JACK BUTLAND further enhanced his rapidly growing reputation with another tremendous display to help blunt Newcastle United and secure his side a share of the spoils at St James’ Park on Saturday afternoon.
The England international was the Potters hero in the Capital One Cup penalty shootout victory earlier in the week and was at his brilliant best once more as Mark Hughes’ side recorded a third successive clean sheet on the road.
The visitors, who had recorded back-to-back 1-0 triumphs on the road prior to this fixture, went closest to breaking the deadlock early in the first half when Charlie Adam’s outstanding whipped ball across the box narrowly evaded the stretched out Jon Walters at the back post.
Newcastle thought they had taken the lead themselves shortly before the interval when Aleksander Mitrovic planted a header onto the woodwork, before Butland scrambled the ball away from danger after bravely diving at the feet of the powerful striker.
The second half was relatively one way traffic in terms of opportunities created with Butland thwarting Moussa Sissoko with an outstanding save after the midfielder burst through on goal, before parrying a stinging Ayoze Perez over the bar.
At the other end Republic of Ireland international Walters saw a close range header blocked by Magpies skipper Fabricio Coloccini and then lashed the rebound well over the bar when he will have backed himself to have at least hit the target.
Ryan Shawcross, who was making his first Premier League appearance of the season, was more than a match for Mitrovic in terms of physicality, as was German Philipp Wollscheid, who produced another superb performance in the heart of defence.
Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic were both lively out wide, pushing forward at every available opportunity, but not overlooking their defensive duties neither – tracking back well to help out the two recalled full-backs Glen Johnson and Erik Pieters.
Steve McClaren lamented his side’s failure not to make the most of opportunities which presented themselves to his players, and his frustrations were clear when both Perez and Chancel Mbemba failed to hit the target when well positioned.
Swiss ace Shaqiri linked up superbly well with Walters as Stoke looked to catch the host on the counter attack, but after latching on to a splendid ball over the top from the winger Walters miscued his effort and watched it sail over Rob Elliot’s bar.
As the half wore on it was Newcastle who looked the more likely to steal the points as they threw everything at the plucky Potters, but there was still no way through Butland who spread himself well to tip another Mitrovic strike over the bar.
Siem de Jong was introduced in a late bid to win the game for United whilst Hughes used all three of his available substitutions during the second period, presenting Ibrahim Afellay, Peter Crouch and Marco van Ginkel into the action in a bid to turn the tide in his side’s favour.
It was the home side who had the final chance in stoppage time however when substitute Jamaal Lascelles rose highest to meet de Jong’s out-swigning corner and planted a firm header towards the top corner only for Butland to fly across goal and secure his side a point.