Stoke City's Hawthorns win in spite of losing three strikers
STOKE'S customary victory at The Hawthorns was all the more remarkable because they lost not one, not two, but three strikers before the game had even kicked off.
Peter Crouch turned up after dental work to repair his mouth damaged three days earlier, but must await the fitting of a protective brace this week before he can play.
Cameron Jerome was desperate for another chance from the bench after grabbing the winner against Newcastle last week, but his hopes were dashed by the end of the pre-match warm-up after a problem with an ankle.
And Michael Owen, the man pencilled in to replace Jerome among the subs, cried off when complaining of a sore hamstring at the same time.
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"Cameron kicked the ball and felt his ankle," manager Tony Pulis disclosed. "We don't know if it's the ligament or the tendon.
"Michael was doing some work and felt his hamstring tighten. It's probably the cold weather, so we couldn't put him on the bench."
Thank goodness he had midfield dynamo Dean Whitehead to call on, a player without a goal in 13 months and without a league goal in 23, who emerged as his team's unlikely match-winner after being called into action to shore up events in midfield.
"We didn't have a forward to make that change, but it was right for Deano to go on because they were getting a foothold in midfield," said Pulis.
However, Whitehead temporarily shunned his defensive duties to support a rare break and convert Michael Kightly's square ball from the right.
"I'm pleased for Deano because he's a great lad and fantastic in training," added Pulis.
"He's been out because of suspension and had to wait his time. He's one of the bedrocks of the team and I'm so pleased to see him score.
"Our fans seem to enjoy coming to West Brom. They've had some great times here."
Just a bit. Stoke maintained their 100 per cent Premier League record at The Hawthorns – it's now four wins in four visits and no goals conceded – after Pulis saluted the execution of a well-worked game plan.
It was also a first away win in the Premier League since way back on January 2 when Stoke won at Blackburn.
"It's taken a monkey off our backs," Pulis acknowledged, "but we've deserved to win games away before now.
"I've watched West Brom a few times and they are as good as anything in the league at counter-attacking.
"They've got pace and get through the pitch, so we had to get bodies back.
"We were very disciplined and deserved the victory.
Pulis nodded in agreement to the success of his substitutions for a second game running, but added: "Sometimes it happens... but I haven't turned into a genius."