Stoke still not settled

Stoke City 0 West Bromwich Albion 0
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The Independent Online
Moving home, the psychologists say, is right up there with worst domestic disasters when it comes to stress, and Stoke City are showing the symptoms of disorientation. Three games after arriving at the Britannia Stadium, they still await a win.

Last night West Bomwich Albion followed Rochdale and Swindon Town as irritating house-warming guests, holding out for a draw in Stoke's pounds 14.7m new bijou residence. Rule Britannia it is not, but Albion were as frustrated as the home side because a win might have put them top of the First Division. Then again, this was a match full of mights that did not happen.

There were no goals, no bookings and few shots either as a game, full of frills in midfield, had all the cutting edge of a sponge. Players could pass sideways but ask them to turn 90 degrees and the equation was usually beyond them. The result was an impasse.

Not that it ever threatened to be much else. The opening half was as miserable as the wet weather, momentum only coming after Stoke injected some urgency into their play. Paul Stewart, the gnarled 32-year-old former Liverpool and Manchester City striker, was at the core of most home attacks, shooting wide after 12 minutes and having a goal-bound shot deflected just wide after 31.

The best moment of the first half belonged to the visitors, however. David Smith had a defender between himself and the goal when the ball was played to him along the line of the area after 21 minutes but a curving shot by-passed that obstacle and only a flying save from Carl Muggleton denied him a spectacular goal.

That save was good but better followed in the 53rd minute when Albion's Alan Miller denied Justin Whittle from a range of five yards. The Stoke centre-back stuck out a boot from Stewart's flick-on and it appeared that he had only to be accurate to score. He was, but Miller contorted himself in a flash to palm the ball away.

Richard Sneekes shot straight at Muggleton after he turned Whittle in the 74th minute, Andy Hunt crashed a volley into the home side netting seven minutes later and Stoke's Kevin Keen was just wide with a shot in the dying seconds.

West Bromwich did leave the Potteries with a small token, although even that was hardly anything to crow about as the result halted a run of six successive defeats against Stoke. Indeed, they have to go back 17 matches and to December 1988 since they had a success against them. That seemed small beer at the Britannia last night.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Muggleton; Pickering, Whittle, Tweed, Griffin; Keen, Wallace, Kavanagh, Forsyth; Thorne (Andrade, 70), Stewart. Substitutes not used: Schreuder, Nyamah.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Miller; Holmes, Burgess, Raven, Nicholson; Flynn, Sneekes, Butler, Smith; Taylor (Thomas, 70), Hunt (Hamilton, 82). Substitute not used: Dobson.

Referee: E Lomas (Manchester).

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