Full-time match report: Stoke City 0, West Brom 0
Stoke City 0, West Brom 0
Better Stoke, much better, but sadly there was another stalemate in front of the opposition goal here at the Britannia this afternoon.
How the mood might have been different had Kenwyne Jones buried a rare and very late chance right in front of the Albion goal.
But at least Stoke played with positive intent for much of the afternoon and were certainly the only team trying to win the game late in the day.
And the home crowd, superbly supportive throughout, appeared to appreciate as much as a few light jeers on the final whistle were soon replaced by a smattering of applause.
A draw also ends that run of three straight defeats and gives Stoke something to build on after so much soul searching over the past week or so.
Stoke must have begun the afternoon wondering about the reception from their fans after recent results and frustrations, but there could be no complaints about the backing from both sets of fans.
Ryan Shotton's early scything of Jerome Thomas – right on the edge of his own box - certainly suggested the Stoke players were up for this one.
Cameron Jerome was over with an early header at one end, while James Morrison's low drive forced a goalkeeping spill at the other, as both sides warmed to the positive atmosphere.
Jon Walters was suffering some early knocks for the cause and the returning Matthew Etherington was looking lively on the left as Stoke pressed without joy for the first 15 minutes.
Steven Nzonzi's liveliness in the loose was infectious, but still chances were AWOL at either end.
Ben Foster's first save came on 24 minutes when he stretched to grab Etherington's in-swinging free-kick beneath his cross bar.
Mike Dean's decision-making was doing nothing to endear him to a vocal home crowd as both Nzonzi and Walters were denied free-kicks in promising areas of the pitch.
Stoke fans were building up a head of steam as Etherington's left-wing corner was headed over by Crouch when stooping to try and make a better contact.
And then Walters saw a long-range effort deflect off Jonas Olsson and dip just wide of the far stick with Foster scrambling.
City remained the sharper in open exchanges and a succession of corners kept their fans firmly by their side.
Still no goal, nor any threatening effort on goal, but at least Stoke remained the hungrier-looking of the two sides.
Half-time: Stoke 0, Albion 0.
Romelu Lukaku nodded down and into the keeper's hands at one end and Crouch headed over Etherington's cross at the other as the second half opened promisingly for both teams.
Etherington continued to arouse the home fans, but one left-wing ball eluded Crouch and left Liam Ridgewell forcing Foster to save his header back at his own goal.
Ridgewell was in more conventional action five minutes later when whipping over a left-wing cross which only just escaped Lukaku's predatory forehead slap bang in front of the Stoke goal.
And Stoke were counting their blessings when Chris Brunt's free-kick rocketed off the wall for Billy Jones to crash over a low right-wing ball that cannoned over for a corner.
Kenwyne Jones replaced Crouch unusually early in the 64th minute to join fellow sub Dean Whitehead on the pitch following his half-time replacement of the injured Glenn Whelan.
That helped get the home crowd firing again and Marc Wilson only just failed to connect with Stoke's first corner of the second half before Foster eventually collected impressively.
Indeed, Stoke fans were magnificently supportive as their players continued to push forward with more intent than quality.
Charlie Adam's appearance from the bench offered the home crowd further hope of that elusive breakthrough… but not before Youssouf Mulumbu scythed a long-ranger narrowly over.
Torrential rain was now descending to threaten the possibility of a mistake finally separating these two.
Wilson threatened again, this time from Whitehead's right-wing corner, but his glancing header flew a couple of yards wide of the far post.
The final 10 minutes began with Asmir Begovic sinking low and slightly to his right to safely pouch Peter Odemwingie's first contribution since coming off the Albion bench.
Whitehead fired over with a rushed effort and also won a free-kick for Brunt's late lunge on him, but Adam's subsequent 25-yard effort with the dead ball thundered into the wall and rebounded for Ryan Shawcross to be flagged offside as he struck his close-range effort against Foster's trailing leg.
Stoke were handed another controversial free-kick in tasty territory when Walters went tumbling after Ridgewell backed into his jump.
But Adam's free-kick cannoned into the wall once again and this time Albion broke upfield to briefly threaten a goal against the run of play.
And then came the chance to win it, or so we thought, when Jones controlled on his chest and prodded a close-range volley straight at a grateful Foster in stoppage time.
Stoke: Begovic, Shotton, Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Jerome, Whelan, Nzonzi, Etherington, Walters, Crouch. Subs: Whitehead (for Whelan,46), Jones (for Crouch,64), Adam (for Jerome,75) . Not used: Sorensen, Owen, Kightly, Wilkinson.
Albion: Foster,Jones, Ridgewell, Olsson, McAuley, Thomas, Yacob, Morrison, Mulumbu, Brunt, Lukaku. Subs: Odemwingie (for Thomas,67), Long (for Lukaku,75), Fortune (for Morrison,85). Not used: Myhill, Popov, Rosenberg, Tamas.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).
Cards: Stoke – Shotton (foul,43), Etherington (foul,58). Albion – Brunt (unsporting behaviour,34), Morrison (foul,45).