Whitehead's goal was well worth waiting for, says delighted Pulis

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The Independent Football

Stoke manager Tony Pulis believes Dean Whitehead's winning goal against Birmingham on Tuesday night was long overdue.

Whitehead struck the winner five minutes from time in the Potters' dramatic 3-2 victory over Blues at the Britannia Stadium, bundling the ball home after Matthew Etherington's cross had slipped through the legs of Scott Dann.

It was the first time he had scored for Stoke in the Premier League, having joined them from Sunderland in the summer of 2009, and Pulis was thrilled Whitehead finally broke his duck – although he felt it should have happened sooner.

"It's about time that Dean scored," Pulis said. "If you are really being critical, he could have four or five goals already this season. He's been in there and just missed chances or things haven't dropped for him, so I am so pleased he has scored."

Pulis' side took a deserved first-half lead through Robert Huth and looked home and dry when Ricardo Fuller's delightful effort doubled their advantage in the 71st minute. But Birmingham, as they had on Saturday against West Ham, swiftly erased the two-goal deficit thanks to substitute Keith Fahey and Cameron Jerome.

Whitehead then had the final word as the Potters secured their first points since 2 October. They went into the contest on the back of a five-game losing streak – including four league fixtures and a Carling Cup defeat at West Ham – and Pulis admitted there was great relief among the players after Mark Clattenburg blew for full time.

"I think people don't realise that in our last five games, we have played four away from home and the one we had at home was against Manchester United, so it has been a tough run for us," Pulis said. "When you are on a run like this you need a result and it's important that the players stick together. There was relief in the dressing room afterwards. It will take a massive weight off their shoulders."

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish had mixed emotions after his team staged an impressive comeback for the second successive game, only for a defensive lapse to leave them empty-handed and sliding to 17th place in the table. "It was bittersweet," he said. "The fightback was brilliant and we had shots on goal. Craig Gardner was beginning to make an impact.

"I thought we were definitely going to win it, that we had that momentum. A free-kick stopped our momentum, but to lose it from there was very poor. But that is why we are where we are in the table – because we have lost too many goals like that this season."

"Last year we were not making mistakes, but this season we have made some errors which have cost us."