David Moyes believes discipline in defence has been a major factor behind Everton’s recent run of good results.
A collective total of just three goals have been conceded against Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham which have allowed the Blues to move back into the Champions League qualification berths.
Everton’s back-four will be put to the test again this Saturday when they confront a forward line consisting of Cameron Jerome, Peter Crouch, Kenwyne Jones and Jonathan Walters.
But ahead of the game, Moyes is taking heart from the way his team kept their concentration in recent weeks and have started to play like the ‘old’ Everton again.
“It’s [Britannia Stadium] one of hardest places to go for any team. I think Stoke have only conceded two goals at home all season,” said the Scot.
“They are a tough nut to crack, they don’t concede many goals and they have a way of playing. They have a big, strong and powerful team which you have to be able to manage.
“I think the last two or three games we have tightened up defensively. I think we have become a lot more like old Everton where we are not quite as easy to score against.
“That has been really important because I felt that some of the goals we have let in late on – the ones against Reading and Norwich – were really disappointing at the stage in those games.
“We needed to get back to being harder to beat because if you are playing well, nearly scoring but then letting the opposition score easily, it can become demoralising.
“The players look as though they have tightened up a little bit.”
This weekend’s game will see Moyes renew acquaintances with an old adversary in the form of Stoke boss Pulis – someone he has faced both as a player and a manager, dating back to the mid-1980s.
“Tony has done a really good job in stabilising Stoke,” added Moyes.
“I don’t think anyone would think of Stoke as being a team near the relegation zone – you are more likely to talk of them as being near the top of the table. They have brought in some quality players to try and improve what they are doing.
“I’ve known Tony a long time. He was manager of Gillingham when I was at Preston and he played for Bristol Rovers whilst I was playing for Bristol City. We have come up against each other quite a bit over the years.”