Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Friday January 19 2007
The Potters will take their two new signings, Andy Griffin and Dominic Matteo with them as they travel up the M6 to Preston on Saturday. Winning a match at Deepdale has proved to be a difficult proposition for any Championship team over the past year, but Derby County proved on New Years' Day that it is possible to come away with all three points and Stoke will be hoping that they can do the same.
Vincent Pericard, likely to be handed a starting place with Ricardo Fuller's suspension, talked to the Sentinel about his lack of goals: 'Strikers are weird, because they can go through a quiet period and don't know why they can't score, like Shevchenko. You just have to wait and work hard for the team.
Adding: 'and it's very good to know your manager has faith in you. He reassures me in training and knows my potential after working with him before.'
Defender, Callum Davidson is struggling with a calf injury and having not trained all week is rated as doubtful. Former Potter, Lewis Neal had picked up a thigh strain in training but should play and Sean St Ledger is not yet fully fit as he recovers from injury.
Championship nomad, Michael Ricketts has now been signed up on a free at Deepdale after a short spell at Southend since leaving Leeds last summer. In the last couple of years he has been on loan at Burnley, Cardiff and a very uneventful period at the Brit.
There was a glimmer of hope in Potters' minds that 9 goal Nugent might have been snapped up by a Premiership team in the January transfer window, but he remains for now and will no doubt cause the Stoke defence some problems.
Ricardo Fuller is serving a one match ban after picking up his fifth yellow card last week and should be replaced by Vincent Pericard in attack. With Salif Diao back at Anfield (hopefully for just a week or so) and new signing Dominic Matteo likely to be on the bench, a question mark hangs over the midfield line-up which could allow Dave Brammer a place in the starting eleven.
With luck, Andy Griffin can slot straight back into the left back position which has been kept warm by Clint Hill for the past month.
Now that Griff has finally returned on loan for the rest of the season, Tony Pulis will be looking for him to help rebuild the defensive fortress that characterised his first loan period. A clean sheet against Preston would be a great start.
Preston's visit to the Brit back at the end of September and the resulting 1-1 draw marked the end of a downward spiral that threatened relegation for Stoke. The Potters now lie in seventh position, just four places off PNE in third.
Tue 23rd Jan: Burnley (away) kick-off: 7.45pm
Sat 27th Jan: Fulham (FA Cup - away) kick-off: 3pm
Tue 30th Jan: Ipswich Town (home) kick-off: 7.45pm
Sat 3rd Feb: Southend (home) kick-off: 3pm
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Date:Friday January 19 2007
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