Etherington stokes the fires again for an England call-up

Stoke City 1 Blackburn Rovers 0
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The Independent Football

It is more than a quarter of a century since Stoke City last had a player capped by England at senior level, and the clamour in these parts for Matthew Etherington to remedy that omission will grow louder after another high-class performance set up Stoke's third win in four Premier League matches.

An outstanding 2009-10 campaign earned Etherington the club's Player of the Year award, and he has started this season as well if not better, presenting a case for inclusion in Fabio Capello's plans with compelling statistical as well as visual evidence.

Stoke, who have jumped to seventh in the table, have scored 12 times this season and Etherington can be credited with the assist in 10of them, including yesterday, when his pass released Jonathan Walters to scorethe only goal.

Capello, who was elsewhere yesterday, is aware of Etherington's ability, and were the 29-year-old five years younger – and, perhaps, playing in a team with a different reputation – he would surely have done more than flit across the Italian's radar. As it is, thecall-up probably has to come now, during a rebuilding phase for the national team,or never.

"Matty has been brilliant for us and this was another typical performance," Stoke's manager, Tony Pulis, said. "But the decision is down to Mr Capello, not to me."

Etherington was not the only winger to catch the eye. On the other flank, Jermaine Pennant – his career rescued again – tormented Gaël Givet enough to land the Frenchman with a first-half booking for an agricultural challenge, after which the full-back was one of several Blackburn players who needed to be wary of referee Howard Webb, who has sent off more Blackburn players – three – than from any other Premier League side. Their manager, Sam Allardyce, admitted his second-half substitution of El-Hadji Diouf was specifically to avoid another.

Perhaps some inhibition on Blackburn's part explained a performance that lacked creativity. Aside from the usual procession of high balls into the box, Stoke were threatened only by an early volley by Brett Emerton, on the end of a Thomas Sorenson punch, that Ryan Shawcross cleared off the line.

Stoke, with Rory Delap back on throw-in duty, were not disinclined to try the aerial route but were much the more productive at pitch level. Pennant's penetrating crosses led Etherington to go close twice in a minute in the first half, drawing a good save on the second occasion from Paul Robinson, who kept out Etherington twice more in the second half.

The goal, set up by Etherington's pass after a neat header from Kenwyne Jones, was steered by Walters into the bottom-left corner past Paul Robinson. It was the first goal in the Premier League for the forward since a £2.75 million summer move from Ipswich.

Attendance: 25,515

Referee: Howard Webb

Man of the match: Etherington

Match rating: 7/10