Pictures and analysis of Stoke 0 West Brom 0

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One day in the future, West Brom and Stoke will serve up a classic.

But, for the time being, Baggies fans will have to content themselves with small crumbs of comfort when it comes to battling with the Potters.

Last season, Roy Hodgson's side finally ended the 30-year hoodoo that had so frustrated Albion supporters on trips to the red and white half of the Potteries.

And on Saturday, Steve Clarke's men provided further evidence that, while clashes between these sides still make for painful viewing, the days when the Baggies were battered into submission at the Britannia Stadium are gone.

The sight of their side standing toe to toe with Tony Pulis's men and refusing to give an inch must have cheered travelling Albion fans.

But they had little to smile about in entertainment terms from a thoroughly forgettable game on a damp and windy afternoon.

The pattern of the match was utterly predictable, given that Baggies and Potters fans have seen the same script played out countless times in recent years.

It was a dull, uneventful, attritional affair lacking in any fluidity that looked destined from the opening few minutes to result goalless.


In fact, it ended without a meaningful save from either Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic or Baggies counterpart Ben Foster.

The only surprise, in the light of recent Albion heartbreaks in the fixture, was that Pulis's men did not snatch something out of nothing to leave Clarke and Co pointless and frustrated.

They had one chance to deliver their customary sucker-punch to the Baggies' jaw when substitute Kenwyne Jones failed to make clear contact with a decent chance late in stoppage time.

But that, after 93 minutes of virtually unbroken tedium, was the best chance of a game that was a dead cert to be last up on Match of the Day and was a little fortunate to make it into the final edit at all.


For Albion, however, there was one big positive to cling to from a flat afternoon as their side, led by colossal centre-backs Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson and aided by the tenacious Claudio Yacob, made it clear throughout that they are soft touches no longer.

Since the clubs were promoted together from the Championship in 2008, Stoke's strong-arm approach to Premier League survival has flown in the face of the Baggies' progressive methods under a series of managers.

Yet the teams of Tony Mowbray and Roberto Di Matteo were too often barged aside by Pulis's battering ram and even the current England boss, who did so much to remove the soft underbelly that had previously held back the Baggies' Premier League progress, found the Potters an extremely tough nut to crack.

But Hodgson's men claimed a landmark victory last season after another ugly spectacle and, while Clarke's charges had to settle for a single point at the weekend, they underlined the fact that the solid performance of 12 months earlier was not a one-off.

On Saturday, the Potters went through their full, rudimentary repertoire of robust tactics.

But, unlike on so many frustrating occasions in the recent past, they discovered the Baggies were unyielding in their determination.

In aesthetic terms, travelling fans journeyed up a slow-moving M6 fearing another brutal spectacle and their fears proved well-founded.

The DNA of these two clubs is not compatible and, yet again, they produced 90 minutes of desperately poor football.

The hosts were the prime culprits but the Baggies, too, struggled to retain possession with their customary conviction and were dragged too often into matching the Potters' brand of play.

The first half did not bring a chance worthy of the name and the opening moments of the second period saw in-form Baggies forward Romelu Lukaku fail to capitalise on two difficult headed opportunities in moments that encapsulated his own frustrating afternoon.

Only deep in time added on, when the ball fell towards Jones, did Foster have genuine cause for concern but the effort flew straight at the goalkeeper.

It left Baggies fans satisfied with the efforts of their side but with precious few lasting memories to take away from a day when the final whistle was a sweet sound indeed.

Sooner or later, these two sides will provide us with an unexpected epic.

But the signs for the immediate future are far from promising.

By Steve Madeley

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