After last weekend's heroic performance at the home of football it would have been easy for TP to make a few changes and for us to put on a below par display at Villa Park against a team who have themselves really struggled this season.
Instead the gaffer chose to go with the same XI that so comprehensively ripped Bolton to shreds and they repaid his faith by really taking the game to Villa in the first half. In truth the first 42 minutes were all Stoke and we could have been out of sight had Brad Friedal not made two excellent saves to deny both Huthy and Kenwyne goals before the rejuvenated man from Trinidad expertly found the top corner following a Rory rocket.
Our dominance was illustrated perfectly by the Villa Park scoreboard which just prior to Bent scoring with a well taken header (that we should have stopped the cross for though) showed that our hosts had failed to produce a shot or even a corner in almost a full half of football. Bizarrely the home fans treated us to a rendition of "how d'you watch this every week?" straight after they scored! I guess there's none so blind as those who cannot see and judging by this particular chant most Villa fans must have travelled to the match wearing dark glasses and carrying a white stick!
Still we're used to being portrayed as the pariah of football by now, if only to mask the shortcomings of the opposition and this weekend was no different. I suppose it would be too much to expect fans to be honest (although on the whole we seem to manage it) and admit that we're nowhere near as bad as they make out and if their own teams played as well as they reckon they can we'd get turned over on a regular basis and be cut adrift at the foot of the table.
Sadly for these blinkered snobs we aren't and look a good bet to finish in the top half of the league as well as having an F.A. Cup Final to look forward to. I personally don't care what other fans think of us but it would be nice to see some proper "old skool" fans who appreciate the traditional game and can at least show a degree of objectivity when discussing a match.
Talking of being objective I should mention the second half where Villa came much more into the game as it appeared that several of our lads were beginning to suffer from "Wembley legs". The home side enjoyed far more possession but if we're honest never really looked like troubling our back line with Ryan and the Berlin Wall looking on fine form. We still had our moments going forward though, especially after Ric was introduced. Both Fuller and Walters had the ball in the net but were both flagged off-side. I have seen the one Ricardo tucked home and he was clearly beyond the last man. As yet I haven't watched the replay of Super Jon's effort though. He appeared to be at least level and it was Ryan who was the man the assistant referee flagged for. I didn't think our skipper was interfering with play at the time but I'm told that perhaps he was so maybe the officials got it right?
Late on in the game, Ric collapsed in a heap and we have subsequently heard that he has suffered an achilles injury. Hopefully it will only be a strain rather than anything more serious because if any player in our current squad deserves an appearance in a cup final for Stoke City it is our talismanic Jamaican who has been a shining beacon throughout our progress over the last five years.
The games are coming thick and fast now and on Tuesday we entertain our friends from Wolverhampton. This fixture represents a huge opportunity to put any lingering doubts about our Premier League status to bed once and for all. Clearly it will be a tough match as the lads from the Molineux are battling for their lives but if we play to our potential, we know that we are more than capable of claiming three points. We have been tremendous at the Brit since the turn of the year and it would be great if we could remain unbeaten at home until the end of the season.
So here's to three points on Tuesday and a brilliant day out in Blackpool next weekend!
See you there!