Blues vs Stoke is always a fiercely contested game and the fans have a lot of history with each other over the years, but yesterday’s game had even more spice added to it with former manager Gary Rowett at the helm of the Potters.
Going into the game Stoke were clear favourites and so they should be with the squad they have – on paper the best in the division by a country mile. Unfortunately for them you can never write of this Blues team, can you?
The game was pretty much how I expected it to go down, Stoke enjoying a lot more of the ball throughout the 90 and Blues having to rely on an effective counter attack and wait for their moments. Although Stoke did have the lion’s share of the ball they never really looked like carving open the Blues defence and that’s a massive compliment to how structured we are right now.
From minute one our defence had to be switched on and couldn’t afford to fall asleep as they knew the quality Stoke has could easily punish us. Harlee Dean and Michael Morrison resolute throughout – giving Afobe nothing but scraps to feed off. Maxime Colin (who really is Mr Consistent) had another solid game defensively and almost put us 1-0 if it wasn’t for that bloody woodwork…again! Lee Camp when call upon was superb and made a brilliant save in the first half to deny Bojan from a certain goal. Even when Stoke went long for Crouch he came out and claimed it brilliantly!
The midfield duo of Gary Gardner and Kieftenbeld optimised what this Blues team are about – desire, determination and a lot of heart. They were everywhere yesterday and had to stop all the quality that Stoke’s midfield had to offer, which in effect meant that they couldn’t have as much influence on the ball as they would usually have liked. Both wide men couldn’t really get themselves in the game as it was more of a defend from the front job and they did exactly what was needed from them, whilst Juke and Adams were attempting their best to frustrate and cause mistakes along the Stoke backline.
You just got that feeling the longer it stayed 0-0 and the more tired Stoke got, we’d get that one opportunity to nick it and my god did we do just that.
The fresh legs of Maghoma (who did need a much deserved rest) was a game changer. Collecting the ball in a central position before driving at the Stoke defence and laying the ball to Juke outwide, the big man with a lovely driven ball across the Stoke 6 yard box and Adams on the end of it to slide home his 4 of the season. Queue the limbs. Total delirium in the away end and noise I don’t think Stoke fans will hear all season long.
To put the cherry on top of the icing of the sweet cake, Mr Rowett himself received his marching orders for his altercation with the officials over a handball incident. Yes Gary it probably was a handball and you were correct, but unfortunately that’s football and we’ve been on plenty of questionable decisions this season too.
When the final whistle came around you could just see what it meant to everyone on the pitch. The players immediately over to applaud the travelling faithful and the coaching staff being forever grateful of the support and love we have for them.
There’s something different about this Blues side – something we haven’t had in years. Togetherness, belief and resiliency. Put those 3 ingredients and add a bit of quality and you’ll go far in the Championship, 9 games unbeaten and looking more up the table rather then below it.
So in the end it was a perfect away day. A clean sheet, a late goal and a proper Garry Monk masterclass in management – because we all now the one with two R’s is better.
Now we can look forward to a very winnable game on Tuesday night against Reading at home. Let’s just hope the players are all fired up and ready to extend the unbeaten run to 10 games with another proper Blues performance.
Keep Right On folks!