Stoke need to keep believing
Sunday 5th October 2008
Stoke failed to turn chances into goals yet again and allowed Pompey, 'fresh' from a tough UEFA match in Portugal on Thursday night to capitalise on their chances in front of goal. Dave Kitson had the best chance for Stoke early on and should have opened Stoke's (and his) account but fired wide trying to get it past James. If truth be told, the scoreline could have been worse but for some great saves from reserve keeper, Steve Simonsen after Thomas Sorensen had been laid low by a late bout of flu. But at least one of the goals may have been prevented had Simo not dithered before Peter Crouch could turn his 6' 7" frame into a human Catherine wheel and fire the ball past the stranded keeper for the first goal just before the half hour.
Stoke were at least grateful for the return of Rory Delap from injury. His long throws are now so legendary that any Premier League defence just seems to panic at the mere thought of having to put the ball out within 25 yards of the corner flag. But, whilst trying to dismiss any notion of the Potters kit-bag being reduced to a single (albeit very dangerous) weapon, it was Delap who created Stoke's equaliser just minutes into the second half restart. His throw was helped into the penalty area by Dave Kitson and Ric Fuller managed to rise higher than David James, who could just wave his arms in desperation as he headed the ball down and into the net to the obvious relief of the Stoke fans behind the goal.
But with Pompey enjoying the talents of two England strikers, it was Jermain Defoe's turn to batter the Stoke goal within seconds of the restart as a long shot rebounded off the inside of the goal post with Simo miles away. From that lucky escape, Stoke failed to heed the warning and just a minute later, Defoe had another chance which sneaked just out of Simo's reach and into the net to put the home side back in front.
Stoke are having to learn the hard way that life in the Prem is tough. It's all very well to hear the TV pundits say that Stoke were unlucky and played well, that we've played six of the last season's top 10 teams in the first seven games, but defeats still don't come easy and we need to make sure that they don't become habit-forming when the real 'six pointers' arrive. Next up is one of those very important games with the visit of Spurs to the Brit in two weeks and who would have thought that Tottenham would have been propping up the table? All we need now is to hope that they don't decide to have a change of manager before their visit to the Brit...
Portsmouth: James, Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Belhadj, Diop, Davis, Hughes, Armand Traore (Hreidarsson 90), Crouch, Defoe.
Subs not used: Ashdown, Little, Kanu, Hreidarsson, Kaboul, Mvuemba, Pamarot.
Stoke City: Simonsen, Griffin, Cort, Abdoulaye Faye, Higginbotham, Delap (Cresswell 73), Olofinjana, Amdy Faye, Tonge (Soares 65), Fuller, Kitson (Sidibe 61)
Subs not used: Whelan, Shawcross, Wilkinson, Sonko