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From My Seat: Stoke City (A)

By Ken Buckley   ::  15/12/2012 On a dark dank windy day, a full complement of the faithful assembled at the Britannia. Stoke away is never going to be a classic and this game was anything but a classic. I would go as far to say that this was our worst showing of the season so far.

The first half I thought we were marginally the better team; what few chances were created, two of the best fell to us. No Mirallas was a blow and the news that he will be out for weeks is worrying.

The first half started and it took 10 mins for our first bit of joined-up stuff to feature and it almost brought a reward. Pienaar, Osman, Gibson, Coleman and then Gibson again to cross saw Jelavic just fail to make the contact that would have spelt goal. Pienaar had a shot blocked. We had a spell where we seemed in control but this lasted only to the 20-min mark but then reverted to ‘hard to watch.’ Pienaar got robbed near mid way and Jones was put in but he hit his shot high and over.

Back to the scrappy stuff and Stoke were better at scrappy than us. I was crying out for someone to put their foot on the ball and look after it for a while. Stoke attacked down their left for some minutes and we saw some good if desperate at times defending from Coleman.

The game was all over the place now as the wind blew and both teams opted for aerial balls which were handled better by the wind than the players. This approach almost paid off for Stoke when they got forward and N'Zonzi only managed to head straight at Howard — he should have scored.

Naismith then had a goalbound shot cleared from close range for a corner. Then, just 10 mins to the break, Gibson linked up with Pienaar and got the South African down the line and he put in a great cross that was nodded home. Sure looked like an OG by the lack of celebration but the ground announcer gave it to Pienaar — ‘Never!’

We were though 1 - 0 up and something to hang on to. Keep a clean sheet to the break, I thought, but we did better... or nearly did better, when some good intelligent play saw Pienaar and Baines link and Baines got his head up and fed Osman. All he had to do was hit the target. He didn’t and the ball went wide. What a miss and boy how we could have done with that.

Half-time and the chat among the milling concourse half-timers was that Stoke would bombard us and we needed not to go too deep and as we would have the strong wind behind us, not to over hit passes forward but rather get a foot on the ball and a measured build-up. The half started and what did we do? You got it — the exact opposite and within minutes there was an almighty scramble in our box that somehow did not result in a goal and was only ended when Naismith cleared only to Huth who fired over.

That was a hell of a warning but sadly not heeded and, less than 10 mins in, it happened. Direct play saw a ball delivered into the box and someone headed toward goal with no real power, what happened next is hard to describe as Howard seemed to go all flappy and slippy and just let the ball enter the net without any sort of even token resistance. Another Howard howler and on the day he was making his 200th consecutive league appearance for the club. I guess a very good keeper with an almighty rick in him from time to time. Stoke were buoyed by his generosity and came stronger again while we were, not to put to finer point on it, awful.

When we got set pieces we had the usual wrestling in the box which the ref spent quite a bit of time sorting out until he got fed up with it and just let it go on. From one of our set pieces, Shawcross left on the ground as play went on and in most Blue eyes he got what he deserved as he was a major culprit for holding and jostling players; it later emerged that Fellaini head butted him.

Now if that is the case then Fellaini deserves all he gets as he will have let down the club, his team mates, fans, and himself — for someone who professes to want CL footy with Everton, he has at a stroke left us without him for a few games in a busy period. Thanks a bunch. I know Shawcross is widely regarded as a ‘Yard Dog’ throughout the Prem but to stoop to butting is making yourself look even worse than the league’s biggest culprit.

The ref was enraging both players and fans of both teams as he made some bizarre calls. Shawcross and Jelavic clashed, the ref gave nothing; from my seat, it could have been Jelavic off. It will be very interesting to know if the ref did in fact see all the incidents and take no action but rather put them down as 50/50. If not, how the hell could anyone miss all of them.

70 mins and Barkley replaced Naismith; the youngster looked confident and kept his game neat and tidy and took part in a bit of joined-up stuff as we started to look the likelier as the clock ticked down. Stoke threw on Jerome and Crouch as they sensed they may nick it and Jerome did bring a fine save from Howard and Distin headed clear The chance was created by Gibson of all people giving the ball away, it was certainly not one of his better games.

