Walters extends Stoke's unbeaten run
Jon Walters first ever Premier League goal saw Stoke deservedly beat Blackburn 1-0 and go 5 matches unbeaten. The striker raced on to a Matty Etherington through ball before calmly slotting past Paul Robinson just after half-time. The Potters should have scored more but they hit the post twice and came close on several occassions.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis made three changes from the side that beat Newcastle last week. Jermaine Pennant returned from injury and replaced Glenn Whelan , while Rory Delap took the place of the absent Salif Diao. Andy Wilkinson missed out through injury and his place was taken by Abdoulaye Faye.
In a surprisingly open game, it was Blackburn who were out of the blocks the quicker side and almost took the lead. Faye failed to deal with a long ball from Rovers and on-loan Manchester United striker Mame Biram Diouf`s effort was cleared off the line by Ryan Shawcross.
It didn`t take Stoke long to get going as Etherington and Pennant looked threatening down the flanks while Dean Whitehead retained possession well. Kenwyne Jones went close on three occasions during the first half but couldn`t continue his scoring streak. Firstly, the 25 year-old did well to outmuscle Christophe Samba outside the box before unleashing a vicious left foot shot that fell inches past the post. Then, two headers from an Etherington cross and Delap throw flew straight at Robinson but the hosts were on top.
Delap, who impressed on his return to the team, proved that his throws can work against almost any team as one of his missiles hit the far post and Walters snap shot forced Robinson into a wonderful one handed save. But Sam Alladyce`s side were dangerous in the Potters box and Thomas Sorensen dealt with the aerial threat well all afternoon, with some well taken catches and terrific punches.
Ryan Shawcross, who will be cooking with Marco Pierre-White on Wednesday night, prevented Brett Emerton`s volley from reaching the goal as both he and Abdoulaye Faye were exceptional at the back. Shawcross is getting better game by game and is being mentioned with a possible call-up to the England squad.
The other man who Pulis wants Fabio to include, Matthew Etherington, was playing out of his skin and came within inches of giving the Potters a truly deserved lead. After positioning himself well inside the box for any knock downs, the former West Ham winger cracked a shot from the edge of the box that looked destined for the top corner, but rippled the side netting instead. He then, from a tight angle, forced Robinson into another smart save down at his near post just before half-time as the Potters went in well on top.
And it didn`t take long for them to break through after the interval. The powerful Jones flicked on a long ball upfield for Etherington to run on to; in oceans of space he took his time before sliding Walters in on goal. After shrugging off Samba, he coolly slotted the ball past Robinson and into the far corner to send the home fans delirious. He could easily have done the same thing moments later, had he not being wrongly judged offside.
Stoke had the momentum and went in search of that killer second. Etherington`s free-kick forced Robinson into another fine save down to his right but Etherington really should have killed the game later on.
A neat move down the left involving Whitehead and Jones, eventually saw Etherington released through on goal with just Robinson to beat. However, the former England Goalkeeper`s fine form prevailed once more as blocked Matty`s shot from point blank range.
Rovers offered little in the second half as Stoke had all the chances. Jones though was getting frustrated, if he gambled at the back post he would have scored of Pennant`s cross and he headed wide off a perfect Etherington delivery. But Fuller`s introduction added some life to the attack.
Fuller almost succeeded in one of his trademark one man mission runs but was halted at the last second by a desperate Samba. Jones went close again but it wasn`t to be his day in front of goal.
Stoke held on for a well deserved 1-0 win that lifts them up to 7th in the league. Next up is a tricky trip to Bolton before Manchester United, who are yet to win a away game, arrive in town.