Apologies for not publishing my Newcastle match report. This very website was down and I ultimately didn’t get round to it. It was a melancholy tale anyhow.
Stoke ended a run of four consecutive losses with a convincing 3-1 win against struggling Blackburn, heaping even more pressure on strained boss Steve Kean.
The victory takes the Potters back into the top half of the table, after some fans were reaching for the panic button. Pulis selected an un-changed side, with the exception of Danny Higginbotham, who made way for Marc Wilson at left-back. Higginbotham has surely been dropped for his lacklustre performance against QPR last week, when he gifted Helguson a free header for one of the goals. Midweek reports of injury concerns for Peter Crouch and Matthew Etherington were dispelled, as the duo took up their places in the Potters’ starting eleven.
After a first half devoid of much attacking prowess from either team; Stoke went in front on 28 minutes when Rory Delap flicked in from a superb Jermaine Pennant delivery. The first period wasn’t exactly for the neutral, as even the most hardened Stoke and Blackburn supporters were longing for the half-time whistle. Blackburn struggled to get into their stride in the first-half, with their first shot on goal – Rochina’s long drive – arriving after 45 minutes.
The second period was much better, with both sides play more fluid and at a faster tempo. Kean’s men burst out of the Britannia’s dressing rooms, and played like it, as Mauro Formica should have put Rovers level. Rochina dribbled past a myriad of Stoke defenders before cutting it back to Formica, who completely mis-cued his shot and kicked the air. If Rovers were rejuvenated after the break, Stoke took the wind out of their sail on 58 minutes courtesy of the Irishman Glenn Whelan. A rendition of ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning” was music to Pulis’ ears and a nightmare to Kean’s. It only affects one man, that being Kean, as more protests at the Britannia ramped up the pressure on their in-experienced boss.
Jon Walters and Etherington combined with some good build-up play before laying off to Whelan, who smashed home from 18-yards after a deflection off Scott Dann. A warm reward for Whelan, the undoubted man-of-the-match. Delap was worthy of the official award, but, for me, Whelan was the key player for the Potters this afternoon. Somebody in the prawn sandwich brigade obviously begged to differ.
It wasn’t long and it was 3. Crouch pursued a long, high and entirely aimless ball from Wilson that ended up thwarting the Blackburn defence. The tall forward was allowed a free path to goal and the big man delivered, angling a left-foot shot past Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson from 12 yards. No sign of the ‘Robot’ dance moves just yet.
Now, I would tell you about Rochina’s 86 minute consolation goal for Rovers. That is, if the motley crew in front of me in attendance at the game didn’t stand up at the precise moment the Spaniard scored. That said, I’ve been reliably informed by various media outlets that it was rather special.
3-1 was how it finished, and Pulis’ side are back to winning ways. Next up is everybody’s favourite competition, the Europa League! No sarcasm intended. Dynamo Kiev await next Thursday evening, a stern test and another chance to evaluate how the Potters can bounce back from one of their European outings. Not fair to travel this time, the Britannia Stadium only a short drive away.
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