Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Portsmouth (a) Saturday 20th Feb - Justice, thy name is Salif.

Let me start out by issuing a unreserved apology to a Mr S. Diao. In my previous blogs I have questioned your performances and even your ability to pass to men in the same colour shirt as you. However, after Saturday's game, I believe you are in fact a king amongst men and deserve the key to the city of Stoke-on-Trent and the right of Primae Noctis over all newly wed brides.

Whilst I may, perhaps, be running the risk of getting carried away with myself after the excitement of Saturday evening, it is certainly no exaggeration to say that this result went some way to making up for Wiley-gate (as it shall never again be known).

For the hardy souls who made the daunting trip down to deepest darkest Hampshire, the celebrations when Salif smacked in Riccy's pull back deep into injury time, must have been a cathartic release that had been pent up since the previous Tuesday. For those of us watching in our living rooms, the feeling is never quite the same, but rest assured, jubilant celebrations were held in living rooms of Stokies across the country. I wager however, that many of these celebrations, (including my own), were delayed by about ten seconds while we focused in on the referee and nervously awaited his confirmation.

The game was a scrappy performance from the potters, as Wilko was given his marching orders for a harsh second yellow and we were once again forced down to ten men. Prior to this, we fell behind to a Porstmouth team that outplayed us in the first half, but struggled in the second. Huth had drawn us level with a comfortable header from a Whelan corner, and for a while, it looked like we could start to push for the winner. The dismissal of Wilko however meant a more cautious approach, and we struggled to create any more chances.

The boys really dug in though and never really looked liking going behind to a beleaguered Pompey side. Once again Riccy was our main (or only) attacking threat, and it was his perseverance deep into injury time that led to him bustling through the Pompey back line, drawing the keeper out of his goal and squaring the ball in front of an open net.

I will hold my hands up here and admit I was less than complimentary about Salif when he was brought on, and may even have said something along the lines of "Tony's definitely settling for the draw now". Nevertheless, there he was, steaming into the area just at the right moment to twat Fuller's cut back into the roof of the net and send the travelling Stokies, as well as us at home, wild.

Diao is a frustrating player, who clearly shows signs of his quality, but too often lets himself down with silly tackles and misplaced passes. I truly hope however that he can start playing again to the best of his abilities, as on his day, he can be a valuable defensive midfielder.

It was a precious three points in only our second away win this season, and whilst I'm far too pessimistic to suggest we are now safe, it certainly sets us in good stead as we are now ten points clear off the relegation zone, and just two wins away from the magical 40 point mark.

Salif may not score many more goals for Stoke, and he certainly won't score any this dramatic.

Stoke City FC, we really do only need ten men.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Man City (h) Tuesday 16th February - AAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH

There are certain footballing fantasies that every fan at some point harbors. I'm a big fan of such fantasies and I actually referred to 'the mythical 95th minute lob' in my first blog entry. Here I outlined the reasons why I keep going to football, namely that for all the boredom and disappointment you experience at times, you hang in there for that one rare fleeting moment of unpredictable magic that makes it all suddenly seem worthwhile. These moments are few and far between.

The last major one for us Potters was the play off semi final against Cardiff several years ago. There, at a volatile Ninian Park, an equalising goal in the dieing moments of normal time and then another at the end of extra time saw us miraculously overcome the Bluebirds and ensured the name Souleymane Oulare was etched into Stoke City folklore forever.

In recent memory, obviously the promotion clincher against Leicester comes close, but it was not ultimately that dramatic come the last game of the season. I'd say the last minute leveller against Villa at Villa park last season was pretty special, and certainly ranks up there with the most memorable of matches in recent seasons. (I think there's something incredible about last minute goals that makes any result much more dramatic. The last-ditch element just gives any draw or victory an extra edge.)

On Tuesday night, the 16th of February, 2010, a true mini footballing fantasy almost came to pass. The ingredients were all there. Not only was it a 95th minute winner, it was also scored by a defiant 10 men who had battled against the odds and looked to have snatched a memorable victory.

This is Roy of the Rovers football. This is the type of magic that happens every 5 or 6 years, maybe more. This would have been one of the greatest mentals the Britannia has ever seen.

But Alan Wiley snatched it all away from us. He robbed us off our mental. Alan Wiley destroyed my footballing fantasy.

