Stoke do it the hard way
Two goals inside the first twenty minutes without conceding a goal and a team that showed confidence and poise on the ball? Not a normal Stoke City display at the Brit, judging by recent results. But fans needn't have worried, normal service was soon resumed in the second half...
After the Potters' dismal showing on Saturday in the bore draw against Burnley, the team needed to show to the home fans that they could do better and reverse the three previous home defeats against a side that whilst helping to prop up the Championship has recently shown signs of a revival under their new Italian manager, Luigi de Canio.
Vincent Pericard was relegated back to the reserves as Ricardo Fuller arrived back from suspension with Mama Sidibe taking up his normal wing man position alongside the Jamaican international.
Stoke started with the bit between their teeth against a Rangers team that were nearly always on the back foot during the first 45 minutes and it only took five minutes for the Potters' confidence to build as they took the lead from a Rory Delap long throw. The throw looked like it was going past the far post for a goal kick until Fuller hooked it off the line and back across a motionless Rangers' defence where an unmarked Richard Cresswell only had to head it into the net from two yards out. A great start for the Potters, which was nearly doubled ten minutes later when Fuller, after a good one, two with Sidibe fired a rocket which slammed into the post with the keeper well beaten. Stoke were on the rampage and did manage to double the lead just a few minutes later after a comical set of decisions from one time Premiership referee, Uriah Rennie. Fuller was up-ended just outside the penalty area, leaving himself on the floor and two QPR players requiring assistance from the physio. A long stoppage ensued whilst the players were treated. Mancienne was then brought off and the other Rangers player stood on the touchline. Rennie decided that nine QPR players against Stoke's eleven was a bit unfair and so ordered Fuller to the touchline as well, even though he had not been treated. No matter, Liam Lawrence's free kick sailed over the wall and straight into the top corner of the net. QPR were indignant that they'd not been allowed to sub Mancienne in time for the free kick - but it's very doubtful it would have mattered.
So 2-0 up and the Potters cruising. The remainder of the half allowed the Stoke team the comfort of some good passing, while QPR attempted to try and stay in the game with some nifty breakaways, but Leon Cort proved invaluable in defence, snuffing out the threat of Chelsea loan player, Scott Sinclair.
The second half started with the promise of more goals for the Potters and within five minutes QPR's evening went from bad to worse with the justifiable sending off of Dexter Blackstock for a reckless challenge on Ryan Shawcross. But very soon it became quite clear to fans that the Stoke team believed that the game was all but over, the three points were in the bag and they could just pass it about in defence for the remaining 40 minutes. This gave QPR the room to move around in midfield and attack Stoke, it was therefore no surprise when QPR got a goal back on 62 minutes. Rowan Vine's great shot from the edge of the penalty area giving the visitors some hope. So from a comfortable 2-0 up against 10 men, Stoke were hardly battling to save two points, instead still content to wander around the pitch as though on a Sunday stroll. But it took a defender to restore Stoke's two goal cushion - not Shawcross this time - but Leon Cort with his first goal for the club. Just as Pulis was attempting to bring on Jon Parkin to stir things up in attack, Lawrence's cross caught Cort's head and the ball was into the back of the net.
The relief around three sides of the Brit was palpable.
So three good points in the end, but why, oh why do we always have to do it the hard way? Somehow Pulis must try and instill into his team that attack is the best form of defence.
Stoke City: Simonsen, Wright (Wilkinson 82), Cort, Shawcross, Pugh, Lawrence, Eustace, Delap, Cresswell, Sidibe (Parkin 77), Fuller (Phillips 86)
Subs not used: Hoult, Zakuani
QPR: Camp, Mancienne (Malcolm 20), Stewart, Timoska, Barker, Rowlands (Bolder 81), Leigertwood, Buzsaky, Sinclair, Vine (Nygaard 79), Blackstock.
Subs not used: Cole, Ainsworth