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Mick: Players learning as they go
McCarthy feels there are reasons to be increasingly optimistic after his side drew with Everton at Goodison Park and Aston Villa at Molineux in their last two games. But the former Republic of Ireland boss is acutely aware only a small number of his squad had top-flight experience before the current campaign. McCarthy, who led his side to promotion from the Championship last term, said: "How many of them had played in the Premier League before this season? Only four I think, so they are having to learn on their feet. "But I was speaking to the players in the dressing room after the Villa game and I said 'we've played ten games and we are getting better'. "Those performances in the last two games with Everton and Villa showed a bit more nous and solidity about us - and we looked like we could open teams up as well." McCarthy, whose side visit Stoke for Saturday's Staffordshire derby, added: "I think our performances have justified self belief and confidence but, of course, it is all down to the finer details in matches. "It is whether we concede though not defending properly, or whether we finish when we have created a good chance and don't manage to have the end product. "It's at either end but I think our performances in general have been good." Wolves striker Stefan Maierhofer will be available after suspension against Tony Pulis' side after missing the Villa clash through suspension. The Austrian player was sent off after collecting two late yellow cards against Everton after being introduced by McCarthy as a substitute. McCarthy admitted: "If we could have appealed, I would have appealed. It was a nonsense. The second yellow card was just a joke and (Everton goalkeeper) Tim Howard pushed Stefan in the back of the head. "I spoke to the ref and he said (hitting) the back of the head is a grey area. It was so unnecessary. It wasn't justified but we couldn't appeal. If it had been a straight red we could have." Midfielder Kevin Foley could also be available after missing the Villa encounter with a knee injury suffered in training.
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