Pulis was true to his word and started the game as he finished the Wigan one, with three strikers playing, Tuncay being accommodated on the left wing, much like he did in his days at Fenerbahce. The Turk was perhaps stifled somewhat out on the left but showed enough to suggest that his inclusion in that position would be serious consideration for the remainder of the season, especially if Etherington’s injury turns out to be lengthy.
Manager Rating – 7.5 – Full credit to Pulis for going for the win, this was reflected in his selection and approach. However the inclusion of Diao was disappointing, but I guess we needed a holding midfielder given Deano was being rested and Whelan is more offensive than defensive. Questions marks may also be raised about Wilko starting at left back, though I can see why given how Man City lined up.
Sorensen – 7.5 – I mentioned last week that I thought Tommy was trying too hard at times and it looked that way again as he played his part in the farcical play that ended with us conceding the opener. For the rest of the game he commanded his area well and also made an excellent save from a late Barry header.
Wilkinson – 5 – Wilko was murdered against Wigan and this game was much the same. Lining up in an unfamiliar Left Back role, Wilko was tormented time after time by Wright Phillips and on the wide Eastlands pitch was suffering positionally, either being nowhere near SWP or too close and subsequently easily turned. I do believe that Wilko deserves his Right Back slot but he has really struggled this week and the fact the defence has had to be shuffled twice in as many games to take him out of the firing line perhaps illustrates that whilst the local lad has come on leaps and bounds, there is still much to learn.
Huth – 7- Throughout the reshuffles, Huth fared well and again looked most comfortable in the middle alongside Ryan. It is testament to their partnership that Adebayor hardly had a kick all afternoon. I think he and Shawcross should be given more time together, allowing Faye to get back to 100% fitness, but I fear that the haste at which he will be thrust back into the side coupled with Wilko’s poor form of late will see the big German shifted out there quicker than he would like.
Shawcross – 7 – A good chance for Shawcross to put forward a case for his inclusion in Capello’s thoughts and it couldn’t have started worse for him, giving away the softest goal you will see for some time following a failed attempt to play offside and then a rush of blood to Sorro’s head. Like I said though, he and Huth nullified the threat of Adebayor all afternoon and Shawcross made up in part for his mistake with a good block from a goal bound shot late on.
Higginbotham – 7.5 – Another good performance from the stand in Skipper who was also shuffled about throughout. Higgy has done brilliantly of late and I’m chuffed to see him being given the chance to hang onto the Left back spot and I don’t feel anxious at all when he is deployed in the middle either. Was unlucky with a rasping half volley from 30 yards or so out.
Etherington – 7 – Poor, poor Matty. I felt physically sick and so sorry for him when he was stretchered off in front of the watching Capello, especially having worked so hard tracking his full back right back to his own goal line – the immediate change of grass to Astroturf out of touch seems a silly one and was most likely partly to blame for Matty’s awkward knee twist. The club are saying it may not be as bad as we think but until those scan results are back I shall keep my fingers crossed.
Diao – 6 – I think we all knew we would see Big Sal in for this game and he wasn’t as abysmal as he can be but, all the same, his passing was woeful, he didn’t seem to listen to the defenders on a few occasions when clearing out for a corner. I genuinely don’t think he brings enough to the table and can’t wait to see Deano back in on Tuesday.
Whelan – 8 – A good game from Glenn, he had a nervous first 20 mins or so but I think that’s just down to a lack of game time, he did his blind pass favourite a few times which is infuriating but the rest of his play was tidy and committed. I was happy to see him get his foot in and he never shirked any 60/40 challenges, let alone the 50/50’s, and I hope he gets the chance to play alongside Deano for a couple of games at least as I think he could have a positive impact much like he did at the same time last season.
Tuncay – 7.5 – It was a difficult game for Tunny to get into but I thought he did well in what was not an entirely unfamiliar role for him on the left. He seemed to have a good understanding of what was expected of him and tracked back well, unfortunately his half hearted attempts at putting his foot in saw him brushed off the ball a little too easily. As you would expect, with the ball at his feet or when we were on the counter attack, he showed his worth and I’m happy for him to be kept there given the form of Ric, in fact he may not have a choice given Matty’s injury.
Sidibe – 7.5 – Another tireless performance from Mama who always plays best with Ric. He works so hard chasing down the defence and it was this that led to Given putting the ball out for the throw we scored from. Mama has come in for a lot of unfair criticism and he himself will be the first to admit that he is far from the perfect footballer but with him in the side we just tick better and it’s no coincidence that his run in the side has coincided with an unbeaten run in 2010.
Fuller – 9 – Man of the Match – I was so glad Ric was rewarded for his excellent Cameo against Wigan by getting the full 90 minutes, and also that he was on the pitch at the same time as Tunny. He ran tirelessly for the full 90 and as I have always said looks so dangerous whenever he plays, his pace, skill and power make him a formidable opponent and he simply has to play if he is fit. I hope Pulis continues to play with him and keeps Tunny on the pitch, even if it has to be on the left.
Lawrence – 7.5 – Liam got his chance to shine with Matty’s injury and was unfortunate with one goal bound shot being blocked by Bridge, however, his afternoon also turned sour just before half time after a kick on his knee forced him off as the right wing curse continued.
Delap – 8- Our third choice for the right hand slot on the day, Rory did really well when he came on, just slowing the game down and using the ball sensibly, he benefitted from having an on fire Ric on the pitch given that he is pretty slow, the balls down the line into the channels being chased eagerly by the in form Jamaican. It was his throws once again that caused the panic as he set up the equaliser - I anticipate him playing a bigger part in the next two home games against Man City as they clearly have an issue dealing with the throws and have admitted as much in the post match press.
Collins – 7 – Replaced the harried and injured Wilko and moved into Left Back, looked assured and able enough but all too often found himself outrageously out of position, which is exactly why he has lost his place in the team to the better drilled Higginbotham.
Bonita - 8 - A good showing from the lively Bonita on her debut, she put herself about well looking pretty impressive up top and were it not for an overzealous decision perhaps could have had more of an impact, you could see her disgust as she stood, mouth gaping wide in astonishment. I'm looking forward to seeing more of her at the Britannia on Tuesday should her injury heal in time.