Friday, December 31, 2010
So some records were broken against Blackburn,and we turned up at The Brit full of festive cheer and optimism.Last home match defeat against Blackpool a distant memory,a match we could have won 6 - 1 on chances.That would not ,could not happen again.
With Stoke though,as we have learned the hard way from the distant past,you can take nothing for granted.We should dismiss at our peril any team which looks to be a pushover,having a dismal run of form,whatever.Fulham duly arrived,this foggy damp afternoon,unable to buy a win, manager Hughes' job under threat, and not having won away from home since the first game of LAST season.
Within 3 minutes the visitors were a goal up,two up in 10 minutes.For the remainder of the game they offered no attacking threat,and despite Stoke's somewhat disjointed forward threat against a poor defence, held together by the magnificent Hangerland,we could have played for the rest of the day and never scored.
The first goal,Baird's first for the club, initially looked as though there might have been an element of keeper error.In fact it was such a cracking shot that Begovic had no chance,the ball striking the inside of the post on its way into the net.The second goal by Baird again, from a freekick on the edge of the box, found the bottom corner of the Stoke net going just beyond Begovic's dive.The shot was straight and true,passing the point in the defensive wall where Walters had been standing,until he ran out to challenge the kick!
For me there was a similarity between the Blackpool and Fulham games.Both teams had midfields offering more creativity than ours.Tony Pulis is a canny operator.I wonder if one of his transfer window priorities will be to strengthen in that department?
Monday, December 27, 2010
"In 39 years Venky's has gone from a small family business to Asia's largest poultry group." (Lancashire Telegraph). Can they do for football what they have done for poultry?
New owners Venky's Revolution at Rovers seems to have left the locals for the most part unimpressed.Admittedly its early days but you have to wonder whether the turmoil they have created will result in a slide toward the Championship.Not only do the fans seem disenchanted,but also some leading players.You have to wonder whether a caretaker manager for the rest of the season is a good idea,especially following Sam Allardyce,who would have been expected to guide the club to mid table respectability again.
Two years ago our away fixture was Allardyce's first game as manager,and we never really got a look in losing 3-0.Yesterday was very different indeed,no positive reaction to the new manager,no stiff examination of our resolve,and Stoke eventually emerging comfortable winners.
A largely forgettable first half quickly receded from memory as Stoke took charge of the game,taking the lead in the 51st minute.Matty Etherington -who had missed for him an easy chance from close in in the first half -whipped in a corner,which Huth ,advancing unmarked, met with a powerful header into the net,giving keeper Robinson no chance.
We had to wait until the second minute of added on time for the second goal and clincher.Subs Ricardo Fuller and Marc Wilson combined well.A Fuller ball in from the right picked out Wilson close to goal inside the penalty area.He brought the ball under control,and fired in a low shot just inside the post and to Robinson's right.
The down side....Matty Etherington limping off,and with only two days recovery time,you have to wonder whether we will see him play against Fulham.
A list of records were broken ....
- had previously never won a match in December in the Prem
- not won on Boxing day for 10 years
- Wilson scored his first goal in the Prem....
We rise to 8th in the table with a respectable 24 points before the turn of the year.Be really nice if we could bag another 3 against Fulham on Tuesday!Here's hoping.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Sunday, December 05, 2010
A funny game this,featuring some excellent play from both sides,both managers feeling that on another day they could have won it.I can't remember any single Stoke game having so many in offs.Both goalies must have wondered at times why they bothered.
On loan home keeper Ali Al Habsi was the first to suffer.He had covered Robert Huth's freekick from just outside the box,until a wicked deflection off the defensive wall took the ball in the opposite direction to which he was moving. Stoke's opener on 18 minutes.
Asmir Begović was similarly stranded 12 minutes later.A brisk Wigan attack down the left,a ball into the middle,which he would have had little difficulty dealing with,until Danny Collins attempted block,wrong footed the keeper,the deflection taking the ball into the empty Stoke net for the equaliser.
Within a minute Stoke took the lead for the second time with the only goal that owed nothing to chance.Kenwyne Jones did really well to keep the ball in play on the right touchline.He advanced a few yards before playing the ball through to Ricardo Fuller.The Jamaican played the ball across the Wigan six yard box,Whitehead got a foot to it,ensuring that the ball reached Etherington coming in from the left.He made no mistake notching his second goal in a week..
Almost unbelieveably Stoke were pegged back again in the 40th minute by another strange one.This time a Cleverly shot from just outside the penalty box saw Begovic moving to his left anticipating the save,only be completely beaten when the ball deflected in the opposite direction off Rory Delap into the net.
So another point toward that vital 40 and survival,and 7th in the table for a few hours at least.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Yet another good game of football,with The Potters every bit a match for their expensively assembled visitors.Man City were outplayed by Stoke for a large part of the first half,in which frankly a few of their players gave the impression that they wished they were somewhere else doing something else!Certainly Stoke were in their faces and they did not fancy it.Our pressure was not just physical,but involved some tidy footballing moves,featuring particularly the attacking duo,Ricardo Fuller and Kenwyne Jones,aided and abetted by the superb Pennant and Etherington.
