Clinical Stoke deepen Wolves’ drop fears
FA Cup finalists Stoke’s fine run of form continued on Tuesday as they dealt a huge blow to Wolves prospects of staying in the Premier League with a 3-0 win.
Goals by Trinidadian international Kenwyne Jones, Ryan Shawcross and the outstanding Jermaine Pennant easily saw off a woeful Wolves side, who are second from bottom a point adrift of safety with four matches remaining.
The hosts took the lead just after the quarter-hour mark as Jones headed home from a great cross by Pennant, who had beaten a couple of weak challenges down the right flank.
Jones, a record signing for Stoke last August for £8million, wasted a better chance eight minutes later as Shawcross found him with a brilliant long pass but unmolested he shot well wide with just goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey to beat.
Stoke, though, suffered a potential hammerblow in terms of their FA Cup final hopes when winger Matthew Etherington - man of the match in their semifinal demolition of Bolton - had to go off after suffering what looked like a hamstring injury on the half hour mark.
Etherington’s injury follows those suffered by striker Ricardo Fuller (ruptured Achilles) and defender Danny Higginbotham (knee), with both of them already ruled out of the FA Cup final clash with Manchester City.
“It (Etherington’s injury) is a massive disappointment for us. We won’t know the extent until tomorrow when he has a scan,” said Stoke manager Tony Pulis.
“But we will do our damnedest to make sure (he is ready) as he has 17-18 days yet. The first week is very important as we will get it sorted out.
“Then he will have 10 days after that to get it as strong as he possibly can to play in the final.
“Having lost Ricardo and Danny it is a massive blow because we haven’t got the resources of Manchester City. It would have been tough enough with our best players.”
Stoke doubled their lead before half-time as Shawcross bundled the ball past Hennessey from a corner - cruel luck on the Welsh international goalkeeper as he had pulled off a superb double save in giving away the corner.
Wolves, though, could find no answers in the second-half either as they produced a listless performance worthy more of a side in mid-table security than fighting for its Premier League survival.
It was no surprise when Stoke added a third in the 51st minute as the outstanding Pennant scored striking the ball home from a Jon Walters cross.
Pennant was to exit later to a deserved standing ovation as the match petered out.
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy was bemused by the poor performance but swore that they would fight for every point in their remaining matches.
“That’s as poor as we have played here. They were better than us. They stopped us playing.
“It is a difficult time when you are in the bottom three and playing against a good side who have just got to Wembley.
“Playing for Premier League survival should be enough to motivate us. We will play better in the remaining four games.”
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