Stoke stumble another point closer to safety

Posted by James Whittaker

Chris Brunskill/Getty ImagesJonathan Walters and Stoke were flat in attack during Saturday's 0-0 draw with West Brom.

Stoke and West Brom fought their way to a 0-0 draw in a game lacking any real quality personified by the home side having their first shot on target in the 92nd minute.

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It was another unconvincing home performance from the Potters as they struggled to make an impact on the side they have had so much joy from over the years. Stoke fans were told by Tony Pulis this week that they have become too used to Steak and Chips. I have to say, if that was a 'Steak and Chips' performance I'll be on the phone to Cheltenham in the morning to make sure none of the horses are missing.

The team selected put the side at an immediate disadvantage as once again the manager persisted with his favourite players who continue to struggle for form. On top of that we saw Geoff Cameron, an international defender who struggles at left back, starting at left back and our usual left back stuck in the middle. Another baffling decision was to play Cameron Jerome on the wing in favour of pairing the hapless Peter Crouch with the ineffective Jon Walters. To watch Jerome pick up the ball out wide and have his only option of a forward pass being Walters on the shoulder of the fullback was as ironic as it was soul destroying. That Jerome would play the ball five yards ahead of Walters and his marker, only for the defender to get to it first with three yards to spare, simply rubbed salt into the already gaping wounds.

The men in red and white actually found themselves on top for the majority of the first half as they piled the pressure on their visitors from the Black Country. The problem is, for all the pressure there was no creativity or incisive play; it was punt after punt into a packed final third -- percentage football in all its glory. The manager has spoken about luck a great deal in an attempt to brush off criticism of performances and I get the feeling he will come away from today thinking he should have had all three points. I guess when you play such percentage football, luck does indeed come into it as you constantly want the ball to drop in the right area, but I'd rather have a plan B where you're at the mercy of the talent and creativity of the individuals on the pitch and not the Hoof Gods.

Crouch cut a frustrated and ineffectual figure up front as he struggled to keep the ball and posted the worst passing accuracy of the starting outfield players. His lack of strength, athleticism and power continues to be a problem and it was just after the hour that we saw the introduction of the eminently more suitable Jones. At this point it was 0-0; Stoke had Jerome and Jones up front and finally had their best chance of getting that elusive goal. And with Charlie Adam starting to strip off only moments later, the fans rubbed their hands in glee at the prospect of the Scot picking out the runs of Jerome… but it wasn't to be as they swapped places with Adam taking up the second striker position where he has struggled so much in the past. It was a baffling decision and one that killed any brief hope as Adam floundered while chasing the ball around in the pouring rain, struggling to make any impression at all.

The table will show Stoke as being 10th, but with the league as it is that is only half the story and despite being in the top half of the league, they are only four points off 17th with five of the seven teams below having games in hand. The fact that they line up against four of the ten teams below them in the last eight games of the campaign shows just how tight this run in will be.

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