The weekend defeat is hurting more than it should today, having re-watched highlights (I gave into the evil that is Match of the Day) and found myself shaking my head in disappointment as I witnessed our one dimensional attempt at breaking down the defensive force that is Stoke City. Pedestrian is the best description for it. What makes it even more painful is that Arsenal failed to win despite leading by two goals. Man City also found themselves pegged back. Villa dropped two points. Everton dropped all three. Sunderland lost. And so did Man Utd. We are not alone in our suffering. And it would have been beautiful to have claimed victory as others around as faltered. Somewhere, in another parallel dimension, we are sitting 2nd in the table.
What had me laughing was dear old Alan Hansen stating that Stoke were simply magnificent and cited the result as their 'best performance of the season'. Claiming three points away to Spurs, probably does constitute it as their best 'result'. But performance wise? No chance. It wasn't exactly a calculated tactical mastermind from Pulis. Parking the bus is what desperate teams do.
< tumble weed >
And no mention of the penalty shout. Fact is we had around 20 attempts on goal. They had one. The only one that hit the back of the net. The bastards. Add to it 63% possession to us. Am I sounding bitter yet? I guess I am because although you can claim we were unlucky and they rode their luck I find myself regretful (much like Harry must be feeling) that we failed to turn up the heat, even by a single notch. Perhaps with some cutting edge from Modric and a buzzing Defoe in the side, we could have. But that's a lame excuse. Moddle has been out for a while. And JD must be wishing he could take back that moment of silliness. The players out there on the day all had the ability to do far more than what they managed in the end. Keane was not at his best (understatement - cue questions asking when is he ever at his best?) and Crouch did everything but score thanks to some miracle work on the line.
Stoke took advantage and punished us for it simply by being patient and hoping for a break. Granted, they did so by consistently fouling and time wasting. I said it in my match report yesterday - they wont be able to do this week in week out away from home because other sides wont be so easily mugged off like we were. And I doubt we will allow ourselves to be found wanting in this manner again.
Instead, its time to prepare for next weekend and the little matter of that insignificant game over at the stench otherwise known as the Emirates. I've yet to browse the message boards or forums or look at the news sites so the following questions may already have an answer:
Will Lennon be fit?
Is Woodgate ok to start?
Is King available for selection?
We know that Modric is still 2 weeks away from a much required return thanks to the all clear from the specialists. Defoe is still suspended. So we are not quite at full strength for the NLD. Although judging by Arsenal's defending at West Ham I'm not about to run and hide behind the sofa.
Harry has to pick a side wisely for tomorrows Carling Cup game (although Moyes might be selecting a reserve side to face us, so fingers crossed we don't need to risk too many of our first teamers - although I don't want to see us knocked out at this stage of the competition). We need to be far more assertive tomorrow.
Elsewhere, Juande Ramos has left his post as manager of CSKA. I guess his Russian is about as non-existent as his English. And about as welcomed as his football managerial abilities. He goes through clubs faster than Craig Bellamy on a golf course. Hope he got a nice pay-off for his troubles over there in sunny Moscow.