Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion played out a dire 0-0 draw in a forgettable Premier League clash at the Britannia Stadium.
There were few chances of genuine note as both sides defended stoutly. West Brom, in particular, dealt well with what the home side had to offer and will probably come away the happier.
Jerome Thomas was handed his first West Brom start in six games in place of the injured Graham Dorrans. Thomas’ introduction was the only change from the 2-1 win over Swansea City last weekend.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis also made one switch, as Matthew Etherington returned from injury in place of Andy Wilkinson, who dropped to the bench.
West Brom started the stronger, with Thomas producing some good skill on the left, forcing Ryan Shotton to give away a free-kick on the edge of the area.
Asmir Begovic failed to hold Chris Brunt’s deflected effort but there was no West Brom player on hand to convert the rebound.
Stoke went on to dominate the half, only to lose their way before the break.
For all their possession and high balls into the box, they failed to seriously test Ben Foster in the first-half. Indeed, Foster and his central defence of Jonas Olsson and Gareth McAuley coped well in the air, restricting the home side to half chances at best.
Jonathan Walters’ shot looped off Olsson and landed just wide but that was as close as the Baggies came in the first-half.
The beginning of the second-half suggested the level of the match might at least ascend from dire to mediocre but a couple of moments of quality soon gave way to the safety-first approach that had made the opening period so forgettable.
Romelu Lukaku, strangely subdued in the first-half, managed a rare attempt on target as he headed a cross from Thomas straight at Begovic.
Another dangerous inswinging cross from Thomas, one of the better players on show, was headed out of harm’s way by Marc Wilson, as Lukaku lurked with menace.
Wilson headed a presentable opportunity wide from a corner on 78 minutes as he climbed above Billy Jones, while at the other end Youssouf Mulumbu blasted a powerful effort over the bar.
Eventually, the best chance of the game fell to Kenwyne Jones in the 92nd minute as he controlled superbly but with just Foster to beat, shot straight into the arms of the former Birmingham City goalkeeper, which summed up the afternoon.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Gareth McAuley (West Brom): The 33-year-old dealt well with some sustained Stoke pressure, together with Jonas Olsson and Ben Foster.
STOKE CITY: Begovic 6, Shotton 6, Shawcross 7, Wilson 7, Cameron 6; Jerome 6, Whelan 5, Nzonzi 6, Etherington 6; Walters 6, Crouch 5. Subs: Jones 6, Adam 6, Whitehead 6.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION: Foster 7; Jones 7, McAuley 7, Olsson 7, Ridgewell 7; Yacob 6, Mulumbu 6; Thomas 7, Morrison 5, Brunt 5; Lukaku 5. Subs: Long N/A, Fortune N/A, Odemwingie 6.