A Man City supporting friend of mine conceded that we were a hard side to play against, but also asked me "how can you watch that every week?" His point is a common one in my experience with supporters of other clubs. They see the scrappy games and the at times 'direct' approach, and think every week is a boring snorefest with no excitement whatsoever. For me, such criticisms are valid but missing the point entirely. I have always been of the train of thought that it's the results that matter, and not so much the style with which we obtain them. I know this is a contentious point with some, but there we go.

In other words, I can always overlook the occasional (and it is only occasional, we do genuinely play some nice football in some games) bland and unimaginative football. We accept the long balls and the throw-ins, because we all know that they are effective and get results. It's the goals and victories we tend to remember, not the flowing moves, or indeed the long throws that lead to them.

The reason we can watch TP's style of football every week, is that every now and then, it can produce amazing results, and big shocks, that we never could achieve by trying to 'out play' the opposition. Alan Wiley robbed us off a big pay off, the kind of evening where all the disappointments and boredom that we have suffered in our years supporting Stoke, are forgotten about and it all somehow seems worth it.

I know this is slightly melodramatic, as it was only a disallowed goal in a generic league game, but it's the denied drama that has angered me so. A draw at home to Man City, when we've played half an hour with ten men, is not to be scoffed at. This is a decent theory. Having been there at the Brit however, and seeing how hard the lads worked, it leaves a severely bitter taste that their endeavours were not adequately rewarded.

The whole team rose to the challenge and can count themselves proud of their efforts. The sight of Dean Whitehead, covering at right back, surging forward pass 3 City defenders, with 90 minutes played, a third of that time with a man down, was a joy to behold.

The rest of the game pales in significance really compared to this one crucial twist. Looking back it reads like a catalogue of contentious refereeing decisions from Mr Wiley. First he misses Patrick Viera kick Glen Whelan in 'the midriff ' (as football commentators always call it). Then, when Viera is tussling with Whitehead and seemingly clocks him round the head, the ref blows up, gives a free kick and books the Frenchmen. Surely it's either accidental and to be ignored, or he has raised his hands and its a red?

Then of course there was the sending off. Faye failed to deal with a searching ball for Adebayor and let it go over his head in the hope he would out pace and out muscle the big City forward. Unfortunately for Abdoulaye, he was out fought by Adebayor and found himself falling behind the pacey striker. His resultant challenge was clumsy but on first viewing, he appeared to get the ball. Wiley initially waved the City claim away, but his linesman flagged for the foul. After a brief discussion, Wiley adjudged Faye to be the last man and had no choice therefore but to send him off.

Tone was very honest about this and stated he had no complaints about the sending off. For me, I think Faye got some of the ball and Collins would have got over to cover, so I think the red was a little harsh, but who am I to dispute this with Tone. If he's happy with it, I'll let it go.

Mr Wiley also waved away a strong penalty claim from Ricardo midway through the second half. He appeared to be clattered by a pair of City defenders, right in front of the linesman as well. However the officials saw nothing wrong and allowed play to go on.

Then, there was THAT goal. A goal that every pundit, presenter and player, as well as anyone I have spoken to about the game, has said was a legitimate goal.

Alan Wiley. You inept Buffoon. He decided that Ryan Shawcross fouled Shay Given when the two went up for Rory's throw. If you watch the clip of this incident, this claim seems ridiculous. Ryan never even looks at Shay, keeps his eyes on the ball and his arms at his side. He simply jumps before Given and rises higher. A perfectly good goal. Ryan claims the ref said to him after the game words to the effect of "you can't challenge the keeper in the six yard box". While this claim is ridiculous in the first place, it's also plainly not what happened. Given ran into Ryan if anything!

It was a solid performance up to Faye's sending off. We weren't creating much, but we were containing Man City's threat and Fuller was a handful as ever. Glen's goal gave us all hope and it was about time he got one on target after a couple of John Gayle-esque balloon's over the bar. When he smacked his shot into the bottom corner around the 70th minute mark, many of us no doubt drifted back to the same game last season where we went down to ten men and held on for a win. Alas it wasn't to be repeated tonight. Man City's equaliser was a scrappy affair that it looks like Sorenson could have dealt with much better. They had a lot of pressure but very few chances.

On this performance, the Manc's need to seriously up their game if they want to make the Champions League. They lacked any cutting edge going forward and struggled to deal with Stokes physical presence.

The FA cup replay is on the horizon and I don't doubt that a packed Brit will be roaring the lads on with more passion even than normal. Revenge will be sweet.

As for Mr Wiley, I imagine he's going to dread any return to Stoke-on-Trent, as we Stokies have long memories, just ask Rob Styles (Two ridiculous red cards against Gillingham in the play offs.....I HAVEN'T FORGOTTEN YOU STYLES).

I'm sure i'll let this go in time, but for now, i'll simply say this...You owe me one bona fide Roy of the Rovers football fantasy Alan Wiley!!!! You owe me!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Wigan (a) Tuesday 9th February - Another priceless away day point.

As anyone who attends live football has no doubt at one point noted, even the most raucous of stadiums can appear strangely empty merely minutes before kick off. Then suddenly, the drinkers emerge from the concourses and in the blink of an eye, the empty spaces fill up and suddenly the ground is a buzzing hot bed of noise.

Then of course, there's the DW stadium and Wigan Athletic.

In my entry for the home game against Wigan I was fairly critical of their away following and fans in general, so I won't spend too long doing so again. Slagging of Wigan for having a crap attendance is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. It's like having a go at Man United fans for being gloryhunters or having a go at Stoke for being slightly one dimensional. Their owns fans are well aware of their stigma, and the criticism is really nothing new. So, with that in mind, I'll simply say that rather unsurprisingly, there was little in the way of atmosphere at the DW tonight, but the travelling Stoke fans were in fine voice and got behind their team as ever.

My final point on the matter is this: any fans that needs music pumped through the speakers to give an illusion of atmosphere when their team has scored, has to ask serious questions of their home support.

Anyway back to the game itself. In typically unpredictable fashion, Tony has decided to tinker with the side that beat Blackburn 3-0 and dropped Lawrence and Fuller to the bench bringing in Glen Whelan and Tuncay to fill their places in the starting eleven.

The first half was far from vintage stuff from Stoke as we struggled to create many chances and struggled to contain the likes of N'Zogbia and Rodallega as they broke forward at pace for Wigan. Credit where credit is due to Roberto Martinez and his Wigan side, they looked to play some decent football and caused our full backs plenty of trouble throughout the first half.

Things were looking so bad that at one point I uttered a sentence I never thought I'd utter at a Stoke game again, "we are missing Salif today". As soon as the words left my lips I took a step back and had a long hard think about what I'd just said. The fact is, with Salif, you never know quite what you're going to get. Every now and then you see the tough tackling defensive midfielder who can offer a much needed physical presence and really break up any midfield that tries to pass its way through the centre. Unfortunately, it's very rare you see that Salif Diao. More often than not its the Salif that gives away more free kicks around his own area than the rest of the team combined, and couldn't find his own men with a pass if his life depended on it. On careful appraisal I retracted my own comment and thanked the lord for Glen Whelan.

We conceded a disappointing goal on in the half early on from a set piece as Robert Huth failed to track his man and Scharner rose highest to nod home a well placed free kick. It wasn't by any means against the run of play and the home team probably deserved their lead at the break.

The second half was a much better affair from the Potters. We appeared much more willing to have a go at Wigan and predictably once Fuller was introduced on the hour mark, we looked even more dangerous going forward.

I can, in a way, understand why Tony sometimes likes to use Ric as an impact sub. With half an hour still to play, there can be few more daunting sights for a tiring defender than a fresh Ricardo Fuller entering the fray. There were some rival fans I spoke to before Stoke entered the Premier League who didn't think Ric would make the step up, but over the past season and a half, despite a fairly low goal return, he has definitely proven them all wrong. When you see him play week in, week out, you see the immense impact he has on any game he plays in. The driving runs and jinking twists and turns can have defenders tied in knots.

Tonight, Riccy entered proceedings at the expense of Rory, which meant that Tuncay went out onto left wing, moving Ethers out onto the right. The benefits of having a pacy and skillful player on both flanks was plain to see, as we pressed hard for the draw. Soon enough, Ethers embarked on another darting run down the wing and his pin point cross was met brilliantly by Tuncay to nod in unopposed at the back post.

Once that goal went in with 15 minutes to play, Stoke looked the more likely side to score. More bustling work from Riccy set Mama up for a header, but the big man was always stretching and he did well just to deflect the ball onto the bar.