Stoke should have been a goal or two up by halftime,Ricardo Fuller missing the best chance as a fine backheel by Jones set him free one on one with keeper Joe Hart.Unfortunately the Jamaican screwed the ball ouside the righthand post.
Manchester started the second half more strongly,the Potters having to hang on doggedly at times.The game seemed to be drifting to a goalless conclusion,when ten minutes from the end Micah Richards sold Collins an outrageous dummy on the edge of the box,took a step forward,before driving the ball powerfully past Begovic into the net.
The visitors then set about retaining the ball,and to be honest successfully for the most part.An undeserved defeat looked the most likely result as we moved into added on time.Then a touch of Turkish magic unlocked the door.A long Begovic punt upfield was headed down by Kenwyne Jones to his new central partner Tuncay standing on the edge of the penalty box.The Turk's clever diagonal backheel to the left found Etherington.Hart got a hand to Ethers cross-shot,but couldn't stop it entering the net.A brilliantly worked goal and richly deserved equaliser.
20 points from 15 games ,8th in the table.Not bad for the end of November.Plus,if you knew neither team,on yesterday's evidence you would have to say that the Mighty Potters expenditure on players looked to be better value for money than their rich list visitors.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Stoke bossed this game for a good 60 minutes or more,then got an attack of the jitters,allowed the Brummies back in,and at the death were fortunate to take all three points, to finally break that disheartening losing run.
Ref Clattenburg's performance was impeccable.
Stoke's opener was thumped into the net by captain Robert Huth,who throughout looked every inch the part.A 1-0 lead at halftime was doubled by Ricardo Fuller's superlative effort,beating a man out on the right wing,haring off toward the penalty box,before unleashing a tremendous left foot shot which curled wonderfully into the net giving ex-Stokie keeper Foster absolutely no chance.
The crowd's delirious celebration was a mixture of relief and elation....that goal would would bring us the much needed points.It also reflected the fact that seconds before Ricardo's stunner our goal mouth had resembled the Alamo,plentiful shots,blocks,posts,as the ball pinged around fortunately without actually finding our net.
As we inexplicably dropped back Birmingham began to look more threatening,driven on by sub Fahey.Within two minutes we moved from elation to despair as Fahey and Jerome brought the score back to 2-2.The Brit was stunned into graveyard silence.Hundreds got up and left....muttering to themselves.Only one side looked likely to win,and it wasn't us.Our resident undertaker,however had other ideas.Dean Whitehead had had his customary all action game.He ran through on the visitors goal,the ball reached him via Etherington and Fuller,he tangled, on the floor, with Foster and a defender,and unbelievably the ball squirted up and out of the melee,and bobbled into the net.
The winner!!!Birmingham visibly deflated and did not really show again in the remaining minutes.
The winner!!! On the evidence of the Everton match Lee Probert would definitely have disallowed it,there was even less contact between the unlucky Tuncay and Baines for the disallowed goal that day.On another day Mark Clattenburg might have done.You can't help but think that the insistent, continuous, universal media view since the weekend (MOTD,SKY, the papers,et alia)that Stoke really were not getting a fair crack,might have impacted/resonated.
We have a manager who has the courage of his own convictions,and is not afraid to say what he thinks.Certainly he was not afraid to shine the spotlight where it was most needed.....when it was most needed.
More strength to his elbow!
Sunday, November 07, 2010
Another massive dollop dropped on us in this game.....a first half in which we were not really at the races,and were lucky to still be in touch,a second half which promised more but ended in disappointing defeat.
Unmarked £13m striker Gyan was in the right place to tap home on 9 minutes after Begovic saved but could not hold the ball.We were kept in the game by our keeper ,who saved Malbranque's penalty effort after Walters was adjudged to have fouled Gyan.
Stoke looked much more likely after the break.Eventually mounting Stoke pressure saw Jones head Etherington's corner goalwards.The ball was probably over the line as Catermole handled TWICE.Ref Atkinson and his assistant saw none of this.No goal...no penalty.....no sending off..no equaliser.From the resultant corner Kenwyne Jones was unlucky again as his header was cleared off the line.
Much frustration amongst the Stoke players, a rash of bookings,including two for captain Ryan Shawcross,inevitably sent off,and to add insult to injury the 10 ten men conceded another goal to the excellent Gyan,this time from a fine drive following a poor clearance by Huth.
So we're outside the bottom three on goal difference only.Two home matches to come from which we need some return...to break the losing sequence,and the abysmal run of bad luck.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Wenger and Co knew what they were doing with their constant criticism of The Potters style.Some of the mud they were throwing would stick,and so it has, as I have said before.Referees have bought into this stereotypical view,and are officiating in the light of it.Certainly they are giving us absolutely nothing at the moment,or so it seems.
Yesterday Ref Probert ruled out a perfectly good goal by Tuncay,before Everton had scored.He judged that fullback Baines had been pushed,virtually on the line by the Turk prior to the ball trickling into the net.
To these tired eyes of mine it was clear that Baines was already on his way down in an attempt to clear the ball.Tuncay brushed past him to score.
