Stoke bag a point as keepers thwart poachers

Blackburn Rovers 0 Stoke City 0
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The Independent Football

In some respects, Stoke City are becoming victims of their own success. Picking up points is no longer enough for some of their supporters, they want opponents to be out-played as well as out-fought, so there was a certain irony in the fact that on a day when Stoke's manager, Tony Pulis, gave a start to Liam Lawrence, probably the most creative player at the club, the game should have finished goalless.

In fairness to both teams, however, it was not for lack of ambition that it did so. Both created four or five good chances, but two in-form goalkeepers, bad luck and poor finishing combined to produce a scoreline that will probably have those who were not present nodding cynically.

The first chance came early, when Franco Di Santo beat the offside trap but not the City goalkeeper, Thomas Sorensen. Dean Whitehead, played through by Ricardo Fuller at the other end, brought an even better save from the excellent Paul Robinson, and Lawrence, having already warmed Robinson's hands with a long-range effort, combined with Fuller to create the space for a close-range volley, which the goalkeeper blocked instinctively.

Stoke continued to look the more likely of the sides to break the deadlock after theinterval, Andy Wilkinson, played clear by Matthew Etherington's lay-off, slicing wide from an angle. But Rovers too continued to create, and Sorensen was required to push a Ryan Nelsen bicycle kick past the post before seeing Steven Nzonzi drive a shot against the outside of his left-hand post.

Neither side was prepared to settle for a point. Whitehead diverted Fuller's pass away from Etherington just as the winger seemed certain to turn the ball past Robinson, and James Beattie, on for Mamady Sidibe, scooped over from close range before the Rovers defender Chris Samba headed just wide at an injury-time corner.

"Our away performances have been better this season, we've learned a lot since last year when at times we were pretty dreadful," Pulis said. "At the same time, people mustn't get greedy, they forget we were out of the top division for 24 years and have to build step by step. To have 20 points after 14 games is first class for us."

Blackburn's assistant, Neil McDonald, deputising for manager Sam Allardyce, agreed the result had been a fair one. He confirmed that he had spoken to Allardyce earlier in the day, and that his boss expected to be discharged from hospital late yesterday after a successful angioplasty.

Attendance: 25,143

Referee: Howard Webb

Man of the match: Fuller

Match rating: 6/10