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Long Ballers No Longer

Stoke's Evolution Completed By Semi Triumph

Posted Apr 18, 2011 by Shaun Edwards

Stoke deserved their win

Make no mistake about it: Bolton Wanderers are a very, very good side.  Deservedly at eight place in the Premiership, Owen Coyle’s outfit are hard-working, disciplined and skilled.  Well, most of the time anyway.

Much as I respect Tony Pulis’ Stoke side, I was expecting Bolton to presumably sneak the FA Cup semi final by a goal or two, simply by virtue of their form over the season.  Well, how wrong can a man be?

Stoke, for their part, were quite excellent throughout the match.  Free-flowing down the wings, players such as Matty Etherington and Jermaine Pennant dominated the Bolton midfield, providing chance after chance for the as ever bullish Kenwyne Jones and the second half substitute Jonathan Walters who scored three of the goals between them.  It was a performance that showed just how much more they have to their game than Rory Delap’s throwing ability.

However, as good as Stoke were, Bolton were worse.  For a side that routinely makes the very best of the resources at their disposal, watching Owen Coyle’s side attempt to defend was a virtual embarrassment, with various errors ending the team’s chances at the half hour mark.  Whether it was a loose pass that allowed Matty Etherington to unleash the opener, or the abysmal defending that lead to Huth smashing the second, wherever there was a Stoke goal you could be sure there would be a Bolton mistake nearby.

Pulis was visibly delighted at the performance – which exercised the Wembley demons he had dealt with after the 1999 play-off defeat to City, and it says a lot about the Stoke boss that he still highlighted the importance of avoiding relegation above that of a potential cup triumph.

Coyle, for his part, made no bones about his side’s woeful performance, and captain Kevin Davies has since take to Twitter to not that he was ‘ashamed and embarrassed’ and that he was profoundly sorry to those fans who had made the investment and travelled to Wembley to watch the game.  Coyle simply noted that Bolton ‘have to learn’ from the match.

The final word, rightly, should go to Pulis.  ‘The players embraced coming to Wembley like nothing else and they will look forward to coming back.’  A more telling summation of his class than anything else, following possibly the biggest win in his club’s history.

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