As fans we all tend to set our club’s personal targets during the course of the season and I’m no different. Despite our last two relatively comfortable seasons and the fact that we are progressing nicely the psychological barrier of 40 points is something fans of the majority of Premier League clubs aspire to before a ball is kicked.
I’m sure like me you also look at each month’s fixtures and try to predict how many points may be gleaned from each four week period. As we know those “educated” guesses rarely work out (which is why our Chairman is a rich man!) However one target that I do hold some stock in is the wish for Stoke to reach the twenty point mark by Christmas so to achieve that before the end of November is a big boost to everyone associated with the club.
Some may say that my ambition levels are far too low if I’m looking down instead of up. The fact remains that the Premier League is incredibly unforgiving and although we are improving we shouldn’t become blasé and forget where we’ve come from. It’s no bad formula to have a check list of goals and keep ticking them off as we achieve them.
We’ve seen the unpredictable nature of the top league this year and we have witnessed first-hand just how small the margins between success and failure are (especially if matches are officiated by village idiots.) The positive thing from a Potter’s perspective is that in general we’ve done quite well and competed in almost every if not all of our games so far.
November has been an excellent month for us despite it starting with us being robbed at Sunderland. Three wins and a draw later see us going into December in fine fettle. Looking at our next six fixtures (I’m doing it again) and other than a trip to our friend Mr. Wenger we have a real opportunity to get some more points on the board which could see us start 2011 without the need to look over our shoulder. I say this despite the fairly incredible statistic that shows that we have failed to even win a solitary game in our two previous Decembers in the Premier League.
Saturday’s draw with Manchester City certainly illustrated Stoke’s desire to keep our little run going for a while longer yet. The Potters were excellent in the first 45 minutes and really gave our opponents something to think about. As team performances go that first half was right up there in my opinion. We hustled and harried Mancini’s men and showed plenty of skill and technique as we carved out several decent openings which we should have taken the lead from.
Sadly we couldn’t keep up our tempo into the second half and a mixture of Man City upping their game and Stoke being forced to reshuffle our pack with Pennant and Wilko (who had been doubts) having to go off meant us looking less likely to win. Man City are clearly a good team when they put their mind to it so when Micah Richards was given the freedom of our 18 yard box by Danny Collins things looked pretty grim for Stoke.
To our great credit we did manage to fashion a couple more chances against an Eastlands outfit that despite having plenty of possession, never really created many noteworthy efforts of their own. Having said that as the clocked ticked into the final 60 seconds of the allocated 3 minutes of injury-time we couldn’t really have dared to dream what was about to happen. Inexplicably Kolo Toure booted the ball from the edge of his area straight to Asmir Begovic, Kenwyne then won a really good header to feed the ball to Tuncay. I have to say that the little Turk’s back heel was simply sumptuous and perfectly found the ever willing Matty Etherington inside Hart’s 18 yard box and our former West Ham man didn’t disappoint us with a cool finish into the bottom corner. The expression of joy and celebration that engulfed Matty was mirrored throughout the Potters’ faithful with this particular Stokie taking a left hook to the jaw during the celebrations (it was well worth it and I fully expect a call from David Haye’s people about a potential title shot!)
Next Saturday sees us make the relatively short trip to Wigan for a chance to once again sample their famous pies and hopefully see Tony Pulis’s charges come back down the M6 with another tasty three points as the perfect sustenance for the healthy number of travelling Stokies