Tony went for one last roll of the dice late on as Beattie was brought on for Mama and Lawrence on for Tuncay. This was good to see from Tone as you'd half expect him to thrown on a more defensive minded player and old out for the draw, but he is clearly showing that he believes Stoke can go away from home and win games.

With minutes to go, the ball found its way to an unmarked James Beattie just inside the area. He caught the ball well with his right boot but unfortunately put it too close to Kirkland in the Wigan goal. Beatts showed a lot of fight and desire when he came on, which is good to see for us Potters fans. He's clearly been out of sorts of late, a spat with the manager and reportedly nearly leaving on transfer deadline day have left him looking slightly like the forgotten man in the Stoke squad. We can't forget however that it was his goals that played no small part in keeping us up last year. That glorious header against Man City at the Brit being one that sticks firmly in the mind.

If Beatts can hit that type of form again, it will be like having a new signing, and while Tony shows no signs of dropping Mama just yet, Beattie can still expect plenty of chances to come on and show what he can do. If only he had stuck this chance away, it could of marked the start of a great resurgence from the striker.

Anyway, the game finished all square and Stoke were definitely thankful for the point. We are now at the 30 point mark and way on our way to that mystical 40 point target. With other sides in the bottom half also regularly picking up points and no one seems to be slipping out of touch just yet, it seems like the relegation battle will go right down to the wire.

I don't think either Wigan nor Stoke will be down there at the very end of the season, but for now, points like this are priceless and get us that bit closer to safety.

Blackburn (h) Saturday 6th February - Can we play you every week?

With about ten minutes still to play in this game a strange sensation hit me. It was a sensation I haven't known at a football match for some years now. I believe those in the trade call it......enjoyment. I was actually enjoying the game in front of me completely care free and safe in the knowledge we had three points in the bag.

I reclined into my seat, took a deep lungful of air and took a good look round at the smiling happy faces of my fellow fans. The hopelessly deluded woman who sits behind me was suddenly as quiet as a mouse. The over-enthusiastic gent who sits in front of me and commentates the whole game to himself was somehow less annoying than usual. Even the arch Mama hater who sits next to me and insists on booing his name every time it's read out, seemed positively jovial. Birds were chirping, the sun was shining and everything was right with the world.

This felt weird.

I'm not used to this. I'm used to feeling many things at football, usually a mix of misery, fear, nervousness and apprehension, but enjoyment....this is all new. I've often been criticised for my pessimism at Stoke games, and it's true, I do always assume we are going to mess it all up. I'm not sure how it all began, numerous last minute goals conceded and numerous hopes shattered have left me naturally wary of taking a lead. "We need another to be sure" is my usual response to Stoke scoring first as I lean gingerly back into my seat and prepare to adopt my patented 'Stoke-holding onto a lead' position of head in hands.

Today though, we were never in any danger of throwing it away. We were dominating the game and even before Samba was given his marching orders for Rovers, we were looking incredibly comfortable. This was of course aided by the fact that Blackburn could well have been the worst team we've seen at the Britannia since our entry in the Premier League. Isn't Big Sam supposed to produce tough and rugged sides? The type of side that makes commentators say things like "you know what you are going to get with a Big Sam side"! It would appear not.

Today Blackburn were weak at the back, utterly devoid of ideas going forward and may or may not have had a midfield on the pitch, I will need to double check that fact to be sure. Either way, Stoke ran them ragged and could easily have scored several more.

I'm hoping one lesson Tony will take away from this game will be that it is ok to really go for it at home against a fellow mid/lower table side. I say 'really go for it' as this is the term used by Stoke City coach Mark O'Connor to describe, on Radio Stoke before the game, the team we would be putting out to face Blackburn. 'Really going for it', thems fighting words Mark, what the devil are you going to do!

It turns out, 'really going for it', in Stoke terms, means....playing a winger on either flank. Wow. Talk about all guns blazing. Isn't that what most teams do week in week out? Only in a Pulis side would the notion of playing wide men on either side, rather than one winger and a central midfielder playing out of position, be considered 'going for it'. Whatever next Tone? It'll be full backs playing at full back next rather than centre halves!!! No, no, that's just crazy talk.

In all seriousness though, with Whitehead and Delap in the middle, and Lawrence and Etherington on either wing, Stoke were playing about as attacking a formation as Tone will allows us to play, and it was a decision that clearly reaped dividends against a poor Blackburn side.

