Crouch is main man for Stoke

Stoke midfielder Dean Whitehead believes there are few strikers in the top flight better than Peter Crouch at the moment.

Crouch headed home the winner from Jermaine Pennant’s free-kick in the Potters’ 2-1 home victory over Wolves on Saturday to take his goal tally for the campaign to 13 in all competitions.

In the previous game at the Britannia Stadium, a 1-1 draw with Manchester City, he volleyed in a contender for goal of the season and there has been plenty of talk about whether or not the 31-year-old should be given an England recall in time for Euro 2012.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis said that if the decision was his, “game changer” Crouch would certainly be going to the tournament.

And the tall front man has also received praise from his team-mate Whitehead, who feels he is right up there with the best in the Barclays Premier League.

“I thought the front lads were absolutely brilliant [against Wolves],” Whitehead said.

“Crouchy and Jon [Walters] never stopped all game, and the deliveries from the wingers [Pennant and Matthew Etherington] were top notch as always.

“When you give players like Crouchy that sort of quality, they are going to score goals.

“He has scored quite a few recently, and I really don’t think there are many better than him in the league at the moment.”

Stoke, who moved up to 11th in the table with their come-from-behind triumph over Wolves, are back in action today with an away game against one of Crouch’s former clubs, 15th-placed Aston Villa.

That will be the 51st match of a gruelling season for the Potters which has seen them reach the last 32 of the Europa League and the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

Whitehead says the team are determined to end it on a high by achieving a top-10 finish, something they are yet to do in the Premier League.

“You have to praise all of the lads because it has been a long, hard season, but we will still be in there battling all the way through to the last whistle on the final day of the season,” Whitehead said.

“We want to show that we aren’t prepared to let what has been a fantastic season just fizzle out.

“We want to get into the top 10 — that is our target now.

“This win should set us up well for Monday’s game against Aston Villa, so we will go there full of confidence, and hopefully get another three points.”

Pulis has indicated he will utilise some players today against Aston Villa who did not feature against Wolves, among them defender Andy Wilkinson who was rested yesterday due to a niggly groin injury.

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