Match Report: Stoke provide West Bromwich Albion with another reality check
West Bromwich Albion 0 Stoke City 1
Sunday 02 December 2012
Steve Clarke had cautioned against making too much of West Bromwich Albion's impressive start to the season and in a painful way he has been vindicated. Beaten comprehensively at Swansea in midweek, they went down again to a Stoke side that had not won away in 16 attempts since January 2.
Not that it was in any way a fluke. Stoke's methods away from home may not be particularly ambitious but they restricted Clarke's counter-attacking team largely to shooting from distance and when the chance arose to steal the points, they took it ruthlessly, in doing so turning a recent improvement in their results into definite progress. A fourth win in five matches moves them up to ninth in the Premier League table, four points behind Albion, who had their eyes on third place after Chelsea's defeat but ended the afternoon fifth.
Albion lost two in a row in October and recovered with four straight wins but this might be a bigger test for Clarke, who is still a relative novice as a manager despite his impressive coaching cv. He made six changes from the side beaten at Swansea, including his entire front four and both fullbacks. Plainly, it did not work, although he defended the changes.
"After two difficult away games in a week, up in the north-east and down in Wales, I thought it was right to freshen things up," he said. "But if you tried to say that was the reason we lost, you'd be wrong. It was always a game likely to be decided by one chance and unfortunately it was Stoke that got it."
The result was all the more pleasing for Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, in light of the enforced absence of Peter Crouch, who is due to have a protective brace fitted after losing three teeth against Newcastle in midweek.
In his place, Kenwyne Jones ploughed a largely isolated furrow but did so tirelessly and it was his persistence that led to the decisive 75th-minute goal as he forced Jonas Olsson into a corner after the Albion centre back had failed to deal with Michael Kightly's long punt. Olsson ultimately cleared the ball blindly along the touchline, straight to Kightly, who charged into the box before finding fellow substitute Dean Whitehead, who had replaced a disappointing Charlie Adam, with a low cross that the Stoke midfielder squirted past Boaz Myhill.
Latest in Sport
Joey Barton joins Burnley: Ex-QPR midfielder signs one-year deal, immediately regrets tweet criticising living the Lancashire town last year
Kevin De Bruyne to Manchester City: £58m deal hits the rocks as Wolfsburg admits they're 'in no rush' to sell former Chelsea midfielder
Manchester City face another struggle to make an impact in Champions League
Paul Pogba to Chelsea: Transfer news live - John Stones latest, Gareth Bale and Neymar to Manchester United, Edinson Cavani to Arsenal
Kevin De Bruyne to Manchester City: Wolfsburg admit they can't compete with 'astonishing' £200,000-a-week offer as £58m deal nears
- 1 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
- 2 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 4 iPhone 6s camera: features to include 4K video camera and flash for selfies
- 5 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn