2016 - 2017

2016 - 2017

Monday, March 04, 2013

DO WE HAVE A POTENTIAL CRISIS?

STOKE CITY FC  0  WEST HAM UNITED  1

This match was a virtual rerun of last week's effort at Fulham. Again two mediocre teams on show,again a disjointed performance from the Potters,again a winning goal conceded seconds before halftime.The best pressure from our heroes came in the last twenty minutes but the visitors stood fast.

Highlights? Perhaps just the one.....a snap shot from distance by Charlie Adam in the closing moments,which beat the keeper but not the crossbar.

This Stoke team at the moment  looks very low on confidence, perhaps not just a little to do with the discontent swirling around the club. Sadly much of it is actively engineered by a few, but amplified by Radio Stoke's and lately The Sentinel's approach  - RS presenter Matt Sandoz is not a patch on the departed John Acres,and certainly seems incapable of  maintaining  unemotional balance.Maybe it is not unintentional..

Emotion and near hysteria is what is on show.A head of steam is being generated to unseat the manager.The few wise heads (including a thoughtful Vale fan) who did manage to get a  hearing counselled that we should be very careful what we wish for. I couldn't agree more.

Forget your Blackburn's,remember Charlton Athletic.Going along successfully if unspectacularly in the Prem until a section of the fans took against the excellent Alan Curbishley. He had to go they said.Well he did, and in the process they pulled down much of what had been painstakingly built.And, yes, where are they now?

At bottom this is all about expectations.We have to stay realistic,crucially we have to stay behind the team,getting on their backs,as more than a few are doing during matches now,can only lead us in one direction.....downward.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

BEWARE....MASTERCRAFTSMAN AT WORK



FULHAM 1 STOKE CITY FC 0

Stoke approached this game with a degree of caution,but looked good for at least a point against a lacklustre Fulham side,until 8 seconds before half time. Inside our penalty box Robert Huth's defensive header out lacked distance,but nine times out of ten it would have been more than adequate.

This,however, was the one in ten day,a day when a master striker, a man who has tormented us during our Premiership days,was in the right place at the right time. Fulham's star turn, Berbatov,met the attempted clearance with a vicious volley,which was unstoppable,past Begovic in a flash,tight in the angle between post and bar. A goal of the highest quality, and as the cliché goes, worthy of winning any match.

We should have been back in the hunt shortly after half time, from either of two chances.First Peter Crouch got past Senderos, but Schwarzer saved the defender embarassmentbby managing to deflect the ball away from goal.Then a Brek Shea flick,a Fulham handling offence,gave us the penalty route back into the game. Jon Walters stepped up for the kick, keeper Schwarzer gambled,dived to his right,and pulled off a save. Certainly the ball was heading inside the post, but with insufficient venom to beat him.

Stoke's switch to 4-4-2,and some personnel changes gave us much more threat as we chased the game, but there were really no more chances to get back on terms.

Amazingly still 10th in the table....we seem to have been there for ever this season.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

CAMERON JEROME HITS THE JACKPOT...AGAIN!



STOKE CITY FC 2 READING 1

Last week's encounter with Arsenal suggested that,if not exactly returning to form,at least we were getting back to doing those things that we do well. I had the same feeling yesterday. Fair enough Reading were content to defend in depth,and did not come at us. We effectively ran the first half without being able to convert any of the numerous chances that we made. Frederici in the visitors goal had a very sound game,plus his defensive colleagues managed blocks when he could not get to the ball. Stoke had nine corners,Reading none,a statistic which alone tells the story.

The match ran a very similar course for the first twenty minutes of the second half,but then burst into life. Tony Pulis made a double substitution,Crouch and Kightley leaving to be replaced by Jerome and Jones. The pair buzzed about to great effect unsettling the visiting defence. Within a minute the changes paid dividends. From a corner on the left Huth stole in to head the ball onto the underside of the crossbar thence into the net,for his first goal of the season (67 mins).

Fourteen minutes later it looked as though we had the game won,when Jerome bagged another wonder goal.The ball reached him to the right of and out from the Reading six yard box from a Shawcross punt.In one deft move he controlled the ball and gave defender Mariappa the slip,before lashing the ball across keeper Frederici into the far corner of the net.

Unlike the Wigan game we did not sit back thinking the job was done. However Reading pushed up and won a corner two minutes later on the right. Harte produced a wicked in-curling effort which Mariappa got head to,the ball flashing past Begovic into our net from very close range.

Cue squeaky bum time, given Reading's recent record of salvaging/winning matches in the last few minutes of games. We coped with what they had to offer,but appeared lucky to escape a penalty in the final moments of the game. La Fondre fell under challenge from Shotton,but referee Oliver was very well placed deciding against the award. It looked a penalty to me at the time,but watching tv footage there is more than a hint that the striker propelled himself backwards,albeit minimally, to ensure contact with Shotton before falling to the ground.

