Bolton have been the annoying bogie team for Stoke, especially during the first Premier League campaign and that very first match. But it was the Potters who picked out the 2 goals and the 3 points (with a little help from Jussi Jaaskelainen and referee M. Owen). Stoke took the spoils leaving the Wanderers wondering as they trot back up north with ‘nout`. The Potters are now back into 8th place in the table after today`s victory with 30 points, only 10 more for the ‘magical` 40 remain.
Tuncay was given a warm welcome as he started for the third consecutive match. Danny Higginbotham came in place of a demoted Danny Collins after an impressive display in the cup. Today he started his first league match at left back since the first game of the season, but it was his 350th appearance for the club. Marc Wilson also kept his place after the cup game, taking the place of Rory Delap who was thrown out wide.
The Britannia Stadium became a wind tunnel which would cause a couple of problems for both sides, especially in the air. And that was just the high-flying bin-bags!
Zat Knight gave away a free-kick in the early minutes of the game for holding back Kenwyne Jones right on the edge on the box. Marc Wilson took it, but wasted it as his attempt to loop it over was too low and it struck the wall.
Tuncay was the one to force the first save after he struck low and hard, but Jussi Jaaskelainen scrambled to get down and collect it.
Sam Ricketts made a public enemy of himself when he slid in hard on Matty Etherington, clattering him against the advertising hoardings. Ricketts got up and walked off, while Etherington slapped the floor in pain with his ankle. Worried fans looked on, but strong Matty got up and limped back on.
The encouraging momentum continued for Stoke as Dean Whitehead flew in an in-swinger from the right. The superb cross met the toes of Kenwyne Jones who volleyed the ball into the ground, bouncing up and looping towards goal. But 35-year-old Jasskelainen leaped and palmed it over the bar dramatically.
Robert Huth then went close with a header when Etherington whipped in the corner. Huth could only manage to put it wide of the Bolton goal though.
Bolton`s first chance at Asmir Begovic`s goal was through Stuart Holden. He skipped over Wilson`s challenge to break towards goal, and shot a 25-yard effort but it was a poor one that was dragged well wide.
A chance for Bolton there but one of few as Stoke dominated, but it was about to get a lot harder for the Trotters as the Potters scored the first of the match in the 37th minute! Tuncay was the instigator as he sent in a dangerous corner. It was flicked on unintentionally by Elmander for Higginbotham who lunged to scramble in a scrappy attack. Of course Danny claimed it, but replays show it was actually a Jasskelainen own goal. The Finnish goalkeeper almost saved on the line, but an unfortunate bounce off his thigh put the ball onto his chest, which was over the line according to the correct linesman.
Just before half time, Bolton`s Matty Taylor took a free kick. But he blasted it at the wall and Stoke cleared the danger and saw out the rest of the half.
Half-time and not much of a memorable game at that point, apart from the goal, and the occasional appearance of Owen Coyle`s legs. Not too many chances were created from either side, but Stoke defiantly had more of the game under control than Bolton. The Trotter`s slightly lackluster performance, along with the bitterly strong winds must of made Owen`s leg hair stand on edge.
The second half commenced and Bolton came out brighter than before. In the opening minutes Ricketts crossed from the wide right into Johan Elmander. But the Swede headed wide of Begovic`s left-hand post. Disappointing for the Trotters, but a warning for the Potters.
City had a bit of a wobble, but it was Mark Davies that fell over when Andy Wilkinson put in a tackle on the edge of the area. The referee awarded a free-kick for Bolton and USA international Stewart Holden stepped up to the mark. Asmir Begovic was positioned perfectly as Holden curled one round the wall, and was brilliantly pushed away by the big Bosnian.
Bolton were just about on top but Stoke created a chance through a Rory Delap throw. Tuncay found himself in a good position for a shot, but his left-footed effort looped over the bar.
In the 62nd minute however, Stoke were awarded a rare penalty!! I had to blink twice to see if the ref really was pointing to the spot! But he was and had to after a retreating Zat Knight took down Etherington, who was through on goal thanks to Tuncay. A booking for Knight and Etherington stepped up. He blasted it to his right, just squeezing it between post and Jaaskelainen to put Stoke 2-0 in the lead!
But this was no time for complacency as there was still time to concede. Moments after the penalty, Matty Taylor put in a low right-footed blast, but Begovic got down parrying the ball wide.
Bolton were now going all out for it as Stoke struggled to keep a hold of possession. Pulis thought to swiftly make some changes, so on came Whelan for Wilson in the 71st minute. Later on however, an addition to the 11 man squad came in the form of a black bin bag. Perhaps a cunning distraction tactic from Pulis, but there was no mention of the bag signing recently? Maybe it was from West Bromwich Albion? After all they are called the Baggies.
Fortunately Stoke held out better than my puns, as Bolton continued to pressurize for a way back into the game. Martin Petrov and Rodrigo Moreno came on to freshen things up a bit.
Tuncay was a handful for the Trotters all game and another chance for the Turkish international came when Etherington picked him out from a cross. Tuncay headed narrowly wide but it was still another few vital seconds taken up.
Full-time came closer and closer, but City kept up the pressure with Tuncay running a riot. He cut inside and let fly a wild drive, but it was carried over and wide by the wind.
The whistle blew and the Stoke fans roared! A great result for the Potters, for Tony Pulis, and for the mysterious bin bag! Would this be a fitting revenge for the first game back in the top flight? Yeah, I think so! Owen Coyle wasn`t impressed though as he legged it down the tunnel to put some trousers on.
1 Begovic, 28 Wilkinson, 3 Higginbotham, 17 Shawcross, 4 Huth, 24 Delap, 18 Whitehead, 12 Wilson, 26 Etherington, 9 Jones, 20 Tuncay.
Subs: 6 Whelan (for Wilson,71), 19 Walters (for Jones,81), 14 Pugh (for Etherington,88).
Not used: 29 Sorensen, 5 Collins, 16 Pennant, 25 Faye.
22 Jaaskelainen, 1 Ricketts, 4 Robinson, 5 Cahill, 12 Knight, 16 M Davies, 6 Muamba, 8 Holden, 7 Taylor, 14 K Davies, 9 Elmander.
Subs: 19 Moreno (for Muamba,66), 10 Petrov (for Taylor,66), 21 Cohen (for Holden,84).
Not used: 1 Bogdan, 20 Blake, 25 Alonso.
Tony Pulis: Pulis wasn`t prepared to suffer again at the hands of Bolton, so risked Delap on the wing to bring in 3 central midfielders in order to ‘keep it tight`. That, along with giving Tuncay another start, paid off for the Potters so tactics and selections were correct. Also, before the game Tony told the papers that Bolton owe their current success to former manager (and friend) Gary Megson. He said that most of the star players they had were Megson`s transfers, which made life ‘easy` for Owen Coyle. Good win and extra credit for annoying Trotter fans and Coyle: 10/10
Owen Coyle: Not much of a show from Bolton, but two things on show from Coyle himself. The Scot thought he looked hot in them shorts: 10/10 (not for his team`s performance or even for them hairy legs, but the graceful handling of embarrassment for both of those things)