IF EVER one player summed up the rugged physicality and unflinching commitment which have marked Stoke’s astonishing first season in the Premier League, James Beattie is it.
The former Everton striker is the kind of unashamed battering ram who can bludgeon sides into submission single-handedly and his £3.5million capture from Sheffield United in January could yet prove the key for the club’s survival this season.
Beattie and Ricardo Fuller sealed a precious victory at West Brom, his sixth goal in 10 games for Tony Pulis’s side, and pushed them six points clear of the relegation zone and Newcastle, who they take on next weekend.
“James has been massive for us,” Liam Lawrence, the midfielder, said. “If we stay up it is going to be £3.5 million, peanuts, well spent.
“He is on fire. He was playing in the Championship but he is proven in this league. He has come back and I think he will get double figures for us.”
The result virtually condemned West Brom to relegation, despite their pretty football, although defender Jonas Olsson insisted Tony Mowbray’s side would not throw in the towel.
“We are far behind but I am still believing,” he said. “We still have to believe and we still do.”
WEST BROM (4-4-2): Carson 5, Zuiverloon 4, Martis 4, Olsson 4, Robinson 4 (Bednar 60, 5), Morrison 6, Greening 6 (Koren 60, 5), Valero 6, Brunt 6, Fortune 5, Simpson 4 (Teixeira 60, 5).
Subs Not Used: Kiely, Hoefkens, Moore, Dorrans.
STOKE CITY (4-4-2): Sorensen 6, Wilkinson 6, Shawcross 6, Abdoulaye Faye 7, Higginbotham 6, Lawrence 6 (Pugh 74, 5), Delap 6, Whelan 8, Etherington 6, Fuller 7 (Olofinjana 88, 5), Beattie 7 (Cresswell 78, 5).
Subs Not Used: Simonsen, Kelly, Camara, Sonko.
REFEREE: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire) 6: Ensured a potentially fiery game passed off in relative peace.
MATCH RATING: ** A culture clash won emphatically by Stoke’s Roundheads.
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