Three invaluable points from a game which many considered a must win. They provided the comfort of being able to look up the league table rather than over our shoulder to the worrying end of the table. Another three wins would see us maintain our status for another season,and happily we seem to have put an end to a bad run.

Monday, February 04, 2013

PRIDE INTACT

ARSENAL  1  STOKE CITY  0

Arsenal were made to look distinctly ordinary on Saturday,made to work very hard for their win.The stubborness,resilience, and above all organisation had returned to the defensive side of our game.True we we were indebted to Begovic for a further selection of fine reflex saves,and we hardly showed going forward.

The home fans had to wait until the 78th minute for their winner,which had  good fortune attaching to it.A rash challenge by Wilkinson on the edge of our penalty box was punished with a free kick. Podolski took it,drove the ball at our defensive wall.It struck Cameron's leg,deflecting straight into our net.

Reading the Arsenal players faces....relief was all that I saw.And afterwards less than grudging praise from Mr.Wenger...quite a surprise that.


Saturday, February 02, 2013

CROSSROADS FOR THE POTTERS?

 
STOKE CITY FC 2 WIGAN ATHLETIC 2

I have deliberately left writing this to give time to think – and the transfer deadline to pass - before commenting on what I saw at The Brit on Tuesday night.

I have to confess to serious disappointment in the way that things turned out. What was most disconcerting was the reaction of the crowd at the end of the match, more on which later.

Stoke have not been at their best lately,albeit in some tough games,but also in some games that appeared to be winnable. They looked fantastic against Liverpool,and most thinking people seemed very happy ( I will exclude those individuals whose sole aim in life seems to be to pull down all that has been painstakingly successfully assembled at the club over very recent years.).We did not look very clever against Southampton, yet could still have won. Entertaining,the game was certainly that.

Swansea away was not much fun, in particular, for those for those who parted with substantial good money to be there. That, and the lacklustre performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup,set the scene for Tuesday night.

Four defeats in a row, a fifth to be avoided at all costs. Having pressured the visitors with lively work from Etherington and Adam, we enjoyed the rub of the green when at a corner, Shawcross was left free to net his first goal of the season from short range,following a Wigan defensive shambles. Shortly after halftime Adam drove at the heart of the the Wigan defence. His strong shot on the run was parried by Al Habsi ,the ball falling to Crouch,who made no mistake,netting his first goal since September. Match done and dusted,everyone in the ground happy, or so it seemed.

Stoke then mysteriously lost the plot, the previously lame Wigan side came to life, took two excellent goals,and looked odds on to win the game. I cannot recall a game in the Pulis era in which I have seen players arguing amongst themselves on the pitch to the extent that I witnessed here, nor can I remember an occasion where players were not sure what they were supposed to be doing.

What we all saw, suggested that 'something was wrong in the camp', even wilder assertions that the 'manager had lost the team', and so on.

Looked at another way, we did not lose and we ended a losing run. We were all disappointed,but needed to remember that Wigan have done the same to teams far better than us!

What we don't need is the mindless booing of players (afterwards some tried to say that they were only booing the manager – sorry folks,but the players would not have known that!) at Stoke at the end of the match. Silence,not clapping,is a much more effective,much less destructive way of showing our feelings.

Through their actions Blackburn fans , in my opinion,contributed in no small measure,to putting their team where they are today. Leave aside the Indian chicken farmers and their doings, in the second half of last season Blackburn – with some good players on the books – the fans created an atmosphere in which players were frightened to express themselves, and in which the players couldn't get off the pitch fast enough. There were other factors too,I know,and fair enough the fans clearly cared,but the ill considered actions they took created a self fulfilling relegation prophecy.

Not suggesting that Stoke are heading that way for one moment.

Remember where we were, remember the stability brought by the Coates family, remember the manager has brought us vastly more good times than bad,remember that we have only lost six games this season so far,remember that we are mid table......what I saw Tuesday was the effect you get when the level of expectation outruns the ability of the team to deliver on the night. We were all frustrated,but show your feelings in a way that will not undermine all the good that has been done so far.

Oh yes, the transfer window.... clearly still building for/insuring against the future,Butland and Shea both potentially good buys. No new fullbacks, but not for lack of trying according to assistant manager Dave Kemp.

Crossroads for the club, maybe....make your own mind up.






Sunday, January 20, 2013

ANOTHER ONE OF THOSE DAYS

SWANSEA CITY  3  STOKE CITY FC  1

Was it the weather? Was it something missing from the porridge? Is something happening behind the scenes? Whatever it was Stoke were not themselves yesterday.

The first half  saw a largely unremarkable but familiar 0-0 scoreline.Swansea took off four minutes into the second period,when fullback Davies was given the freedom of the park,advancing to shoot past Begovic for the opening goal.He looked more surprised than anybody,his look suggesting that he did not quite believe what he had just done,or more to the point,been allowed to do.

