Football: Pulis won't let Stoke underestimate Bolton

STOKE, United Kingdom, March 14, 2011 (AFP) - Tony Pulis has warned Stoke not to underestimate Bolton as he prepares for his club's first FA Cup semi-final since 1972.

Danny Higginbotham's second half goal secured a hard-fought 2-1 quarter-final victory over West Ham at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday, but Pulis has told his players not to get carried away.

Stoke avoided a clash with Manchester United in the last four draw and will play the Trotters in their first appearance at Wembley since their League Cup win over Chelsea 39 years ago.

But Pulis hit his players with a fierce reality check ahead of their clash with Owen Coyle's men next month and also reminded them that Stoke are still not clear from the Premier League relegation zone.

"It's disrespectful to Bolton to say that's the draw we wanted," he said.

"We just wanted to win and whatever team we got pulled against in the semi-final we'd treat them with total respect.

"Bolton have been an established Premier League team for longer than us and it will be a tough game.

"But I'm delighted for the players. They've shown enormous character to earn themselves a trip to Wembley."

Robert Huth had opened the scoring for Stoke after 12 minutes before Frederic Piquionne appeared to use his hand before scoring West Ham's controversial equaliser in the 30th minute.

Stoke winger Matthew Etherington missed a penalty against his former club in the second half, but Higginbotham's 63rd minute free kick was enough to book a date at Wembley.

Pulis added: "For two and a half years since we got promoted we've been written off. We've got to three quarter-finals, two in the FA Cup and once in the League Cup, and now we've reached a semi-final.

"To have that achievement is fantastic. Everybody wrote us off but we haven't done badly.

"I'm just delighted for my players. The biggest problem we've got is people getting blase about it. We have no right to beat anybody unless we go out there and work hard.

"Only three or four years ago we were a struggling Championship club and we can't afford to get complacent.

"I've told the players we've got a tough game against Newcastle. I'll just tell them to look at the league table, that's the best way. We'll certainly be doing that this week."

Hammers manager Avram Grant has missed out on a trip to Wembley for the second time this season after losing in the League Cup semi-finals against Birmingham and he aimed his anger at referee Mike Jones.

The official infuriated both managers with a string of dubious decisions and Grant claimed Jones was trying to even things up, after awarding West Ham a disputed goal in the first half.

He said: "Maybe our equaliser is why the referee started the second half very strangely.

"Was he trying to even it up? I think so yes, but I don't want to speak too much about referees.

"Maybe you need to ask him. It was a penalty for us at the end but he didn't give it.

"We wanted to win, we played very well and it was a big fight like it always is in Stoke, it is not easy to play here.

"Now we want to continue in the league the way we have in the last few weeks."

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