It is unusually difficult to put into words what this result means to Stoke.I was there,Sky TV were there,15,756 fans were there,the former and the latter just hoping that things would turn out right.Would the team be there too?
At the pub and in the ground last night there was a real buzz of expectation ...but not a little apprehension too!As the match progressed,particularly the first half,the less phlegmatic characters in the crowd were soon very much in evidence.The team started brightly enough with strong vocal backing,but a few missed passes later coupled with the disappointing reaction from quite a few Stokies (from sheer frustration as much as anything else) had one or two players retreating into their shells.
The Manager contends that Stoke are not getting the breaks at the moment and you have to have some sympathy with that view.Had the early doors header that hit the base of the post gone in, instead of running along the goal line and away to safety, things might have been very different....
To be frank Stoke looked like a team playing get to know you much of the time,which is entirely understandable.A good few new faces have been drafted in...inevitably they need time to gel...we don't have that time unfortunately.
Palace took the lead against the run of play.Sinclair, a class act on loan from Chelsea skinned Pugh,chipped the ball across the goal mouth for Soares to head firmly into the net.Things got worse just before half time when Portugese defender Fonte netted from the edge of the penalty box.
To be fair the second half was all Stoke as they tried to salvage something from the wreckage.In particular sub Fuller and Ameobi began to torment the Palace defence,pulling it about,creating plenty of chances to score,but unable to convert.Plenty of scrambles and near misses,but nothing to show for it until Whelan's volley from the edge of the box finally defeated keeper Speroni (who had certainly ridden his luck at times!) in the 85th minute.You wondered if it was too late.To their credit Stoke mounted a frantic assault in the last five minutes,plus the five minutes of added time,but were unable to score again...so even the point that would have taken us back to the top escaped us.
Any positives from the game? Still second (will WBA do us another favour tonight?)....four games to play....Ameobi looked better as the match went on (in the first half he gave a passable impression of Gifton Noel-Williams - how many kids does he have now?)....the Ameobi Fuller pairing looked promising ( although in the closing minutes both were guilty of taking an extra touch when they should have been having a pop at goal)...certainly they are capable of unhinging lesser sides than Palace.Negatives....I fear that Griff is now a busted flush...he had a torrid time again...Pugh looked uncomfortable throughout....Pearson looks rusty,possibly still shell shocked from his Derby County experiences this season,his contribution at set plays nothing like as threatening or precise as those of the absent Liam Lawrence(groin strain).
Each game is now going to be a must win,if we are to get automatic promotion.
Crossed fingers? Cross everything!
CAN WE DO IT? YES WE CAN!!!