Well Saturday’s cup game against our old friends from South Wales perfectly exemplified our season so far. Despite playing quite well for large periods of the game we couldn’t get the elusive goal that our positive endeavours deserved. I’m sure even our sternest critics would be hard pressed to argue against the fact that we have come on leaps and bounds since our return to the top flight. In our first couple of campaigns we battled incredibly hard to retain our status but in doing so we didn’t often focus too much on carving out many opportunities for our frontmen. The same cannot be said for the current Stoke team though and that in itself is a concern and it’s something TP must be looking to address.
On paper our three main line strikers look a pretty decent bunch. Ric is our talisman and rarely fails to threaten the opposition’s back line, Kenwyne is a handful on his day and looks a goal threat while Tuncay gives us a freshness and directness through the middle that we rarely see at the Brit. The main problem with all three of them though is that you couldn’t say they are “natural” finishers. When you see the ball pinging around the 6 yard box you have to wonder if a “fox in the box” type would clean up playing for the Potters right now?
The dilemma is who would partner this goal scorer? Personally I don’t think Stoke look the same team without Ricardo driving us forward but we all know TP loves a big target man up top so perhaps that points to KJ who has had a decent start to his (second) Stoke career. I also really rate Tuncay who I believe has been criminally under-used during his time with the Potters thus far.
It appears then that there are no easy answers. Perhaps if we do recruit a new forward this month the solution would be a more flexible approach to our attacking play with a “horses for courses” mentality depending on the type of centre halves our front lads are about to face.
One thing about our general goal-shyness that does keep nagging away at me is the question about just how much shooting practice we get through in training. TP is amazingly disciplined and organised in his management style. It is also fair to say that without his pragmatic approach we wouldn’t be anywhere near the Premier League but I do wonder just how much striking of the ball the forwards get through as we do seem to snatch at a lot of our chances.
Apart from playing quite well in the Cardiff game (and the plus point of still being in the draw) there were several bright performances from players we don’t see that much of. Ryan Shotton had an excellent debut, Danny Higginbotham was superb and got forward really well, Tuncay was extremely bright and took his goal well while Marc Wilson looked far more composed and assured than in any of his other outings for us. We may have been disappointed that we couldn’t get over the line but it was far from a catastrophe and we shouldn’t forget that.
Our next game is against Bolton who are having a very good season under the media’s new darling, Owen Coyle. We certainly owe the Trotters after our last three games against them. Despite playing well (and possibly deserving to win all three) we have somehow only managed to pick up a solitary point. A win against them would put us both on the same points despite all and sundry regaling their start to the season and hardly mentioning ours!
Let’s hope we put our misses well and truly behind us on Saturday and send the Trotters home with their tails between their legs and a good few goals in the back of their net. We’ve threatened to really put someone to the sword so why shouldn’t this week be the start of a good spell for the Potters in front of the onion bag?
Here’s to another three points and us hitting the 30 point mark in super quick time!