Thursday, 1 November 2012

Stoke City 0 v 0 Sunderland

Saturday 27th October 2012
FA Premiership
Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
Admission: £32.00
Programme: £3.50
Attendance: 27,005
Match Rating: 2

A long distance venture for a football game today was inspired by the train company, London Midland, offering a day rover ticket across their network for just £9.90 with a railcard. I initially shortlisted either Kidderminster Harriers, Tamworth or Nuneaton Borough to visit today, however I finally decided to take another step towards completing the 92 league clubs with a visit to Stoke City Football Club.

The Britannia Stadium is located about a half hour walk from Stoke-on-Trent railway station – one passes the stadium on the train journey from the south, but frustratingly there is no local station – and the walk is actually a rather pleasant one, alongside the Trent and Mersey canal, finally crossing over the canal with the stadium high above to the left. The ground certainly looks attractive and imposing on approaching it, although one can easily understand why the ground has the reputation for being cold and windswept, with its exposed nature. To the rear of the car park surrounding the stadium, behind one of the goals, are three statues of Sir Stanley Matthews.  Once inside the stadium, there is little to inspire the sense, just the feeling of another modern stadium. I purchased a seat in the Seddon Stand, along one length of the pitch, and this stand continues behind one of the goals. Two separate stands are located along the other length and behind the other goal. Although the programme was one of the more expensive at £3.50, it was a good and interesting read.

This game had a low scoring draw written all over it, with Stoke having drawn five of their eight games so far, scoring eight and conceding nine, and Sunderland drawing five of their seven games, scoring six and conceding eight. Each team has only won once so far this season.

On a cold but bright and sunny afternoon - a tad too sunny having to face the direct sun from where I was sitting - this match unfortunately very much played down to expectations. Competitive throughout, neither team really looked like scoring, certainly not in the first half.

The second half had marginally more action, although the game was delayed for around five minutes whilst the Stoke defender, Marc Wilson, was carried off on a stretcher with a broken leg. As the half wore on, Stoke did increasingly look to take the initiative and created some reasonable chances and Sunderland had their keeper, Simon Mignolet, to thank for keeping a clean sheet. Sunderland barely had a chance on goal throughout the 90 minutes, although they were denied a penalty when a goalbound shot from Stephen Fletcher hit Robert Huth's hand. The referee decided however that handball was unintentional. Stoke had their best chances in the last ten minutes of normal time, but in truth, one had the feeling that if the referee had played 80 minutes of added on time instead of 8, still neither team would have scored.

So a disappointing outing to a very poor advert for Premier League football, where even the Stoke support, renowned for generating an excellent atmosphere, were generally quiet - unsurprising with the lack of entertainment and attacking endeavour on the pitch.

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