It was a fine start to the season on Saturday as Michael O’Neill’s side overcame Reading in a thrilling 3-2 win at the Bet365 Stadium. An open and end to end game was decided by a Sam Surridge strike late on as Stoke began their campaign in entertaining fashion.
After 25 minutes the Potters were given the ideal start as Nick Powell smashed home a Tommy Smith free-kick, however, their lead was very short-lived as John Swift was able to take advantage of poor defending in order to round keeper Bursik and make it 1-1.
Minutes later the home side retook the lead as Jacob Brown’s low drive went straight through the Reading keeper’s legs. The contest was level again on the hour mark as Liam Moore thundered a header home from a corner. Potters new man Sam Surridge ensured the game would not end equal as he struck on 85 minutes into the roof of the net to send the home support into delirious celebration.
Here we look at two fresh dilemmas for the Stoke boss to consider ahead of the weekend…
Does match-winner Surridge start on Saturday?
Although the new arrival was only on the pitch from the 73rd minute of the game his impact was clear to see. Only minutes after being substituted on he headed on target only for the effort to be well saved. Just the 12 minutes after his introduction, Surridge made his impact tell from 10 yards out securing the points.
Surridge was then given a chance to back his form up immediately as he started Stoke’s Carabao Cup tie against Fleetwood Town last evening and made it two goals in as many appearances.
It would seem the 23-year-old’s impact is hard to ignore so O’Neill now has a lot of thinking to do ahead of the trip to Birmingham City this weekend.
A defensive wake-up call?
Despite the delight that his side got off the mark with three valuable points at the weekend and safe passage through the Carabao Cup, the Stoke boss will be pondering on some sloppy defensive moments so far this season.
The first goal conceded at the weekend was a true mess, with so many errors in one phase of play the side were always going to be punished in such a high-quality league. Even the own goal scored last evening by James Chester was avoidable if the player was better positioned or expecting the ball across goal.
A good week of training the minds and shape of the defence would be ideal preparation for Birmingham City this weekend who will not think twice about punishing such slack defending and could cost Stoke precious points this time.