Clearly Probert and others see these as 'after you Claude....no after you Cecil! ' situations.No physical contact (if Stoke are involved) .....its not football,players politely avoiding even minimal contact by running around each other,and to hell with scoring rough and tumble goals (which this most definitely was not).
So having been denied a legitimate goal you sort of knew that something would happen at the other end of the pitch.A ball into our box by Pienaar was shinned by Abdy Faye as he attempted to exert some form of control, fell to Yakubu,who hit the post with his shot,fortunately got a direct rebound back,and drove the ball over Begovic into the Stoke net for the winner.
So three league defeats in a row again.We deserved more than we got against Bolton and Man Utd,and you could argue that the same could be said about this match.
Not the time to panic yet......with a rub of the green.....things will turn around again.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Stoke bossed the first 40 minutes,taking a deserved lead in the 6th minute,when Kenwyne Jones nodded in from a Pennant corner,but they did not build on their advantage.The last few minutes of the half West Ham came on stronger,which set the pattern for the second half.
Nevertheless it took West Ham until the 84th minute to get back on terms,a Parker header ,as Stoke visibly wilted.A day less for Stoke to recover from the weekend games?Several players included who were not full match fit?Who knows?What we do know is that defeat became something of an inevitablity as the momentum switched to,and remained with The Hammers.Extra time saw goals from Da Costa (96mins) and Obinna (118mins) which sealed Stoke's fate,and exit from the competition.
Tuncay started the match but did not finish it,maybe because he will be in the lineup at Everton.Eidur Gudjonsen came on as sub,but unlike the West ham subs made little impression,except perhaps Berbertov like that he could not be bothered unless the ball was played to his feet.
Some speculation that the approach of winter has led him to reconsider his position:nice boats in Monaco harbour, better weather, warming the Monaco bench,now a rather more attractive proposition than the incinerator,rain,and the cold of the Brit.He has not figured in as many games for Stoke as I thought he might,but each time we have seen him so far he has seemed a little sluggish,maybe even still carrying a little extra weight despite the fitness regime at Stoke.
So a night that started so promisingly,ended in disappointment,and with more than a few messages in the ether which will need to be interpreted,and maybe acted upon.
Monday, October 25, 2010
What about the Stokie chants? Memorable yes definitely (well more or less in the case of the second one,the words of which I think I remember).” Robbed by a scouser,you’ve just been robbed by a Scouser”. Mint, I think is the word. The second...”You’re shite, Rooney says you are” (repeated).You all know the tunes....
A novelty - if my memory serves me well – our goal was the first that we have scored against them in the five games since we returned to the Prem. Bigger novelty....Tuncay even got onto the pitch to massive acclaim by the fans, who had been calling for him earlier. Massive bigger novelty....he scored our equaliser....a cracking shot across Van Der Sar, after a mistake by Scholes (who didn’t have one of his better days).What struck me most was that the fans unreserved adulation and celebration was not altogether matched by his team mates,who seemed reluctant to join him as he milked the applause.Did wonder whether this shows what they really feel about him.
Still there we were drawing with one of the greats with just a few minutes to go and a seriously pumped up full house daring to hope that we would get a deserved hard earned point from a game in which we had had to do a lot of running to win the ball,but to which we had contributed some fine football too.
United’s opener toward the end of the first half came from a corner,a brilliant improvised header from Hernandez which left our defence flat footed.The late winner was notched from close in by the same player after a series of one two’s between Berbertov and others around the edge of our penalty box.Two years ago we would have knocked him over,before the final ball was played in,and taken our chances with the free kick. The man who would might well have intervened as he does so often breaking moves up, Dean Whitehead, was missing yesterday,and it showed at times.
Talking of breaking things up......Gary Neville.....he knew Ethers had the beating of him...his nasty first foul earned him a yellow card, when a red might have been more appropriate. His second foul, which was not a great deal prettier but brought no sanction.As everyone around commented.....if he’d been a Stoke player he would have been sent off. But there you are....
C’est la vie!!
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Sunday, October 03, 2010
STOKE CITY FC 1 BLACKBURN ROVERS 0
A very pleasant afternoon weatherwise in the Potteries,with not quite a full house at The Brit.Still over 25,000, but with a very small Blackburn contingent numbering around 500 against their allocation of 2000.
One or two changes in personnel for the Potters from last week's successful outing.Abdy Faye in for Wilko,accomplished by Huth moving to left back;Delap into midfield for Whelan;and the biggest/best surprise the return of Jermaine Pennant for Salif Diao on the right side of midfield.
Two big sides,evenly matched in most respects.The media anticipated heavy duty slugging fest did not materialise.Sure there were the aerial bombardments in both boxes with the usual thrills and spills,but both teams played some very tidy football at times.
Stoke continued their current practice of hitting the woodwork several times rather than the net,and drew excellent saves from ex-England keeper Robinson.Halftime saw the game nicely balanced at 0-0. First time this season for us!
The Potters got off to a flyer in the second half.A defensive clearance was nodded on and down by Kenwyne Jones (who gave big centreback Samba a busy afternoon,with honours just about even) to Etherington,who played the ball through Samba's legs to Walters speeding up on his right.The striker faced by the advancing Robinson finished as cool as you like slotting the ball into the right hand corner of the Blackburn net,his first goal for Stoke in the Prem.
