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Michael Taylor 10th Apr 2009 - 14:59

The Potters can crack Shearer’s frail army

Alan Shearer takes to the road for the first time in his short managerial career but, unless the great man has miracle powers, it looks impossible to back Newcastle to bag the three points at Stoke.

Mike Ashley's gamble on Shearer has undoubtedly lifted the Toon Army's passionate band of supporters, whether it has lifted the club's fortunes is a question far more up for debate.

Can one man, albeit a Magpies legend, really stir up enough emotion in the dressing to turn a bunch of hapless under-achievers into a threat within a couple of weeks? I don't think so.

Stoke, boasting the best home record of any team in the bottom half of the Premier League, are a daunting prospect at the Britannia Stadium at the best of times but for Newcastle it is the worst of times.

No wins in six games with just three goals scored in those matches, a defence lacking Steven Taylor and a host of stars constantly under-performing makes the 19/10 about a Newcastle win very hard to back.

True, last week's performance at St James' Park against Chelsea showed a few positive signs. Mainly the work ethic had improved as Chelsea were made to look ordinary during long periods of the game.

However, Stoke's 2-0 triumph at West Brom on the same day was a perfect example of a manager well drilled in survival. Tony Pulis has been around the managerial game for a long, long time and it could be his knowledge that decides the outcome of this likely slugfest.

James Beattie, a 5/1 shot to score the first goal of the game, has proved an inspired signing as the former Southampton hitman continues to grab the goals that have seen the Potters into a reasonably safe league position.

Also, the likes of Ryan Shawcross and Abdoulaye Faye have epitomised the spirit required to survive - a trait unlikely to be applied to Fabricio Coloccini anytime soon.

It all makes the 7/5 about Stoke recording another win at home look hard to resist while the draw at 23/10 could still be a little bit too much to ask of Newcastle.

One plus for Shearer is the availability of Sebastien Bassong who has been one of the more consistent mainstays this season, and his powerful influence at the back will be vital against Stoke's brutality.

The Potters have become renowned for long throws and direct football in their inaugural premier League season but, in Matthew Etherington and Glen Whelan they do have a couple of players who can deliver great balls into the box.

And it could be Newcastle's ability to deal with these deliveries that dictates how events unfold.

If they defend them well, 1-0 at 6/1 could be interesting, however I fancy a far more open game as both teams push for a win to help their chances of another money spinning year in the world's richest league - giving the 20/1 about a Stoke 3-1 win an enticing look.

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