What a difference a year makes.
Stoke’s visit to Ewood Park around this time last year coincided with the first appearance of the new Rovers’ boss, Sam Allardyce and the Potters collapsed to a 3-0 defeat. This season, even though he was absent – recovering from a heart operation – the match was contested by two very evenly matched teams and it was the Potters who might be feeling more hard done to this morning as neither side was able to break the deadlock.
At least some fans would agree with the gaffer’s selection of some of his starting eleven as he brought back Liam Lawrence for only his second start of the season after his heroics in the World Cup qualifiers for Ireland. Andy Wilkinson fully deserved his recall after impressing last week in preference to his skipper, Abdoulaye Faye, who had to make do with a place on the bench.
James Beattie, who continues to suffer from injury niggles, was forced to sit it out with Mamady Sidibe making his first start of the season whilst Tuncay was again bench-bound.
But this was no nil-nil bore draw, despite the best attempts of some members of the media eager to do down the two teams most noted for their combative style of play. Both Robinson in the Rovers’ goal and Thomas Sorensen were instrumental in ensuring that neither side were given the chance of three points.
The former England keeper was called into some point blank saves from Dean Whitehead. The midfielder found himself in the unusual striker’s role on a couple of occasions – one after a typical mazy run from Ricardo Fuller – but couldn’t get the ball past the keeper whilst you felt that the likes of Beattie, Fuller or (dare I say) Tuncay in a similar position would have at least slotted one of them into the back of the net. Mamady Sidibe had an opportunity to power home a shot, but after slipping in the penalty area, opted for a pass to a teammate.
At the other end, Sorensen was kept equally busy when just five minutes in to the game, Di Santo was given too much room in the penalty area but he made a great block to deny the home side an early lead. Another good save through a crowded area was also a highlight but the only scary moment came when Nzonzi’s second half shot hit the outside of the post with Sorensen beaten.
Stoke’s defence suffered a setback with Ryan Shawcross having to depart early in the second half after suffering a groin injury, but at least we had the consolation of being able to replace him with Abdy Faye.
Beattie came on for the tiring Sidibe with twenty minutes remaining and had a good chance from a Fuller cross, but failed to connect properly and the ball went wide.
This was the Potters’ second goalless draw of the season, but with only two defeats on our travels this season (Liverpool and Hull) this is a team that hopefully has learnt the lessons of last year when we seemed to be nearly everyone’s favourite visitors.
08 Dunn (Roberts 32)
17 Andrews (Grella 46)
18 Diouf (Pedersen 67)
26 Di Santo
32 Brown, 27 Salgado, 11 Grella, 12 Pedersen, 09 Roberts, 10 McCarthy, 22 Kalinic
17 Shawcross (Faye 51)
10 Fuller (Tuncay 83)
11 Sidibe (Beattie 68)
01 Simonsen, 03 Higginbotham, 25 Faye, 06 Whelan, 20 Tuncay, 24 Delap, 09 Beattie
Rovers and Potters deadlock
What a difference a year makes.