Stoke City manager Tony Pulis impressed by team spirit at Reading

Reading have climbed out of the relegation zone

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 Barclays 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 the 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 tomorrow'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 Boxing 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 tomorrow.

"We have to get some points and we are keen to get back to winning ways," Pulis said.

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

"What we have to do now is win a few games, although we know it will be tough (on Saturday) - they are on a great run at the moment."

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's been a lot of talk about Begovic but no-one from the big clubs - Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal - has called me," Pulis said.

"There was no thought in my mind that we were bringing Butland in just in case Begovic went.

"We thought Butland was a great opportunity for the club to sign a top young goalkeeper.

"If United or someone else come in and offer an enormous amount of money for Begovic we'd have to look at it, but I haven't brought Butland in because of that."

PA

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