It wasn't exactly the most inspiring performance, but true to the battling Blues spirit, we kept on going and clinched an important goal and a great win right at the death. At this point in the season, it doesn't matter how the wins come - just that they keep on coming.
It's always going to be hard when you play Stoke. They're a physical team which consists of hardly any players below 6ft, but as much as people moan about their style of play, it works for them. It's certainly not pretty, but I guess you could say it's effective, and this made for a pretty poor game of football.
Blues lined up 4-4-2 looking for a second win on the bounce after last weeks gritty away win at West Ham, and débutante Obafemi Martins partnered Zigic up front. Martins was pretty quiet throughout the first half, although the touches he did make were superb, with some neat little back heals that came off every time. Getting into great positions he looks a promising striker and a good option for us, although he is muscled off the ball quite easily - but you couldn't tell whether he was going down easily or if it was Stoke being Stoke.
Another player who impressed throughout the game was Seb Larsson. He's not exactly been people's favourite the past few weeks, but today he was on another level. He went for everything, chased balls that looked like a lost cause and won the ball, did some great running down the wing and all in all he was brilliant. If I was wearing a hat I would be taking it off for him right now.
Neither team created too much and it was a poor game. Mark Halsey seemed to follow the trend as he too had a bad game, which arguably made a poor game even worse by his questionable officiating. Amongst other decisions that didn't go our way, the stand out one has to be Huth's handball in the second half, which everyone in the ground seemed to see except Halsey and his linesmen.
However, there is no use just bemoaning the referee. Blues just couldn't play their way today - no thanks to Stoke - despite a good attacking formation made up of the best players we have fit at the moment. We weren't awful though; no way. We coped well with Stoke's long-throw and hooooooof tactics but we just simply couldn't get hold of the ball, and when we did, silly errors or misplaced passes were our downfall.
Games like today's need inspiring substitutions, or substitutions that will give you a different outlet: step up Cameron Jerome. He did great when he came on for Martins and hopefully silenced a few of his haters. Like Larsson, he must of had his Weetabix before the game as he was chasing everything down and winning balls as soon as he came on, and played a big part in the last minute winner as well.
With only a couple of minutes left on the clock, Blues won a free kick just over the half way line which Barry Ferguson stepped up to take. Stoke were all expecting him to lump it into the area for the likes of Zigic, Johnson and Jerome, but Bentley made a cheeky little run down the wing which not many anticipated, and ran on for a shot at goal which was saved by Begovic. Jerome did brilliantly to get the ball away from the grasp of the Stoke goalkeeper and chipped it, only for it to be desperately clawed by Begovic into the path of Zigic who had the easy task of guiding it into the net in front of him.
The resilient defending and never say die attitude really helped Blues today. It wasn't the best game to watch and it certainly won't be remembered this time next year, but it was an important win and a massive three points that saw us go 14th on the table, level on points with Villa and Blackpool - and just above them too with out good goal difference.