2016 - 2017

2016 - 2017

Sunday, February 24, 2013



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



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



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



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.