It may have been tight, but Stoke City’s victory over Fulham at the Britannia means the Potters can almost safely say they will now be looking up in the Premier League table for the rest of the season, rather than over their shoulders.
Indeed, the game’s only goal, coming for the second consecutive home game through Charlie Adam, now places Tony Pulis’ men comfortably in 12th position, level on points with Liverpool and only a point behind Champions League-chasing Tottenham. More importantly, Stoke are now a good six points ahead of the drop zone.
It certainly was not pretty and indeed by the end of the clash, the Potters were hanging on somewhat, particularly with Dimitar Berbatov looking in menacing form once more for Fulham. But frankly, Pulis and the Stoke faithful will not care one jot about that. Fundamentally, it was a performance and result that typifies Stoke since their entrance into the Premier League back in 2008.
While the Potters may not always be the most exciting team to watch, certainly in terms of goals scored this campaign, they remain one of the league’s lowest scorers. Pulis’ side appears to have mastered the ability to get results when necessary, particularly at the Britannia.
Rewind back three league games and, following their dispiriting defeat Norwich, a relegation battle looked a distinct possibility for Stoke this season. However, seven points from their next three matches, including maximum points at the Britannia, have almost completely eradicated any such fears.
Indeed, with another home clash to come next week against an out-of-form Newcastle outfit, the Potters could even find themselves in the top half of the table. Not bad for a side that, by common consensus, have failed to hit any sort of heights this season.
There remains issues of concern in the Potteries of course, particularly regarding Pulis’ selection choices. His loyalty to the likes of Glenn Whelan and Jonathan Walters, two palpably out-of-form players, is questionable. They could be replaced by the quicker and hungrier Michael Kightly, Kenwyne Jones or Cameron Jerome.
However, much praise should be attributed to Stoke’s backline. Ryan Shawcross may have endured an international baptism of fire against Zlatan Ibrahimovic for England but there is no doubting his club partnership with Robert Huth provides the solid foundations for the Potters’ attacking talents to win matches.
While holes can be picked in each other’s individual games, there is no doubting that their partnership is one of the best in the Premier League at the moment and flanked by the quietly industrious and equally impressive Geoff Cameron, the Potters have a defence that may not quite have the names of some of the other Premier League clubs, but as a unit, match up with the very best in the country.
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