Britannia rules, OK!

21 March 2009 07:12
Stoke 1-0 MiddlesbroughSoccer Saturday analysis

Alan McInally believes Stoke's home support might just be what keeps them in the Premier League.

The Britannia Stadium was at its loudest as Tony Pulis' side moved out of the bottom three with a huge win over fellow strugglers Middlesbrough, who were left languishing in 19th place.

And while Ryan Shawcross will get the headlines for the late winner, McInally believes there were more than 20,000 other candidates to be hailed as Stoke's saviours.

"They (Stoke fans) are the loudest in the Premier League, they're unbelievable," he told Soccer Saturday.

"They're rowdy, they're noisy as you can be and Tony Pulis is right about them.

"As soon as the ball goes into the final third and they get a throw-in, everybody but everybody stands up because they know if you don't defend it properly they are going to put you under massive pressured - and that's how Stoke got their goal."

"They didn't play particularly well and Boro had chances to at least get on the scoresheet but it is a battle and they couldn't deal with it - they certainly couldn't deal with it in the 84th minute when Shawcross flicked the ball into the net from Delap's throw-in."

BrilliantShawcross' flicked header six minutes from the end made it just one defeat - to Manchester United - in 12 Premier League home games for Stoke.

That sequence has seen them pick up 28 of their 32 points at the Britannia Stadium and with fellow strugglers Newcastle and Blackburn still to come to the Potteries, McInally had every reason to believe they will beat the drop.

"They're the only team that hasn't won away from home, so that's 28 of 32 points that have been done at home," he said.

"If their home form is that good and keeps them in the division, then brilliant - they should let everybody in for nothing at one of the games next season, because they come and support them - and almost drag the ball into the back of the net.

"Stoke were relatively solid and Shawcross and Abdoulaye Faye were good, but they're very, very difficult at home Stoke. Away, Tony Pulis obviously has to work on it because their next game is at West Brom. Then they're at home to Newcastle and Blackburn, so they've got an unbelievable opportunity.

"If they play like that they will put West Brom under pressure and that game in two weeks time might just have them flying to stay in the Premier League."

SombreStaying in the Premier League is looking increasingly tougher for Middlesbrough.

Defeat condemned them to their eighth straight away loss in the league and left Gareth Southgate's men second from bottom if still within two points of safety.

And McInally is in doubt about the biggest threat to their top-flight survival.

"Boro had chances and played good in spells, but if you can't score you are staring down the barrel - and you're not going to be in the division," he said.

"They just didn't have somebody with that little extra; (Stewart) Downing didn't have it, Tuncay (Sanli) was pulling off trying to play those little balls through, but they just didn't have it today and Gareth Southgate will be distraught.

"There were sombre, sombre faces."

Source: SKY_Sports