With all the furore over Marouane Fellaini’s frankly preposterous assault on Ryan Shawcross, yet another decision which will infuriate Tony Pulis – who only last week wrote to the FA complaining about perceived unfairness from referees towards his side – it has almost been forgotten that Stoke managed to secure a 1-1 draw against one of the form sides in the Premier League and continue an unbeaten run that stretches back to a defeat against Norwich in early November.
After going a goal down early in the first-half to a Shawcross own goal and nearly conceding what would have surely been a crucial second when Leon Osman dragged a shot wide, Stoke responded in true Pulis fashion. A roaring second-half display saw them equalise through a typically combative header from Kenwyne Jones before Stoke went on to pepper the Everton goal in search of the victory with Jones, Cameron Jerome and Peter Crouch all going close to finding the goal that would have taken them up to seventh position.
Jones’ equaliser capped a superb few weeks for the Trinidad and Tobago international who, in the space of just over two and a half seasons at the Britannia, has gone from being the club’s record signing to forgotten man after the arrival of Peter Crouch, to now usurping the England international in the starting line-up after a good run of form that has seen him prove highly effective to the team.
No one has ever doubted the striker’s ability to wreak havoc in the opposition box on his day. The problem is that his day would never come often enough or consistently enough for a player managed by Pulis. Simply, there was no point being unbeatable in the air against Arsenal if against the Premier League’s cannon fodder, Jones would simply fail to turn up. Such instances saw Pulis bring in Crouch, a lesser force of nature at his very best but simply more consistent in performance as well as goals.
Crouch’s arrival saw Jones sidelined with Pulis deeming them too similar to play together after a handful of unconvincing performances when paired alongside each other, preferring the smaller Jonathan Walters alongside Crouch. However, various knocks and suspensions to the latter of late has left room open for Jones to return and the 28-year-old has shown a hunger that has been missing for much of his Stoke career. Indeed, the delight on his face after scoring the equaliser against Everton told you everything you needed to know about his state of mind at the moment.
What Jones’ return to prominence gives Stoke going into this busy period of fixtures is options. The Potters can often be accused of being too reliant on Crouch and Walters but now with Jones on the scene, aided by the sprightly substitute performances of Jerome, Stoke may finally beginning to find some real attacking ammunition.
See what the expert tipsters are tipping on OLBG