Delap 28,Whelan 58, Crouch 72 – Rochina 86
Just after the second-half began, this game between Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers had to be stopped briefly to clear some plastic bags off the pitch. “What a load of rubbish,” went the ironic chant round the ground. It was a more than adequate statement about the game. Despite the number of goals, this was never one for the purists, and was never likely to be.
Some were talking about Stoke as potential top-four finishers after their summer acquisitions and an opening to the season which saw them draw with Chelsea and beat Liverpool. Fast forward two months and they’ve lost four on the bounce and going into this match only bottom-of the table Wigan had poorer form.
The other team in the form-table bottom three was Blackburn Rovers and there was always a feeling that of the trio Stoke were the ones who unlikely to hang around in that position.
So it was that the Potters heaped yet more pressure on beleaguered Rovers boss Steve Kean with their biggest win of the season. Blackburn have scored in every one of their away games this season, a record they maintained with a late consolation from Ruben Rochina but on the flip side they ship more goals than the Titanic took on water and they’ve got the same sinking feeling. Following this game they have the most porous defence in the division.
Kean would have been the happier of the two managers before his side’s defensive frailties kicked in after 28 minutes. Steven N’Zonzi, who on another day might already have been sent off for a challenge on Glenn Whelan, needlessly fouled Peter Crouch. Jermaine Pennant whipped in the ball with pace for Rory Delap to head home. It was the only entertaining part of a first-half which saw just three shots between the two sides.
Inside the first 10 minutes of the second-half came two misses which summed up the poor quality of football on display. First Rochina went on a mazy run into the Stoke box before back heeling from the byline Mauro Formica, who had a clean shot at goal, swung at the ball but completely failed to connect. Less than 10 minutes later Robert Huth had a free header but failed to get the ball on target. Both were schoolboy errors but it was Stoke who remained unpunished when Jonathan Walters set up Whelan, his shot benefiting from a double deflection.
Crouch sealed the points that would move Stoke briefly back into the top half of the table with a side-footed shot after Blackburn’s woeful defence allowed a hoofed ball to bounce behind them.
Despite his recent pay rise, Rovers manager boss Kean looks increasingly out of his depth having overseen a run of just one win in 13 games and the travelling fans made their feelings more than clear at the end of the game. A point or more for Wigan against Sunderland would see Rovers finish the weekend bottom of the table a place, on this performance, they seem likely to stay.
Stoke (4-4-2): Sorensen; Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson; Pennant (Whitehead 70), Whelan, Delap, Etherington; Walters, Crouch (Jones 82).
Blackburn (4-4-2): Robinson; Lowe, Hanley, Dann, Givet; Formica (Roberts 69), N’Zonzi, Pedersen; Rochina, Yakubu, Hoilett.
Did you know… This was only the second time this season Stoke had led at half-time.