Stoke continued to press with Etherington and Pennant prominent with there respective brands of magic to unsettle the Blackburn rearguard.Ethers had three chances,one he should have buried,the last coming from a beautiful Pennant cross.He struck the ball well,a goal looked a certainty until Robinson stuck up an arm to deflect the ball away to safety.A brilliant save in the end.
In the dying minutes Blackburn pushed Samba upfront and were able to cause one or two alarms for us,but at the final whistle the three points were ours....and a move up to a heady 7th place in the table.
It was good to see Ricardo Fuller back on the field so soon after his shoulder dislocation.Rory Delap had a better game.Dean Whitehead was just about everywhere on the pitch and had a storming game.
One word about Robinson.....no doubt about it yesterday he looked to be a keeper of the highest quality,producing some superb saves to keep his team in contention.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
NEWCASTLE UNITED 1 STOKE CITY FC 2
The reception from Les Geordies suggested that they felt this match was against rival neighbours Sunderland's reserves,particularly they laid into Kenwyne Jones,and Rory Delap when he came on in the second half.Sorensen's kicking in the first half was consistently wayward,and you had to wonder if he had history and former connections weighing on his mind.
Tony Pulis set out his team to ensure that we gave nothing away,in consequence it was not particularly adventurous,there being no real surprise that we were pinned back in our own half for the first 45 minutes,with Newcastle having the bulk of the possession.His back four saw a repeat of the lineup from Tuesday, the exception being Collins in for Higginbotham .No room for Abdy Faye returning to his old club. Salif Diao was retained in midfield to partner Whelan with Etherington and Whitehead on the flanks.Walters supported Jones up front.
The first half saw plenty of huffing and puffing,with neat moves, but no end product until Huth was adjudged to have brought down Carrol just before the break,with the ball about to make its way harmlessly to Sorensen.The resultant penalty was converted by Nolan,to put the home side in front,deservedly on the balance of play.
The second half, in its very early stage seemed to be going the same way as the first,which prompted the manager to make changes.Ricardo Fuller,on for Diao (50 mins),certainly livened things up,and Delap for Whelan (57 mins),increased Stoke's attacking options.Pressure was brought to bear on the home defence,with Jones,Etherington, and Fuller all looking dangerous.Jones headed against a post,and Fuller's follow up shot went wide of the post.Then Jones headed against the bar,causing him to wonder whether it was going to be his day,if the rueful smile was anything to go by.
Around the 67th minute Fuller fell awkwardly onto his shoulder, fouled as he cut between two defenders.He was replaced by Eidur Gudjohnsen.Etherington took the freekick, flighting the ball to the far post where Huth headed back across goal for Kenwyne Jones to head firmly into the net,the equaliser,and his fourth goal in four games.
Stoke edged in front on 85 minutes.This time Etherington's corner from the left looked likely to reach the inrushing Huth. It didn't because Perch, in trying to clear, headed firmly into his own net.
Newcastle had chances in the last 5 minutes plus the 6 minutes of added on time,but were unable to convert any,as Stoke stuck gamely to their task,enjoying just a little luck in the process.
Three points then,and 14th in the table....a good days work! Looks as though Ricardo Fuller may be missing for a few weeks with what might well be a dislocated shoulder.To compensate his replacement Gudjohnsen showed one or two nice touches as he moves toward full fitness.
Now Tony Pulis has been saying that Kenwyne Jones can get better.....he's not the finished article....can't wait !!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Stoke comfortably eased past fellow Premiership travellers Fulham at The Brit in front of a very respectable 12,778 fans.It is surely a sign of the times and the strength of the squad that Tony Pulis was able to make SEVEN changes to Mark Hughes ONE to the teams fielded for last Saturday's league matches.
Among the pleasant surprises was the situation with regard to two of the three players apparently seriously injured against West Ham.Kenwyne Jones was fit to play with Jon Walters on the bench. Tuncay came into the team on the left side with Matty Etherington switching to the right.Ricardo Fuller partnered Jones. It was interesting to see Salif Diao reappear in midfield.
A goal in each half saw off the Fulham challenge.On 23 minutes Etherington's pacey corner from the right seemed to clear everyone bar Higginbotham whose powerful header from 6 yards out found the net to set us on our way.On 67 minutes Delap came on for Diao who had had an excellent game,outshining midfield partner Whelan,who,it has to be said,was again looking somewhat out of sorts and off the pace in the first half (though much improved in the second).With 12 minutes to go,and with Fulham just having mounted a late challenge,Kenwyne Jones met a Delap long throw to head in,his third goal in three consecutive matches,to put Stoke through.
With 7 minutes to go Tuncay was replaced by Pugh.The Turk had certainly made his mark with a busy performance. It remains to be seen whether this will bring him into contention for Sunday's match at Newcastle United,if Pennant is not over his hamstring strain.
