I’ll pick over the bones from yesterday’s disappointing defeat away at Sunderland.
Not that bad a performance
Stoke by no means played well yesterday, but we did do enough to frustrate Sunderland for three quarters of the game yesterday, and it seemed we were heading for a point until Etherington was sent off. We never really looked like scoring when we attacked, but then neither did Sunderland, though it was hard for them when facing two goalkeepers in Thomas Sorensen and Danny Pugh.
Not so shrewd loan moves?
Stoke’s two new loan signings, forward Henri Camara and full-back Stephen Kelly made their debuts yesterday, Camara coming on for the stricken Ricardo Fuller after half an hour and Kelly playing the full game. Camara looked reasonably lively, seeing a lot of the ball and putting in a few decent shots, though he looked rather lightweight, something we’re definitely not used to seeing in our strikers. Also, he missed a great chance to give us the lead just after we’d gone down to ten men, hitting the bar from close range.
Kelly was though, very poor, he started the game at left-back, and I hoped his dodgy play was a result of playing away from his favoured right-back position, but he continued to struggle when he switched sides. He misplaced numerous passes, was outfought and outpaced by wingers, and should have cleared the ball easily before their second goal. Not a good debut. Tony Pulis has always brought in very good loan signings at Championship level, but these are his first two in the Premier League. I thought Camara showed flashes of his class, but Kelly showed very little at all.
More is needed from Camara and Kelly
Rob f**king Styles
I don’t feel Stoke were wronged by Stlyes’s poor refereeing any more than Sunderland were, but the referee and football fan in me says that something must be done to stop this incompetent moron of a referee ever going any where near a football pitch again. He denied Sunderland two clear penalties for handballs, Danny Pugh punching the ball off the line for the first, an offence for which he would have to have been sent off, and Kelly committing the second in the second half. He stopped the game to award Stoke a free-kick when advantage should have been played then promptly sent off Matthew Etherington, though I’m not arguing with the latter part of that decision, it was just about the only thing he got right all day. Finally, he failed to spot yet another blatant handball in the run up to Sunderland’s first goal, Andy Reid controlling with his arm before crossing. Sadly, it’s what we’ve come to expect from a referee like Styles.
Matthew Etherington was sent off for Stoke for aiming a kick at Sunderland’s Danny Collins with a quarter of the match to go. It looked like we were going to hold on for a point up to this point, but with a man advantage Sunderland were able to break us down. How vital could that point prove come May? We will also now be without one of our best players for a month because of stupid petulance. It was our fourth red card in six weeks, and the third for petulant offences, this recent spate of ill discipline must be halted by Pulis.
Really a red card offence?
I am not trying to defend Etherington at all, it clearly says in the laws of the game that a kick out at an opponent warrants a red card, and he would have been well aware of this. I would like to question the validity of this blanket rule though, which I am sure is in place to stop players being injured by opponents kicking them. We see yellow cards awarded for pushes to the chests of opponents, as they are deemed not to be potentially damaging to the opponent’s health, and I would suggest that Etherington’s kick, little more than a trip on a moving opponent, should fall into the same category. That being said, he still should never have done it and deserved to be sent off for being so indisciplined.
Top-scorer Ricardo Fuller went off with a shoulder injury that according to Pulis could keep him out for the rest of the season. If Fuller had been on the kind of form he displayed back in August, I would be lamenting a huge loss, but given the lazy, mardy performances we have grown used to seeing from him in recent weeks I would suggest that we can cope just fine without him. With James Beattie an obvious goal threat, and Mamady Sidibe coming back to fitness, while Camara and Dave Kitson wait in the wings, we have a strong forward line with or without Fuller.
It’s time for more goalscoring and less sulking from Fuller
Lack of fighting spirit
We have been hailed this season for our brave, all-in performances. Sadly, little of this was on display yesterday after we fell a goal down. With just over ten minutes left we should have been pushing forward in search of an equaliser, but it truth we seldom look less like scoring than we did in those last ten minutes.
Until Etherington was sent off, I was not impressed by Sunderland, they looked shaky at the back and hardly razor-sharp going forward. Credit to them that they did manage to break down the ten man Stoke side, something we have previously seen it is hard to do, and get a 2-0 win that does seems rather flattering to them. They’re too good a side to be relegated, but not good enough to do much else.
Thomas Sorensen (gk): Sorensen was a hero during his time at Sunderland, but didn’t really recapture that form in yesterday’s game. He made an error early in the second half that could have cost us a goal and probably should have done better with their first goal. 5
Andy Wilkinson (rb): Wilkinson went off injured after eighteen minutes so didn’t really have time to make a huge impact, but he did seem to be dealing comfortably with most he had to do in that time. 6
Ryan Shawcross (cb): Much the same as Wilkinson, Shawcross having gone off after 26 minutes. I hope he’s not badly injured as he would be a major loss given his excellent recent form. 6
Abdoulaye Faye (cb): Faye wasn’t quite as assured as he usually is for Stoke, and let Kenwyne Jones get away from him oo easily in the build up to their second goal. He does look like one of the few players in our side who is happy with the ball at their feet though. 6
Stephen Kelly (lb): A very poor debut from Kelly both at left-back and at his preferred right-back where he played after Wilkinson’s injury. He looked slow and uncomfortable on the ball and misplaced a lot of passes. He also let the ball run across him instead of clearing it just before Healy scored their second goal. He did save us at one point in the first half with a good goal-line clearance though. I sincerely hope there’s a lot more still to come from him. 4
Richard Cresswell (rm):As per usual, Cresswell ran a lot, made a few tackles and did little where it counts, his first touch often letting him down, particularly when we had a good break on in the first half and he allowed a tackle to be made with a heavy touch. 5
Glenn Whelan (cm): A mediocre display from Glenn, who didn’t really impact the game much. He plays too many sloppy passes for my liking. 5
Salif Diao (cm): I think we are a far better side with Salif in it, and was very glad to see him start again for the first time in two months after various injury set-backs. He was good in the air and made some fantastic tackles. He is also a good calming influence in midfield. He was stupidly booked though for over-arguing with the referee, though with Rob Styles who can blame him? 7
Matthew Etherington (lm): Etherington had his worst game for Stoke yet, not really being involved in the action in open play and putting in poor crosses from several set-pieces. I question his decision making as he often seems to choose the wrong pass in good attacking situations. His stupid sending off costs him a couple of points from his ranking too. He will be missed for the crucial games against Portsmouth, Aston Villa and Bolton though. 4
James Beattie (cf): Beattie had a very quiet game, doing little right or wrong, the one thing I can say is that his control of long passes is excellent, a big positive given the amount of them we play. 5
Ricardo Fuller (cf): Before going off injured after half an hour, Fuller didn’t do a great deal and seemed to be struggling to beat his man, something he usually does best. 5
Danny Pugh (lb): Pugh came on for Wilkinson very early on and had a reasonable game, though he looked a tad slow and was lucky not to be sent off for his handled goal-line clearance. 6
Ibrahima Sonko (cb): After coming on for Shawcross, Sonko had a reasonable game. He is a very good athlete and won most aerial challenges, but he shows nothing of the assured ball play of his compatriot Abdoulaye Faye, looking decidedly dodgy with the ball at his feet. 5
Henri Camara (cf): Replacing Fuller to make his debut, Camara made a lively start, getting two decent shots away. He soon began to look too lightweight however, and fluffed his lines when his big chance came. 5
My Man of the Match: Salif Diao
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