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Pulis admits he's wary of another late show from spirited Reading

Stoke boss Tony Pulis sees Reading's recent habit of scoring important late goals as testament to the spirit and belief Brian McDermott has fostered within his squad.

The Royals have hauled themselves out of the Premier League relegation zone by registering three wins and a draw in their last four top-flight fixtures, a sequence in which they have netted nearly all their goals towards the end of games.

Their efforts have been recognised with McDermott and striker Adam Le Fondre – who has scored five times during the run – being named the division's manager and player of the month for January respectively.

And ahead of today's league clash between Stoke and Reading at the Britannia Stadium, Pulis has also saluted the Berkshire club.

"They have had a great run of results," Pulis said.

"What they have shown by scoring so many goals late on is that they have real spirit in the team. It has been remarkable really. Brian will be really pleased with the belief the team has shown – it has given them great heart, I'm sure."

Reading are currently 17th, two points clear of the drop zone, while Stoke are 10th. The Potters have managed to retain a top-half position despite not winning a league match since St Stephen's Day.

In among their fixtures during that time they have come up against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal – losing all three contests – and they now have a series of more winnable-looking games ahead of them.

Certainly Pulis is eager to get a victory on the board, although he is anticipating Reading will pose his side a testing assignment.

Pleased

"We have had a very, very tough run again like at the start of the season," said Pulis. "We have got through that period and we are still 10th in the league, so we are pleased with that."

New signing Brek Shea is eligible to make his Stoke debut in the game after the formalities of his move from FC Dallas were completed this week, and Pulis is assessing the fitness of the 22-year-old United States winger, who has been recovering from a foot operation.

It remains to be seen whether or not full-back Marc Wilson will be involved after he made his playing comeback from a broken leg in a behind-closed-doors friendly on Tuesday.

As well as Shea, Stoke brought in England goalkeeper Jack Butland from Birmingham in the January transfer window, with the 19-year-old returning to the Blues on loan until the end of the season.

It has raised questions about the future of the Potters' first-choice stopper Asmir Begovic, who has been linked with several big clubs. But Pulis has reiterated that Butland is not necessarily a replacement for Begovic, suggesting the former could go on loan again next term and that it would take a significant offer for Stoke to consider letting the latter leave. "There was no thought in my mind that we were bringing Butland in just in case Begovic went," said Pulis. "We thought Butland was a great opportunity for the club to sign a top young goalkeeper."

AVB: Cut-price Sissoko a 'great grab' for Toon

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas thinks Newcastle counterpart Alan Pardew may have landed one of the signings of the season in midfielder Moussa Sissoko.

The Magpies snapped up Sissoko up for a nominal fee last month after the France international had been frozen out by his former club Toulouse following his failure to sign a contract extension.

The 23-year-old made an instant impact, impressing against Aston Villa before scoring a vital brace to snatch a win for the north-east side against European champions Chelsea last weekend.

Tottenham, along with a host of other top European clubs such as Juventus and Inter Milan, were thought to be interested in signing Sissoko, but the considerable Gallic contingent in the St James' Park dressing room convinced the dynamic midfielder to move to Tyneside on a six-and-a-half-year contract.

Villas-Boas is a big fan of Sissoko, and Newcastle's other January signings like Mathieu Debuchy and Yoan Gouffran, so he knows his team will have to be on their guard when the Tynesiders arrive at White Hart Lane for today's early kick-off.

"Most of their signings have gone straight in and have had the right impact," the Spurs boss said. "Sissoko was a great grab.

"A couple of years ago he was being linked with the top clubs in the world and to get him at such a low price was a massive coup for them."


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