2 goals, 3 points, a clean sheet and £10 on Shawcross to score first at 28/1 – a pretty much perfect Saturday for this Stokie!
The sun basked down on the windswept Britannia as the ever vociferous Stoke faithful cheered their heroes on to another Potters win – but the performance on the day further illustrated the need for Pulis to again work his magic in the transfer market before the end of the window on the 1st September.
The need for at least one fullback, a creative midfielder as well as better quality on the bench was clear to see. Wilkinson, in particular, had a less than impressive game at right back, whether or not this was down to him not having much of a pre-season or not I’m not sure, but it illustrated a lack of quality of the player, something a more experienced player could use to carry him through a game where match sharpness, or lack of it, was clearly an issue.
It seemed at times that Stoke reverted to the tactics that had served them for so long and forgot some of the more industrious play that saw them finish the season so well. All too often the angled long ball was sent up to a more and more bewildered James Beattie, who had an afternoon he would perhaps like to forget, unable to make an impression in the withdrawn Striker’s role in the absence of a midfield playmaker to take the pressure of him winning the ball in front of the midfield and trying to carry it forwards.
Stoke looked eager to keep the tempo high straight after kick off and at times showed some intelligent counter attacking play with Whitehead, Lawrence, Etherington and Fuller all breaking well after failed Burnley attacks. One such move culminated in the fouling of Fuller over near the corner flag as the stranded Jamaican ran into a wall of 4 defenders eager for him not to repeat the kind of magic he managed the first home game last season against Aston Villa. An excellent delivery by Lawrence saw Shawcross rise unopposed in the 6yd box and head home to give Stoke a deserved lead.
Once more we saw the extensive use of the long throw, with Whelan dropping to the bench to accommodate the human slingshot, and it proved as effective as the same time last year as confusion reigned and Jordan put into his own net – the Potters led 2-0 and were good for it too.
The second half came and Burnley, as we expected, came back out with Coyle’s words still ringing in their ears and played with much more urgency and showed some good intelligent play, the veterans Alexander and Blake getting into more useful positions and taking advantage of Stoke's failure to concentrate at set plays as they took 3 quick free kicks to leave Sorensen fuming with his defence. Their age caught up with them though as both were replaced, and despite the young Ecuadorian winger Guerrero impressing, Burnley failed to capitalise on that fervent first 20 mins or so of the second half.
Kitson later replaced the visibly frustrated Beattie and was a foot away from exorcising a whole host of demons as his first contribution slammed against Jensen’s crossbar, it wasn’t to be for the rejuvenated striker, he’ll have one eye on the midweek trip to Anfield to carry on from an encouraging pre-season and impressive cameo today.
Sorensen - 6
Wilkinson - 5
Shawcross - 8 (Man of the Match)
Faye - 6
Higginbotham - 7
Lawrence - 7
Whitehead - 7
Delap - 7
Etherington - 6
Fuller - 8
Beattie - 5
Cresswell - 7
Kitson - 7
Whelan - 6
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