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Posted by James Whittaker on 11/10/2010

Apologies for the delay in getting something up but the defeat against Sunderland and the circumstances surrounding it really flattened me. Once again, the referee made a huge mistake and Stoke were robbed for the 4th time in as many games as far as stonewall decisions go.

The less said about that the better, they say though, that every cloud has a silver lining and the injustice of our treatment reached such an unparalleled levels that the national media picked up on it and gave it plenty of airtime. Many criticised Pulis for coming out so specifically but when you look at the evidence I can honestly say, like Pulis, I have never seen anything like it in terms of the amount of poor game changing decisions being suffered by one team so consistently.

So the stage was set nicely then for a rapturous return to the Britannia as management and fans alike sought the elusive 12th man that had served us so well in our first couple of seasons but who seemed to have gone missing of late. The Brit was in full swing and with banners and props in hand set about scrutinising the latest man in charge, Mark Clattenburg.
Now, I like Clattenburg and interestingly he himself has been subject to the preferential treatment Pulis spoke of in as much as he was punished for allowing a questionable goal scored by Man Utd by being dropped for the next set of Premier league fixtures, whereas all the referees who made such gross errors of judgement in our games faced no such sanctions. I “enjoyed” the game, it was certainly one for the neutrals, though for this Stokie, I felt like I had just done 12 rounds with Tyson and on the final whistle more or less collapsed into the foetal position rocking silently to the welcoming tunes of “Happiness”.

As ever, the main talking points will now follow;

Begovic – Since the big Bosnian has come in he has looked less than convincing but as I had suggested in the past, I think the idea was that he would come in for an injury/cup game and no matter how he played would keep his place so that Sorro would not feel too aggrieved at having to fight for his place. Last night though saw his best game yet, whilst he had a very quiet first half he coped very well with the 2nd half Birmingham onslaught and all facets of his game looked to have improved over his previous showings. Hopefully he will now be happier with the No.1 jersey and the talk of a move away will disappear as he looks to establish himself as our long term first choice option between the sticks.

Faye – I have mentioned over the past few weeks how I have come to dread the ball going to Abby/Abby going to the ball and last night was no different. He just looks a completely different player after a promising start to the season and to be honest he is a liability and whilst Higgy had little less than a shocker last night, I truly believe that he is the option to replace Faye in the short term until we can sign a right back to be able to move Huth into the middle.

The Midfield – The 4 across the middle had a nice balance to it and I was happy to see Rory back in the side as he is genuinely one of our top centre midfielders and on a night when you want passion and a roaring crowd, there’s not much better than a few throws to get the pulse racing. Pennant once again looked like calmness personified on the right and he needed to be as Matty had one of his poorer games being caught in possession on more than a couple of occasions as the team committed forward only to be caught on the back foot. That said, given Matty’s form to date he has more than earned the benefit of the doubt and I look forward to him giving Konchesky a hard time in ESPN’s late kick off on Saturday against Liverpool.

Whitehead's Winner… ©GettyImages

Fuller – Ric was drafted back into the starting XI and gave everyone hope in the partnership that so many anticipated and called for up top with Jones. He didn’t disappoint and whilst he understandably looked a little rusty he showed how he remains Stoke’s most potent attacking threat. His goal was nothing short of magical, even bettering Tuncay’s effort only weeks before as he took on two players from a virtual standstill and lashed the ball into the top corner, simply outstanding. Pulis has made noises today to suggest that the Jamaican will be dropped for the game against Liverpool and that’s fine, Ric is coming back from injury and I get the feeling is still suffering with it, and it’s nice to be able to call on the likes of Tuncay to step into the breach.

Ric’s Return… ©GettyImages

So onto Saturday then, I truly believe that the game against Liverpool will be easier than the Birmingham game, there won’t be as much pressure, we are coming off the back of a huge win and despite what the Scousers are saying this week, Liverpool are far from firing on all cylinders yet. That said, after last night I will be equally impressed with my blood pressure remaining a non critical level than I would a Stoke win…

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @espn_stoke for all the latest Stoke City news and up to the minute reflection and rants.

Follow James Whittaker on Twitter


Posted by francis rangara on 11/11/2010

As a fan of LFC I am happy that you do not expect as much pressure as you got 'fighting-off' Birmingham. I am glad you mention Konchesky. We really do not think he is good enough. We need all the help we can get in showing RH the Anfield exit. So I implore you to do well enough to expose the Koncheskys of the EPL, and beat LFC so that RH will be sent packing. Please beat LFC!

Editor Comment - Konchesky is a strange one, he is a good solid player but just looks 'wrong' playing for Liverpool? Roy has made a few brave decisions with his players and he is certainly one of them, I imagine he is his general on the pitch who knows exactly what he wants and how he wants it having worked with him in the past.

As for our game, I have a feeling it will be an interesting one, especially as Konchesky will be facing Pennant...

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James Whittaker James Whittaker is a football writer and ardent Stoke fan. Having moved to Leeds as a youngster his father refused to take him to his local Championship winning side and instead insisted he chose the Third Division team of his forefathers, Stoke City. Since then there has been no looking back and having been brought up on a diet of Dave Rowson, Kyle Lightbourne and John Gayle, is now embracing the dizzy heights of the top flight for the first time in his life. Fiercely loyal, though always welcoming sensible chat and debate, you can find him on Twitter @ESPN_Stoke

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