Alex Neil can feel new positivity around Stoke City as they head into the international break with a spring in their step.
Stoke were held to a goalless draw with play-off chasing Norwich on Saturday, an encouraging performance to cap a run which has helped to change the mood around the club.
Three wins and two draws in the last six matches and Neil said: “That's as loud as I've heard the fans since I've been here, which is really pleasing. The fact that the majority stayed to clap the players off at the end was extremely pleasing.
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“What you can see is the lads leave everything on the pitch and I don't think you can ask for any more than that.
“Yes, we're disappointed and a bit frustrated we didn't take opportunities but in terms of structure of how we play, effort and endeavour, playing for the team, playing for the club, I don't think anyone can question it.”
Jacob Brown and Will Smallbone had chances to win the match for Stoke but couldn’t find a way past Angus Gunn in the Norwich goal.
A busy couple of months caught up with several players in the latter stages of the second half and Josh Laurent and Ki-Jana Hoever were taken off as Stoke couldn’t muster one big final push.
“Yes, the last 20 minutes,” said Neil. “At the moment we're lacking forward players and arguably the forwards are the ones you want to freshen up. Young Ki-Jana has played further forward and he looked knackered so we had to take him off. Josh Laurent looked knackered. Tye Campbell looked knackered but unfortunately I don't have anyone who can do what he does so we needed to keep him on and try to force a goal.”
Hoever was playing on the wing as Neil rearranged after a calf injury to Dwight Gayle, who will be touch and go to be ready for the next game, away at Coventry on April 1.
Neil said: “Listen, we're a bit thin in certain areas. That's what we spoke about when we started playing 4-3-3 but the difficulty we've got is that we have a lack of wingers. That's been apparent since I walked in the door.
“What happens is now we've had a sequence of seven games playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday... Once you get to the last couple it comes home to roost because you don't have a lot of options to take over.”
It was a different challenge for Hoever, who had scored three goals in the previous two games at right-back.
Neil said: “He was excellent. I had no worries about him. We did it (on Friday) in training and he's really comfortable. I spent a bit of time with him yesterday and today, just going through clips about what we wanted him to do and how we wanted him to do it.
“He's a really intelligent footballer, technically he's very good, great athleticism and he's a young lad. He's like a sponge, he just wants to take things on board.”