Sunday, October 6, 2020
A point at Stoke is good, particularly if you compare it with the abject display at the BET 365 at the end of last season. But any game that you’re winning with five to go that you end up drawing feels like a disappointment.
Nevertheless, the last game before the first international break of the season confirms a solid start for Karanka’s team in what was for great parts a dull game, particularly in the first half.
Back to the 4-5-1 for away games with Toral coming in for Hogan. The number 10 is pivotal in this system for any attacking ambitions you might have, and, one nice flick to release Jukey apart, Toral failed to make much impact and the early attacking promise in the first half came to nothing as Stoke ended the first period in the ascendency. Fletcher hit the bar with a free kick and Gregory managed to head over, or maybe wide, when it was easier to score on the stroke of half time.
In the second half, just as you thought it was about Blues holding out for a goalless draw, Colin won a corner down the right. A lovely delivery from the lively-throughout Sanchez was met by the captain and you thought that the rehabilitation of Harlee Dean was complete.
Roberts came on for Bela in a statement of intent that what we have we hold, but the other substitution, Crowley for Toral, actually made Blues into more of an attacking threat, his link up play with Sanchez almost broke through Stoke’s defence on a number of occasions.
Of course, just as you thought one thing, we could add to our lead here, the opposite happens. Such is football all too often. Stoke’s substitute Campbell had already giving notice that he could give Pedersen problems with runs down the right, when he repeated the trick on 86 and another Stoke substitute, Powell, bundled the ball in off Dean with Etheridge wrong footed. So, we were back to holding out for a point, which we duly did without too much trouble.
Good points were Sanchez, particularly second half, Crowley knitting it together better than Toral, Sunjic’s positional play and the lack of work that Etheridge actually had to do. Still questions about how we are going to score enough goals to win matches, but maybe Crowley’s performance gave a clue as to how it could work. Personally, I’d also like to see more of Gardner’s ball carrying drive from midfield as well.
This game was like the start of the season; steady and unspectacular – a vast improvement from the end of last season.
Stoke 1 – Blues 1