Stoke Blackout Against Blackpool
The Britannia Stadium
Saturday 11th December - 15:00
The Tangerines came to The Britannia Stadium with a fruitful performance, which was the banana skin for Stoke`s recent run of unbeaten matches. Blackpool extended their good away record, through DJ Campbell just after the second half whistle, clinching the 3 points and getting revenge for Ian Holloway who was in charge of relegated Leicester on our Premier League promotion day.
Pulis was pleased to announce a fully fit squad; the return of Andy Wilkinson meant Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross were reunited in the centre of defence, and also Jermaine Pennant regained the right wing role. Just what the fans hoped for, but they knew today`s fixture would be very tough despite Blackpool being Premier League new boys, as underestimation would be a costly mistake.
I watched the game at The Brit, and I`m sure the legend that is Sir Stanley Mathews, who of course had spells at both Stoke and Blackpool, watched from the skies.
First chance fell to the Potters when, after pressure from Ricardo Fuller, Tangerine goalkeeper Richard Kingson miss-kicked. Kenwyne Jones gained possession and put an overhead through-ball to Fuller, who was quickly apprehended by the defence as soon as he raced into the box.
A corner for City was delivered by Mathew Etherington which successfully met the head of Jones after a towering leap over the markers. But he was just under the ball and mearly looped it over and into the stand.
Jones had another opportunity to score. A quick flick from Fuller into Jones set up the chance on the edge of the area, but a scuffed shot saw the ball tamely roll into the arms of Kingson.
Blackpool had their turn to try and edge ahead when Campbell played a one-two with Crainey down the left wing. A precision cross came in to pick out Vaughan, who volleyed a rocket over the bar.
Wilkinson, despite potent pressure from Campbell, prolifically cleared an Eardley cross after he burst into the danger area. The ball fell to Gradin who drove a wide shot from close range of Begovic`s goal.
Moving forward from the defensive half, Wilkinson knocked the ball to Etherington out wide. The chance was found as Fuller nipped through the defence when he received the inside pass from Etherington , who went on to have a cheeky shot that curled swiftly and hit the crossbar.
A goal for Stoke! Or so they thought. Delap managed to header it home following a big scramble in a hugely cluttered area. However a foul was spotted when Huth knocked over Richard Kingson. Hands on heads but the ref had the final say.
Half time approached but another opportunity came along. Jones couldn`t pick out the cross but Pennant picked up the loose ball. He flighted a frightener in and picked up an unmarked Delap. The space was there, but the head from the human slingshot was just a little slack on precision as the ball whizzed narrowly, and annoyingly wide.
Half time and fans could see that Stoke were struggling against some of the passing pace. A sharpen up was needed, so Pulis closely followed his team into the dressing room for a talk.
Second half commenced and not long after, the opener of the match was scored. Fuller wasted a glorious opportunity to score when he was one-on-one with Kingson. He curiously turned his back to goal instead of unleashing an effort, the defence caught up and cleared up field for a counter. Adam whipped the ball into the box and DJ Campbell did his job to score with a close range effort.
Stoke struggled to maintain possession as the seasiders played with liquid passing and flowing pace.
Blackpool were denied a second by the post when an Adam free kick curled past Begovic, then unluckily enough (for them) Gary Taylor-Fletcher headed toward goal from the rebound only for it to ricochet off the crossbar.
Even so, Blackpool carried on firing on all cylinders which prompted Pulis to make a double switch. 20 minutes were left for Jon Walters, coming on for a frustrated Kenwyne Jones, and Tuncay, replacing Jermaine Pennant, to make a much needed to impact to pull back level.
Etherington had a chance to equalize; he sweetly hit a 25-yard free-kick over the wall but only against the top of the bar rather than the back of the net. Now that Stoke found the momentum, unfortunately, that was the only luck they were going to get.
This became more so when Huth got a decent head onto the ball. A corner floated in and Huth got up well to take the chance, but the prayer Kingson made in his goal before kick-off paid off as he instinctively and impressively touched the ball upwards. Blackpool managed to hold off the hungry Potters persistence.
Begovic continued to prove his worth in the first team. Frantically back-peddling, he got a hand to the cross that was floated in by Matt Phillips, who replaced Grandin earlier on. It was loopy one heading straight for under the bar, but the Bosnian handled the danger brilliantly to keep Stoke in it.
Some early departures but most of the Potter`s fans were falling off the edge of their seats, hoping that the pressure Stoke were dishing out would find the goal.
Desperate for that equaliser and a point deep into added time, Huth put in a header across the face of goal. Neal Eardley`s face denied Delap a goal on the line as he heartedly hurtled it towards goal. That`ll hurt in the morning.
Full time and Stoke were beaten. Blackpool were too quick for them and so they couldn`t prevent them from taking the points. Frustrated fans left the ground grumbling but it was a hiccup.
Tonight players and fans alike will dwell on the loss, but Monday morning will look towards picking up for the trip down south for Arsenal, against our old friend Wenger.
Begovic: Made some brilliant saves to keep Stoke in the game, although unfortunately Stoke didn`t draw level. Now he is finally getting his games, he is doubly determined to keep his place and so is putting in the effort every match.
1 Begovic, 28 Wilkinson, 5 Collins, 17 Shawcross, 4 Huth, 16 Pennant, 18 Whitehead, 24 Delap, 26 Etherington, 10 Fuller, 9 Jones.
Subs: 19 Walters (for Jones,70), 20 Tuncay (for Pennant,70), Whelan (for Wilkinson,83).
Not used: 29 Sorensen, 3 Higginbotham, 7 Gudjohnsen, 12 Wilson.
28 Kingson, 5 Eardley, 3 Crainey, 20 Cathcart, 6 Evatt, 14 Grandin, 26 Adam, 11 Vaughan, 12 Taylor-Fletcher, 39 Campbell, 16 Varney.
Subs: 23 Phillips (for Grandin,80).
Not used: 13 Halstead, 4 Southern, 10 Ormerod, 18 Euell, 24 Edwards, 29 Carney.