De Guzman then added two goals,the first from a freekick which ,from a central position,he placed over the Stoke wall into the net,with Begovic a little out of position to the right.His second goal was the well placed conclusion to a flowing move by the home team,giving Begovic no chance as he was played in on goal.

Cameron Jerome skied a ball over the Swansea bar from two yards out,as he found himself on the end of an Etherington cross.He did however clip a ball in for Michael Owen to expertly head home for a 90th minute consolation.

Strange goings on.Our players seemed lethargic,lacking their usual challenge and persistence.Jones,in some form at the moment,found himself on the bench,replaced by currently out of form Crouch.Charlie Adam looks more like the very average player that we saw at Liverpool,rather than the star who shone so brightly at Blackpool.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

WE'VE ALL HAD ONE OF THOSE DAYS.....THIS ONE WAS PREMIER LEAGUE EPIC.




STOKE CITY FC  0 CHELSEA 4

Our fine unbeaten run at home disappeared in some style . Almost twelve months since our last league defeat at home, to Sunderland, on that miserable afternoon last February. Another cold one today at The Brit, and the stuff of nightmares for Jon Walters


He played his usual hyperactive part in this game,but he had one of those days when anything that could go wrong for him did go wrong,particularly at critical times.

Stoke had more than matched Chelsea in the first half,although Begovic had to pull off three smart saves.We had an early chance which Kenwynne Jones rolled just wide of goal. The first critical moment came a minute before halftime. Chelsea overlapped down the right ,the dangerous ball in across the six yard box was destined for Mata,who had a clear view of goal. The ball never reached him,as Walters dived full length to intercept,but only succeeded in heading bullet like into his own net. You would have described it as a spectacular effort if it had been at the other end of the pitch.

We made a very positive start to the second half,but the second critical moment took any chance of something from the match away from us. A Chelsea corner from the right ,dropped into our six yard box,never reaching the waiting Lampard,as it struck Walters on the back of his head, and found its way into the net. Facing away from the flight of the ball Walters knew little about it.

Thereafter Chelsea began to play some freer fancier football,one twos and triangles I think they used to be called. One such put Mata free in our box.The lightest touch on the shoulder by Huth caused the spaniard to collapse in a heap for a highly questionable penalty,converted by Lampard.

Hazard, who had a good game for the visitors, added to our misery with a fine shot from at least thirty yards out,which gave Begovic no chance as it found its way into the top corner of the net.

No further scoring by the visitors,but,on the occasion of his 100th appearance for us in the Premiership,Jon Walters afternoon of misery was not yet over. Sub Terry tripped Walters in the Chelsea box. Walters,great respect here, had the bottle to take the kick. He went the same route as Lampard had earlier,driving the ball hard at the centre of goal. Unfortunately the shot was a little too high, clipping the crossbar,before rocketing into the rafters of the Boothen Stand.

The home crowd remained supportive throughout the game, and for our unfortunate striker offered the 'Super Jonny Walters' chant in consolation toward the end.

Really funny moment for me was that the Chelsea fans responded with the identical chant!! They clearly recognised the importance of his contribution.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

NO BONUS FROM THIS GAME

MANCHESTER CITY  3  STOKE CITY FC  0

After Saturday's fixture against Southampton Tony Pulis described this match as a ' bonus game'.I took that to mean that he was not expecting to come away from The Etihad with anything, but if we did he would regard it as a bonus.Given that we have yet to take any points at this stadium,you could understand his thinking.Go for broke (and get hammered) will never be part of his thinking.So we set up to defend....in depth.

For 43 minutes the strategy worked,albeit with one or two narrow  scrapes. Begovic enjoyed one of his busier games in recent times.He pulled off some excellent saves,was beaten only once (but the post intervened) before Zabaleta netted the opener. Begovic got a foot to Milner's low cross,but the ball came out to the full back who made no mistake with his finish.One way traffic for the most part,with Stoke's stubborn defence finally undone.

The second half brought more of the same.Man City's second goal was inspired by the livewire Aguero. The argentinian striker received a short freekick from the right on the edge of our box,gave Whelan the slip,nutmegging Huth with his shot. Begovic made the save but unfortunately left Djecko with a tap in.

With the score at 2 - 0 a corner from the left was headed on by Jerome, reaching  Walters unmarked in the six yard box but he was was unable to take the sharp chance The third goal had touch of good fortune for the home side. N'Zonzi  tripped Silva outside our penalty box,but referee Oliver decided that he was inside,and awarded a penalty. Begovic got hands to Aguero's shot but could not prevent the goal.

Hart had only one decent save to make all afternoon.Right at the end  he fingertipped a 30 yard Whelan piledriver shot onto the post ,and away for a corner.

Perhaps next year will deliver our bonus.
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PS   The word BONUS creates confusion for me nowadays. If Demba Ba LEAVES Newcastle United he gets a £2m LOYALTY  bonus.  Que?

Bankers make serious LOSSES playing with our money, and they are entitled to BONUS payments.............. for FAILING. Que?