Sidibe strikes as Stoke show their silkier side
Stoke City 1 West Bromwich Albion 0
For reasons not all of their own making, ugly matches have been Stoke's stock in trade this season, and here was a contest that did nothing to change the pattern. Tony Mowbray, the Albion manager, described it only semi-apologetically as "dross".
Yet for the fifth time at the Britannia Stadium this season it was Tony Pulis's team taking the points, and after 14 games their tally is six better than bottom-of-the-table West Bromwich's, whose insistence on trying to play prettily is making them look simply lightweight. On the subject of dross, Pulis suggested, Mowbray could "only speak for his team".
"There are different philosophies," Pulis said. "I don't like to play 'back, square, back, square'. I like my teams to play through the pitch, or to use the angles and play to our strengths.
"They [West Bromwich] have not had a shot on goal, so I can understand where Tony is coming from. But I felt we played some good football today and nobody can say we didn't deserve to win. We suffered at Manchester United last week but at the Britannia, with the crowd behind us, we always feel we have a chance."
Indeed, the one goal, six minutes from time, came not through a Rory Delap throw-in or any other variant on the set-plays that are Stoke's forte, but from a moment of football of the kind to which Pulis referred.
When Danny Higginbotham, his underrated left-back, exchanged passes with Michael Tonge on the left flank and delivered a superb far-post cross to the head of Mamady Sidibe, the striker sent the ball looping well beyond the reach of Scott Carson and into the far corner.
Albion may have felt they deserved not to lose yet they rarely threatened to score. Filipe Teixeira, having dispossessed Andy Griffin on the left, had their best chance, late in the game, but blazed wide when a pass to Ishmael Miller, well positioned in the middle, might have been the better option. "It is decisions like thosethat are costing us in this division," Mowbray lamented.
Free-scoring in winning the Championship, when they totalled 88 League goals, his team have the least effective attack in the Premier League, with only 10 so far.
Consolations were few for the visitors, although at least Carson could not be faulted for the goal.
Nerves already on edge after his latest blunder in an England jersey, the former Liverpool goalkeeper had to contend with a hostile home crowd after his summer decision to turn down Stoke in favour of the Hawthorns, but came through the ordeal with his pride intact.
Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the match: Higginbotham
Match rating: 3/10
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