A tame end to a Great season
Despite a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Wigan yesterday, we should all remember what a great season this has been. Alright we only finished 13th in the league and scored less points than last year, but we did make the FA Cup Final and secure a 4th successive season in the top flight. Joining us next year will be Wigan as they beat the drop with a precious win at the Britannia.
Hugo Rodallega, a reported Stoke target, scored the goal late in the day to end our unbeaten home record in 2011. Before that though we were dominate and really should have been out of sight by half time. Kenwyne Jones went close on several occassions and even had one ruled out, but it was clear as the afternoon progressed that this was the Latics day.
Tony Pulis made 5 changes from the side that was crushed by Man City in mid-week. The main guns of Jones, Etherington, Pennant and Delap returned to the side, and Asmir Begovic replaced Thomas Sorensen in goal. Robert Huth however, didn`t recover in time from a knee injury and so Danny Collins retained his place.
Wigan had the slight edge in the early stages, as only a win would be enough to give them a chance of survival. But in the swirling wind, Delap`s throws were causing havoc and Shawcross almost benefited by flicking one on. Ali Al-Habsi in the Wigan goal looked very uncomfortable under the high ball, and most of the Potters set-pieces were aimed in his direction.
One matter yet to be decided was to who would win the battle for the clubs top goal scorer, Kenwyne Jones or Jon Walters. Well, the two combined to put the ball in the net. Delap`s throw landed right on Jones head and his goal bound effort was sure to give Al-Habsi problems, but Walters standing in a clear off side position stuck out a foot and diverted the ball in. Correctly it was ruled out, and it certainly wasn`t one of Walters brightest moments.
That set-back didn`t put Jones off and he came within inches again of netting his 13th of the season. Delap heaved another throw in the box, and as Al-Habsi ran into no-mans land, Shawcross flicked it on and Jones`s volley was cleared off the line.
Wigan didn`t threaten once in the first half and will still be wondering now how they stayed level. Al-Habsi made crucial saves from both Jones and Pennant from distance, but it looked just a matter of time before the ball would be nestling in the net.
Wigan learnt during half-time that they were currently being relegated, and immediately upped the tempo and pressure in the second half. Roberto Martinez`s side came close as N`Zogbia, surely in his last Wigan game, hit the side-netting from an angle, and Connor Sammon drew an impressive save from Begovic.
The Bosnian now became the most important player in a Potters shirt, as he smothered Tom Cleverly`s shot when it appeared his would score. The Stoke midfield, who included the impressive Glenn Whelan, were tiring and Wigan`s 4-5-1 formation saw them dominate the game. Diame strolled forward and forced another save from the young keeper, but all in the stadium sensed what was coming.
N`Zogbia burst down the left outsmarting Andy Wilkinson and his pin point cross was easy for Rodallega to head home with 12 minutes to go. The Wigan fans were delirious as that goal had all but certainly kept them up.
Stoke ran out of steam and suffered their first home defeat since the 28th of December. However, it has been a fantastic season full of high moments and not just those at Wembley. We have scored more goals then in any previous season in the Premier League and netted 10 home wins again. Congratulations Stoke on a super campaign, and well does to Wigan for staying up!
See you next season.