It was the best of games; it was the worst of games

Posted by James Whittaker

Cameron Jerome celebrates his late equaliserPA PhotosCameron Jerome celebrates his late equaliser for Stoke

Stoke battled back from being two goals down despite being at a numerical disadvantage as they struggled in the absence of inspirational captain and chief organiser Ryan Shawcross.

- Jerome rescues late point for Stoke

It was an ominous start as Stoke struggled from the off with Southampton appearing to mirror the tactics of the opposition by sitting deep and launching quick, dangerous long-ball attacks. Such moves would ordinarily have been dealt with easily but with the defensive reshuffle of Matthew Upson coming in and Robert Huth having to swap sides, all communication, shape and organisation went out the window as the men in red and white struggled with almost every ball that came their way in the opening forty five minutes.

All too often over the last year or so I have dreaded the opposition scoring as I had little faith that Stoke would have the invention to get back into the game, but with striker Kenwyne Jones being the epitome of 'unplayable' and two wingers on the pitch the side had goals, it was just a case of keeping composure and waiting for the chances to come. It's difficult to express just how impressive Jones was on Saturday. He kept the forward line ticking and won so much in the air that the Southampton defenders were checking their boots for lead. His work off the ball was as good as it has ever been and the sight of him sprinting 30 yards to block a clearance in the 95th minute was a joy to behold. The striker is playing out of his skin to keep his place in front of an admiring Tony Pulis.

It's hard to place too much blame on any individual, there were many costly errors from almost every defender in Stoke's back five. It was a horrific day at the office, but the Potters defence were bailed out by the herculean effort in front of them, even in the absence of the dismissed N'Zonzi. Pulis rightly said that we will contest his straight red card, as well we should. Whilst the Frenchman was clearly irked, it was plain to see that he was very deliberate not to make contact with the opposition player.

That referee Mark Clattenburg and his team missed a quite blatant handball in the area which would have seen Stoke not only get a penalty but reduced the opposition to ten men only moments before Stokes own red, will hopefully work in the club's favour come the appeal.

You have to take your hat off to Pulis, who played for a long time with four strikers on the pitch despite being down to ten and it was Cameron Jerome who was to save the Potters' blushes as he latched onto a poorly controlled ball by Peter Crouch to lash the ball home from the best part of 30 yards. The Britannia erupted in unison in recognition of a team who continue to display levels of bravery, heart and belief so rare in the modern game as they earned the right to continue riding the wave of their record-breaking unbeaten run.

The result may only register as a single point, but it feels like so much more and the players will take that into Stoke's most difficult trip of the campaign, the next match, against Champions Manchester City on New Year's Day, to hopefully kick off 2013 in style.

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