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Posted by James Whittaker on 02/28/2012

It was the cliched 'clash of styles' again as Stoke met Swansea eager to put an end to their winless streak, but it was the Potters who were smiling at the final whistle as substance overcame style with two set pieces winning the three points on the day.

Bullied... ©Getty

We’ve been really poor recently but this was a game I think many were earmarking as one to get us back on track, and there was added pressure too on the manager having rested the starting XI for the earlier tie in Valencia. On paper at least you could suggest that the manager was vindicated in his team selections but if you look a bit closer, whilst we welcomed back the high tempo pressing game that we have missed so much, we still failed to score from open play and the writing seems to be firmly on the wall in respect of Pennant who featured in neither starting XI.

A lot of people are naturally elated after a win, as well they should be, but many also seem to be completely unwilling to listen to any criticism where we have taken all the points, and whilst there were clear positives from the game, there were also some of the old negatives on show again and I’m sorry but this fan can’t just ignore that, whatever the result.

To start on a positive note I was delighted that we seemed to have gone back to pressing high up the pitch and harrying the opposition, given the apparent arrogance at times from this season’s ‘Blackpool’, it was always the case that we would get some kind of territorial joy as they steadfastly refused to do anything other than play it out from their own corner flag time after time. We looked so much better and whilst our visitors had huge amounts of possession they really did very little with it in the areas that mattered and when we did manage to get the ball the front two looked to have benefitted from not only their break but also a team that was 15 yards further up the pitch behind them. Pressing that high is vital if we’re to get the best out of a relatively slow front line of Walters and Crouch and our game against Swansea meant we could do this, and it was clearly evident.

Once more we played with just the one recognised winger which is frustrating, though I suspect that Pulis had one eye on shackling Sinclair, though the excellent Wilkinson (my MOTM) did pretty well all by himself on that score. Nevertheless, if that was the plan it really does tell us all we need to know about Pennant’s future, as with that in mind you’d have expected a winger-less team in Valencia to at least start with the former Spain based wide man, alas this was not the case.

I’m also a little concerned at our style being back to basics, I’ve talked about it before so won’t go on about it too much but suffice to say it was more of the same playing for territory and set pieces, which is palatable on days like Sunday when they come off, but there have also been plenty of instances where they haven’t and when this is the case, we don’t have a Plan B, well we do, but Pulis refuses to give them league time.

Upson or Huth? ©Ian Hodgson

All that aside, Wilko was amazing, Upson not far behind, Shotton impressive, Begovic back to his best and more important than all that, we got our pressing game back and it got us 3 points. Next up are Norwich who have looked really impressive so far, it won’t be an easy match at all and I’m glad we have Huth back to deal with Holt, though after this game Upson may feel hard done by if dropped, but that’s the decision I’d make – would you want to be the one to tell Huth he wasn’t going to play?

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Posted by Adam on 02/29/2012

Agree with everything you say on here James - the sooner we all know what is happening to Pennant the better. Shotton was good on Sunday, however he tired in the last 20 minutes and with both the Swans wingers being subbed, Pennant was all stripped and ready to come on, however never made it onto the pitch. The game at that point was there for a more convincing win and Pennant is always our most dangerous and attacking threat.

JW - Cheers Adam, it's a situation that needs sorting one way or the other, you either punish him properly and remove/sell alltogether or play him. Anyone that thinks his exclusion is anything other than a point being made is lying to themself.

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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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