Stoke face challenges head-on

Stoke City boss Tony Pulis praised his side for staying positive in the face of adversity in their FA Cup clash with West Ham United.

Stoke booked their first semi-final appearance in 39 years with a 2-1 win over West Ham at Britannia Stadium on Sunday, the sealed with Danny Higginbotham’s scorching free kick in the 63rd minute.

But the Potters could not have been blamed for losing faith after referee Mike Jones missed a clear handball in the build -up to Frederic Piquionne’s equaliser on the half hour.

Things got worse for Stoke after the interval when former Hammer Matt Etherington missed a penalty, but the Potters stayed strong and fought their way to just their third ever semi-final berth, against Bolton Wanderers.

“We have been very unfortunate this year; we have copped quite a few (bad decisions) in the league,” Pulis said.

“We were very good for 25 minutes and then when they get their first shot on goal from that it was disappointing. From where I was standing it looked a stone-banker handball.”

“Matty came out in the second half and missed a penalty and that knocks you down again but great credit to the players – for a lesser team that would have affected them.”

“For two and a half years at this club, since we were promoted, we have been written off.”

“We have got to three quarter-finals of cup competitions now we have a semi-final.”

“We’ve finished 12th and 11th in the Premier League and the players and chairman deserve a hell of a lot of credit.”

Pulis added: “I think it is being disrespectful to Bolton to say it is the draw we wanted, we just wanted to win today.”

“We will treat them with total respect. If you look at Bolton and their history, they have been a Premier League side a lot longer than us and have established Premier League players.”

West Ham boss Avram Grant was critical of Jones after the match, claiming the referee erred in not awarding a penalty to James Tomkins after his clash with Jon Walters late in the second half.

“I think the referee started the second half very strange,” Grant said.

“Until they scored (their second) goal he gave fouls, a penalty, everything for them. It was a penalty for us at the end which he didn’t give.”

“Maybe he felt a little bit guilty (for the missed handball). I think it was the effect of the first goal for us.”