Our first clean sheet of the season,a remodelled back four of Wilkinson,Shawcross,Huth, and Higginbotham that looked solid (not putting a foot wrong until Wilko's rash heavy challenge on Dembele in added on time.Yellow card but he was lucky not to get sent off.) Some pleasing attractive football from The Potters at times,and much the best side on the night.
Begovic, Huth, Wilkinson, Higginbotham, Shawcross, Whelan, Tuncay (Pugh, 83 ) , Etherington, Diao (Delap, 68 ) , Fuller (Walters, 75 ) , Jones
Subs not used: Tonge,Gudjohnsen,Soares,Sorensen,
Monday, September 20, 2010
STOKE CITY FC 1 WEST HAM UNITED 1
It may have been a reaction to Monday night's heroics, or it may be that subconsciously some were feeling that we just had to turn up to collect the points.Whatever, several players were distinctly below par in the first half on Saturday. We contrived to make a poor West ham side look better than they actually are.
Once again we fell behind, again to a goal which had an element of farce about it.A West Ham freekick just in from the corner flag caused mayhem in our goalmouth.Rory Delap,on the goal line ,put in a clearing kick,only to see the ball, for the second time this season strike the unfortunate Ryan Shawcross in the face in a crucial area,deflect across goal to Scott Parker,who hooked the ball into the net.The Hammers and their fans could scarcely believe their luck.For our part we had none....well not much anyway.Sure Piquionne hit our bar with keeper Sorensen well beaten,but so too a less than confident Green in the West Ham goal fumbled early and could only watch as Huth's resultant effort struck his post to rebound away.
The second half saw Stoke in charge. Just after the restart Walters played a ball down the right to Pennant.Although he was at full pace to catch the ball,he produced a wonderful cross which Kenwyne Jones had no trouble heading in for a splendid equaliser.Stoke then turned up the gas further.Jones it was again, leaving Upson in his wake as he cut in from the left.His brilliant shot across goal was heading for the net until the flying Green managed to get finger tips to it,the ball deflecting onto the post and away.Another effort by sub Ricardo Fuller came back off the bar with the West Ham players beaten.
Stoke had enough chances to win the game......a good sign with our forward players looking really dangerous at times.....and on another day might have scored four!
The downside? Three key new forward players picked up injuries.Kenwynne Jones has a groin strain,Jon Walters an ankle problem,and the influential Jermaine Pennant has a hamstring problem.
The upside? For me, a much better showing in the second half,four points on the board for the week, which we would probably have taken last Sunday night!The other two would have made quite a difference in terms of position in the league table,but then its early days.
Eidur Gudjohnsen did come on to a tremendous reception from the crowd,though he clearly has some way to go on the fitness (and weight?)front,before he's up to speed.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
STOKE CITY FC 2 ASTON VILLA 1
Have to confess that I approached the Brit with some trepidation on Monday night,for some reason feeling that the best we would do would be a draw.No points,second from bottom.The side that was selected had something of the safety first about it.
We started brightly enough with Kenwyne Jones looking a real handful on his home debut.A superb volley from distance had Friedel hurriedly palming the ball away...he should have done better when put clear by new boy Marc Wilso's sublime sliderule pass.Other chances from set pieces were headed over or around the woodwork.
Gradually Villa took hold of the match,although it was still something of a surprise when Downing headed them into the lead.
It did not look good as Villa missed out on two further golden opportunities to put the match beyond our reach.Ashley Young missed with an easy header, and a grubber cross again from Ashley Young fizzed along our goaline and away to safety....that would have been the missing Carew's tap in chance for his customary goal against us!!
THEN ........the man we thought would be missing the game because of close family bereavement appeared along the touchline....dressed for action.
I have been following Stoke for a long time,and I cannot think of a more spontaneously emotional moment than this one.A virtually full ground rising as one to clap and cheer the inestimable Tony Pulis!!
Uplifting,indeed.The whole atmosphere in the ground changed...a remarkable experience for those who were lucky enough to be there.
Substitutions followed ,the flow of the game changed,as The Mighty Potters ratcheted up the pressure on Villa.Stoke began to weave patterns of their own.Ten minutes from time Dean Whitehead did well to retain the ball on the Villa byline.His ball to Pennant was intelligently played across to Etherington. Interplay between Fuller and Etherington saw the latter put in a low trajectory cross which Kenwyne Jones netted with aplomb.
Fans around were settling for a draw,although the players clearly were not.In the last of the 3 minutes of added on time Jermaine Pennant won a free kick on the right.His cross arrowed to the heart of the Villa penalty area....eventually found its way to Matty Etherington....his left foot effort was diverted by Robert Huth beyond Friedel into the corner of the net.Cue serious celebration on and off the pitch......
The latest of late winners....season up and running....on what I can only describe as a very special night at the Brit!!
Returning from holiday on the opening day of the season.......2½ hours of stop, start,crawl on one section of the M25 meant that we were still on the M40 as the Wolves match was played out.
Impressive indeed that we had paid £8m for Kenwyne Jones, that he had looked dangerous hitting the bar with one effort in this opening fixture,only to be clogged off injured by Jody Craddock's follow through tackle.
