The last two trips to the Bet365 Stadium have been truly awful - two of the most boring 0-0 draws with the most horrendous of weather conditions. Surely this season, with Stoke City battling to try and get into the play-offs and ourselves having an eye on the top two, we’d see a bit of a different game? Nah.
In fact, today’s match was probably the worst of the lot, and that’s saying something considering Mark Bowen made me watch Charlie Adam play left midfield in a 4-4-2 in this fixture last season the day after my Work Christmas Do (translation: I had a raging hangover.). I still get the shivers thinking about that day as I sit here now.
In all seriousness, we were really poor today. And after Swansea City beat Norwich City on Friday, this game gave us a chance to put our name in the hat for the automatic promotion race - a chance we've missed out on. We were quite clearly nowhere near our best against Stoke, but teams who finish in the top two win games even when they don’t play well.
For the entire game, bar the last 10 or so minutes when we seemed to wake up a tiny bit, we were passive in possession and were stuck in gear one. Sloppy touches, poor passes and questionable decision-making combined with typical Stoke-on-Trent weather conditions doesn’t make for a very good performance, or very good entertainment for the fans.
I said after the Preston North End match that you can never complain too much about a clean sheet and a point away from home in the Championship, and I stand by that theory today too, but this draw feels like a loss.
Stoke were there for the taking and when you’ve got a front four of John Swift, Ovie Ejaria, Michael Olise and Lucas Joao - with Yakou Meite as a reinforcement off the bench - you just have to conjure up more than what we did. Of course by more than what we did, I mean pretty much anything, because we had just one shot on target.
With the players we have going forward, you always expect to create at least one clear-cut chance, and even if you don’t, one of them will more than likely create something out of nothing to win the game anyway. Neither of those things happened today.
Everyone looked off the pace, and I think that’s what will upset Pauno the most. I just feel that all the attacking players could’ve done a lot more to stamp their authority on the game. Against Preston, we were unlucky and it was just one of those days where it didn’t go right for us, but today I'm thinking we just didn’t do enough.
Although my overwhelming emotions as I sit here writing this are disappointment, frustration and complete and utter boredom, you guys may know I’ve always being someone who thinks looking at the bigger picture is the most important thing to do. So let’s do just that.
We’re still unbeaten in the league in 2021, another clean sheet and point away from home and we’re now eight points clear of seventh-placed Middlesborough with a game in hand on the teams below us. It's a pretty good-looking picture in the grand scheme of things.
Let’s be honest guys, as much as we'd all like to be, we’re not in the picture for the top two yet. That may well change as we progress through the season, I want that as much as anybody, but our goal at the moment is to solidify our position in the top top, and this result has helped do just that - as infuriating and as boring as it may have been.
At the end of the day, it's one of those results that we'll only know the importance of in a few games time. If we go on to beat Brentford and really make a stride for the top two then we’ll say it’s a good point. If the opposite happens then we’ll say it’s a huge opportunity missed.
Luckily for us though, so far this season Pauno and this team have made results like this good ones. After the 1-1 draw at Millwall we bounced back with the performance of the season against Bristol City. After the 0-0 draw at Preston, guess what? We bounced back with the performance of the season against Bournemouth.
This 0-0 draw against Stoke has set up a very, very juicy-looking contest against Brentford on Wednesday evening. By juicy I of course mean horrendously nerve-wracking and not good at all for my cardiovascular health, but hey, what’s being a football fan without a few minor heart palpations every now and then?
Wednesday night is a season-defining game, and I guarantee it'll be more exciting than what we had to endure today, but then again so is everything else that has ever happened, ever.
Right, I'm off to watch Parish Council Zoom Meetings compilations.