A tireless performance against Bolton last night lifted them out of the relegation zone, and as long as they can exhibit these sort of characteristics on a regular basis one feels that Stoke deserve to stay there.
While their away form has left little to be desired (four draws from 14 games) they have made up for it at home, losing on just three occasions, to Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United. Goals from James Beattie and Ricardo Fuller ensured that Bolton's first-ever visit to the Britannia was one the away team will rather forget.
It is a routine at the Britannia Stadium for the opening riffs of Eminem's Lose Yourself to be pumped out into the ground prior to the teams' entrance. It's objective is to motivate the men, one suspects, but if it has a detrimental effect on their opposition too, all the better. The song's sentiments certainly seem to have registered in the subconscious of the Bolton back four, for they were lost in the moment in the 14th minute when one of Stoke's lofted space balls made re-entry on the edge of their area.
Tasked with the clearance, Andy O'Brien opted for a toe-punt instead of a controlled pass, which arrived at the feet of Stoke midfielder Glenn Whelan. Finding his opposition's defence disordered, Whelan threaded his pass straight through them to James Beattie. Wearing a red turtle-neck top under his shirt with a white patch over his Adam's Apple, Beattie was resembling a wacky vicar last night, but there was nothing benevolent about his finish, which was leathered straight past Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Bolton reordered. Johan Elmander, who had forced Thomas Sorensen to tip over the bar off a Matthew Taylor in an early attack, had a crack from 25-yards, but his shot drifted high and wide. Taylor tried from a free-kick on the stroke of half-time, his effort swung in low and fast. Sorensen flinging himself to his near post, palmed to safety.
The Danish goalkeeper was called into action from another Bolton set-piece after the resumption, by Mark Davies this time. His free-kick went dangerously close, and only Sorensen leaping at the last minute prevented the ball from nestling in the top corner.
Before another minute had elapsed, Bolton had put the ball in the net, but Mike Dean ruled that Sorensen had been blocked, and disallowed the goal. Stoke countered, and Whelan, who is becoming something of a serial assister, fired goalwards when a Rory Delap throw was hastily cleared. Jaaskelainen blocked superbly, but Fuller was in the right place at the right time to hammer home into the roof of the net.