The happiness around the Britannia was palpable and yet when Peter Crouch notched his second against Swansea to all but secure Stoke’s first victory of the season at their sixth attempt, there was no mass hysteria or relief from the Potters’ supporters – simply satisfaction that the expected victory was achieved to finally kick-start their season.
Indeed, Stoke’s defeat at Chelsea last week had hardly pushed Tony Pulis and his team into the relegation battle but with tough fixtures on the horizon, it was evident to everyone that the visit of Swansea was one that simply had to result in three home points.
It was fitting that Crouch was to be Stoke’s hero. The England international had been on target the last time the Potters won, 11 games ago and has been one of Stoke’s more impressive players so far this season. Swansea simply could not handle the beanpole striker as Crouch helped himself to a brace and could have had a hat-trick had he not hit the bar late on with a header late on.
The Potters undoubtedly slowed it down in the second-half after their fast start and allowed Swansea to come back into the game somewhat but in truth, Pulis’ side always looked comfortable and able to step it up again if need be. It was a thoroughly professional performance, the type that Stoke have perfected ever since their arrival in the Premier League, and especially at the Britannia.
Crouch aside, Pulis will have been pleased by the continuation of the burgeoning midfield partnership of Steven N’Zonzi and Charlie Adam. The two deadline-day signings both look a significant upgrade on Stoke’s previous midfield options and rank as a superb piece of business by the management and club hierarchy. Elsewhere, Matt Etherington emerged from the bench again to step up his return from injury and his dangerous crosses for Crouch towards the end of the second-half signified his importance to the team.
Additionally, Jonathan Walters looks to have reacted to the signing of Michael Owen by seemingly adding more graft, commitment and endeavour to his displays. Crouch may have scored the goals but it was the hustling Walters that really caused Swansea’s backline discomfort. Both the fans and the media may be aching to see Owen get a regular run in the first team but one has to say on this form, Walters and Crouch just cannot be removed from the Stoke starting line-up.
All in all, it made for a very satisfying afternoon for Pulis’ men and they can now travel to Liverpool and Manchester United in their text two league clashes confident that even if they to return to the Potteries with no points from the two trips, then the victory over Swansea has at least guaranteed them some breathing space. However, judging by the way the Potters performed at Stamford Bridge last week even in defeat, discount Pulis’ side at your own peril.
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