Football

Stoke City Vs Bolton Wanderers, Sat 17 Apr 2010

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Stoke have a number of injury problems ahead of the clash with Bolton at the Britannia Stadium.

Winger Matthew Etherington will undergo a late fitness test having picked up a knock to his knee in training, as will top-scorer Ricardo Fuller, who suffered an ankle injury against Hull and missed last week's goalless draw at Wolves.

Potters boss Tony Pulis is unlikely to risk either Ryan Shawcross (ankle) or Mamady Sidibe (groin), but James Beattie could feature after two months out with a knee injury.

Pulis believes Bolton are still playing the way they did under Gary Megson and that the biggest change since Owen Coyle's appointment as manager has been among their fans.

Wanderers slipped into the relegation zone earlier this season with Megson at the helm but after replacing him with Coyle in January, they have managed to claw their way out of the bottom three.

The team are now five points above the drop zone with four games left to play, but in Pulis' opinion the major transformation has come about in the stands rather than on the pitch, where the Bolton faithful have thrown their weight behind Coyle having previously turned on Megson.

"I don't see a lot of difference in the way the team is playing," Pulis said.

"The big difference is the supporters. They seem to have universally accepted Owen, where unfortunately there was a group that didn't with Gary.

"But I don't see any difference in the team or the way they are playing."

Bolton certainly posted a more creditable result against Chelsea this week than they did earlier in the campaign.

Having been thrashed 4-0 both away in the Carling Cup and then again at home in the league against the Blues under Megson in October, Wanderers went down 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night in a match Coyle felt they deserved to draw.

The Scot claimed match official Lee Probert should have awarded his side two penalties for apparent handballs in the area by Didier Drogba and John Terry, and after watching the game, Pulis waded into the debate by suggesting the league is "elitist" when it comes to referees' decisions.

"I think we play in a league that is almost a little bit elitist and there is that divide," Pulis said.

"I'm not saying that referees go out there to make those decisions, but people say it tends to even itself out over the season - having been in it (the Premier League) for two years, I'm not so sure it does.

"I would say that with the bigger teams, especially against the mid-table and lower teams, it certainly falls a bit heavier on their side than on our side. But that's only my experience."

Ricardo Gardner could return to action for Bolton.

Gardner has not played since the 4-0 defeat to Sunderland last month due to a leg problem but has been back in training, along with fellow midfielder Mark Davies, who had suffered a knock but was an unused substitute against Chelsea on Tuesday.

Stuart Holden has targeted Bolton's final two games of the season for his comeback as he continues his recovery from a fractured fibula, while Chris Basham, Gavin McCann, Sean Davis and Joey O'Brien also remain sidelined.

Coyle feels Stoke deserve more respect for their style of play.

Since their promotion almost two years ago, the Potters have often been criticised for their direct approach and last week at

Wolves fans started booing the long-throws of Rory Delap.

However, Coyle - a known advocate of flowing football - believes people should stop labelling Stoke a 'long-ball' team and start giving Tony Pulis' side more credit.

"I think they get tagged with a name that is disrespectful to them," Coyle said.

"Yes, they have attributes and strengths that they play to, but equally they are not adverse to getting the ball down and passing and moving it.

"(Glenn) Whelan, (Liam) Lawrence, (Ricardo) Fuller - these are very good, gifted footballers and I think Stoke are certainly far better than the name-tag that they get."

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Topics:
Stoke City
Football
Bolton Wanderers
Premier League

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