Stoke City v Blackburn Rovers: Preview

01 October 2010 06:28
Stoke manager Tony Pulis is hoping his players will stop making life difficult for themselves when Blackburn visit the Britannia Stadium.

The Potters have trailed at half-time in every one of their top-flight games so far this season, managing only one goal in the opening 45 minutes - against Tottenham in August.

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Pulis said: "There have been some games where we haven't been too bad in the first half, we've just come in losing by a goal.

"The players have worked really hard, they're a good group and they have got good character and they never give up. So you always know if you're losing a game they'll keep going right to the end.

"It's just finding that formula where we can get on the front foot and take the game to them."

Stoke were also slow out of the blocks in terms of results, with their opening three games bringing defeats against Wolves, Spurs and Chelsea.

But an unbeaten September, including wins over Aston Villa and last weekend at Newcastle, have turned things around, with the Potters currently 14th in the table.

Pulis, though, is not about to get carried away and is instead hoping fortune continues to favour his team.

He continued: "We did quite well in the first three games and even the Chelsea game, (Glenn) Whelan hit the underside of the crossbar, which would have made it 1-1 with only 12 minutes to go.

"We've done all right but in the Premier League you've got to be relentless, you mustn't take your foot off the pedal and we have to make sure we keep working as hard as we possibly can and hopefully get the breaks we've been having the last couple of weeks and get as many points on the board as we can."

Pulis had expected to be without striker Ricardo Fuller for the clash after he dislocated his right shoulder last weekend but the Jamaican has made good progress and could be given a place on the bench.

Stoke's other worries are defender Andy Wilkinson, who has a slight knee problem, and Jermaine Pennant, who missed the Newcastle clash with a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, Sam Allardyce admits Rory Delap's long throws are like a "Scud missile" but has warned his Blackburn players to show no fear of the Stoke bombardment.

Allardyce is anticipating a bruising battle but rejects suggestions that Pulis' side are too physical.

The Rovers boss insists his players must be "man enough" to stand up to Stoke - starting with dealing with the famous Delap throw-in.

Allardyce said: "Many teams have a long-throw expert in their armoury but Rory Delap is the best at it, that's the difference.

"Rory Delap delivers the best Scud missile I have ever seen.

"Defending that makes life very difficult as often the goal is scored from a flick-on by your own defender.

"It's a weapon that has been evolving and now everybody talks about it but I say to the players 'it's still just a throw-in so don't get nervous and worried about it, get in your positions and go and attack it'."

Blackburn have returned from Stoke empty-handed in their last two visits and Allardyce believes the arrival of Kenwyne Jones has only increased the Potters' strength.

He said: "The acquisition of Kenwyne has made them a bigger goal threat, and the physical presence of the side means you have got to stand up to them. If you don't, you can be overpowered and end up coming away with nothing as we have done in the last two seasons.

"For me it's not, as some people have suggested, over-physical. It's about big powerful players using their strength and their abilities to try and dominate the opposition and you have to be man enough and big enough to stand up to that."

David Dunn continues to be absent with a hamstring injury.

Vince Grella is also missing with a hamstring but Jason Roberts is likely to be on the bench for the first time this season and Keith Andrews is also back in the squad after injury.

Source: DSG