Monday, October 19

Irons battered by Potters

Stoke City 2 West Ham 1

After last season’s bank holiday fiasco involving an enforced change at Derby to wait for a one-carriage train to Stoke, it’s reassuring to find that the Virgin Pendolino only takes one hour and 20 minutes from London to Stoke. Indeed it's surprising we haven't been linked with Virgin Pendolino, whom Nani probably thinks is a chaste but speedy Italian midfielder.

There’s even time to check out some family history and visit the house my mum was born in. So it’s down the London Road and past the oatcake shop and chippy and the former pottery turned into a park. It’s quite a posh house for Stoke, in that it’s semi-detached and has a garden, rather than a yard. My grandfather was a regular at Stoke and today I’m meeting my mum’s cousin Terry for an expedition in to the Boothen End.

We’re fortified by several pints of “Peddy” (Marston’s Pedigree) in the The Gardeners Retreat, accompanied by City slickers Keith (a closet Port Vale fan) Darren, Mark, and 78-year-old Arsenal turned Stoke fan Vinny. The landlord Ken’s appears to be their version of Carol; they seem quite upset that at the bar he was sociable instead of his usual irascible self. Everyone is mystified why Tuncay can’t get in the side, although they say Etherington gets kicked out of games just like he did for us.

Nigel texts to say that he’s also in Staffordshire at Burton versus Barnet checking out the great Gary Breen in the Barnet defence.

Then it’s a walk down the canal past local sights such as the Incinerator Plant and on to the Britannia, built on the site of an old coal mine.

It’s a pleasure to be in a ground with a proper old-style atmosphere, and the choruses of Delilah and When the Reds go Marching In are certainly intimidating. There’s a bloke in front of us who says long rambling sentences in a thick Potteries accent and I can’t understand a word so I just nod a lot and try not to sound like a soft cockney bastard.

After 10 minutes we’re one down. Fuller backheels it into the path of Matty Etherington (remember him?) and Faubert brings him down for a penalty. It’s a rash challenge and another sign that Faubert is not a natural defender, Beattie pummels the ball into the roof of the net. A winger at right back? Why why why Clarke and Zola?

But slowly we come back into it. Upson receives a kick in the head fro Shawcross but recovers after treatment for a cut. Cole wins a corner and Sorenson hesitates and the unmarked Upson heads home.

The Stoke lads graciously admit that we’re the better team. We’re passing it around very nicely in midfield. Kovac looks very good against Stoke, getting his foot in and playing it simple to his fellow blonde Behrami. With Noble and Collison in support we’re putting together all the passing against the likes of the pedestrian Delap. But it’s no use if we can’t get the ball in the net.

After the break we continue to pass them to death. Diamanti wins a couple of free kicks and has a couple of speculative shots but you still wonder if he’s a show pony or a proper support striker. There are glimpses of ability but not enough to truly support Cole. A fine pass from Behrami puts Cole in on goal but the impressive Shawcross makes a fantastic saving tackle.

But sure enough it’s the direct approach that produces results after 68 minutes. Upson lunges for the ball and goes to ground as Fuller waltzes round him and down the right. Green parries the flying Potter’s shot but Beattie shows more desire than Faubert to get the ball and pokes it into the net, before celebrating in front of us by kicking the advertising hoardings.

“You can stick your fucking bubbles up your arse!” chorus the Stoke fans.

We continue to pass it around and Zola brings on Hines and Stanislas. It’s a great contest between Cole and Shawcross and generally Tomkins has played well at the back. As we’re about to pump a free kick into their box Upson is whacked in the face by Huth. All the officials miss what should have been a red card and a penalty.

Fuller makes another fine run down the right, beating Tomkins but crossing inaccurately. Franco comes on for a couple of minutes but we never really threaten to break down the door and forgive me Delilah, I just couldn't take any more.

I’m back at Euston by 7.20, which is almost quicker than going to WHU. Nigel texts to say that Breen’s Barnet have lost 2-0 and it should have been five. Matt texts to say not to worry we won't be playing Stoke next season unless we get them in the Cup.

So it’s another defeat and a rubbish start to the season. Fine points and second from bottom. But in some way’s today’s performance was encouraging in that we were the better footballing side and deserved a draw.

As Zola said afterwards, it was similar last season when we kept believing in the way we played and then the wins came. Yet it’s worrying that Upson is starting to make the odd mistake and we also need a defensively minded right-back and Diamanti or Hines to come good. But one day our passing game is going to come off and we’ll surely give someone a pasting. Although probably not Arsenal, our next opponents


North Bank Norman said...

Was your proof reader on holiday when you wrote this perchance, Pete?

Apart from the typos, I think Diamanti is the wannabe show-pony, rather than VB, no?

I think this was the first time this season that our PL game wasn't on teevee over here in the States, so for once I can't comment on our performance.

Not expecting too much on Sunday against the highest scorers in the league. Could be another painful afternoon for the claret and blue.

Pete May said...

Yes, can't get the proof-readers these days. It was indeed Diamanti, which I've now changed. Although he proved me wrong against Arsenal...