2016 - 2017

2016 - 2017

Sunday, November 27, 2011



Being at The Britannia Stadium was much better than last week in so many ways. First, we had a referee in Mark Halsey, who clearly has a well developed sense of both fairness and humour. He’s not afraid to laugh at his perfectly normal human frailties, or indeed those of his assistants. He doesn’t take himself so seriously that it affects the quality of his refereeing. He’s clearly held in high regard by the players. He let the game flow. All this on the same afternoon that last week’s dismal ref Mr.Jones produced another dismal performance at The Theatre  of Dreams, reducing the Man U faithful to near tears, as he reversed last week’s approach to penalties. Shame really he must have watched the video of  our QPR match, recognised that he failed to award us two obvious penalties, so yesterday he awarded Newcastle United a penalty that wasn’t, although – fair play to him, as they say in Wales – changing his decision on the say so of an equally inept linesman, after initially, correctly, awarding a corner.

Second, the atmosphere in the ground improved as we went along. There was tension and uncertainty amongst the crowd until we were 2 – 0 up, and even then people did not really relax until Crouch netted our third. Blackburn were not good but posed sufficient threat to keep us all on the edge of our seats at times. They are still clearly playing for manager Keane. With us  1-0 up they bossed possession at the start of the second half, making one chance in particular a minute or so after the restart, which, had it been converted could well have changed the course of the game. Rochina dribbled into our area, beating three Stoke players on the way. His clever backheel into the heart of our six yard box was completely missed by Formica, three yards out, when it looked easier to score than miss, and we feared the worst.

Third, we won, breaking the miserable run of Premiership defeats, and crucially successive home defeats. Plus we scored three goals. Rory Delap’s headed opener (27 min) came from a fine Pennant freekick from the right, following Nzonzi’s foul on Crouch. The second goal was initiated by Etherington. He scampered down the left, cutting the ball back from the byline to Walters. Super John teed up the ball for Whelan. The Irishman’s shot took two deflections on its way into Robinson’s net (57 min).Crouch  had contributed some class touches to our game, but he crowned that by netting the third goal, latching onto an excellent Wilson ball from deep, sliding his shoot skilfully under Robinson’s dive ,and into the far corner of the net.

Plenty of pluses in this performance. The defence looked to be getting itself back into some sort of shape, although there was clear disappointment amongst them that we conceded a late consolation goal (85 min) to the visitors Rochina. Etherington and Pennant are getting closer to last season’s form.Rory Delap had his best game for a long while, deservedly taking Man of the Match.

Sunday, November 20, 2011



As has been said before you have to wonder if some referees sometimes have agendas when they go into games. Mike Jones had a bad one yesterday and no mistake.

Stoke opened brightly, took a deserved lead, and could even have netted another couple early doors. Enter Mr.Jones! He was woefully inconsistent, but seemed to set about penalising Stoke for real and imagined misdemeanours, whilst letting similar offences by QPR players pass. He clearly has Jermaine Pennant down as a diver. Our player was given absolutely nothing, no protection even though he took a buffeting from the visitors, and was even felled in the box, but was told to get to his feet as the game was waved on.

The crowd ,deservedly, gave Jones severe stick, which interestingly in the second half was so intense that, clearly flustered, he produced a short run of very strange decisions in our favour.

The cherry (raspberry?)on top of his cake, though, came toward the end of the match, when, with the score at 2-3 and Stoke pressing incessantly for an equaliser, he failed to award a penalty when Huth was blatantly floored by Barton in the QPR box.

As several commentators have said, he clearly felt the need today to be seen to be strong, in the intimidating atmosphere of The Britannia Stadium........shame that balanced refereeing went out the window as he set about correcting some imagined imbalance......

The game itself was exciting enough. Stoke had plenty of chances to put the match beyond QPR’s reach before they netted their equaliser. Crouch had two stabs at the same chance.His first effort came back off keeper Kenny.In a heap on the ground the lanky striker managed to untangle his ungainly legs  sufficiently to help the ball toward the open net, but with little momentum. Clint Hill was able to clear the danger. Stoke had plenty of chances later on, but finished poorly.QPR had three chances and notched them all. The most worrying feature of the game for me was that our defence continues to leak soft goals, and the way our heroes visibly deflated when QPR equalised.

Any pluses? Jon Walters took his goal well, but looked pretty fed up with what was going on around him later on. Etherington looked the liveliest he has been since the FA Cup semi-final against Bolton. Higginbotham was back ,though he looked rusty, going missing in the build up/scoring of two QPR goals. Ricardo Fuller put in an appearance as sub after his long injury layoff. He looked sharp, getting behind the visitors defence once, but failing with his cut back across goal. Ryan Shawcross got himself on the scoresheet,hopefully the first of many....we need his goals.

