Stoke ended a run of four consecutive Premier League defeats after they saw off a feeble fight fromBlackburn at the Britannia Stadium to move into the top of half of the table.
The Potters went into the game desperate not to make it five top flight defeats in a row for the first time since the 1984/85 season and after a nervy opening finally took the lead through the unlikely source of Rory Delap. Tony Pulis’ side had to wait until the second half before securing victory with Glenn Whelan steering in his first goal for 18 months just before the hour before Peter Crouchwrapped up the win with 18 minutes left. It was their first three point haul since beating Fulham in mid-October and kept Blackburn deeply rooted in the relegation zone with boss Steve Kean once again presiding over a lifeless display from his side with Ruben Rochina grabbing a late consolation. Rovers had showed great resilience to claim a point at fellow relegation rivals Wigan last week but that fights spirit was missing at the Potteries as the home side strolled to an easy victory. The pressure is now firmly on Kean who, despite signing a new deal this week, was once again subject of protests from his own fans with the club looking like firm candidates for relegation. Stoke on the other hand moved back into the top half after inflicting an eight defeat of the season on a beleaguered Rovers side.
It was the away side who started the game in the ascendancy though with Kean’s players looking full of running and energy in the early exchanges although a distinct lack of quality in the final third with Rochina’s long range effort on the stroke of half time their only real effort. By the time that came Stoke had already taken the lead with Delap meeting Jermaine Pennant’s superb free kick to power a header past Paul Robinson just before the half hour.
After a rather dour first forty five minutes the second half proved to be much better viewing with Blackburn once again starting with vigour only for them to fade as the game went on. They did have a superb chance to equalise just after the restart with Rochina’s dribble and subsequent cross finding Mauro Formica only for the striker to mis-cue his shot from six-yards. The away side’s confidence soon fizzled out allowing Stoke to take control of the game and it was no surprise when they doubled their lead on 58 minutes through Whelan. Some neat build up from Matthew Etherington and Jon Walters saw the ball find the Republic of Ireland midfielder 18-yards from goal and he made no mistake slamming the ball past Robinson via a deflection off Scott Dann.
Two became three soon after with Crouch smashing home a precise finish from 12-yards after Marc Wilson’s long ball had caught the Rovers defence cold allowing the England striker the freedom to pick his spot and wrap the points up for the Potters. The travelling Blackburn support continued to vent their frustrations over Kean’s tenure but did have something to celebrate after Rochina drilled home a consolation with four minutes to go. However a the pressure remains on him to turn things around at Ewood Park with a run of six wins in 33 good enough to get any other manager the sack rather than a new contract.
Rovers fans will be demanding improvement in the coming weeks with the club four points adrift of safety and facing games against Swansea, Sunderland, West Brom and Bolton over the festive period.