After a superbly taken volley by Danny Higginbotham put us into the lead, Stoke began to look increasingly in control and as decisive going forward as we have been all season. Shortly before the half time break a superb Etherington cross was bundled over the line by big Mama to the delight of the Potters faithful (except of course the Mama hater who sits near me, who begrudgingly stood up and could barely conceal his disappointment).

Etherington has been playing out of skin recently and there has been talk amongst many Stoke fans of him being due an England call up. Many claim if he played for a more fashionable club he would be guaranteed a look in on current form. This could well be the case and it is undeniable that the winger has been in the form of his life the past 2 or 3 months. I fear however, that he will unfortunately continue to be overlooked by Fabio, as the likes of Steven Gerrard, and Joe Cole, to name but two, will always be ahead of him in the pecking order. For now I'm just happy he plays for us and is in the form he is in. Does his form warrant England consideration? Yes, definitely. Will he receive and England call up any time soon? Don't count on it.

Matty capped a scintillating display with a quality solo goal which saw him jink past a bunch of despairing Rovers defenders before cutting inside and curling the ball deftly around an outstretched Robinson in the Blackburn goal. Three goals to the good, and if it wasn't for several last ditch goal line clearances from the visitors, it could have been more.

As we sauntered away from the ground bathed in the sweet blissful euphoria that only a comfortable win can produce, our conversation turned to our next four upcoming home games. Man City, Arsenal, Villa and Spurs. 4 of the top 7 teams, all desperate for points to secure Champions League football. It is a daunting task, but it is worth remembering that in these four fixtures last season we got four wins and witnessed four of the most memorable games in the Britannia's history. Remember Mama's last minute goal against Villa? (I bet that bloke near me almost had a stroke when that went in). Remember the roar that went round the ground on 70 minutes against City as the boys dug in with only 10 men? Remember the relief at the final whistle as we held on against both London rivals?

Realistically, it is unlikely we will see such memorable games again this season. Footballing lightning very rarely strikes twice in the same footballing place (not a saying I know, but go with it.) At the Brit though we are more than a match for any travelling side, and I honestly think we can get two wins and two draws from those games if we play like we did against Rovers.

I'd forgotten what it felt like to cruise to victory, and if I'm honest, it's nowhere near as exciting as snatching victory out of nowhere in a hotly contested match, but for this one time, it was an unexpected treat.

Blackburn Rovers.....can we play you every week?

Thursday, 4 February 2010

I hope the irony isn't lost on him....

I notice that Harry Redknapp was quoted in an article on TEAMtalk stating that "All footballers, and not just the England captain, have a duty to be role models - on and off the pitch".

That's Harry Redknapp. "Honest" Harry Redknapp, as he isn't known.

In other news....Jeffrey Archer says all politicians should be more honest, Darren Day says men should be more faithful, and a giant pot calls a kettle black.


Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Sunderland (a) Monday 1st February - Not one for the neutral!

Not one for the neutral. Not one for the purists. Not a great advert for the Premier League. There are any number of well worn cliches that can be attributed to this bore draw (oh, there's another one.) If you're a Stoke fan however, you would simply call it a fairly standard away performance.

This encounter was to be watched at home in glorious sky HD and naturally I invited a few friends around to share in my team's impending victory. Rather foolishly I was half expecting to witness a thrilling away performance that would put to bed and dispel the 'hoofball' label we have been unfavourably tagged with thus far during our top flight stint.

Alas after 94 minutes, I looked around the room at the barely conscious and slightly annoyed faces of my former friends and could do nothing but offer the most insincere of apologies for depriving them of an hour and half of their lives they will never get back. (I say insincere because I'm not THAT sorry, after all, they don't have to watch that week in week out!)

The starting line up once again saw Tone rotating his 'special' forwards Tuncay and Fuller, and playing one of them alongside Big Mama. This is a controversial subject for many Stoke fans, who still fail to see why Tony won't play Riccy and Tuncay up front together. I am slightly on the fence on the issue, as I can understand the need for a tall target man in some circumstances rather than two fast and skillful ones. The key thing to bare in mind however, is that the system Tony Pulis plays, his whole style of football, the style he's played his entire management career and has refined here at Stoke, revolves around having a player like big Mama on. When Mama isn't on, the system doesn't change, it just gets less effective. Obviously, there have been the odd exceptions to this rule, and no-one is in any doubt that Tuncay and Fuller COULD play together and be an effective partnership, but it is always going to be a rare occurrence under Tone and this isn't going to change any time soon.

