Stoke City’s luck in front of goal remains unchanged but the country’s lowest scorers could hardly bemoan their fortune at the Britannia Stadium yesterday.
With Mark Hughes’s men firing a fifth blank in eight league games, all the key moments came at the other end where they were left to thank a combination of some fine goalkeeping by Asmir Begovic, profligate finishing by Stéphane Sessègnon and bad refereeing for the point gained.
Referee Howard Webb’s failure to award Albion a penalty for Charlie Adam’s clear trip on Youssouf Mulumbu ten minutes after the break was the game’s biggest talking point. “I think the word for it is stonewall penalty,” Clarke said. “How the officials have missed that is beyond belief. He ran down the back of his foot. It was a clear penalty”
Clarke might also have a word with Sessègnon for failing to beat Begovic when through in the dying seconds. Begovic also foiled Sessèngon and Morgan Amalfitano in the first half. “We managed to create at least three chances and with better finishing and a lesser goalkeeper – their goalkeeper gets man of the match – we would have a good victory.”
While Stoke sit just a point above the relegation places, Albion are unbeaten in five and their confidence was evident early on when Victor Anichebe and Saido Berahino combined to set up Sessègnon but with two home defenders on their backsides he failed to beat Begovic. The Benin international wriggled into another shooting position soon after but instead slipped the ball on to Amalfitano whose heavy first touch gave Begovic time to narrow the angle and make the save.
This may be the post-Pulis era, but with West Bromwich winning the midfield battle with the help of the excellent Mulumbu, Stoke’s only first-half threat came from set-pieces. Adam headed over from a Marko Arnautovic corner, and Stephen Ireland connected weakly when played in by Arnautovic’s clever free-kick.
Stoke’s football is less direct these days but the main problem for last season’s second-lowest top-flight scorers is unchanged. They have four goals from eight games and Hughes said: “We’re struggling for goals but that was prevalent before I came. It is something we’re working ons.”
Arnautovic and Ireland combined in the second half for the hosts’ clearest chance but from the Austrian’s low centre Ireland blazed over. It was going to take something spectacular to break the deadlock and after Adam tried his luck from the halfway line – Boaz Myhill backpedalling to palm over – Sessègnon so nearly delivered it, beating three defenders, but not Begovic.
Stoke City (4-2-3-1): Begovic; Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Pieters; Adam (Wilson 80), Nzonzi; Arnautovic (Palacios 90), Ireland, Assaidi; Walters (Jones 57). Subs not used: Sorensen, Whelan, Crouch, Etherington.
West Bromwich Albion (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Mulumbu, Yacob; Amalfitano (Morrison 63), Sessègnon, Berahino (Anelka 63); Anichebe (Long 75). Subs not used: Daniels, Brunt, Vydra, Dawson.
Man of the match: Begovic (Stoke).
Match rating: 6/10.
Referee: Howard Webb.
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