Narrow win edges Stoke towards safety
Charlie Adam was the Stoke hero on Saturday as his goal gave the potters a much needed 3 points in their fight to secure a sixth season in the Barclay's Premier League.
It was an emotional afternoon at The Britannia as the Stoke supporters paid tribute to former player Paul Ware who died prematurely at the age of 42 last week. The popular midfielder made over 100 appearances for The Potters and a minute`s applause in the 42nd minutes was superbly observed as chants of "there`s only one Paul Ware" echoed around the stadium.
Scottish international Charlie Adam`s first goal since November was enough to secure a victory that surely safeguards Stoke`s Premier League safety and sentences Norwich to a nerve jangling end to the season. It`s the first time Tony Pulis` men have won back-to-back league games since December and those 6 points could not have come at a better time for the under pressure Welshman.
The tension was clear in a tight and largely forgettable first half at The Britannia. Cameron Jerome had the home sides best chance when is goal bound volley was inadvertently blocked on the line by his team mate Steven N`Zonzi. There was a nervous atmosphere around the stadium and this seemed to transfer onto the pitch but the visitors could not capitalise with only a Bradley Johnson half chance to show for their first half efforts in a performance that will have disappointed boss Chris Hughton.
The game sprung into life just moments into the second half. A typical Stoke long ball was flicked on by the impressive Crouch for Adam to latch onto and smash the ball past Bunn in the visitors goal. The relief around the stadium was there for all to see, cometh the hour cometh the man. The midfielder signed from Liverpool in the summer scored just his 4th goal for the Potters but it could well be the one that ensures The Britannia will once again be entertaining England`s top clubs next season.
Crouch should have made the game safe when he took an air shot from an Adam cross ten minutes later, any sort of contact and the men in red and white would have sailing serenely to 3 precious points. However, in typical Stoke style the last ten minutes were nervous as Stoke dropped deeper and Norwich pumped balls towards the City penalty area. For all the Canaries huffing and puffing they struggled to create any clear opportunities, which will be a concern going into the last 3 games.
When the referee blew the final whistle there were celebrations all around the Britannia. Although not mathematically safe, this victory saw Stoke finally reach that 40 point mark long heralded by Tony Pulis and will surely be enough to stave off relegation.
This performance and the previous week`s victory at doomed QPR have seen Stoke go somewhat back to basics. Once again being hard to beat, giving teams no time to breathe and exercising the kind of work ethic that has bought them so much success over the past 5 seasons. These massive 6 points should not go to hide the obvious issues that need addressing in the post season, but surely means all us Stoke fans can forget any fears of relegation, can`t we?