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POST STOke quotes

At the end of a week in which most of the experts had been saying that probably our most important weapon in the fight to stay up is Defoe and his goals, the man himself rescued a point in the most dramatic fashion. At the end of what was probably our least convincing display in weeks, he showed that it’s not only Fabio Borini who shows an ice-cool temperament in a real pressure situation.

That injury time penalty might only have brought us a point, but it could well be the point that keeps us up, especially with the Mags getting a win. Thankfully, Norwich continue to look like they lack the quality in important areas and escape for them would appear extremely unlikely despite still having, like us, three to play. That bit of quality is what we have in Defoe, who, even at his advanced (in footballing terms) years, is still one of the sharpest strikers around. Whatever the fans thought of Lee Congerton, he was largely responsible for what has to be one of the best deals in footballing history. Engineering a straight swap of Jozy Altidore (70 Premier League games, 2 goals) for Defoe (hundreds of Premier League games, nearly 150 goals), despite the obvious age difference, was a stroke of genius. Eight goals in 2016 has kept us alive, but you have to wonder what might have been at Stoke had the ref made a different decision on two big calls

Firstly, Crouch appeared to climb all over Kaboul to set up the first goal, something the visiting fans saw from over 100 yards away and then Campbell flapped his hand inexplicably at the ball in the box. If the ref decided in our favour, Defoe’s late spot-kick could well have been the clincher in a 2-0 victory. If, if...

He didn’t, and we have three games left in which to get one more point than our black and white chums and no more than one less than Norwich. Of course, Palace could lose both of their remaining games and drop below us, but that’s be in a perfect world, and, as the ref showed at the Bet 365 Stadium, nobody’s perfect.

More post Stoke craic now and Younes Kaboul knew that Jermain Defoe would score our last minute penalty! Meanwhile, this writer was shitting it! “No there was never any doubt,” said Kaboul. “He knows how important that penalty was, maybe it was one of the biggest of career up to now, and he was very relaxed. He concentrated and put it in the back of the net. You can trust him, and you can trust me on that. It could be a massive point. Stoke is a tough place to come and today I didn’t think we played very well at all, but at this stage of the season it is about grabbing points. In the last ten minutes we were fighting for every ball and we were rewarded with a penalty. We dug in very deep today to catch a point."

Here's Jermain Defoe's take on proceedings. “Nothing was going through my mind. I just had to be confident and you have to believe you’re going to score. I managed to do that and when it goes in it’s a massive relief, but after that there wasn’t long enough to go and get the winner. It was a difficult game and they’re a tough team to play against. We tried, even though it wasn’t one of our better performances, but we got the point in the end and it’s a good point to be honest. We just have to keep it going until the end of the season, everyone is fighting and that’s all we can do.”

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post stoke craic…
REACTION

Sunderland drew 1-1 away at Stoke in a dreadful game where we looked as lost as we did resigned to defeat. Luckily, a late penalty from Jermain Defoe rescued a point for us, and with Newcastle winning their game, it's a point that we desperately needed. Sam Allardyce made no secret of his relief at Defoe's last-gasp equaliser, but also admitted that he was not happy with our performance. He said: "I was happy to accept a point today, it is one gained rather than two lost. I think our performance wasn't the best, we accept that. We looked a little bit nervous, more than we have done in the last four or five games. Maybe the lads were feeling the pressure a bit today and that caused us in possession to give far too many easy balls away. Finally, in the end we played a very good ball from Yann M'Vila and a super little turn from Jermain Defoe. Nobody could complain about the penalty, he was one-on-one and would have scored. The defender knew he was beaten and stuck the leg out."

Sam also went on to lament the referee's decision not to disallow the first goal, after what he considered a blatant infringement: "My problem is that could have been the winner for us. Peter Crouch has both hands on Younes Kaboul's shoulder. The ref and his assistant also missed a penalty from Cameron's handball in the box first half - he had put his hand above his head from a cross after 30 minutes. They just let it go. Jermain told me after he can't believe the ref didn't give it. Stuck his hand way above the head and flicked the ball! It wouldn't have gone to our players but it was a silly thing to do by the Stoke defender. They got away with it. I was pleased the referee was brave enough to give the penalty and we are still fighting - that is the most important thing, with three games to go. We have a game in hand over Newcastle. Even though it puts us more under pressure, and it could have been that we both drew but Crystal Palace missed a penalty. Those things are not in our control. What is in our control is trying to win next week and to make the game in hand against Everton count.

Meanwhile, Sam is hoping that Jordan Pickford cracks on next year too. “Pickers is a different kettle of fish,” added Allardyce. “He thinks he’s the top goalie in the world already. As long as that is self-confidence, not arrogance, then he’ll be a top goalkeeper, I think. The mentality is there and, at such a young age, to have that is a real bonus for him as a player, particularly in goal. He will learn as goes on and his mentality is so, so strong that I think he’ll be a top goalkeeper.” 

Big Sam has gone stat happy again. God he's boring sometimes! Allardyce said: “Well, I’m good at statistical analysis and have been for many years, so when you put all those numbers into an algorithm, and they turn out exactly what’s happened. There are exceptions to the rule in football, which an algorithm wouldn’t predict - like Leicester winning it. There is still the unknown, but more often than not, you put those statistics into place and you get the number crunchers on it and it says you’ll be there, there and there if you do this, this and this. When you’ve only got three points from the first nine games [Allardyce’s first game in charge also ended in defeat], you know full well that it’s going to be pretty miraculous if you’re not still there at the end of the season. Data is hugely, hugely important to me and gives me a huge advantage for preparing my team against the opposition,” added Allardyce. “I use data analysis massively and have done for the best part of 14-15 years now. It’s helped make me the manager that I am. Sometimes the rest of the staff look completely baffled by what I’m talking about on the basis of how well I understand the data analysis. It was properly born out of meeting Billy Beane in 2002-2003, before anyone else did over here.”

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