Seeing Mark Hughes’ team selection for the League Cup match against Hull I was pleased that the temptation to rest players was avoided, even though there were a sprinkling of fringe players with a chance to stake a claim for a game on Saturday, such as the likes of Ramadan and Grant. The absence of Shaqiri was a blow but if the little Swiss is close to match fitness then the better option has to be to make sure he is in the starting eleven against West Brom.
From the outset Stoke looked more cohesive than at any other time this season (apart from against lower league Stevenage), with Arnie, Johnson and even Shawcross all causing the visiting team problems. Yes, this was a Hull team that had rung the changes since their defeat by Arsenal but they still had the impressive Davies and two of their biggest ever signings in Marshall and Mason, playing. But it was the impressive Ramadan who was causing Hull the most problems, the young Egyptian, making his first start for the club, must surely be a contender for one of the three roles Hughes likes to play behind his centre forward.
And after twenty-four minutes Stoke finally made Hull pay for all their early attacking intent when Arnie picked up the ball and cutting inside curled a delightful strike past Marshall in the Hull goal. In the stands a rather paltry ten thousand fans at the Bet365 began to hope that this would be the kick start our season needed but for all our possession the same inability to convert pressure into goals came back to hurt us when Ryan Mason somehow managed to volley an even more impressive equalizer on the stroke of half time.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, Stoke pushing hard but to no avail, with Ramadan again at the forefront of most of the good things Stoke produced and if he, or the Beast, had managed to convert the chances that fell to them ten minutes from time things might have been different. However, as every Stoke fan knows, things never seem to be different and in injury time Markus Henrikson tapped in to send Stoke out and pile the pressure back on Mark Hughes.
However, no matter how disappointing the end result was, there were a few things the manager should be able to take from tonight’s game:
- Although they had less to do than in previous games, Stoke’s defence did look more comfortable than they have in recent weeks.
- Ramadan was a revelation. With Shaqiri fit Stoke now have three top class players vying for the two wide roles and tonight’s display should be taken as a warning for Arnie and the little Swiss that they may no longer be guaranteed a starting spot.
- Although he worked tirelessly replacing Glenda, Cameron gave the ball away too cheaply and the balance of the midfield, although better, still did not seem quite right.
- You still have the backing of the majority of the fans (for now). Only at Stoke could the crowd not decided whether they wanted to boo or applaud the team at the end of the match.
Stoke Giraffe: Ramadan
Stoke Lemon: Erik Pieters
Lee Grant – 6 Didn’t have a lot to do but did enough to put his hat in the ring for the West Brom match
Glenn Johnson – 6 Great going forward and solid at the back
Ryan Shawcoss – 6 Another defender who was most visible at the Hull end of the pitch.
Bruno Martins Indi – 7 The pick of Stoke’s defenders. Sunday’s experiment should be forgotten and the Beast should be pencilled in next to the Captain against West Brom
Erik Pieters – 5 Still the weakest link in the defence
Geoff Cameron – 6 Looked more at home in midfield than he has done in the last few games
Joe Allen – 7 Not as influential as he has been but I wish more of the Stoke players had his work rate
Imbula – 6 Got forward well enough but still too often does not seem to be putting in the effort when tracking back
Ramadan – 9 Best performance by a Stoke player this season
Bony – 6 How many times can we blame lack of match fitness, needs a goal and then hopefully we will see the player that was at Swansea
Arnie – 7 Another super finish from the Austrian
Mame Diouf – 7 Another impressive cameo but if he was to take Bony’s place would you be confident that he’d get his name on the scoresheet?
Charlie Boy – 6 As usual worked hard when he came on but unable to influence the game
Mark Hughes – 6 Willing to make the changes in his team selection to try and win the game substitutions were positive
Chris Kavanagh – 7 Two games in a row where I have been impressed with the man in the middle. Has someone at Referee HQ been listening to the complaints coming out of the Potteries