Match Report: Stoke City 2 – 0 Bolton WanderersBy: joehigginson | January 16th, 2011
Stoke: Begovic, Higginbotham, Huth, Shawcross, Wilkinson, Wilson (Whelan 71), Whitehead, Tuncay, Delap, Etherington (Pugh 88), Jones (Walters 81)
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Robinson, Cahill, Knight, Ricketts, Muamba (Moreno 66), Taylor (Petrov 66), Holden (Cohen 83), M Davies, Elmander, K Davies
Stoke moved up to 8th in the league and level on points with Bolton after a convincing win against the Trotters. In a feisty affair punctuated with moments of class, both teams struggled to find real rhythm in very blustery conditions at the Brit. Stoke were the brighter of the two teams in a first half that yielded little goalmouth action. Tuncay carved out a couple of half opportunities and Rob Huth steered a header wide. The breakthrough came on 37 minutes, when a Tuncay corner was flicked on by Johann Elmander toward his own goal. A scramble ensued and Danny Higginbotham forced the ball over the line to give the Potters a deserved lead despite the lack of real clear cut chances.
Louis Spence’s craggy older brother put the Potters in front on his 350th appearance
Bolton looked stronger in the second half as Stoke allowed them to play their passing game more. Stuart Holden came closest for the visitors when his well struck free kick was palmed away by Begovic. As the Trotters pushed further forward, we began playing some excellent counter attacking football that ultimately led to the second goal. Breaking forward, Tuncay (once again the architect) played a lovely through ball for Matty Etherington to chase. Nipping in behind Zat Knight, Matty was through on goal before being felled by a desperate tackle from the Bolton man. Stepping up to take the resulting (and stonewall) penalty, his shot squeezed in past Jaaskelainen despite the keeper getting more than a finger to the ball. From there, both teams eased off and despite my concerns that Bolton would once again pull something out of the hat, Stoke held on for an important victory.
Like I said in the preview, if Stoke want a top ten finish then these are the games you really need to turn up and perform and the lads put in a very professional display. There were a couple of surprises in an otherwise predictable line-up. Marc Wilson cemented his place in the first team and looked comfortable alongside Dean Whitehead. In attack, Ricardo Fuller was left at out of the squad following a family bereavement in his native Jamaica (no official confirmation) so Tuncay stepped in to fill his boots. Predictably, the media took this as Pulis putting up a show of support for the Turk after his internet video posts were interpreted (wrongly I believe) as signs of restlessness. However, had circumstances not called for it, he would have been benched today looking ahead to the Cardiff match on Tuesday. Out on the wing, Jermaine Pennant was a notable absentee and unusually it was Rory Delap pushed out onto the right (although Pulis probably wanted his only other fit striker Jon Walters on the bench rather than risking injury in his secondary position). Fair play to Rory, he might be severely lacking in pace and ball control but he still put in a decent shift in an unfavoured position.
Tuncay put in a phenomenal display
Bolton didn’t play badly but never looked particularly threatening in the final third. The majority of the team were outmuscled in the air and they struggled to cope with our physicality. The Trotters are having something of a blip right now, having picked up just one point in their last four (although they were clearly denied a share of the spoils at Liverpool). The fixtures aren’t getting any kinder, with an improving Chelsea next to visit the Reebok so Owen Coyle will want to steady the ship as quick as possible.
Man of the Match
Tuncay: In a week where his loyalty and patience with the club has been called into question, he produced a commanding performance, set up both goals and deserved to be on the scoresheet himself.