Inspired Stoke thrash Rovers
Stoke celebrated Sir Stanley Matthews day with an easy 3-0 win over Blackburn. First half goals from Danny Higginbotham and Mama Sidibe gave the Potters a huge half time advantage before Matthew Etherington added a third. Blackburn`s Christophe Samba was sent off for two yellow card offences.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis made 4 changes from the side that drew at Sunderland. Abdoulaye Faye couldn`t quite manage to be fit after a back injury and so was replaced by Andy Wilkinson. Ricardo Fuller started in place of Tuncay and both Rory Delap and Liam Lawrence returned to the team in place of Salif Diao and Glenn Whelan.
After the crowd erupted into applause for the great Sir Stanley, images of his time at the club were shown on the big screen. This emotional footage inspired the Potters, as from the first whistle they were on top.
A couple of Rory Delap throws and corners applied pressure on the Blackburn defence which boasted the likes captain Ryan Nelsen and the mammoth that is Christophe Samba. However after only 8 minutes the Potters took the lead and in some style.
Steven N`zonzi reached Etherington`s corner first but his header popped up to captain Danny Higginbotham near the penalty box. The left-back cracked a first time volley that flew past keeper Paul Robinson and sent the Potters into a crucial lead. This was Higginbotham`s first goal since coming back into the side and he probably won`t score a better one.
Rovers were rattled and were let off the hook when referee Steve Bennett ruled out Stoke a second goal. Ricardo Fuller was adjudged to have fouled the Blackburn defence while setting up Robert Huth to tap in. Even though Blackburn had survived it was clear that the Potters had a good chance to score a few goals during the game.
After Stoke`s pressure relinquished a bit the visitors came into the game and caused problems for the back four with the likes of Morten Gamst-Pedersen enjoying the freedom he had. Thomas Sorensen in the Stoke goal struggled with Rovers continuous aerial assault towards the box and flapped at several corners. Ryan Shawcross and Christophe Samba were both given yellow cards for tugging and pulling each others shirts.
Blackburn`s best chance of the game fell to on-loan striker Franco Di Santo. The Argentine`s superb movement allowed Pedersen to pick him out with a first time cross but he headed over from just 6 yards.
Samba, who was causing problems for the Potters, almost levelled but his header from a Pedersen corner that beat Sorensen hands down was cleared off the line by Dean Whitehead.
Summer signing Whitehead was drafted back into his favoured central midfield position and he covered every blade of grass in a fantastic workman like performance.
After Stoke weathered the storm they doubled their advantage just before half time. After some neat inter-change of passing, Etherington played a measured right foot ball into the box. At the far post Sidibe arrived and slotted the ball past Robinson which all but psychologically killed off Blackburn.
In the second half the Potters continued to assert their dominance and Sorensen had a relaxing afternoon as Blackburn rarely threatened.
Paul Robinson staked a claim to Fabio Capello even though he let three in. He made an amazing stop from point blank range to thwart Ryan Shawcross and prevented Danny Higginbotham twice on the line.
Christophe Samba then saw red after blatantly tugging back Ricardo Fuller and Stoke capitalised on the extra man advantage by scoring a third. Etherington danced through several tackles and played a one-two with Lawrence before cutting inside Gail Givet and placed a perfect show into the corner. It was a great way to finish for Matty and maybe a visit from Mr Capello will follow.
Their were cameo appearances from Tuncay, Whelan and James Beattie as the Potters played keep ball with some superb crisp passing. With this result Stoke rise to 11th in the table and have two games in hand on most other teams. Next is a tough trip to Wigan on Tuesday before an FA Cup game with Manchester City next week. C`mon Stoke!