Pienaar fouled near the edge and Gibson took whilst more wrestling was taking place and his kick was turned for a corner which he took after the ref had sorted out more wrestling and punching before it could be taken but it came to nought. Then Fellaini woke up and with some sublime stuff fed Coleman who blotted his copy book, after a not bad game, by making a hash of an attempted cross.

Then, right at the death, Pienaar was fed in and he ran unchallenged into the box, one-on-one... his goal attempt can be most kindly described as ‘crap’.

The worst game I have watched so far; after the goings-on at set pieces, how someone was not sent off or a penalty given (either way), I will never know. I am all in favour of "a man’s game" but all that snide stuff that goes on in the box is far from manly and in my view brings the game into disrepute.

MotM – Distin

Overall I am glad it’s over and to be home. I hope football has moved on a little by the time we play them at home...Watching today, it seemed like both sets of players had decided that the game would be decided by any means bar a game of football. Both sets of fans were passionate but do we all really want our games like that!??

West Ham next and let’s hope it’s a humdinger of a FOOTBALL match and three away points would go a long way to cheer us up after that lot today.
UP THE BLUES

ps: I have now seen the Fellaini incident and one word: ‘Disgusting’.

Reader Comments

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Andy Peers
314 Posted 16/12/2012 at 02:46:34
Just about how the match went. I can not tell you how angry I got at Osman for that miss, was it not easier to score? Pienaar's run was good at the end but why he didn't pass to a wide open Barkley is beyond me. We can not continue with these missed chances, and don't get me started on Howard!
Chris James
331 Posted 16/12/2012 at 08:46:18
The Felliani reaction is unjustifiable, but... Shawcross had his arms around Felliani and was constantly tugging his shirt. That is absolute nonsense and there has to be some clearer ruling about that. We effectively lost 2 points to a ludicrous decision against City but Shawcross's constant harassment was far worse and repeated.
Phil Walling
340 Posted 16/12/2012 at 09:20:25
My sad prediction that we are only good enough to finish 6/7th was re-inforced by yesterday`s appalling finishing. `Half-season wonder`Jelavic is now playing with all the confidence that Moyes inspires in his strikers and has upped his work-rate 60% but unfortunately at the expense of ever appearing a goal threat. And as for Osman's and Pienaar's feeble attempts........

Top four? You gotta be kidding!
Mohammed Horoub
351 Posted 16/12/2012 at 10:17:15
Painful game to watch. Felli let us all down with his reaction and should get a 3-match ban (maybe 2 with the apology). When Osman missed, everyone knew that shot was for the win because when Howard flaps at the goal it was only a question of when not if. I don't know what is wrong with him there's no excuse to let that in... We really need to get competition in January.

Overall it's a good point but Jelavic really needs to get going. A Felli suspension might do the trick as Vellios, Naismith or Barkley will suit his game better.
Michael Winstanley
355 Posted 16/12/2012 at 10:47:27
Horrible to watch. The officials were terrible. Howard had his usual shocker, a new keeper is a must. How did Osman miss the sitter at the end of the first half? As for Pienaar's miss at the death, the least said the better.

I thought it was nice to see Barkley get some game time, he didn't look out of place and, with Fellaini out for a while, hopefully he'll take his chance.

I don't think this is a bad result and I feel for the Stoke faithful having to watch that. I think we're still on course for top four and I'm looking forward to watching how we play without Fellaini and Mirallas over the next few weeks.
Dick Fearon
372 Posted 16/12/2012 at 11:26:07
Ken, you summed it up with, 'they were better than us at the crappy stuff'. Unfortunately our easiest nailed on opportunity fell to the player with the weakest shot in all proffesionaldom.

The second half saw a return of the dithering Davy who we had hoped had gone forever. The game was still in the balance yet it was patently obvious that Stoke’s physical approach was wearing us down.

