following back-to-back wins over the holiday period, ahead of Thursday's crunch fixture with Premier League title-chasing Manchester United.
A 1-0 St Stephen's Day triumph at Everton was backed up with a 2-0 home defeat of West Brom on Sunday, Mame Biram Diouf notching both goals. It was the first time the Potters have managed consecutive victories this season.
The Staffordshire outfit - currently 11th - found some impressive form in the second half of last season that saw them finish ninth, their highest final position since their promotion in 2008.
And with a similar achievement the target for this campaign, Whelan has stressed the need for Stoke to get some consistent success together once again.
"We all said after (the West Brom game) that we've played better and got beaten," the 30-year-old Dubliner said.
"We weren't particularly good at times but we were able to grind out a result 48 hours after the Everton clash, which was always going to be difficult.
"We've got 25 points now but everyone will hold their hands up and say it's been a bit stop-start.
"If we can get it going like we did in the back half of last season hopefully we can push up the table to where we want to be.
Stoke's next match is the New Year's Day home clash with Manchester United - a fixture they won 2-1 in February last season. "The last couple of games have been great. Two massive wins and two clean sheets, so let's kick on from there."
The Red Devils missed a number of good opportunities to break a 0-0 stalemate at White Hart Lane, passing up the chance to close up on the Premier League's top two after both Chelsea and Manchester City also drew later in the day .
Juan Mata saw a deflected free-kick hit the post while Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie, Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney all came close, with Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in fine form in the opening 45 minutes.
Phil Jones played the whole 90 minutes in both games and the England defender insisted it was an unfortunate day at the office that cost United the three points, rather than a lack of energy. "I think fatigue is always going to kick in with two games in three days but it's the same for every club in the Premier League," said centre-back Jones.
"You have to do it, we have done it, and now we look forward to the game against Stoke on Thursday.
"We created numerous chances in the first half and perhaps should have been three or four nil up at half-time, but it wasn't to be.
"In the second half they came out and pushed us to the end. We knew that would happen, but we stayed resilient and we kept a clean sheet.
"It's always nice to come away with a clean sheet but ultimately the lads are disappointed not to have taken all three points."