Penultimate pre-season friendly ends all square at the bet365 Stadium...
STOKE CITY 0
WOVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 0
GARY ROWETT continued to fine-tune his side’ preparations for the new campaign on Wednesday evening as the Potters played out a goalless draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers at the bet365 Stadium.
With the 2018/19 curtain-raiser just eleven days away, the City boss gave his clearest indication yet as to what his starting line-up against Leeds United could look like as he named a strong side for the fixture with last season’s Championship winners.
All five of the Club’s summer signings featured in some capacity with Benik Afobe, Adam Federici and recent acquisitions Tom Ince and James McClean being handed starting berths, whilst Peter Etebo impressed following his half-time introduction.
It was Afobe who was the standout performer during the initial exchanges however, with the Congolese international looking strong, athletic and powerful against his former employers as City grasped control of the encounter.
The striker had the two best opportunities of the first 45 minutes for the home side; firstly glancing a delicious Ince delivery wide of the target before heading over after being picked out by Austrian international Moritz Bauer.
At the other end Federici showed his prowess by twice keeping out Helder Costa, the first of which was a sensational save from point-blank range, moments before he denied the Portuguese stopper for a second time from distance.
McClean’s tenacity on the left showed why Rowett was so eager to capture his services this summer, whilst the endeavour and trickery of Ince gave a glimpse as to just what the former Huddersfield Town man will offer this term.
Rowett made four changes at the break, handing game-time to Bojan, Peter Crouch, Etebo and Mame Diouf with Ince, McClean, Badou, who made his first appearance of pre-season, and Afobe the players to make way.
The impressive Joe Allen and Etebo struck up a strong partnership in central midfield with the latter forcing Wolves’ substitute stopper Rui Patricio into a stunning save with a rasping half volley which seemed destined for the top corner.
His goal-bound effort came amidst a heavy Stoke onslaught in which Bauer went close to scoring too, with the pacey full-back once more bringing the best out of Portugal’s number one with a fizzing drive from 25-yards.
The hosts didn’t have it all their own way however as Esperito Nuno Gomes’ men showed some quality on the attack with Ruben Neves going close himself before youngster Benny Ashley-Seal fired past Federici only for the post to deny the frontman.
Both sides made further changes as the encounter wore on with Geoff Cameron and Saido Berahino replacing Allen and Fletcher for the Potters whilst six changes for the visitors took the zip out of the final 20 minutes of action.
All in all a more than useful work out for Rowett’s troops, who now turn their attentions towards Hamburg in Germany, the city in which the side will round off their pre-season preparations against St. Pauli on Saturday afternoon.
Stoke City: Federici; Bauer, Shawcross (C), Martins Indi, Pieters; Badou (Etebo 46); Ince (Diouf 46), Fletcher (Cameron 72), Allen (Berahino 72), McClean (Bojan 46); Afobe (Crouch 46). Subs: Haugaard, Bursik, Edwards, Souttar, Imbula, Sorensen, Choupo-Moting.