Stoking the fires of optimism

By Andy Munro.

Obafemi MartinsAnother valuable three points, although predictably it wasn’t a pretty affair and the only real bright spot for most of the game was Obafemi Martins’ bright orange boots.

In fairness to the Potters, I have a grudging respect for Tony Pullis for practically making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. You also have to respect the Stoke chairman, who has backed his manager in a way Big Eck can only dream about. At the time I thought their signing of Kenwyne Jones was a master stroke and I wasn’t best pleased as Blues had supposedly been in the frame as well.

Having said that Stoke are undoubtedly a horrid side, difficult to play against and we struggled early on to make any real impression. Alex opted for 4-4-2 and credit to him for that. Right from the start, Martins looked bright and showed the sort of ball control when running at pace that Cameron J can only dream about. However he rarely got any decent service with Barry Ferguson and Craig Gardner strangely off the pace and misplacing too many passes although to be fair, they never hid.

The flanks were a bit brighter with David Bentley continually probing and taking on his man although this was with mixed success. To his credit, ‘unsettled’ Seb had an excellent game and took on his man in a way that I’ve rarely seen….his work rate was also colossal.

The back four were tremendous in repelling an aerial bombardment with the tall Jones and Carew both a handful by nature of their stature. Pennant was also kept well under control by the Ridge and thankfully there was no repeat of the Murphy v Pennant mismatch of several seasons ago.

Yet again Blues didn’t really turn up as an attacking force until the second half and with Ziggy struggling to win many balls in the air and generally being bullied by Huth and Shawcross, I thought he would be the one making way for Cameron J. In fact, it was Martins and it ended up the right decision when Cameron and Ziggy combined when everybody seemed to have settled for a share of the points. That goal was particularly valuable with most of the teams around us either drawing or losing. Another three points against the Magpies and maybe there might be two routes into Europe.

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