Stoke Club Focus – Season up and running

Stoke produced the type of determined and resolute performance which has typified their style of play under the management of Tony Pulis to achieve a goalless draw against Chelsea at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday, ensuring they opened their 2011-2012 Premier League point’s tally at the first time of asking.

In a game where Stoke defended stoically and survived several second half Chelsea penalty appeals, the Potters once again showed that they are capable of making life uncomfortable for their more illustrious Premier League counterparts. However for long spells in the second half target man Kenwyne Jones became extremely isolated due to his strike partner Jonathan Walters having to drop back to help-out in midfield, which ultimately made it difficult for Stoke to threaten a winner of their own.

Nevertheless, manager Pulis was eager to commend the performance of his side in keeping Chelsea’s star-studded squad at bay in his post-match interview with Sky Sports. “Of course it’s a good point. We’re delighted. First half we gave them a game, we were competitive and did some good things going forward. Second half we dropped off a little bit and Chelsea came into it,” said Pulis before singling Jonathan Woodgate out for special praise. “I just think he has been fantastic since he’s come into the club. That’s the third clean sheet now we’ve got and he has played a big part in it.” Additionally Pulis has declared his belief to goal.com that Woodgate and fellow new signing Matthew Upson will help with the development of Stoke’s younger players. “He’ll be a great role model for other players in the team. We need experience. Matty Upson & Woody (Woodgate) will do that. They will give us depth and experience the younger players in the team will learn from.”

Therefore whilst the Stoke camp can be content at their opening weekend’s work of the 2011/12 Premier League season it did arrive at a cost with both Matthew Etherington and Rory Delap sustaining injuries. Etherington was withdrawn an hour into Stoke’s stalemate with Chelsea after he landed heavily on his shoulder, which various media sources claim he will have X-Rayed early this week. As one of Stoke’s main creative outlets, the results of Etherington’s X-Ray will be eagerly awaited by Tony Pulis who will hope it does not reveal a dislocation of his winger’s shoulder. Furthermore, Delap’s injury, thought to be a recurrence of a previous hamstring problem, has led to Pulis re-emphasising the importance of Stoke adding new members to their current squad. “We will have to wait and see how they are,” Pulis told BBC Sport of his injured midfield duo before going on to add”“But it makes it even more important that we bring in four or five players over the next fortnight to bolster the squad.”

Subsequently with Pulis focusing on adding rather than reducing his squad size, it is highly unlikely that defender Ryan Shotton will be farmed out to Ipswich on loan which was rumoured to be a possibility by BBC Sport.

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