Stoke may have approached this game with some optimism,but in the end it proved to be a miserable afternoon for The Potters.Literally seconds after hitting the Rangers bar they went a goal down on 12 minutes to a magnificent strike from Leigertwood which Simonsen,even at full stretch, had no chance with.The same player added anotherin the 21st minute.The ball was played into the Stoke penalty area in front of goal.Despite a challenge from two Stoke defenders Vine managed to get the ball back to the advancing Leigertwood who volleyed the ball sweetly into the net.Stoke huffed and puffed but did not look the real threat of recent weeks as they were harried out of their stride by the home side.
Experienced referee Andy d'Urso put paid to any real chance of a Stoke recovery when he gave captain Andy Griffin his marching orders,a quite unjustified sending off as Griffin won the ball cleanly,and did not play the man.Refs seem to be on some red card feeding frenzy at the moment and none of them wishes to be left out....this particular decision was appalling....where was the Assistant ref?He would have had a clear view of the injustice!
Even with 10 men,just before half time Ricardo Fuller,challenged by 2 defenders got his shot away and was unlucky to see his shot come away off a post with the keeper beaten.
Two goals would have been a tall order for the 10 men,but Buzsaky killed the game off in the 56th minute with the 3rd goal,scored ,it must be said, from an offside position.Another disastrous miss by the officials!
Stoke made personnel changes in the second half to better cope in the circumstances.Wilkinson replaced Sidibe,Gallagher came on for Diao, and Buxton for Lawrence.Whilst defensively Stoke looked more solid, up front Ricardo Fuller ploughed a lone furrow.His performance was admirable.Singlehandedly he forced 5 corners out of the home side,although unfortunately on the day these came to nothing.
Gallager,in a midfield roll did his best to make things happen with some intelligent touches.Whelan had a fierce goalbound effort turned aside by the home keeper.Liam Lawrence did not seem quite himself...is he carrying an injury?
A stout second half effort from Stoke in difficult circumstances, but essentially a lost cause.Our goal difference must now be more of a concern than it was.Position wise we are still second in the table,but unless we are mighty lucky that will change on Tuesday/Wednesday when teams around us play their game in hand.
Tony Pulis will have identified what needs to be done ahead of Saturday's game at home to Burnley.The training ground will be a busy place this week.