Admittedly, Stoke's away form has left little to be desired, but they have made up for it at home. Goals from James Beattie and Ricardo Fuller ensured that Bolton's first ever visit to the Britannia did nothing to damage what has been an impressive season at the stadium. Now they must build on this 'smashing result', as Stoke manager Tony Pulis put it. 'It is important now that we take it on,' he added.
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It is a routine at this ground for the opening riffs of Eminem's Lose Yourself to be pumped out before the teams' entrance. Its 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 balls made a 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 Beattie. Wearing a red turtleneck top with a white patch over his throat under his shirt, Beattie looked rather like a wacky vicar, but there was nothing benevolent about his finish, which was leathered straight past Jussi Jaaskelainen.
'It was goal that had to be seen to be believed,' Bolton manager Gary Megson said. 'You won't see a worse goal conceded up and down the country.'
Bolton reordered. Johan Elmander, who had forced Thomas Sorensen to tip over the bar off Matthew Taylor in an early attack, had a crack from 25 yards, but his shot drifted high. Taylor tried from a free-kick, but Sorensen flung himself to his near post and palmed to safety.
The Danish goalkeeper was called into action after the resumption when Mark Davies' free-kick went dangerously close, and only Sorensen's leap at the last second prevented the ball from nestling in the top corner.
But it was Stoke, still toiling, who struck. Whelan, becoming something of a serial assister, fired goalwards. Jaaskelainen blocked superbly, but Fuller was ready and waiting to hammer the ball into the roof of the net.