Stoke City 1 - 1 Everton
A windy winter's night and what better place to head off to than Stoke. As always rumbustious with the home fans united against the world and from conversations Donald Trump has a fare few supporters. I believed the night was set up for two dead cert happenings. Crouch to notch his 100th Premier League goal and Coleman to notch one on his 200th appearance for the club. Well I got that 50% right and Coleman would insist I got it 100% right.
The game started and in no time at all you just knew we were in for a typical Stoke performance on a wet and windy night. Our first job was to stand up to them as the red meat they eat before kick -off was in evidence in their approach. The first minutes were a getting to know you session with Tom Davies prominent in mid field but he and others were slow in coming to grips with the Stoke long ball over the top. They did force an early corner with this type of pressing but thankfully it drifted out on the wind but our respite was short lived as first Mori and Robles gave the travelling faithful palpitations as the played one two’s with each other in and around the area.
The travelling Park End coaching staff suggested a better way of clearing it, they obeyed but just a minute later which put us on only six minutes we folded like a pack of cards as Holgate who had been targeted by Mark Hughes as all the balls were being played in his direction and on this occasion he was caught out by a ball over him for Arnautovic to run onto and enter our box and slide in a ball along the ground for Crouch to tap home with Robles helpless. Once again we are looking to come from behind but one thing about the goal was its timing left us almost a whole game to get back into it. Crouch did his ‘Robot’ celebration on his 100th goal.
The game resumed but we were still trying to work out who was where and our propensity to give the ball away was frustrating. I wondered if we were missing Barry’s organisation and savvy. We had plenty willing to run about and close down but no one to put there foot on it and dictate some play and if someone did they dallied to long and the ball was swept from them. We had plenty of endeavour but we just did not seem able to click when it mattered and attempts on goal we at a premium. We did force a corner which Mirallas took and it was bundled behind by a Stoke player for another which was cleared as far as Coleman who shot wide – very wide.
It took to the 20-minute mark before we looked like we were starting to play more like a team than a collection of players but Stoke with their lead were happy to soak up our pressure and then aim the long ball over Holgate’s head for the speedy Arnautovic to career into our box and from one of these Adam slid him in and it looked like another tap in but Robles was off his line like a robbers dog and made a fine block. It was Stokes turn to dominate but wouldn’t you just know it we put a slick move together on 40mins that saw the ball played crisply through the midfield with Davies and Barkley involved and the ball was fed to Coleman in the right wing position, he turned in and left footed shot and scored.
Pandemonium... then the ref seemed to have disallowed it then the lino is involved then a Blue shirted celebration took place whilst the red and white stripes moaned along with their wildly booing fans. It was hilarious really especially as it turned out to be an own goal. From my seat it looked like Coleman’s goal so to hell with it I’m giving it to him.
Three minutes were added and just when we were talking about going in all square at the break Crouch played a great ball inside Holgate and Arnautovic was in one on one but the robbers dog was out and even faster this time and just as the ball was to be slid home Robles again blocked away. The applause he got for that must have been uplifting to him. Then the whistle went.
We agreed that probably Stoke had the better of the half but we were tenacious if nothing else it was just the joined up bit that was missing from our football.
Second half and McCarthy replaced Holgate probably a good move before his confidence was further dented but it is these games that sort out the wheat from the chaff so I hope he learns from it and is back stronger. I am not sure what formation we had at the back but it seemed Williams spent a lot of time at right back and Schneiderlin operating between Williams and Mori with Baines back in the left back role leaving Coleman down the right. That got pulled about a bit but we did look that bit safer at the back even when they were on differing wavelengths they did manage to somehow sort it and get back on track.
I thought Joel did really well in shouting to them if he spotted danger before them. The second half was a right scrappy affair with both teams looking to win it if they could yet not prepared to push on to hard and lose it to a breakaway so given that scenario not the best of watches for the purist but plenty of excitement about as each team took it in turns to attack and defend. The hour mark arrived and Stoke blinked first and made a sub their new man Berahino coming on for ex red Allen.
Stoke got a free kick that Adam delivered with some aplomb and it caused mayhem in our area we feared the worst but a series of swipes, back headers and hoofs got us out of a hole but then we put some stuff together and see Barkley produce a peach of a pass to put the ever motoring Davies in, he got in the box and went passed two but took one touch to many and a great chance was gone.
We made our first sub when Lookman replaced Mirallas who had had a promising first half but was out of the picture second half. Lookman started like a house on fire and in no time he was in the box and shooting but the keeper did well and gathered at the near post. He seemed to fade a little after that and operated on the left wing without making any powerful runs or cutting in and going at defenders with pace that he has to burn. Schneiderlin was now settling better operating between the centre backs but stepping out into mid field and trying to calm things down and use his ability at both short and long balls. A younger Barry you might say.
We had a free kick taken by Barkley and Schneiderlin had come forward, got his head to it but his header lacked pace and the keeper easily gathered. Davies was still full of energy and they had kicked him a few times but he was all over the park but his final ball was just that bit out and possession lost and he was by no means the only one.
Near the end we had a fright when Berahino anticipated a long ball and from in the area lobbed Robles but Mori was alert and raced back and headed from under the bar at the expense of only a corner – that could have been worse.
Then I thought we had won it when Coleman was found by Barkley and the Irishman twisted and turned got to the by-line and hit one at pace back across the box for the inrushing Davies to dive at, connect sweetly and with GOAL in the throat the Stoke keeper Grant made a superb save pushing the ball wide but our new man Lookman was on it in a flash and smashed one across goal with venom that alluded everyone with Davies being the closest to it and it was just too fast for him. The ball was hit that hard I wondered if it was indeed a shot.
We had one more chance before the end when Lukaku and Barkley combined to put the marathon man Davies in again but his shot was well saved by the keeper. Three mins were added but were a barren three so we all trudged away neither satisfied nor disappointed. Three more points required for safety
MotM - Robles/Davies
A good trip out and I got what I expected to get, a hard fought match where for long spells football took a back seat. It always seems to be that way against Stoke.
I was quite satisfied with our transfer window for a couple of reasons one being that players of the substance required for our present ‘project’ are rarely available and secondly just looking at today’s game with our two signings getting game time plus our two youngsters still wet behind the ears you could see plainly we have good and maybe very good players but they will take time to gel and understand their role in whatever tactic the manager decides on game by game. Today teamwork wasn’t on the agenda and of course if the manager introduces to many at once then results may well suffer. I believe if he can get what he has got bedded in by seasons end then the summer incomings will find it easier just by speaking to our present players regarding the who does what in the team.
Still soon be Saturday. Another 3.00pm k/o home match, a couple of days to prepare and then off the rollercoaster goes again. See you there.
UP THE BLUES
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