Stoke settle for a point
22nd August 2009(
The first Midlands derby of the season for the Potters ended up being the first draw of the entire Premier League as the Potters battled out a goalless stalemate that left Tony Pulis ruing some missed chances.
Tone was forced to rebuild some shattered dreams after the midweek thrashing at the hands of Liverpool and another difficult away game against one of the newly promoted hopefuls would not have been his idea of an ideal game. As expected, he put Ricardo Fuller and Liam Lawrence back into the starting eleven after resting them on Wednesday and dropped Dean Whitehead to the bench as he tinkered with his midfield options.
But within ten minutes he was forced into an early change of plan when James Beattie fell awkwardly after jumping high for a cross to be replaced by Dave Kitson. Later reports suggested that his injury was not too serious and TP erred on the side of caution by taking him off. With Mamady Sidibe still likely to be out for several weeks, we can't afford one of our star strikers to be laid up so early on in the season.
Still the early presence of Kitson gave him the most of the game to try and score that very elusive first goal and he did play well with some good link-ups on occasions but that first goal still never materialised.
Rory Delap is certainly no secret, but his arrow sharp deliveries continue to torment defences. As with Burnley last week, the Blues continually offered up opportunities in Delap territory by conceding throw-ins between the six and eighteen yard lines. Opposition teams still don't seem to have got the message that it's better to put the ball out for a corner rather than allow Rory to target the top of Ryan's head with pinpoint accuracy.
But this was a game with few real opportunities for either side. Liam Lawrence had a half chance in the six yard box which he couldn't drag back across the goal. Ricardo Fuller had a chance with one of his trademark mazy runs but couldn't find the power to get it past the Blues' keeper. Fuller did manage to get the ball over the line with 15 minutes left on the clock, after what looked like a good header on the six yard line but the referee decided that this was Ric's version of a 'hand of God' and booked him for hand ball instead.
With the minutes ticking away, Birmingham had probably the best chance of both teams to get a winner, but a great save from Thomas Sorensen diving to his right saved what would have been a certain goal from O'Connor.
Was this two points dropped or one point gained? Pulis certainly thought we should have won, but after such a torrid night at Anfield in midweek - a goalless draw seemed a breath of fresh air. Whilst a win would have been nice, I'll take a point away any day.