No red card shame for exceptional Harry Souttar as Stoke City edge towards record


Stoke City played out their eighth 0-0 draw of the season when they took on Preston in a match when they finished with 10 men and Preston were lucky not to. Here are the talking points from the bet365 Stadium.

Harry Souttar takes responsibility

If questions had to be asked about how much space that Harry Souttar had to catch up on Alan Browne, Souttar made sure he didn’t get into the area. Foul or not – arm up but Browne ran into the defender – that was the end of his road.

It was reminiscent, albeit not so clear cut, as Ben Petty in an old play-off game at the same end about 20 years ago. Take one for the team in the closing stages. Whisper it, but that’s not a bad red card, even if he’ll be missed for his one game ban.

Souttar has had a brilliant season, blossoming as a cornerstone of a team that is on the verge of a club record for clean sheets. There can be few defenders around of his age who are better at bringing the ball out from the back and he is clearly enjoying defending too.

If Stoke didn’t have too many complaints about his dismissal, they did about Preston not being down to 10 men.

Brad Potts caught Nick Powell’s ankle with a bad challenge. It was bizarre that whistle-happy James Linington didn’t give a free-kick, let alone a red card.

There is a theory that referees in the Championship have been affected by matches being behind closed doors more than the players and Stoke have certainly had reason to try to come up with any explanation for a campaign that has been pockmarked by poor calls.


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Rhys Norrington-Davies at left centre-back

Rhys Norrington-Davies got a six in the player ratings but that was only because it was promising rather than delivered.

He was a Marc Muniesa or Sheffield United type of centre-half, bombing forward whenever he got the chance. He played a superb pass into the final third for Josh Tymon in the first half and got in there himself in the second.

It was great movement, great linking play with Jordan Thompson and Tymon for him to seize the space on the inside left. He might have seen the net bulging, he might have picked out a teammate or two… but all of a sudden he’d lost it.

There were a couple of loose passes into the middle third too which might have been dangerous.

But for a first full 90 in that role, he helped the way that Michael O’Neill wants to play.

Christian Norton offers something different

Congratulations to Christian Norton on his first start for Stoke City.

This was probably a chance he didn’t expect at this stage, just a few months after being released by Southampton and just five after arriving at Stoke, initially on trial.

He has some exciting attributes; pace, energy, power and a neat touch. It is a big step up to the hurly burly of Championship football, being bumped and thumped and knocked around.

Already, however, he gives defenders something to think about by being lively around the final third – he might have had a penalty for his troubles too – when a couple of Stoke strikers in recent times have given a chance for centre-backs to light cigars.

A loan move is probably still the next part of his development, like it was with Tyrese Campbell, but there is reason for excitement.

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A big load of clean sheets

The 20th clean sheet in the league this season is no mean feat. It should be a bedrock for what happens next.

Stoke are now one away from equalling the club record set by Alan Durban’s promotion winners in 1979. They have four games to draw level or better it.

The problem is that now eight of those clean sheets have only been worth one point.

There were a couple of moments when, if Stoke had shown a bit more composure or ruthlessness, or perhaps just quality, they would have been winning moments.

If only Harry Souttar had buried that header, if only Jacob Brown had smashed in from a tight angle after doing so well to nick the ball in such a good area in injury time.

Preston could probably to a couple of similar opportunities, like when Alan Browne went through for the red card incident of just afterwards, or when Andrew Hughes clipped the post with a free-kick.

Swinging tight games is the key to doing well in the Championship and it’s something Stoke have to get better at next season.

Steven Fletcher, hold your line

Steven Fletcher likes to play off the shoulder and he will always push the line… but that’s four times now he has had a goal disallowed since the turn of the year for a tight offside call.

The latest was a beauty of a cross from Nick Powell that Fletcher excellently finished. He wasn’t surprised to see it chalked off but they have all been very marginal calls.

He might be one of the few flying the flag for VAR but you probably shouldn’t mention flag when he is within earshot.





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