Good Evening Positivistas,
Final whistle at the Britannia just blown as I begin to write. Overall I am pleased with not just the point but with the performance. Stoke may have changed their spots under Mr Hughes but there is still that very physical core to their game that, on other cold, Sundays afternoons over the past few seasons, we have not dealt with. A tense final eight minutes I thought when a little careless passing put our goal under threat. After Wednesday I am sure we were all on edge for those final ssssssllllllloooowwww few minutes …….but despite the sensation of time slowing, or even reversing at one point, the end finally came.
Did I mention no one who has won the PL has ever lost at the Britannia in the same season ?
I thought I had.
Who shone and what we did well in the old gold? I thought Nacho was superb today, and the contest between the Spaniard and Walters was between two intelligent, very fit professionals. Any error or weakness would have been pounced on but Nacho concentrated for 93 minutes and I doubt Walters has had as frustrating ninety minutes in front of the baying, toothless mob of home fans in a long time.
The Ox I also think produced the level of performance that has been trying to burst out for a few weeks. He was out creative spring in the middle of the park, loads of energy, winning the ball, turning, twisting, trying to pick out that special ball. Good to watch and it will have given his confidence a boost for sure.
What we did well I thought was control and retain the ball for long periods across midfield. For much of the second half Stoke were pinned back, if the ball was cleared it was quickly recovered and returned. Where we let ourselves down, and perhaps where we missed out German playmaker on the afternoon, was using all that possession in the final third of the pitch, in front of the home side’s goal. We opened Stoke up just once, with Giroud’s shot excellently saved by Butland in the first half. Too often I felt the Stoke defenders had a few seconds to regroup and our threat battered itself against the rocks. It is a defect that will soon be erased with players returning.
Much as it pains me to admit it Shawcross, Peters, Wolfschied etc, and behind them Jack Butland, are a formidable defence. Composed under pressure, even in the second half phase when they were unable to get out of their half. Probably not much to do with the Hughes and the ghost of Pulis rattles his chains loudly.
Less satisfactory this afternoon ? Having clearly made a mug of Wolfschied in the first minute, and attracted referee Pawson’s attention to the defender’s clumsy foul, (and having the elderly and overweight Glenn Johnson in front of him) I settled down to watch Theo make his mark. Wrong Andrew. A couple of useful interventions by Theo later but, on an afternoon which cried out for speed against the Stoke back four, the contribution was not there. ‘In’ occasionally, ‘out’ quite a lot. He was apparently surprised when being substituted. I will be surprised if the boy starts next week, although Chelsea do suffer from theophobia.
Did not see any injuries to our players today. Compared to previous bloodbaths in Staffordshire the violence was tea-party level today.
Two draws and points to match. Not the six, or even the four points, I suspect we all hoped for before the kick off on Wednesday. Nevertheless back to the top of the pile again. A good week off to rest and recuperate.
Enjoy what is left of your Sunday.