With Arnie, Shaqiri and Clumsy missing from the Stoke line-up even playing an out of form West Ham seemed like it was going to be a tough game. Hughes’s team selection however gave a glimmer of hope with Ramadan deputising for Arnie whilst Charlie Boy continued alongside Glenda and Super Jon taking his place on the right wing.
Yet after only a few minutes it was becoming abundantly clear that this West Ham team is a poor imitation of the Payet led side which performed so well last season. This West Ham team are not just out of form but simply poor, a fact which makes the point gained on Saturday feel more like two points lost.
Stoke, missing the magic and goal threat of Shaqiri and Arnie, dominated the opening forty-five minutes without troubling Adrian in the West Ham goal. In fact, Stoke’s only real clear cut chance fell to Bony, who’s glancing header hardly troubled the West Ham keeper and although both Ramadan and Super Jon teased their full backs a number of times the end ball was just not that good enough.
Despite all of Stoke’s dominance it was West Ham who had the best chance of the first half when Grant produced a reflex save to deny Angelo Ogbanna and with the two teams heading into the tunnel at half-time that here we go again Stoke paranoia began to surface once more.
And that paranoia felt justified when after sixty-five minutes a Payet cross was diverted into his own net by Glenda to give the home team a lead they thoroughly didn’t deserve. And with their noses in front West Ham began to grow in confidence as they chased a second goal which would surely have killed the game.
Hughes, seeing his team fall behind, gambled with the introduction of Two Meter Peter and Bojan for the disappointing Bony and Glenda and whilst he may not have the mobility of his younger days the added aerial presence of Stoke’s veteran forward man began to give Adrian the jitters. Every time the ball was launched into the West Ham penalty area the West Ham keeper seemed to have a rush of blood to the head as he left his line to try, unsuccessfully, to claim the ball.
It was one of these rushes of blood to the head which resulted in Stoke’s equalizer when Super Jon bravely chipped the ball past the on rushing Adrian for Bojan to tap into an empty net and although the West Ham keeper received a yellow card for taking out the Stoke winger I would be interested to see what would have happened if Bojan had missed and Stoke were subsequently awarded a penalty. Whilst Super Jon was not faced with a clear goal scoring chance the rugby tackle which he received would surely have resulted in a red card for Adrian if Stoke hadn’t of scored.
Stoke remain 12th going into the final international break of the year and with a couple of winnable games coming up should be looking to break into the top half before December’s nightmare fixture run commences but as always there are a few things which need to be taken into consideration:
- Another good game from Ramadan but, at the moment, he is no Arnoe or Shaqiri. A good third choice winger he needs to be getting match day experience and should be on the bench when his senior colleagues are available again
- Wilfried didn’t have his best game in a Stoke shirt and clearly missed Arnie and Shaqiri. Although Two Meter Peter created problems when he came on we desperately need a second striker as back up to the Ivorian
- With both Charlie Boy and Bojan producing the goods Stoke are showing they have quality back up for their first team players but Clumsy and Allen, if fit, should retain their places after the break and Hughes needs to avoid the temptation to tinker with a winning formula to give his bench players game time.
- With two winnable home games coming up, as well as a trip to a Watford team thumped by Liverpool, Stoke are on a run of fixtures which sees us play against the weaker teams in the division. But we can’t let complacency seep in and Hughes needs to ensure his team approach the upcoming matches with the positive attitude they have showed in recent weeks.
Stoke Giraffe of the Week Erik Pieters
Stoke Lemon of the Week Wilfried Bony
Lee Grant – 7 Excellent reflex save in the first half and unlucky for West ham’s goal.
Phil Bardsley – 7 Typical old fashioned full back’s display complete with foul and abusive tirades aplenty. Needs to keep his mouth shut otherwise less lenient refs will take his name
Ryan Shawcross – 8 A true skippers performance and a huge sigh of relief emanated from the Stoke fans when he returned to the field after an injury scare.
Bruno Martin Indi – 6 Got outmuscled a couple of times and his passing seemed more flustered than usual.
Erik Pieters – 8 From Lemon to Giraffe, anything that went down the West Ham right was dealt with easily by the Dutchman and provided a calming influence for Ramadan in front of him.
Glen Whelan – 7 Did what he was asked to do well and was unlucky for the own goal.
Charlie Boy – 7 Not so much a presence going forward as he was against Swansea but was a calming presence in the middle of the park.
Joe Allen – 7 After his recent goal scoring form can be excused for sometimes shooting on sight but needs to look up every now and again rather than just putting his foot through the ball
Super Jon – 8 A match which suited his more combative approach to wide play and was brave to set up Bojan’s equaliser
Ramadan – 7 Not quite as impressive as against Swansea but looked menacing and worked hard tracking back
Wilfried – 5 Missed having players close to him and meandered out of the game.
Bojan – 7 In the right place at the right time to give Stoke the equaliser they deserved
Two Meter Peter – 7 His presence alone seemed to send Adrian into meltdown
Mame Diouf – 6 Didn’t really have enough time to make an impression
Mark Hughes – 8 Another solid team selection and his substitutions worked
Andre Mariner – 8 Unobtrusive and let the game flow, the only negative if I was a referees’ adjudicator would be not talking to Bardlsey about his continued foul and abusive language