Beaten eventually by David Jones incredibly skillful freekick....the like of which he will probably never repeat. 2-1!
Get the season ticket out,the following week,trek off to The Brit,to witness the Gareth Bale Show with supporting cast.He scores one goal without knowing much about it,Ryan's attempted clearance,striking him in the face and rebounding into our net.For the second week running we concede a wonder goal,Bale's spectacular volley leaving Sorro with no chance.The supporting cast.....Chris Foy (I think it was......but I couldn't see clearly myself) as the blind referee.....ball definitely over the line for an equaliser but only 27,500 people saw it.One,the decision maker,missed it!! 1-2!
Off to Chelsea less confident than we would like to have been....a solid showing though,much better than our previous visit....still in it as a contest, Whelan hits a belter from distance,beats Cech all ends up,but the ball goes clear after striking the bar.... 2-0!
Three matches three defeats in the Prem (although we did manage to see off Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup)......the international break was probably fortuitously timed for us.Closing transfer window provided something of a lift.......quality added to the squad,with a list of names going in the opposite direction,some permanently some on loan.
Sunday, May 09, 2010
Edwin van der Sar had three saves to make.The first from Ricardo Fuller's sharp strike just before the break.The other two bringing out the best in him during the second half.First he clawed away diving Rory Delap's looping header from the near post,as it headed toward the top right corner of the net.Then he just managed to paw away Danny Pugh's curling shot from the right,when it seemed destined for the top left corner of his net.
United managed two goals in each half in their ultimately forlorn chase to retain the title.Begovic could have done better with Giggs side foot effort for the second.Otherwise he had a sound game.Stoke were undone for the first goal as the ball richocheted from player to player as if on a pinball table.Unfortunately it ended with Fletcher,almost on the goal line,an unmissable opportunity.Ten minutes into the second half another close in scramble saw Danny Higginbotham slice the ball into his own net as he attempted to clear.The fourth goal came from a cross from the left which found Park,unmarked on the right.He made no mistake with the finish.
We were not expecting to get much from this game,and we didn't.Unlike at Chelsea though we did not fold entirely.
The end of an excellent season then.With Blackburn sneaking a one goal win at Villa we drop to 11th in the table,respectable indeed.Roll on August 14th.......
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
This was an altogether happier visit to the capital for The Potters.Ten days after the Chelsea nightmare,we emerged from Craven Cottage with all three points.
Tony Pulis fielded the same side as on Saturday.We were never really at the races in attacking terms,but defended in determined fashion with two fine saves from Begovic helping keep the first half scoreless.
Stoke showed more going forward in the second half with Etherington looking dangerous.One fine cross from the left evaded both Sidibe and Fuller,with only a touch being required to convert.
In the 83rd minute Fuller broke loose down the right.Konchelsky went with him but lost his footing as the Jamaican turned sharp left.Fuller lobbed the ball further into the box,Tuncay made some sort of contact - Roy Hodgson was of the mind that he handled - attempting to shoot,the all squirted left to Matty Etherington who volleyed home majestically off the inside of the left goalpost.
Stoke saw off the mounting Fulham pressure to record the fourth away win of an excellent season,surpassing last season's points tally,and moving into the top half of the Premiership table.
Now for the Premiership decider on Sunday at Man U.....will it be in our hands?
Sunday, May 02, 2010
STOKE CITY FC 0 EVERTON 0
This was not a bore draw, far from it.Both sides played some good football.Stoke had to clear their heads after last week's hammering - they did that! Everton continued their excellent run,undefeated in 10 games I think it is - they did that.
Chances were few and far between. Everton had the ball in the net , a header from Jagielka,but this was rightly chalked off, for Anichebe's offside/in some way obstructing keeper Begovic. This was balanced up by Rory Delap's glaring miss when faced with an open goal at the other end.
Stoke had three real chances to my mind,all coming in the second half.For the first Sidibe,who had a brilliant game yesterday, took the ball down the left,played a super ball to Etherington,moving fast down the centre.His measured ball to his right put Rory Delap free on goal.With just Howard to beat - the keeper was already into a full length dive to his left - our midfielder inexplicable turned his shot outside the righthand post.
The second saw Ricardo Fuller blast the ball over the bar from the edge of the penalty area.The third featured two of the three subs, all of whom joined the fray with three minutes to go. Again the move started down the left. A perceptive pass by Tuncay set Pugh clear of the Everton defence.He reached the byline and had only to cut the ball back to Lawrence,unmarked in front of goal.Looked easy to do, and a goal for certain given Liam's accomplished finish against Hull.Sadly Pugh fluffed his pass,and it was not to be.
Stoke were up for this one.The backline,changed from last week, looked solid with Shawcross and Huth paired in the centre, Higginbotham reverting to left back ( a big improvement on Collins), and Wilkinson adding bite on the left side.
Mama earned his Man of the Match award.Ricardo gave everything,and eventually was afforded some protection from constant over physical buffeting by Ref Howard Webb.Begovic,for the most part looked assured.
So ends a very enjoyable - well most of the time anyway - home season. Oh, that match ball....it disappeared into the Everton fans.........
