TONY PULIS conceded that Swindon Town fully-deserved to create one of the major upsets of the Capital One Cup Second Round . . . after a James Collins hat-trick ensured that Stoke City’s second half fightback went unrewarded at the Britannia Stadium.
Pulis saw his side battle their way back from a disappointing first half display to level up the tie on two occasions, only for Collins to crown a memorable night with the winner in the final minute of extra-time.
City’s manager pointed to an extra-time injury sustained by substitute Jamie Ness as being the decisive factor as Swindon triumphed in the seven-goal thriller.
“That killed us really because with eleven men, I felt we would have gone on to win it after getting back on level terms in extra-time,” said Pulis afterwards.
“But it was tough for us in the second half of extra-time with only ten men, especially having to play 120 minutes just two days after a big game against Arsenal.
“Let’s not take anything away from Swindon though. All credit to them; they deserved their victory in the end and they deserve now to get a good draw.”
He added: “We’ve enjoyed some great nights in the two cup competitions over the past four or five years, but on this occasion, it just wasn't our night.”
Pulis was understandably unhappy with his side’s performance in the first half when they were left trailing to well-taken goals from the lively Collins.
“It was very disappointing because we didn’t play as well as we can do,” he commented. “We were really on the backfoot in the first when we thought it was just going to be a stroll in the park. They’re flying high though and were spot right from the beginning.
“It summed our performance that the first three goals were avoidable. Thomas will hold his hands up for the first one and then we conceded two from set plays.
“We showed a lot of character to get it back to two apiece and then 3-3 in extra time, and with eleven men I felt there was only going to be one winner.”
Pulis admitted that City were concerned about the groin strain which Ness picked up after coming as a substitute and led to him going off during extra time.
“It’s a cruel blow for the lad because he has come through all the pre-season work and was desperate to get out there,” added City’s manager.
“We are concerned about the nature of the injury because of the problems the lad has had in the past so we didn’t want to take any risks with it.”