ANDY WILKINSON admits that Stoke City were forced to dig deep to secure a point against high-flying Everton on Saturday . . . and prolong their unbeaten run at the Britannia Stadium to 15 games with the 1-1 draw.
Wilkinson marked his return to the starting line-up with a performance that earned him the Man-of-the-Match award, but he was quick to pay tribute to his team-mates for their part in preserving their excellent home record.
A second half header from Kenwyne Jones, his first Premier League goal in 16 months, stretched City's current unbeaten to seven matches in the League after Everton had gone in front through an unfortunate Ryan Shawcross own goal.
The result means the Potters still haven't lost on home turf since the 1-0 defeat against Sunderland back in February.
"It was a really tough battle out there, but to be honest that is exactly the sort of game we were expecting," he told stokecityfc.com.
"They've been on fire this season, and you only have to look at the League table to see what a good team they are.
"They got stuck in, but so did we, and we had to do that to get ourselves back in the game. I thought we battled well in the second half and could have gone on to win the game."
He added: "You have to give a lot of credit to the lads, because it was tough out there, but in the end we got a good point against a side who will be up there come the end of the season."
"That's 15 or so unbeaten here now, so we have made this place a fortress. There was no way we wanted that run to come to an end."
The Stone-born defender singled out skipper Ryan Shawcross for special praise, following another mature showing in the heart of the backline.
"He was immense again today, and stood up to everything that was asked of him. He was hugely unfortunate with the own goal, but these things can happen when you try to clear the ball away.
"He was in the wars a little bit today, but he was incredibly mature and just kept getting up and getting on with the game.
"Ryan is the Club captain and he always leads by example, whether it be on the field or off the field. He is a top, top player and a very honest lad too."