Sunday, April 25, 2010
CHELSEA 7 STOKE CITY FC 0
S. Kalou 24
S. Kalou 31
F. Lampard 44
F. Lampard 81
D. Sturridge 87
F. Malouda 90
Not a lot that I feel like writing after witnessing this game.We were in it for the first 20 minutes or so, with Ric Fuller posing a little bit of a threat.Chelsea had a fair amount of luck,but for the most part they made it for themselves.
The Stoke team that featured in the FA Cup quarter final, putting up a half decent show,went missing today in the face of the Chelsea onslaught.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis:
"Chelsea were very good but we turned up and one or two were complacent, we've got to be 100% to compete in this company and we weren't.
"They were far the better team, we were lucky to get nil. We had our pants pulled down and our backsides slapped.
"The team means 11 players having a go not five or six, we were poor we didn't make it very difficult for them."
Nuff said....where's the red wine?
Sunday, April 18, 2010
STOKE CITY FC 1 BOLTON WANDERERS 2
......."most probably Owen (Coyle) hasn't had much going for him lately.....certainly got some today!" So said Tony Pulis in his after match comments, I agree with his view totally.Be in no doubt apart from a ten minute spell Stoke completely bossed this game,yet in the end lost it.
Its all about goals.The visitors had not won for three or four matches,and for most of this one they never looked like scoring.Indeed they were woeful in the first half, heads dropping when Dave Kitson put us in front in the 13th minute.By halftime we ought to have been out of sight,yet were only the one goal to the good.
Headers narrowly over the bar, posts struck,clear and sometimes easy chances missed as we went for the second goal in the second half.To be fair Bolton improved ,clearly an unhappy Mr Coyle had had plenty to say to them during the break. Jussi Jaaskelainen denied Whitehead,just getting his fingertips to the midfielders lobbed effort as it headed for the open net,sufficient in fact to slow its progress for a defender to clear.Tuncay unmarked put a lovely ball from Etherington against the post from close range when the open goal seemed an easier target.
Bolton's purple patch was initiated by Ref Attwell.He judged, seriously belatedly (so much so that Stoke broke a good third the length of the pitch before he blew....think the Bolton players made the decision for him !) that Whitehead had felled Weiss centrally on the edge of the box.More than a little dubious.Taylor scored from the free kick( 85 min),the low strike taking a deflection of Ricardo Fuller,to see it on its way into the Stoke net.
The Bolton players celebrated, as you would scoring your first goal for 7 hours, but not a quarter as much as when Taylor grabbed a second,directing the ball into the Stoke net from close in from Weiss's excellent cross.
Stoke still had chances to salvage a point from a game they should never have lost,the best chance falling to Abdy Faye who skied the ball over an empty net from 4 yards out.
When its not your day its not your day.......Bolton, like Stoke, look to be safe.......Dick Turpin would have been proud of them today!
Sunday, April 11, 2010
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 0 STOKE CITY FC 0
Beautiful sunny day with a bit of a breeze for this early start at Molineux. Stokies in shirtsleeves...must be summer. First half pretty much even with neither side seriously threatening to score.Plenty of Rory Delap throws ,with a good proportion being fielded by Hahneman without too much trouble.
The second half carried on pretty much as the first had done,probing both ways but nothing really incisive.Wolves played route one,particularly after Uwelumo came on.Wolves matching Rory's throws with long throws of their own.Two chances of note.Two minutes from time Foley sent a sharp shot narrowly to the right of the Stoke goal.On target and Sorensen was beaten.Similarly at the other end Whelan's shot from the edge of the box whistled inches over Hahnemann's crossbar,with the keeper only able to watch it go.
Another point in the bag then,and another clean sheet for The Mighty Potters .Wolves themselves look to be OK if they can maintain this form.
Sunday, April 04, 2010
STOKE CITY FC 2 HULL CITY 0
Stoke passed the magical 40 point mark yesterday,and were excellent value for the win that all but guarantees a third season in the top division.To be honest Hull offered very little real threat throughout the game,and considering their position in the league seemed to lack ambition.A point seemed to be their aim,and apart from one brief attacking flurry in the home penalty area midway through the second half they seldom looked like getting it after Fuller's early strike.
We had to wait just six minutes for the Jamaican flier to open the scoring.A fine flick on from Dave Kitson- who incidentally won all the early aerial exchanges - was allowed to drop by defender McShane.In a flash Fuller was away and past him,finishing with a beautiful shot with the outside of his right boot over advancing keeper Myhill into the net.In a vain attempt to get to the ball McShane clipped Fuller's heel,the resultant injury taking the striker out of the game at halftime,and reducing his effectiveness for the remainder of the first half.
With Tuncay on for Fuller Stoke continued to press for a second goal.It duly arrived after the visitors went down to ten men,when Boateng was stretchered off with a facial injury received totally accidentally as Tuncay attempted an overhead kick.Ian Dowie had already made his three substitutions.
