For the third time this season, Charlie Adam scored the only goal of a Premier League match at the Britannia to give Stoke three points.
After finding the net in previous successes against QPR and Fulham, the Scot’s take-down and finish from Peter Crouch’s lay-off may prove to be his side’s most important goal of the season as it took Tony Pulis’ men to 12th position and more importantly, the 40-point mark which should guarantee safety.
It certainly was not pretty, neither in terms of the goal or the performance but at this stage of the season, it is points that are required and a second consecutive win after the vitory at QPR last week has all but ensured Stoke will remain in the Premier League for another season.
However, there remains the feeling that all is not well in the Potteries. The atmosphere at the Britannia was quiet throughout. It certainly did not have the feel of a vital encounter in which a home win was needed to avoid the drop. Indeed, in campaigns past even end-of-season mid-table clashes were afforded more noise than the visit of Norwich.
When the final whistle came, there were celebrations, but they were those of muted relief rather than the hope and pride we have come to expect from Stoke’s fanatical support. Indeed, post-match there was no celebratory mood from the coaching staff either, with manager Pulis refusing to allow his players to talk to the media until safety had been secured, despite the fact that in reaching 40 points, that target has been effectively reached.
Perhaps the problem is that although the victory was secured, the manner of it summed up the apathy that surrounds the team at the moment. In the last two weeks, Stoke appear to have gone back to basics and it was no surprise to see the winning goal come from a direct long ball, nodded on by Crouch and scruffily put away by Adam.
A good, effective goal but hardly the sort of football that will set the pulses racing of anyone, let alone those Stoke supporters who turn up and watch it every weekend. Yes, Stoke are safe but for how much longer can a club that has invested so much money in recent years continue to get by on this sort of football?
Clubs at the bottom of the table can struggle to play in a more enterprising manner but anyone who has followed Stoke ever since their promotion to the top flight will tell you that such displays are very much the norm.
The Potters are still of course not completely safe mathematically but with games against Sunderland and Southampton to come, with another home match against Tottenham sandwiched in between, Pulis will surely feel there are at least a couple more points to come for his side before the end of the season.
See what the expert tipsters are tipping on OLBG