And so the run continues. Five matches unbeaten, three wins on the bounce and now up to 12th in the table and all their early season worries behind them. With the loss of Clumsy, who failed a pre-match fitness test, Charlie Boy stepped in to the team alongside Glenda but for the me and the Boy the biggest news was Ramadan finally returning to the match day squad as the Bet365 welcomed Swansea City.
In the build up to the game all the talk had been about Wilfried and Joe Allen playing against the club where they made their names and Mystic Mark’s crystal ball must have been working overtime as his prediction that Wilfried would score came true after only three minutes. True, no one not even Bony would ever call his first goal a classic but the delight on his face was evident as he tapped in from close range after a scuffed shot from the other former Swan, Allen.
One-nil up and dominating play as firstly Charlie Boy, with a shot from outside the penalty area, and then Shawcross tried in vain to double Stoke’s lead but in the end it was the visitors who scored next as Wayne Routledge managed to get in front of Bardsley and head the ball past Grant. With less than ten minutes gone the match was all square again but Stoke continued to pour forward looking to reassert themselves in a game which they must have felt was there for the taking.
First Charlie Boy attempted another shot from the outside of the box, after a delightful layback from Arnie, but could only watch as his shot hit the post. But whilst Stoke’s attacking play was as good as it has been this season they didn’t look as solid without the ever improving Clumsy and but for a deflection Siggurdsson could have given the visitors the lead. With Swansea still proving a threat and unable to score the elusive second goal Stoke might have been forgiven for cursing their luck as Shaqiri limped off at the half hour mark to be replaced, in a surprising move by Hughes, by Ramadan.
Yet Stoke continued to push forward and Charlie Boy managed to beat the keeper once more only to see his left foot strike hit the opposite post. Then Ramadan combined with Allen to send Arnie clear in the penalty box but the Austrian could only pull his shot onto the post after he had rounded Fabianski.
Watching the team come out for the second half most Stoke supporters could have been forgiven for thinking that, after our dominance in the opening forty-five minutes, Stoke wouldn’t be able to keep their momentum going but ten minutes into the second half the Potters finally regained the lead they deserved. After bamboozling the hapless Rangel, himself a first half substitute, Ramadan crossed the ball into the box and before Joe Allen could pounce, for what would have been a deserved goal, Mawson turned the ball into his own net.
Stoke had their skipper to thank for denying Swansea a chance to repeat their first half fight back when Shawcross managed to thwart Routledge as the Swansea winger suffered a moment of indecision in the Stoke penalty box.
Perhaps conscious of already losing one lead Stoke continued to push for a third to seal the game with Bony teeing up the ever eager Charlie Boy but the Scot could only push his shot wide but then Wilfried managed to get on the end of a drag back by Allen to head Stoke’s third which surely meant he three points would remain at the Bet365. Yet buoyed by the Boothen End Stoke continued to push for a fourth as Allen narrowly missed connecting with an Arnie cross and Bony saw what would have been a hat-trick header cleared of the line.
In the middle of the pitch the referee, the much loathed Michael Oliver, was having a quiet night by his standards but a Stoke match in which he was officiating wouldn’t be the same without a bad decision or two and he duly obliged by booking Arnie for a challenge in which the Austrian clearly got the ball. A bad decision, even by Oliver, can be forgiven but the fact that the referee seemed incapable of booking a Swansea player, even a horror tackle from The Swansea fullback on Phil Bardsley warranted nothing more than a slap on the wrist, and how close Oliver was to the Arnie tackle does raise the question what has Stoke ever done to him? Maybe he had a bad night out at Valentino’s as a youth?
Still Oliver’s ineptitude was a blessing when he seemed to give a penalty for a challenge by Pieters on Routledge only for him to overturn his decision and give a free-kick after his linesman intervened. For the record this Stoke fan thinks that once again Oliver got a penalty decision in a Stoke game wrong but I’m not complaining.
Now up to 12th, and with a few potentially easy games in November, Stoke should be looking to push on after what was probably their best performance of the season so far but as always there are a few things which need to be taken into consideration:
- With Arnie, and possibly Shaqiri, missing for the trip to West Ham and after his impressive performance against Swansea, Ramadan has to start against the Hammers. There may be times when the young Egyptian needs to be wrapped in cotton wool but with his confidence up this is not the time.
- Now that Wilfried has got off the mark hopefully the naysayers will give the Ivorian a rest but on Saturday, if Arnie and Shaqri are missing it may be, that for one match only, Stoke will need to get crosses into the box rather than trying to play beyond the Ivorian.
- Pray that Clumsy is fit for Saturday! Charlie Boy did OK against Swansea but was I the only one that was apprehensive seeing Glenda so far up the pitch? Clumsy provides the legs in his partnership with Glenda and as good a player as Charlie Boy is, he is not renowned for his running.
- Once again don’t get complacent. By some quirk of fate we have played the bottom three in successive games before we head off to London to play the team fourth from bottom. Whilst we can take heart from Stoke’s performance on Monday night we will need to improve if we are to have any hope of making it four wins out of four.
Stoke Giraffe of the Week Joe Allen
Stoke Lemon of the Week Erik Pieters
Lee Grant – 7 Another week with not a lot to do and had no chance for the Swansea goal
Phil Bardsley – 6 Had problems with Routledge and will not want to see replays of the Swansea goal
Ryan Shawcross – 8 A pleasing trend is emerging where one or the other centre halves is having a good game even if their partner seems off the pace. This week it was the captain’s turn.
Bruno Martin Indi – 7 Not quite as dominant as in previous weeks and looked hurried on the ball.
Erik Pieters – 6 Lemon of the week again! Not a bad game but easily the worst of Stoke’s performers. Lucky not to give away a penalty at the end.
Glen Whelan – 8 Covered most of the pitch and was even Stoke’s most forward player at times however I much prefer to see him sitting in front of the Captain and the Beast.
Charlie Boy – 7 Unlucky not to score and proved an able deputy for Clumsy but the dynamics looked wrong without the American.
Joe Allen – 9 Was everywhere and unlucky not score. Set up two for Bony against his old teammates.
Shaqiri – 6 Didn’t really get into the game before he limped off in the first half
Arnie – 9 Must be getting frustrated at the number of chances he has missed but he is getting into the right positions and as always ran his socks off. Suffered an injustice at getting booked and will be missed against West Ham
Wilfried – 9 Finally got the goals his team play deserved and continued to play the lone striker role to perfection.
Ramadan – 8 Showed that when required he can be an able deputy to Arnie and Shaqiri and it is a shame Stoke’s second couldn’t be attributed to the young Egyptian
Super Jon – 6 Came on for Bony but had little time to shine. If Shaqiri fails his fitness test expect Mystic Mark to play Super Jon on the wing against West Ham
Two Meter Peter – 6 Came on late and didn’t have a lot to do
Mark Hughes – 8 To be honest I didn’t think playing Charlie Boy alongside Glenda would work but happy to be proven wrong and nice to see Hughes gave Ramadan a chance when Shaqiri got injured
Kevin Friend – 5 Two Stoke bookings and none for Swansea despite Bardlsey being on the receiving end of the worst challenge of the match. Expect Oliver was disappointed at being overruled by his linesman over the non-penalty incident