Stoke City match report
It’s probably not the best time to be writing emotionally, so soon after Stoke were confirmed as a Championship side. I have finally had it with Lambert though and, after giving him every possible chance to impress, we’ve failed week after week after week.
It was pretty much the same team and game plan that has failed to win the last three must-win games, something I’ll never understand. As a result Stoke once again failed to really threaten Wayne Hennessey's goal for the entirety of the game.
The one real moment of quality came from Xherdan Shaqiri, whose curling free-kick left Hennessey standing as it sailed into the top corner.
Sadly, an all too familiar problem for the Swiss star, it was the only real moment of quality he showed all game, in another absent performance. Nobody covered themselves in glory as an energetic performance once again proved to be no substitute for actual quality.
For a collection of multi-million pound talents on 'x' amount of thousands in wages per week, the quality has not been good enough and we were easily outclassed by a superior Crystal Palace side.
Same old story
After taking the lead just before half time, we had a seemingly simple task of holding on against a side who had also lacked a real cutting edge.
Just like against Burnley and West Ham though we were unable to get over the line as we resorted to an error ridden, backtracking game plan.
Shaqiri had an excellent chance to put us 2-0 up but couldn’t stay onside or even on his feet as the best opportunity of the game for either side went begging.
That was the last of the threat from Stoke as we soaked up chance after chance in the second half until we were unsurprisingly breached. From there, you could only see one result as Palace continued to press for the winner, eventually finding it and relegating Stoke.
Shaqiri singles himself as the star of this side but hasn’t shown anywhere near enough this season or this game. Palace’s star Wilfried Zaha, by contrast, created problems for the Stoke defence all day.
Zaha always looked dangerous going forward and had a hand in both of the Palace goals. He perhaps still lacks a cutting edge to make him a top player, but he was head and shoulders above self-professed megastar Shaqiri, it was like night and day.
The willingness to run, the confidence to take on and beat players and - most importantly - the ability to pick out a teammate.
Recruitment has proved a problem for Shaqiri’s mood and desire but, in fairness, it has played a major part in Stoke's demise.
We’ve needed a full back for as long as I can remember and we allowed an excellent one to join rivals Crystal Palace. Patrick Van Aanholt won the game with his fourth goal in nine matches, helping guide his own club away from the drop zone.
That’s more goals than most of our attacking talent has managed in an entire season and he even had the class not to celebrate the goal.
We instead brought Josh Tymon, Kevin Wimmer and Kostas Stafylidis who have made less appearances between them than Van Aanholt has made this season.
It extends beyond the first team to the depth of squad as Roy Hodgson's subs had nearly 10 times as many Premier League appearances as the players Lambert brought on.
Dire recruitment has left us gambling on young, untested talent who couldn’t deliver and that’s been the difference in quality.
There were none today really, some players weren’t terrible but there was an intelligence to the Crystal Palace performance that we just couldn’t match. The end of season awards were cancelled after being labelled a celebration of failure and that’s all this would be.
We got what we deserved, not just today but for the season, we need to rectify the recruitment mistakes and begin planning for a complete overhaul in the summer. I don’t believe Lambert can guide us back but the board are apparently sticking with him so I hope to be surprised.
I remember as a kid, my dad telling me tales of the days when Stoke were a top-tier side. I just hope in 20 years' time, I won’t be telling my own kids the same distant stories on our way to Boundary Park.