Stoke City-Bolton: The Fight Continues in an English Classic
Stoke City and Tony Pulis have received a magnificent boost in their fight for survival in the top flight of English football. After their woeful away form this season, they have been staring into the abyss at times with the prospect of championship football next season seeming quite likely.
But after a stirring fightback against Aston Villa at the weekend, they have now transferred the lift that resulted in getting all three points against a Bolton side that has been good value for their mid-table position so far this season.
James Beattie continues to show that he has the pedigree to be amongst the goal scorers in the top flight, and defy the pundits who labeled him as too old and a "championship" player.
The way the crowd reacted when he put the hosts ahead would have rivaled the roar that the Stoke faithful would have given their greatest ever player—Sir Stanley Matthews—many years ago.
Matthews would have smiled to see the devotion and vigor of the home fans.
Pulis' sides are always well organized, but at times this season they have come up against opposition who have that little bit of quality that they seem to lack on occasion.
Today, however, this was not the case, as the hosts came out with the intention of playing to their strengths and the crowd were treated to a match that displayed good old-fashioned, rough and tumble, in your face English football.
Beattie's goal came after he was quick to react to a headed through ball from Glen Whelan following a poor clearing header from Bolton's Andy O'Brien in the 14th minute.
Bolton fought hard to get back into the match, but were kept at bay by rearguard action that would not have gone astray at Dunkirk.
Stoke goalkeeper Sorenson provided his players with a display between the posts that sends confidence throughout the side. This confidence led to the goal that effectively won the home side the points.
Ricardo Fuller again proved to be an extremely handy substitute, as he set up the equalizer against Villa.
Glen Whelan was again instrumental in the goal after a partially cleared Delap throw in came to him, and his well taken 25-yard strike was only parried by Jaaskelainen for Fuller to smash in the rebound from 10 yards out in the 73rd minute.
Whelan is proving that those who were writing him off earlier this season were well and truly wrong, with strong stand-out performances in today's and the weekend fightback versus Villa.
Stoke should have realistically had a couple more, as Ibrahima Sonko hit the bar with a header and Liam Lawrence forced another fine save from Jaaskelainen.
Bolton, though, is always a tough prospect for any side as they have shown many times already this season. Bolton sits mid-table still, but Megson would have definitely favoured today's tie for a point and will be looking over his shoulder anxiously.
In fact Stoke City's 2-0 victory means the potters went one better against Bolton than both Manchester United and Arsenal were able too. It's a relatively meaningless fact, but an interesting little tidbit for those out there hoping that they are present when the final points are tallied this season.
Stoke has really sent a warning out to those sides struggling around them that they are going to be right there until the last blast on the whistle in the last game.
With results like this, they might just prove strong enough to keep their heads above the water for long enough to be picked up by the life raft that is premiership survival.
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