Anyway, back to the 'action'.

We had a guilt edged chance to seize the advantage inside the first 2 or 3 minutes as a sublime Tuncay flick put Dean Whitehead through on goal. Maybe he was still getting warmed up, but his tame shot was hit straight at the keeper who easily palmed the effort away. Whitehead has improved significantly in recent weeks adding much needed bite in midfield and he possess a terrific engine late in the game. It's a shame he hasn't banged in a few more goals, but hopefully there are more to come.

The ex-Sunderland man was lucky to be on the pitch at all after a clash with Lee Cattermole, a player, much like Michael Brown, who seems determined to forge a reputation as a slightly less well known, but equally loathed Robbie Savage type figure. Loved by his own fans, seen as a dirty thug by most others. In this instance though, Whitehead was bang to rights. After a solid but unfortunately legitimate challenge from Cattermole, Whitehead had a moment of madness and kicked out petulantly at the Sunderland man's leg.

The ref was obviously feeling generous however and luckily for us only gave Dean a yellow card. Maybe our luck is finally changing? Whatever prompted this leniency from Howard Webb, may I be the first to say that it is a wondrous and brilliant thing to see in the modern game and he is a true credit to the Premier League. This brilliant refereeing was again demonstrated by Webb's willingness to let frivolous offences like Robert Huth cradling the ball in his own area go unpunished. Quite right too. Sure, some Sunderland fans may have been screaming blue murder for what they see as a cast iron penalty, but they must understand it's the only chance big Robert gets to practice his Basketball skills, and Mr Webb quite rightly didn't want to hinder the German's progress. Bravo Mr Webb.

As the game wore on and both teams managed to cancel each other out, the home fans at the Stadium of Light began to get impatient. Chances were extremely few and far between and Sunderland had only a Steed (does anyone else think his name is actually Steve and he's just trying to tart it up a bit?) Malbranque shot in the first half that stood out as a chance of note.

Sure enough, as the second half wore on, the odd boo began ringing out and groans of disbelief became a common occurrence. Frankly it was all too understandable as well. From an away team's point of view, a scrappy point on the road is definitely acceptable and against an established Premiership team like Sunderland, is nothing to be scoffed at. For a home team however, you expect a bit more drive and creativity. Tonight however, the mackems looked truly toothless and thoroughly uninspired going forward. Judging by many accounts, it has been this way for a while now. Their run of no win in ten games speaks for itself.

The home side persisted with playing a hopeful punt up the field to striker's Bent and Jones , a tactic that is rarely going to work against a solid Stoke defence renowned for its strength and power in the air. Yet it went on throughout the game, the ball was launched into the box and Shawcross and Huth headed it comfortably away. These poor tactics ensured Sunderland never really looked like scoring throughout the game and come the last ten minutes, my usual sense of impending doom was nowhere to be found. Stoke were as comfortable as they have been in any away game this season. Steve Bruce needs to turn things around, and soon, if he wants to keep the demanding mackems fans onside.

On the topic of Sunderland's attack, Steve Bruce recently taunted rival teams, Stoke amongst them, claiming they couldn't afford "£40 million Kenwyne Jones". £40 Million? If Bambi-on-Ice is worth £40 million, Fuller is worth £80 million, Mama is worth £20 million and I'm worth about £100,000. What planet is he on? I'd rather have any of the forwards we currently have than Jones, and the day he sells for £40 million is the day that not just football, but the universe as we know it, will implode and die a painful death.

Towards the end of the game Riccy went close after a typically powerful run on goal and Huth glanced a header wide from a well placed corner. It would have probably flattered Stoke if they did steal the win, but we definitely finished the stronger of the two sides. Nevertheless the match finished even and the home fans made their feelings clear with a chorus of boos at the whistle.

Despite being a fairly woeful match, it was definitely a decent point for Stoke and one closer to the magical 40 mark. Some away days are going to be like this, and we have to accept that thanks to our combative and dogged style, we are rarely going to go away from home and try and out play the opposition. For now, we stick to what we know and pick up the points where we can.

This Saturday thought we are at home to Blackburn . This is a game where we really HAVE to go for 3 points. Anything less must be seen as a great disappointment.

We have to expect a few of these scrappy games along the way, it's part and parcel of Premier League survival. Though I'm not sure my friends will be joining me for another Stoke away game any time soon.