On 90 minutes Sidibe, on for Kitson,got his head to a long ball,directing it to Tuncay on the edge of the Hull penalty box.He squared the ball to Etherington.Having brought the ball under control he rolled a beautifully weighted diagonal ball to Lawrence,free to his right.Lawrence did not panic,his shot - more of a pass really - went along the ground,straight as a die into the corner of the Hull net.Funnily enough this was his first goal since the Hull away win last season,which itself guaranteed our safety!Superb football from The Potters,another quality goal.
Eight minutes of added on time were played out uneventfully.Three points then from a workmanlike performance,which had more than a few moments of high quality football from The Potters.Kitson again had a fine game,getting about the pitch,winning balls in the air and on the ground,making telling passes to set coleagues free on a number of occasions.His partnership with Fuller,certainly on today's evidence,looks to have real potential.Will he be leaving us at the end of the season...maybe not...Etherington continues to impress...another fine game from him!
Saturday, March 27, 2010
WEST HAM UNITED 0 STOKE CITY FC 1
Stoke are now within one point of their safety target thanks to Ricardo Fuller.The match looked odds on for a noscore draw until he popped up with an individual piece of magic.
The team Tony Pulis put out was a patched up affair, but still well able to cope with a star studded Hammers outfit.Suspended Dean Whitehead was replaced by Liam Lawrence.Three squad players had been affected by a stomach bug.Defender Davies did not travel with the team to east London.Although affected Etherington lasted 67 minutes against his former teammates.The other player was Fuller himself,who was considered fit for the bench.Mama Sidibe took his place in the starting lineup.
Further enforced changes saw Abdy Faye replaced by Wilkinson part way through the first half, and Dave Kitson by Tuncay within a minute or so of the restart.
The first half did not produce many chances,Faye heading wide for Stoke, Mido making a complete mess of an opportunity from a rebound,when he only had Sorensen to beat from six yards out.
The second half meandered along in pretty much the same fashion,neither side looking likely to land a knockout punch, until Fuller came on for Etherington in the 67th minute.
Within two minutes he had transformed the game.We can all remember his mazey (?) run against Villa,beating several defenders,looking likely to score the winner,but at the last moment scuffing his shot.
Today he delivered.A poor West Ham throw in was intercepted by Danny Collins,who lobbed a hopeful ball forward in Fuller's direction.The Jamaican was first to the ball, brought it under control,back to goal,turned,skinned defender da Costa,turned England man Upson inside out,then,imperiously,placed the ball past exposed England keeper Green into the net.
Loved his understated celebration,and as MOTD pundits concurred,a fine goal,good enough to win any match.....and so it did this one! Bar one or two minor scares Stoke comfortably saw out the remaining time.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
STOKE CITY FC 1 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2
This drama had two stars the first,the 'Guddy' Icelandic international striker Eidur Gudjohnsen,the second ,the baddy, referee Mike Dean, who clearly sees himself as a man with as important a part to play as the footballers in the cast! His theatrical posturings would confirm this view for anyone watching yesterday's inept performance.
The first act saw Stoke's artisans holding their more expensive - if not illustrious - visitors. A booking for Ricardo Fuller provided early concern,but he settled down to give a solid performance,which even included a spot of peacemaking in a spat between two visiting players.A booking for Dean Whitehead for a challenge on Modric was deserved ,and was to have more serious consequences.
The second act started sluggishly for our team,but the 'stars' were quickly into their stride.On 46 minutes Gudjohnsen,an early replacement for Pavlyuchenko, made his first mark.A shortish ball over the top from Crouch dropped to him.He was able to hold off Abdy Faye's challenge to rifle the ball into the net above Sorensen,whom it might be said went to ground a tad early.
Enter stage left Mike Dean.This opener was followed almost immediately by the ref's show stopper.He judged a clumsy coming together between Whitehead and Modric to be a yellow card thus sending off offence.A mighty over reaction,an exceedingly poor decision,which arguably ensured Stoke would get nothing from the match.He could not get his cards out fast enough, to wave them with a Shakespearean flourish, reminiscent of his performances at Hull sending off Abdy Faye,and Andy Wilkinson at Portsmouth.
After a short period of Spurs pressure Stoke forced their way back into contention.The excellent Etherington floated in a ball from the left, Bassong decked Man of the Match Kitson. Etherington netted the resultant penalty with aplomb (64 mins),Gomes diving left the shot going to the right.
The 10 men could even have gone ahead.Ricardo provided a tragi-comic moment, as,from a mishit shot, the ball reached him to the left of and close to goal.Sadly with every chance to score he skied his effort.Maybe its the haircut!
On 77 minutes an incisive move by Spurs provided the clincher.Assou Ekotto moved swiftly down the left,outpacing Huth.He cut the ball across the penalty area, Gudjohnsen dummied,the ball running on to the incoming Kranjcar who struck a powerful unstopable shot into the Stoke net.
To their credit Stoke never gave up.We even had a final golden opportunity to equalise,but with the net at his mercy sub Mama Sidibe lost his footing and embarassingly fell over instead of scoring.Such is life!
From their onfield celebrations you could see how much this result meant to Spurs, how relieved they were was obvious.Stoke's pressure at the end of the game had revealed a serious nervousness which with the extra man on the pitch I am sure we could have exploited.
So we are still in search of those few points to guarantee safety for another season.....