What a difference a referee can make, as we have seen so many times this year in games throughout the land. Nil-nil at half time and we were playing reasonably well, though in a stop-start manner, with both sides not keeping the ball on the deck for long periods.
Our best attacking option was Giles Barnes down the right, seeming to go past players for fun – which he did on a few occasions. Jerome Thomas on the left also seemed to have the ability to beat his man – but rarely did so, preferring to cut inside onto his right foot.
On the one occasion he did get to the goal line he didn’t cross with his left, which was what the occasion needed. Chance gone.
Peter Odemwingie had one or two good openings and shots, but otherwise there was little action, and we seemed a little lightweight in midfield. Stoke seemed to offer nothing in attack.
Barnes had replaced the injured Chris Brunt, with Gonzalo Jara returning, and Marek Cech preferred to (an unlucky) Nicky Shorey.
The second half started with a highly debatable penalty, as Scott Carson had to leave his goal to thwart Kenwyne Jones. The ref deemed Carson to have caught the Stoke player – a harsh decision. We were thus chasing the game, and dominating it once more (63 per cent possession), and though we created chances we failed to score.
What looked a foul, in the penalty area at the Brummie Road End (not given) then saw a similar foul at the Smethwick End – and this was given. 0-2 and there would be no way back against a well-drilled and disciplined side. The third goal made a mockery of the match: it was not a 0-3 game.
Surprisingly there was no-one booked, and the man of the match (Albion) was Yousouff Mulumbu – yet again (who received 41 per cent of the vote); while the website man of the match was Gabriel Tamas.
So, has the bubble burst, and are we in danger of going down? It’s too soon to tell yet, though we are playing well and creating half chances – we just need to take them. If we weren’t then there might be some concern, but we do have points on the board and quite a few teams below us have hard games to play.
It will be all about how we deal with the teams that are in the ‘mini league’, though the way the season is going so far with lower teams beating the top teams, then who can say where that mini league starts and ends.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.