From Heroes to Zeros
15th April 2006 3pm
The Potters again demonstrated their ability to show a total lack of consistency. Seven days after deservedly beating Ipswich 4-1 at Portman Road, they managed to deservedly lose 2-1 to a visiting Southampton team who had not won in their last eleven away games.
The 2-1 score line flattered a Stoke team that seemed to have left their footballing skills in the dressing room for the first half and the majority of the second. It took a beautifully struck shot from 25 yards by Paul Gallagher 10 minutes from time for Stoke’s only goal of the game (and their only shot on goal).
The only change in the starting line up from last week’s victory was Marlon Broomes replacing Clint Hill, who was being rested. Some fans will point to the missing defensive stalwart as one reason why we succumbed so readily to the threat posed by Grzegorz Rasiak (on loan from Spurs) and Ricardo Fuller, but in reality this was a game in which no one player (with the notable exception of Gallagher) can hold his head up high.
True, Johan Boskamp was forced in to two early substitutions in the first half. Luke Chadwick had to be swapped for Peter Sweeney after only 20 minutes when he developed a hamstring injury and just before half time youngster, Andy Wilkinson had to be stretchered off after a nasty tackle from Richard Chaplow that went unpunished by the referee, to be replaced by Carl Dickinson.
The visitors dominated the first 25 minutes and after six corners and continuous pressure got their first breakthrough. Broomes brought down Rasiak in the penalty area and it was Rasiak who converted the resulting penalty past Steve Simonsen. Just five minutes later it was again that man Rasiak who was first to the ball after the Saints had a free kick on the edge of the penalty area. All he had to do was simply guide the ball past a stranded Simonsen for the second goal of the game.
Whatever passed for a team talk at half time (I don’t imagine much talking was done by Messrs. Boskamp, Blake and Taggart) did not seem to have done much good. Sammy Bangoura attempted to conjure up chances on his own up front, reminiscent of those well used and totally ineffective tactics from Tony Pulis last season when the ball was hopefully kicked up field to a lone Ade Akinbiyi.
So we arrived at the 83rd minute and Daryl Russell had been replaced by another up and coming youngster, Adam Rooney and the fair weather fans were leaving in droves. Rooney had barely arrived on the field before passing the ball to Gallagher who launched such a perfect shot from outside the penalty area that the ball went straight as an arrow into the top left hand corner of the net giving the keeper, Kevin Miller, no chance of getting to his only potential save of the day.
At last, Stoke seemed to get the bit between the teeth and launched a concerted attempt to try and rescue a point. But it was far too little, far too late.
Stoke must now regroup quickly for the visit to the Champions, Reading on Monday and try and rain on their parade.