I applaud the Barclay/ Naismith swap but why on earth did Moyes persevere with the increasingly impotent Osman?!? The situation screamed out for Leon to be replaced by Heitinga.

Christopher Timmins
374 Posted 16/12/2012 at 11:50:14
Folks, thank God that game is out of the way. Stoke City are not my favourite team and thankfully they are in the minority in the manner in which they try and play the game.

Fellaini let down the great traditions of our club yesterday, no matter what the provocation. He will now have to spend some time watching from the stand and hopefully when he comes back he will be a wiser person.

More worringly, long term, is the performance of our Number 1. The mistakes are more frequent and more costly. The sooner the Birminham net minder is brought in to apply some pressure the better.

The system willl have to be changed in the enforced absence of the Belgium. This may be no bad thing as it will make other players stand up and take more responsibility and it may help rather than hinder our centre forward. As a combination our front two do not work and just maybe the Croat will strike form over the next couple of weeks.

Brent Stephens
376 Posted 16/12/2012 at 12:05:27
Dick Fearon — "The situation screamed out for Leon to be replaced by Heitinga".

Are you serious, laddy?! Heitinga is going to create a goal-scoring chance for somebody?!
Dick Fearon
380 Posted 16/12/2012 at 12:19:17
Brent @376, Heitinga would have provided a bit of badly needed backbone at a time when we were under the hammer.

Whatever you think Osman gives the team, it definitely is not backbone.
Jamie Barlow
381 Posted 16/12/2012 at 12:24:55
Dick, you must have seen a different Heitinga than I have.

He would have shit himself against Stoke. The blokes the biggest shithouse at the club.

Dave Weston
397 Posted 16/12/2012 at 12:51:50
I can only hope that the FA or whoever does the judging in these matters give an overall objective and considerate investigation into the Fellaini headbutt etc.

For the whole game, any time Shawcross went anywhere near Fellaini, he had hold of him either by wrapping one or both arms around him or hanging on to his shirt. I do not at any time condone what he did but in mitigating circumstances all these actions against him came to a boiling point and he lost it.

Well done Moyes for telling the truth again (Neville's derby dive) when asked about it in the end of match media interview. It is refreshing to see our manager again not placing himself in other managers' worlds were they continually say things like "I did not see it" or "I thought he went for the ball" or blame everybody else bar their own or whatever excuse they can come up with to hide behind when it is blatant for all to see their players are as guilty as sin — eg, Brendan Rodgers / Suarez et al, SFA and his team, Alan Pardew — the list is endless.

They are all quick to judge and criticise other players or referees but they are not honest when it comes to their own players/teams. Okay, support and back your team/players when it is genuine, but to continue to deny and lie whilst cameras pick up everything nowadays is not only wrong but gives out the wrong message to kids who think they can get away with things because their managers will lie for them. Also makes a right twat of whoever is doing the lying.

If managers and players continue denying they did wrong or the dishonesty by managers will only continue to make the respect or any other campaign to enhance the game a joke. The FA need to pick up on this and try and make managers toe the line when they do the media post-match interviews. The game is dishonest enough as it is with players diving to dishonestly gain an advantage without managers condoning it.

Michael Mcloughlin
400 Posted 16/12/2012 at 13:57:01
Have to say I saw the Fellaini incident and of course it was abhorrent. But I have to say the approach Ryan Shawcross took in defending was nothing short of disgusting too. He would not go amiss in a Saints versus Wigan match with the grabbing and pulling.

How can a game of football develop if we are allowed to use rugby tackles to prevent the opposition to move in the area? The ref was shite for not protecting Fellaini in the first place.
Mike Powell
420 Posted 16/12/2012 at 15:58:29
Dick, are you having a laugh? Heitinga FFS... we would've lost if he had come on. But I do think Ossie should off been taken off for Vellios or Hitzlsperger.
Ben Molloy
439 Posted 16/12/2012 at 17:36:14
I feel bad criticising as I don't get to many games at the moment.. But that effort by Howard yesterday is embarrassing... It was just like the first goal at Fulham... Both times he looked scared of bumping into the post ! Jesus, I could have saved both those shots and I am no keeper !

