The day started well with a full English at Wetherspoons and lots of positive vibes about getting a result against our bogey side. ‘This is it, it’s our time, we can do it, they’ve got nothing to offer, the big man’s back in the heart of our defence’, you know all the usual stuff we say trying to convince ourselves we can beat them!
At this point I’d like to welcome back ‘Mickey 2 fones’ who’s just spent a month in Thailand – I’ll leave you to make your own minds up! – so he’s missed a few games, but made up for it with comfort eating by the look of him!
After arriving at Trentham we had some medicinal refreshments just to calm our nerves; but upon leaving the premises, a Stokie decided to inform us of our line up which included Cox and Fortune up front! What? NO Long, OMG is it worth going or should we stay in the pub and calm our nerves even more! Well, we’ve bought the tickets and travelled up there, so the least we could do is go and freeze to death whilst cheering the boys on.
Once again the atmosphere was electric as 10,000 – ok, a slight exaggeration but it sounded like it – Baggies fans sang their hearts out in hope more than expectation.
There’s no Scharner in the middle of the park, but Olsson’s fit again and Tamas is in for Jara. Good call Mr H, at least we should be solid at the back and able to handle their long ball tactics better, even if we’re not going to threaten much at the other end!
As the game kicks off the wind was gusting across the pitch so we were waiting for the onslaught of long throws (yawn), giant punts out of defence and the usual wrestling matches that seem to accompany most Stoke games.
We seemed to settle the quickest as the ball was passed on the ground from side to side and back to front. Thomas causing Woodgate all kinds of problems, Cox his usual energetic self, Mulumbu tackling everything that moved with Mozza and Dozza picking the pieces up in midfield and using the ball wisely. The back four were well marshalled by the big man and looked solid and determined not to be intimated by bullyboy tactics.
Upfront was the lone figure of Marc-Antoine Fortune making his first Premier League start of the season, how was he going to cope with Stoke’s physical style?
Thomas had the first attempt on goal which was saved by Sorensen and we seemed to be breaking at will – whereas the Potters couldn’t get in to their stride. Their first real attack came on 20 minutes when Olsson misjudged a long ball and McAuley seemed to slip which allowed Walters a run through on goal. But Macca managed to regain his feet to make a brilliant block.
Not long after we all thought we’d scored as Morrison carried the ball forward and unleashed a thunderbolt which Sorensen somehow managed to get his fingertips to and push on to the bar.
That gave us hope as we continued to dominate with our neat passing game.
On 35 minutes, Mozza picked the ball up in a more central position and drove at their defence.
As they backed off he unleashed a low drive which looked harmless enough until it swerved at the last minute and deceived Sorensen and trickled over the line. This is it, our luck’s changed, it’s our day, we’re going to beat our bogey side.
Oh no, there’s 55 minutes left. Do we really think we could last that long without them getting a dodgy refereeing decision or a fluky goal................................no chance!
We continued to control the game and play at our pace, knocking the ball about and seeing the half out.
After the break
Stoke came out second half fired up as you’d expect but the lads followed Roy’s instructions to the letter and continued to play free flowing attacking football.
Dorrans was pushing forward with great purpose, with Thomas working his socks off tracking back and making tackles.
The Baggies could have extended their lead even further when Fortune had a shot blocked by Huth; Morrison then hit the post with an excellent volley; Cox brilliantly controlled a goal kick from Foster but shot tamely and Thomas decided to cut back inside instead of shooting when in on goal.
Then it happened..................................the first bit of football Stoke play and they get a dubious penalty, typical. Oh well, if we could hold on for another 20 minutes or so then a draw wouldn’t be such a bad result. Hang on a mo, Mr Foster has different ideas and makes a great save down to his right to deny Walters. It’s definitely our day, we’re gonna beat our bogey side at last!
With the clock ticking down and Stoke throwing everything at us, including their theee subs, we were hit by a sucker punch. Substitute Pennant – god knows why he didn’t start but thank you Mr Pulis – tried to get to the byline but was caught by Mulumbu and fell over. He got up to take the free-kick and whipped the ball in to the near post where Cameron Jerome out jumped Tamas to head past Foster.
No it can’t be, we’ve played brilliantly, had 4 or 5 chances to kill the game off, took everything Stoke could throw at us, out sung them and we concede to a sloppy goal with only 4 minutes to go. Right then, batten down the hatches and shut up shop, there’s no way we can lose this one, is there?
But wait, one final push sees Stoke concede a free kick 25 yards out just to the right of Sorensen’s goal. Come on Dozza, plant the ball high in the box and hope one of our defenders can get a nick on it to guide it in.
Nope, why change the way we play now? Dorrans composes himself and hits the ball hard and low passed the wall and we all watch as it eludes everyone and curls into the bottom left hand corner. GOAL, 2-1, perhaps it might be our day after all. I’ve never seen the Britannia Stadium empty so quickly.
We’re still celebrating when the ref blows for full time. We’ve done it and its only took 30 years, tremendous.
It was a real team performance with every man giving their all. They worked their socks off for 94 minutes and they did us proud. And in answer to the earlier question: how would Fortune cope?.....................BRILLIANTLY. Marc-Antoine Fortune was back to his best and caused them all kinds of problems, well done kidda.
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