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Stoke City v West Ham United: match preview

Filed: Saturday, 12th March 2011
By: Preview Percy

Preview Percy got very confused when he was told we were playing Stoke again this week. Actually he seems to be confused most of the time. With a possible trip to Wembley in the offing just don't tell him the twin towers have gone.....

Next we have Stoke City – hang on a moment didn’t I do this last week? Having entertained the Potters last week they now repay the compliment in the FA Cup. It’s a Sunday 2.00pm kick off which means that you should be able to make it after Church Parade as long as you catch an early service and the padre doesn’t go on too much in his sermon.
Stoke reached the quarter finals by virtue of wins over Cardiff (2-0 AET in Wales after a 1-1 draw at home), Wolves (1-0 away) and a 3-0 home win over Brighton.

They are, of course, a side with whom we’re becoming rather familiar, the forthcoming match being the 4th times the two teams will have met this season. We’re unbeaten so far in the series having drawn 1-1 at the Britannia in the league , beaten them 3-1 AET in the League Cup and, of course, the 3-0 drubbing last weekend.

Last week saw us pretty much tear them apart after a relatively even first 20 minutes. The rot set in for them after ‘keeper Begovic came out to clear the ball and succeeded only in redistributing a few cubic yards of fresh air, Ba benefiting from his generosity. Cole nearly gained from a similar mix-up between Begovic and Shawcross in the second half, all of which is a bit academic if you’re looking for pointers as Tony Pulis has confirmed that he’ll be giving Thomas Sorensen a start as he has done in the previous rounds.

In last week’s match I thought they missed a trick in not starting with Matty Etherington. Whether the decision was tactical or more to do with recent injuries I’m not sure. However, James Tomkins isn’t a natural right back in my opinion and it did take him a little while to settle on Saturday, though once he’d done so he went on to have a fine match. This meant that by the time Etherington arrived on the scene in the second half Tomkins was looking comfortable and Etherington ended up trying his luck from the right hand side rather than his more familiar left. I’d expect Etherington to start this time if he’s fit enough to do so, especially as there is a doubt over the fitness of Jermaine Pennant who limped off last weekend.

Former captain Abdoulaye Faye might be in with a shout of making this one having apparently recovered from a hamstring injury. He can be used either in the back four or as a defensive midfield player, forming something of an aerial threat at set pieces. Yes another aerial threat at set pieces from a team which specialises in them. Having said that, last weekend we did by and large seem to cope quite well with the notorious long throws from Delap, with the exception perhaps of one unconvincing punch from Green.

Another possible returnee for the opposition is Danny Higginbotham, a player in his second spell with the club having had an unsuccessful 12 months Sunderland a few years back. A former Man Utd youth player he once got banned for a year for hitting a referee whilst on loan to Royal Antwerp, though the ban was reduced to 4 months on appeal. Higginbotham recently signed a contract extension despite the fact that he’s been in and out of the side in recent times and he was linked with a move to Leeds during the last window. Here at the nursing home we remember with some fondness the days when it was mandatory for all Northern clubs to have at least five players in the team with a surname like Higginbotham. When leather footballs were made of a super absorbent special type of leather that turned into some sort of concrete the second the moisture content of the atmosphere went above 0.5% you had to be called something like Higginbotham just to be able to head the ball. Football boots were proper boots back then as well. Not like the carpet slippers they wear these days. Metatarsals? Nobody broke metatarsals. They didn’t even exist back then and don’t get me started on snoods or whatever they’re called.

Sorry about that. So what of us then? Well all is sweetness and light at the moment. Goals are flowing in like endless rain into a paper cup and confidence is the order of the day. The other night’s result for Birmingham saw us drop into the drop zone again but the 1-1 draw wasn’t the worst result in the world, given that the one spare game in hand is away at Chelsea. Other teams are beginning to show signs of nervousness – Blacks burn and pool aren’t exactly pulling trees up at the moment and the way we’re playing gives much hope that we won’t be one of the three worst teams in the division come May.

Of course this weekend’s trip to the Potteries is a break from all that League stuff and Nurse tells me that the semi-finals these days are played at Wembley. Not sure I approve of that really but I’m told that they spent a few bob on giving the place a lick of paint since we were last there and they have to get their money back somehow I suppose.

Team news is encouraging. At one stage last week we had but one player (Junior Stanislas) on the injured list. Even Kieron Dyer would have been available for selection so he got shipped out to Ipswich just to be on the safe side. It was said that the change of scenery would do him good – though I reckon one treatment room probably looks just like another. Grant’s selection issues are therefore tactical in nature. He’s gone on record as suggesting he won’t rest anyone for this one which will probably mean a starting line-up not too dissimilar to that which started the match last week.

We could, of course welcome back Robbie Keane who is available for selection up front – it would make sense to give him some sort of run out this weekend as I believe the labyrinthine rules on loan transfers may preclude his appearance in the away match at Spurs next weekend.

Prediction? Well despite the ultimately comprehensive nature of last week’s victory over the same opponents this will be a different kettle of aquatic life. For a start they’re at home where, in stark contrast to their wretched away form, they haven’t lost since the turn of the year having won four and lost two. It’s also the Cup which is, as our American cousins are wont to say, a whole new ball game. On the other hand our tails are definitely up. I really fancy us to go through to the next round but it may take a replay under the lights to sort out in the end. I’ll therefore go for a 2-2 draw this time round which will probably mean I have to write all this yet again.

Enjoy the game!

Earlier this season: Drew 1-1 Kevin Keen took charge as Avram Grant observed the Yom Kippur religious holiday. Scott Parker put us ahead in the first half only for Jones to reply shortly after the interval.

Danger Man: Matty Etherington. Well it makes a change from saying Delap and his ruddy throw-ins.

Referee: Mike Jones Last seen officiating in the visit to Arsenal. A poor game culminating in his ignoring a head injury to Parker, allowing play to continue whilst the player staggered around.

Daft fact of the week: Stoke Defender Abdoulaye Faye once played for a French club named after Joan Of Arc, the only club named after an Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark track. In France. I expect.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by Lee Byron
01:53AM 13th Mar 2011
''Percy's recent comeback on the previews has left him agog I suspect, bless...

"For a start they’re at home where, in stark contrast to their wretched away form, they haven’t lost since the turn of the year having won four and lost two."

Say no more.

BTW there was an obscure OMD B-side which goes by the unlikely name of "Nice Nancy". Nuff said.''

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