West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Stoke City

  

  After the Stoke match yesterday I was a little confused. I didn’t quite understand what had happened, so I phoned up Sky Sports’s Jeff Stelling to ask if he knew what was going on. After much gloating about the result of the FA Cup match between Stoke and Hartlepool earlier in the season, he told me that we had achieved something called an ”away win”, and that it was actually quite common for the away team to score more goals than their hosts, and thus claim all three points. Considering myself something of a Stoke City aficionado, I was surprised to find that I could not remember us ever having one before, so I did a little research. I turns out we had nine last season, seven the season before that and a whopping ten before that. How fast the travails of the Premier League dull the memory. Incredible.


Away win, well I never! No wonder Matthew Etherington was so happy

  Could this have been the defining result of our season? Almost every game seems that way now. The result all but confines West Brom, without doubt the worst team in the Premier League this year, to relegation back to the Championship, where they will play pretty football against the likes of Peterborough. The differences between Stoke and the Baggies were clear to see yesterday, one side with a bit of fight, one with none, one side with a solid defence and a clean sheet, one without. Most markedly however, was the contrast between the two sides at the other end of the pitch, the hosts enjoying almost 70% of the ball, but failing to score, and Stoke showing a little bit of attacking class, with goals from strikers of a potency that Baggies fans can only dream of in Ricardo Fuller and James Beattie, Fuller’s coming courtesy of a goalkeeping error from Scott Carson in just the second minute of the game, and Beattie’s a sweetly struck left-footed shot early in the second half.

  In a season where it seems that a negative approach has often proved our downfall away from home, I was delighted to see Tony Pulis pick a side without a holding midfielder, with the injured Salif Diao replaced by Rory Delap in the centre of midfield, while former gambling addict Matthew Etherington, starting his first game in two months on the day of the Grand National, came into the side on the left wing, adding width to the Stoke side which included Liam Lawrence on the other flank, the first time we have lined up with two true wingers on the pitch to start a game all season.

  It was West Brom who made the first foray forward in the opening minute of the game, but after their move broke down, Stoke ‘keeper Thomas Sorensen was able to coolly find left-back Danny Higginbotham who hit the ball long towards Fuller. Baggies centre-back Shelton Martis misread the bounce of the ball, allowing the Jamaican to get in behind him and run at goal. Twenty-five yards out, Fuller tried his luck, striking the ball low, but tamely, towards goal. What should have been a routine save turned into disaster for Carson, the ‘keeper, who has had a catastrophic season, allowing the ball to pass under his body and into the net, giving Stoke’s top scorer his eighth strike of the season and sending the travelling army of stoke fans into raptures. Carson turned down a big money move to Stoke in the summer, and having signed the reliable Sorensen on a free transfer, it seems that in the style of the Matrix (possibly the worst film ever made), we have dodged a major bullet.

 
Fuller opens the scoring, while Carson was so depressed he reportedly left the stadium and threw himself over a bus

  A very good start almost became even better for the Potters minutes later, as referee Martin Atkinson awarded Stoke a free-kick on the edge of the West Brom penalty area. Irish international midfielder Glenn Whelan took the kick, sending it towards the top corner of the goal, only to be denied by an admittedly fine save from Carson.

  The remainder of the first half failed to live up to its frantic start, as the home side experienced the lion’s share of possession, but failed really to trouble Sorensen, their best opening falling to James Morrison, who made poor contact with his half volley sixteen yards out midway through the half, allowing the Dane to easily gather.


Rory Delap and Borja Valero scrap for the ball

  Though it was West Brom who looked the more likely to score in the closing stages of the first half, it was Stoke who struck four minutes into the second, Beattie doubling the advantage. The West Brom defence once again showed the basic ineptitude that has cost them so dearly this season, failing to close down Fuller in the final third, and allowing him to pick out Etherington. After several ricochets, the ball finally fell to Beattie twelve yards out, and he was able to power in a left-footed strike, Carson helpless despite getting a hand to the ball. It was an extremely accomplished finish on his wrong foot by the striker, though he later joked on Match of the Day that he has no weaker foot, and it was an alright finish. It was Beattie’s sixth goal in ten matches for Stoke, and eighteenth of the campaign, and while many are hailing him as the best signing of the season, it is somewhat surprising that he has been overlooked by England manager Fabio Capello of late, following the injury crisis in the England squad. But then again, he does play for Stoke.

 
Beattie scores, then celebrates his goal by flooring Liam Lawrence

  A triple substitution by West Brom manager and football purist Tony Mowbray shortly after did seem to inject a little energy into the home side’s play, and with twenty-five minutes remaining, Chris Brunt, playing as a makeshift left-back was very unlucky not to pull a goal back. Picking up the ball some distance from goal, the former Sheffield Wednesday man unleashed a ferocious drive, which had Sorensen beaten, but rebounded back of the crossbar, keeping Stoke’s two goal cushion in tact.

  The incident summed up the game for the Baggies, who were unable to break through the disciplined Stoke backline as the game drew to a close, despite some heavy pressure. On loan forward Marc-Antoine Fortuné did have the ball in the net for the hosts with five minutes remaining, deflecting substitute Robert Koren’s strike past Sorensen, but the French Guyana born striker was denied a fourth goal in English football by the offside flag of the assistant referee. The video replays show that this was a good decision, as the Stoke defence, disciplined all match, had kept an excellent line to move out, leaving Fortuné a yard offside.


