Saturday 25 January 2020

Crouch averts another Europa hangover for Pulis


Jon Culley

NO football manager can get to the top without possessing resilient self-belief, but if there is an urge to blow his own trumpet lurking within Tony Pulis, he hides it well.

There is craft as well as graft to his current Stoke team but offer this as ammunition to put a few detractors in their place and he'll insist he couldn't care less.

Suggest likewise that establishing Stoke in the top half of the Premier League and guiding them to the last-32 of the Europa League might reflect rather well on his ability and he'll say that it is his chairman, Peter Coates, who deserves credit.

Pulis was only ever likely to laugh, then, at the idea of passing on tips to Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini on what it takes to succeed in Europe's second tier.

Stoke, in any event, still have much to learn, such as how to avoid the Sunday drubbings they suffered at Sunderland and Bolton after Thursday games in Kiev and Tel Aviv.

A repeat was averted on Saturday, largely because Pulis, safe in the knowledge that Stoke's progress was secured, left his entire starting XI at home for last week's trip to Istanbul.

An early penalty for Wolves -- converted by Ireland's Stephen Hunt -- altered the course of the game in a way that favoured Stoke.

It prompted Pulis to substitute Jonathan Woodgate, who had already been booked for a foul on winger Matt Jarvis when a trip on the same player had referee Anthony Taylor pointing to the spot.

Pulis replaced Woodgate, who was lucky not to be sent off, with Jermaine Pennant.

Pennant and Matthew Etherington became the key figures, along with Jonathan Walters and Peter Crouch in the middle, in helping their side achieve a fourth straight win for the first time in the Premier League and leave Wolves still precariously close to the bottom three after four defeats in five games.

Walters earned the free-kick that led to Robert Huth beating Wayne Hennessey with a 30-yard shot that deflected off Ireland striker Kevin Doyle before an eight-pass move involving both Pennant and Etherington concluded with Crouch's 99th league goal. (© Independent News Service)

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