Sour grapes, of course, and without a drink to numb the pain

You know what's coming, you are going to be mugged, but you know there's nothing you can do to stop it.

That is the feeling I'm sure many Irons fans had as they left - eventually - the Britannia stadium after Sunday's FA Cup failure.

Stoke tucked us up, mugged us and go to the semi-finals with their lovely brand of brutalised football, which no referee seems to have the courage to stop. Certainly not Mike Jones, who missed so much in our 2-1 quarter-final defeat he may well been standing next to Tony Pulis in the technical area, he certainly came on their team coach.

OK, Freddie Piquionne may have got away with a hand ball for our goal, but even after countless TV replays I still can't be sure what part of his chest shoulder, upper arm, first made contact with the ball.

But that was small fry compared to the organised skulduggery that passes for a football match in Stoke. I have no problem with Rory Delap's long throw, it's a perfectly legitimate ploy.

What stick in the throat is the constant fouling, holding, pulling, pushing, blocking, obstructing, grabbing etc that goes on while the ball is in the air.

This policy works in England. But as our old friend Martin Samuel (congrats on the award) wrote last week, we have a different set of rules to everyone else. Why has Pulis' theories not be taken up across Europe? Because referees in Spain, France, Italy, Germany etc do not allow the battering of goalkeepers in the six yard box or the fouls that go on unabated. It just doesn't happen anywhere but here.

And let's be clear. Stoke practice cheating on the training ground. The clever, subtle turn and run into Matthew Upson by Jon Walters to allow Robert Huth a free run to score their first, takes split second timing.

Yes, Manuel da Costa stupidly made sure he did not give away a corner, rather turning the ball out for a throw that set-up their first. What planet is he on, has he not been listening and watching.

But that doesn't absolve referees for allow the organised thuggery that goes on when Stoke attack a Delap throw.

Yes, we were pretty rubbish in that first-half, constantly hounded and caught in possession and some decision making defied description.

But why has nobody, not TV, mentioned the blatant foul that gave Stoke their second? Jones was clearly trying his best to give them a goal, first a non-penalty than a hand ball decision against Carlton Cole - just how often is that penalised?

But as Danny Higginbotham drove in the free-kick, Thomas Hitzlsperger was dragged out of his place in the wall and almost thrown to the ground by a Stoke player to create the gap. Of course Stoke practice such things.

Jones needs to look at his whole performance. You can only wonder what sort of ear-bashing he got from Pulis in the tunnel after the Piquionne goal.

And I'd love to know the content of Jones' giggling, whispering chat with Matty Etherington as the pair waited for the second-half to start. Fifteen seconds later, with Matty in a heap after not being touched by Scott Parker, we all had our own ideas.

And Jones was never going to give that blatant penalty when Walters rugby tackled James Tompkins to the floor in the box. As John Hartson said on the box, how that wasn't a penalty he'll never know.

Upson hit the bar, Thomas Sorensen saved brilliantly from Cole and Robbie Keane, and yes, as clear as night follows day, we were out. It's not the first time Stoke have done this, it's rather funny when they mug Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool but not as funny when it happens to your team.

Their pitch is the narrowest in the league for obvious reasons and their ball boys need sacking or a lesson in fair play. How often did the ball bounced down the line past maybe two of the little mights skulking behind the advertising boards before one of them managed to get up and return the ball. It was so, so much quicker when it was a Stoke throw. Are the Potteries club teaching kids to cheat as well?

And then there was the Staffs police, a fine body of men who had in their number bobbies that couldn't even direct me back to the station properly.

And someone will have to explain to me what the point is of banning booze in the away end while the other three sides of the stadium - not full I might add - can drink all they want.

I couldn't get into the hotel at the station I've used often for a meal and a drink before or after the game, and the one pub on the stadium complex - that Harvester - meant a 30 minute wait in a queue to get in and then a 15 minute wait at the bar for a drink - me and my lad gave up.

Getting out of Stoke was equally challenging. We were kept in a holding pen for 20 minutes or so, helicopter hovering, to allow the Stoke fans to disperse - we were told - and then let out by the Bill into streets still full of home supporters.

Buses were there to take us back to the station, but not allowed by police to move until the away compound had been cleared of fans, coaches and mini-buses. So our lot just milled around outside getting into rows with the police.

Sounds like I'm brassed off doesn't it? To right I am. Football should be so much better than all this rubbish and cheating, shame is we are not able to rise above it all . Relegation fight now, anyone?

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