Add that to his non-interest in the cross that led to the Norwich equalizer and there are 6 points dropped. There are loads of keepers out there, warming benches, far more reliable than him... In my opinion it should be the priority to replace him in January.

Man Utd let Gibson go because of his injuries, Neville because they didn't need his 'leadership qualities', and Howard because they knew he would simply never be good enough... Sorry, he seems like a top bloke, but he just isn't good enough for us either...
Mike Oates
446 Posted 16/12/2012 at 18:18:05
I fear that the situation we are in with Howard will cost us big time this season. His positional play isso poor, he stands right on his line for freekicks/crosses against us and at Fulham, Norwich and yesterday this leaves him vunerable as he cannot fully extend his dive as he will hit the post. So his arms, body, legs are too compact and he gets no purchase on the ball at all, and to all and sundry he flaps at it and actually cant prevent it entering the net. And by the look on the players faces yesterday they just shrugged.
David Hallwood
451 Posted 16/12/2012 at 18:29:30
Good report as ever Ken; to continue the debate about Howard, he was also at fault for the first Newcastle goal, and the Southampton goal; he's having a mare of a season and needs a spell on the bench. I see Shay Given has fallen out of favour at Villa; short term fix perhaps?
Dick Fearon
489 Posted 16/12/2012 at 21:45:33
Say what you like about Heitinga but unlike Osman he does not completely disappear from the action when the going gets tough.

I agree with others who would have opted for Hitzlsperger or Vellios. Such was the need for a battler, I would have swapped Osman for anyone with two legs and a pulse.
Ian Allaker
492 Posted 16/12/2012 at 22:16:44
Its not just a one off miss with Osman, the ball always seems to fall to him in good positions around the box but he continues to waste good opertunities. Would love to have seen Vellios, Hitz or Barkley come on for him.

Again the same goes for Howard, fair enough everyone makes mistakes, but it is getting rediculous now, its just not good enough at this level. He has been an excelent servant for the club but something is badly wrong with him. I think he needs to spend some time on the bench and have a break, 200 consecutive appearances seems to have finally caught up with him.

Ryan Holroyd
503 Posted 16/12/2012 at 23:12:14
John Heitinga is the biggest phoney "hard man" in the league. An utter shithouse who would have shit himself against Stoke. I'd have brought Vellios on, not that I rate him that much.

Pat Finegan
522 Posted 17/12/2012 at 00:52:19
Fellaini should serve a three game ban. Shawcross should serve a one game ban for instigating. When you bear hug a guy, you're kicking a hornet's nest. Fellaini was wrong and deserves whatever ban he gets. I think it would be daft though, to suggest that what Shawcross did all game in his "defending" was anything less than reprehensible. Fellaini acted out physically, Shawcross cheated. Acting out physically is worse than cheating but the FA should view this as an opportunity to address not only Fellaini's idiocy but also the thugs that provoked it.
Anto Byrne
531 Posted 17/12/2012 at 03:44:52
I didn't see the game so looked forward to your report (it's almost as though I'm there anyway).

It looks like Howard is having a crisis with confidence. Moyes should rest him just like he did with Coleman. 200 games without a break perhaps he does need a rest. I don't know if our back up Mucha is any good?

Osman has never been a prolific goalscorer; I was considering bringing Cahill back as our new style of play may suit his goalscoring prowess from midfield but I reckon Tim is probably past it and I would prefer to see some natural goalscorer brought on. Barkley was putting them away at Wednesday so maybe this is the answer.

After the way Vellios performed I thought he would've got the nod ahead of Naismith as he seems to be out of his depth at the moment. I'm not saying he won't come good with games but he looks off the pace sometimes. I thought from what I'd seen of him, his best position was right midfield protecting Coleman when he went forward, which is something Neville should've been doing.

Fellaini... well, he is far to inconsistent and not a forward in my book. I prefer him in midfield and doing the business from there. The Sunderland and Spurs games are the case in point, we put on a real centre forward and Jelavic thrives from the crumbs and half-chances.

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