West Brom are denied a late consolation goal

  Some typically dogged defending, with Whelan and late substitute Danny Pugh making sublime blocks, saw Stoke over the finish line to seal a momentous win on a very memorable day. As well as being our first ever away win in the Premier League, it was also our first top flight victory on the road since May 1984, and sealed our first ever Premier League double, having beaten West Brom 1-0 at the Britannia Stadium back in November.

  It is with a feeling of elation that I write that the result moves Stoke up to thirteenth in the Premier League table, six points clear of the relegation zone on a day on which almost very other result went our way, meaning survival now looks well and truly on the cards. It is with a degree of pleasure that I also write that the Baggies look all but down and out, eight points from safety with seven games remaining. Isn’t life sweet sometimes!

  Though yesterday’s win was undoubtedly huge, the next two home games are the two that can categorically keep us up, with Alan Shearer’s Newcastle and Blackburn, both struggling at the bottom of the table visiting the Britannia Stadium over the next two Saturdays. On this form, we have nothing to fear.

 [image]
Stoke captain Abdoulaye Faye shows what survival would mean to him, and the Stoke fans agree

Stoke side: (4:4:2)

                                  Sorensen

Wilkinson  Shawcross  Abdoulaye Faye  Higginbotham

            Lawrence  Whelan  Delap  Etherington

                               Beattie  Fuller

Substitutions: Cresswell for Beattie (73), Pugh for Lawrence (74), Olofinjana for Fuller (88)

Subs Not Used: Simonsen, Kelly, Sonko, Camara

11 Responses to “West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Stoke City”

  1. Steven Goran Erikkson Says:

    Very good and important win for you VJ,

    Watched the highlights on MotD, and apart from being mortified that a game between WBA and Stoke was shown before City and Arsenal, I was very impressed with Stoke’s performance. The first goal was a catalogue of errors, from Sorensen messing around, via Higginbotham’s now usual punt up-field, to Martis’s misjudgement, and then fianlly with Carson’s shocker. Beattie impressed me very uch with his post match interview, shows he has a gentle side

    The game against Newcastle will be important, I think a draw is on the cards.

    Not quite sure about your opening - doesn’t quite grasp my attention, and slightly odd.

  2. Steven Goran Erikkson Says:

    But in a nice way

  3. I*T*P*L Says:

    Thank you Steven. With the opening, I was just getting a little bored of the traditional way that I do it and thought I’d try something a little different. It probably didn’t really work but oh well.

    It was a hugely important win for us, the next two games at home to Newcastle and Blackburn are even bigger though. Four points from those two and I reckon we’ll be safe. I was delighted to read in the Sunday Times today a feature on the survival chances of all the struggling teams, and they didn’t even include Stoke. We’re only three points behind you now, and I’m happy to see that we’ve overtaken Hull to claim our deserved plave as the highest of the newly promoted sides.

    I’m not surprised we were on before you really. For a game of similar levels of excitement, ours had that bit more riding on it that a match between a team bound t finish fourth and another drifting about in mid-table. It’s slightly prejudiced to say that a game between Stoke and West Brom doesn’t deserve much coverage, simply from considering the teams involved. Please try to remember where we’ve come from, those dark days in League One!

  4. Steven Goran Erikkson Says:

    Ooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhh! Aren’t we clever!

    How did you do it?

  5. I*T*P*L Says:

    Someone had made them on the Oatcake (Stoke message board) and I simply copied and pasted them in. I’ve put both the goals in now as well.

  6. Steven Goran Erikkson Says:

    Very impressive, but I’m guessing there’s nothing for City?!?!?

  7. I*T*P*L Says:

    There’s one of Beattie scoring against you, any good?

    It’s probably worth you having a look on the Man City message board to see if anyone’s done anything similar. If not, you could try making them yourself, but it’s a lot of work and I’m not quite sure on the process. You need to download the MOTD highlights which you can probably find on any file hosting site like megaupload or bittorrent, and then take them into Windows Movie Maker, which should be on any XP or Vista PC, it’s very easy to use, and cut the bits you want. I’m not sure how to get them into this format though. You probably won’t want to bother.

  8. Steven Goran Erikkson Says:

    VVVVVVVVVVJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJ,

    With my look-a-likes, I have now got two splendid ones. However, one invloves a Middlesborough defender and a Seria A player, whilst the other one (which is just totally awesome) involves a Premier League ‘keeper and an MGS teacher!!!

    As a highly respected member of the blogging community, I’m asking your advice as to whether:

    o I can put the one of the MGS teacher on this site
    o I can slip the look-a-likes in any random blog, even though we’re not playing ‘Boro soon

  9. I*T*P*L Says:

    Well, I think a viable solution in this situation would be to garner up five or six good look-a-likes, and when you feel you have enough, create a specific post just for them, like you did with nicknames. can I suggest Martin Olsson and Jay Simpson? They are like twins! Regarding the teacher, do you have a photo of them to include? If so, I think it would be appropriate, as although not many people would know who the person is, they should be able to appreciate the similarities.

  10. Steven Goran Erikkson Says:

    Yes I do have a picture of the teacher, but I’m slightly sceptical to put it in because he/she (keep the suspense going) is a rather high-powered figure in the school, so I’m not sure about any possible consequences.

    Olsson / Simpson is rather remarkable

  11. I*T*P*L Says:

    jp and clmm8899, please stop spamming my blog with irrelevant advertising. I just delete these comments straight away anyway, so it is a waste of both your and y time for you to do it.

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