Pulis: Sunderland red cost Stoke
Tony Pulis has blamed the dismissal of Sunderland captain Craig Gardner for Sunderland's poor second half in a 1-1 draw on Monday.
Pulis' Stoke side moved six points clear of the English Premier League's relegation zone with a point gained away to Sunderland but the 55-year-old claimed Stoke could have won but for a timid performance after the break at the Stadium of Light.
Stoke took the lead in the ninth minute through Jonathan Walters and looked likely to extend their advantage when Sunderland's Gardner was shown a straight red card for a two-footed tackle on Charlie Adam 11 minutes before half-time.
But Pulis argued his central midfielders Steven N'Zonzi and Dean Whitehead, who recieved yellow cards before the break, spent the second half worried referee Lee Mason would find an excuse to send them off.
"Obviously the sending off affected us as much as anything," Pulis told thisisstaffordshire.co.uk.
"I thought Deano and Steven were brilliant first half and really dictated the game in midfield.
"But in the second half they looked like two players worried to death about a mistimed challenge that could have seen them sent off.
"That gave the impetus to Sunderland a little bit.
"It's disappointing but I understand.
"You've got to give Sunderland credit second half as well, although they had nothing to lose."
Pulis praised his players for taking Stoke to the verge of Premier League safety and a sixth successive season in England's top flight, while several other clubs remain embroiled in the relegation battle with two games remaining.
"I'm absolutely delighted to have come away with 41 points, we're 11th in the Premier League," Pulis said.
"People get carried away with Stoke City and everything else but we're 11th with two games to go.
"If we pick up a couple of wins, it would equal our record number of points in the Premier League and I hope we can finish in the top half, which would be absolutely brilliant for us."