Stoke Focus – Pulis faces questions after poor Swansea defeat

Ultimately it may have only been the scantest of consolations, but Michael Owen’s first goal for Stoke City, his 150th in the Premier League, did at least provide some cheer to the travelling Potters’ fans for their treacherous journey home in near-Arctic conditions.

However, you will be hard-pressed to find any Stoke fan truly jubilant about Owen’s strike, so poor were Tony Pulis’ team in their 3-1 collapse at Swansea.

The trip to the Liberty Stadium was always going to be a difficult occasion for Stoke. The Welsh side have been in good form of late, particularly at home, while Stoke have not won in the Premier League since their barnstorming win over Liverpool in Boxing Day, with their last two games seeing them ship seven goals without reply against heavyweights Chelsea and Manchester City.

But there was a feeling that with Swansea having more than one eye on the second leg of their Capital One Cup semi final with Chelsea in midweek, Stoke, who themselves achieved a morale-boosting 4-1 victory over Crystal Palace on Tuesday, could impose their power on the Swans and take advantage of any possible lack of intensity on their part.

Instead, in a goalless first half, the away side seemed to have retreated to their default mechanism of the early weeks of the season of sitting back and allowing the Swans, who indeed did make a sluggish start, to dictate the play.

Having ridden out any Stoke pressure, Michael Laudrup’s side came out firing for the second half, with three extremely well-taken goals putting the Potters to the sword and sending Pulis’ men home with their tails firmly between their legs.

The first half was clearly where the game was going to be won and lost and thus Pulis will perhaps admit to making an error in judgement with regards to team selection.

Firstly, handing Peter Crouch his first league start since November made sense on paper given the fact that his last two goals of the season came in the 2-0 home victory against the Swans back in September. There was also the continued speculation surrounding Kenwyne Jones’ possible move to the Liberty Stadium hanging over the squad.

However, the England international has been in poor form of late, while Jones, who has been playing excellently, will surely have relished an opportunity to showcase his abilities to Laudrup and the watching Swansea crowd.

Despite the defeat however, the situation remains far from critical at the Britannia. Stoke’s previous excellent run still leaves them comfortably placed in 10th position, although they are now four points behind ninth-placed Swansea.

With league games to come against Wigan, Reading, Fulham, West Ham and Newcastle, Tony Pulis will be confident of getting his side back on track before too long.

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