Last but not least, Robert Huth gave his all, appearing in the QPR box with increasing frequency as Stoke pressed.He shot powerfully just over the bar as he came in from the left, just before being felled for the penalty that wasn’t.....well,at least according to MR.JONES !!

PS Perhaps some people should not be refereeing,but this (click link) is dreadful,and you can feel nothing but sympathy for the man.


Sunday, November 06, 2011



Stoke were a goal down within 2 minutes, following a blunder by keeper Begovic. The ball was played back to him by Whelan, and he caught it. Ref Howard Webb awarded a freekick. Instead of holding onto the ball while the Stoke defence reformed, it was released early by the keeper for Klasnic to feed Davies who took the opportunity to slip the ball into the net for the opener.

Things went from bad to worse when Begovic rushed  a clearance. The ball went out to Eagles on the Bolton left. He took a touch and drove the ball straight back into the Stoke net for Bolton’s second.Talk about giving the opposition confidence when its down....previous to this Bolton had lost 13 of the 16 matches they had played since we beat them in the FA Cup semi-final. Throughout the half Stoke once again seemed strangely lethargic.

At the beginning of the second half we livened up for a while. But inevitably, chasing the game, we left ourselves open. On 60 mins a  ball down the Bolton left was played  into Klasnic in the centre. He drove the ball home to Begovic’s left..Eagles was next in line on 72 minutes.A long ball down the centre set him free one on one with our keeper.He comfortably finished, flicking the ball over our keeper’s despairing dive. But that was not the end of it. Klasnic made it 5-0 nodding the ball from close range past Begovic into our net.

What is really worrying the ease with which Bolton turned our defence inside out today. The Woodgate and Upson pairing is not a patch on that of Shawcross Huth last season. For several matches now the solidity we’ve been used to in defence has been missing, and the general performance has been disjointed. Teams have been getting behind us,  and through us far to frequently. And to those Stokies who were beginning  to think Ryan Shawcross was NOT INdispensable, I would say think again.We definitely miss him, whether he appears to be playing well or not.

Bolton’s first home victory of the season.It had to be us didn’t it!!Wembley revenge? ...well maybe not.That was a special day!

Thursday, November 03, 2011



We’re Stokies....we know about these things.....Demba Ba was likely to catch up with us sooner or later. Unfortunately, he did it big style, notching a winning hat-trick for The Magpies! Hoffenheim were trying it on,pricing him,to us, at £9m,especially with his injury record. We were right to walk away,  but it did make it possible for others to get him at a more realistic price, and the rest, as they say, is history. He certainly worked hard in attack and defence, took his chances from open play well, plus effortlessly converting a late penalty ,which killed off any chance of us salvaging something from the match. At the £4m price that Newcastle reputedly paid, he’s a steal!

With 19 matches played already this season, I’m of the mind that our busy schedule seems to be catching up with us too. Despite careful use of the players at our disposal and our larger squad, we are still vulnerable facing so many fixtures (in a short time frame)when key men are injured, and look decidedly disjointed when square pegs are forced to cover in round holes.

So we faced a very determined hardworking Newcastle side (enjoying, it must be said, more than an even share of the luck on the night) with an in form striker,whilst losing our captain and our left back to injury, forcing further disruptive reorganisation. Our passing generally was not good. Crucially, as with Liverpool last week, the fans were virtually silent for quite lengthy periods, as they contemplated what was happening.
Wilson went off injured after Newcastle had scored their first two goals. You had to wonder whether he was fully fit to start with, and indeed whether his mind was elsewhere on the night. On 12 minutes he was slow to react to Obertan, going down the right. The winger had all the time in the world to clip in a beautiful cross which Ba was on hand to head home. On 40 minutes, again to the right of goal Best was not picked up. He had time to juggle the ball, and scuff a shot. The ball ran across goal to the incoming Ba,who poked the ball home past Begovic’s despairing dive.

To their credit Stoke maintained pressure on the Newcastle throughout the second half, creating half chances that on another day might have gone in. Hopes were raised 15 minutes from time when Ba felled Crouch in the penalty area. Walters converted the chance, but within 6 minutes Huth was (harshly some would say) adjudged to have pushed Best in our area, with Ba registering his hat-trick from the spotkick. Effectively game over at that point.

Who played well for us? Walters ran his heart out; Wilkinson was as combative as ever; Begovic made some fine saves, and timely interventions outside his area when goals looked likely; Crouch’s hold up play and distribution was first class (although there were those in the crowd who could not see it!);Woodgate looked assured on the ball for the most part; Whelan got about the pitch well.

A worry was seeing ever present Shawcross leave the pitch, nursing what seemed to be a groin injury. Hopefully it will not prove to be serious. The threat from  our wide midfielders, Pennant and Etherington, was intermittent. Both were closely marked when they had the ball, by two and sometimes three players.