Martin Smith: When will referees take action to protect our players?
AS MUCH as you only want to talk about the football after a decent game, there are times when circumstances dictate otherwise.
And that was certainly the case with Stoke's 1-1 draw with Everton, when the merits of what turned out to be an entertaining game were soon forgotten amid the furore over the shocking and unprovoked head-butt by Marouanne Fellaini on our captain, Ryan Shawcross.
Of course, while the head-butt was the main talking point, it was just one of a trio of incidents involving the Everton player and Shawcross.
While your first reaction was bemusement that Fellaini was still on the pitch at the end of the match, it shouldn't have come as a surprise to Stoke fans.
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We are getting used to shocking assaults against our players going unpunished. That's at least the third time it has happened this season already.
Stoke have a reputation for being the hard-man team of the Premier League, the club who employ bully-boy tactics to prosper, yet there's no question we are more sinned against than sinners so far this term.
In this instance, at least Fellaini has been punished with a three-match ban, which hasn't always been the case where players have committed serious foul play against Stoke this term.
But what good is that punishment to the team against whom his offence was committed?
We were made to play the entire game against 11 men – and injury would have been added to insult had Fellaini taken a decent chance to score late on.
Yet Everton's next three opponents – West Ham, Wigan and Chelsea – will get to play them without facing one of their most influential players.
But a fat lot of good that is to the team against whom the offence was committed.
In the meantime we must just soldier on in the hope that justice will prevail in the long run, but it does seem as though referees are going into our matches with preconceived ideas about who the bad guys are.
That's not paranoia. The notion is borne out by the weight of evidence accumulated in recent weeks.
At Aston Villa the week before the Everton game we had Ryan Shotton sent off for two almost imaginary offences, yet opposing players got away with some shocking tackles.
It was a similar situation at Chelsea earlier in the season.
The one positive to come out of the Fellaini incident was the reaction of the Stoke players.
There were no histrionics, no play-acting and no crowding around the referee.
We saw a similar reaction when Andy Wilkinson was scythed down during our home match against Sunderland on October 27.
Say what you like about our football, but I am proud to support a club whose players act like men on the field of play.
As for the game, Everton were better in the first half and could easily have led by more that just Shawcross' unfortunate own goal.
But there's no question that we were the better side after the break and had chances to win the game.
Our goal was straight out of the Stoke City catalogue, and Kenwyne Jones, Cameron Jerome and Peter Crouch all then had opportunities to grab a winner.
Our performance was a major step-up from the non-event at Villa, and proved again that we need fear no-one in the Premier League.
Everton have been going well this season and, like us, would be doing even better if they had been able to turn a few of their many draws into wins.
They're a good team and this was a good test for Stoke.
We showed we can easily match a team who, in many ways, we aspire to be.
In doing so we also extended our current run to three defeats in 17 games this season, maintained our status as the team who have conceded the fewest goals in the top flight and made it 15 league games since any visiting side left The Brit with three points.
This weekend sees us face another stern test as we take on Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
You never quite know what you're going to get from Spurs, but they have the ability to take apart the best teams in the Premier League when it all clicks for them.
We have a decent record against them, with a memorable victory and a draw to our name from our four trips to White Hart Lane since promotion, but we'll need to be at our very best to enhance those stats.
However, we shouldn't go thinking that such an achievement is beyond us.
In fact, it's just the sort of game where we should be looking to add another memorable feat to our growing list of accomplishments achieved over the past few years.
For many, the highlight of our time back in the Premier League so far was that 1-0 victory at Tottenham Hotspur on October 24, 2009. So why can't we do it again?
Spurs play an open game and, as such, leave themselves open to being beaten.
Wigan Athletic have already won there this season and both Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion have grabbed draws.
I have no doubt that a solid Stoke performance will be more than enough for us to also secure a positive result heading into the Christmas schedule.