Stoke City: Etherington poised to wing it as Kightly faces axe
MATTHEW Etherington is under starter's orders to unlock the winning formula for Stoke tomorrow.
The popular winger seems certain to be unleashed for his first start since the opening day of the season.
And that could mean a spell on the bench for summer signing Michael Kightly.
Etherington injected visible pace and general impetus into Stoke's attacking play in the latter stages of those back-to-back blanks against Sunderland and Norwich.
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And manager Tony Pulis is talking like a man about to recall a player so crucial to Stoke's fortunes over the past four seasons.
"Matty went through a difficult period," said Pulis, "but he's certainly looked sharp in the last few weeks and he's got a chance.
"He's a good lad and he's been very patient at not being in the team. He hasn't been an ounce of trouble.
"But bringing Kights into the club has shaken him up... and that's good."
Pulis says no player has been kicking up a fuss behind the scenes at their exclusion this season because Stoke's performances have justified keeping faith with a regular starting 11.
"There's not many who knock on the door," he added. "The players see the stats and I don't think there's been a game this season where the lads haven't worked as hard as the opposition.
"Our stats are very encouraging, apart from the final third, and that's where we have to improve.
"I don't think there's much wrong. If there's anything we've got to shake up, it's hopefully (and fingers crossed) to get a bit of luck in front of goal because we are certainly creating chances."
Pulis is also drawing comfort from a somewhat lop-sided fixture list which has so far landed Stoke with four games at home and six away – but now sees them play three out of the next four at the Britannia Stadium.
"We all know how important our home form has been to us over the years," he argued, "and so home games are always going to be important for us.
"When you look at our four home games, we should have beaten Sunderland, we've drawn with Arsenal and Man City, and we beat Swansea.
"Our fans have been important to us and it's important we give them something to cheer about."
Meanwhile, Pulis says he is cool about reports of Thomas Sorensen being unsettled and looking to move on next summer if he remains on the sidelines.
"I haven't spoken to him," he stated. "But he's trained well and he's fine.
"He's an experienced goalkeeper and he wants to be playing, and we have other experienced players outside of Thomas who want to be playing. But there's no problem with me."