It has often been the case that Stoke do not rise to the Boxing Day occasion turning in lacklustre performances.Yesterday's match,however was emphatically NOT one of those below par performances, in front of a big holiday crowd, the best of the season so far at 23,003.
The result was disappointing but Stoke lost a hard fought game to a Sheffield Wednesday team who were clearly up for it, and certainly were not afraid to mix it physically with Stoke. 7 Sheffield bookings to 3 for Stoke confirms that impression.Referee Foy-after long consultation with his assistant- defused the games nastiest moment by booking both Lee Hendrie for a late tackle, and the recipient Andrews for retaliation. It has to be said that the latter was the luckier of the two in that he avoided the red card.
A further observation is that Lee Hendrie had clearly been targetted by Sheffield, and (like many other players before him) he is not nearly so effective for the team once he starts to get involved in exchanges with opposing players and officials rather than simply getting on with his game. That said, once again he was involved in Stoke's equalising goal,providing the excellent cross for Sidibe's 12 yard header at the Boothen End.
Stoke put together some really good football at times and could have scored at least twice in the first half before The Owls got their opening goal, but overall the visitors looked more energetic than the home team. Something had obviously been said at halftime with Stoke opening in more lively fashion, their efforts culminating in Sidibe's equaliser.
Throughout it was evident that the visitors had come for more than one point. Their positive approach was rewarded with a winning goal from ex-Stokie substitute Deon Burton, who netted after one of those 'bagatelle' moments in the Stoke goalmouth which featured shooting, good saves, rebounds,interceptions, before Burton finally put the ball in the net despite Stoke's best defensive efforts.
On balance Stoke should have got something from the game, against a spirited, determined, and at times adventurous Sheffield side, which will be no push over for anyone in the remainder of the season. Looking on the bright side whilst Stoke drop out of the playoff places they are still very much in touch being only 4 points off an outright promotion place !!