Stoke open Championship account with comfortable home win against Blackpool
Stoke’s home Championship campaign began with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Blackpool.
The Potters, who sat bottom after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Millwall on the opening weekend of the season, took control of the fixture after the half hour mark.
Arsenal loanee Harry Clarke nodded in on his home debut to give the hosts the lead and a Jacob Brown strike in the second half tightened their grip on the tie.
The visiting Tangerines could not build upon their defeat of Reading last weekend, despite the best efforts of an influential Josh Bowler and a buoyant travelling support.
Michael O’Neill handed home debuts to six of his Stoke players but the hosts started slowly in a tentative opening period.
However, a new-look Potters attack fronted by latest recruit Dwight Gayle went some way to calming the early nerves.
The former Newcastle forward combined well with Brown before unleashing a venomous strike, but Daniel Grimshaw was equal to it in the Blackpool goal.
Another new addition went close to handing the Potters the advantage as they gradually grew into the fixture, but Josh Laurent’s precise effort struck the crossbar.
The Tangerines threatened to snatch an unlikely opener when Sonny Carey’s effort was nearly converted by Jerry Yates, but the latter could not get enough conviction on his glancing header.
Yates’ miss proved to be a needed wake-up call for the hosts as Will Smallbone then went closest to finding the breakthrough, if not for a block from Rhys Williams.
Stoke’s momentum grew and Blackpool’s stubborn defence soon relented when both wingbacks combined and Clarke headed in an enticing Josh Tymon delivery after 34 minutes.
The home side’s dominance was not swayed by the interval and they nearly doubled their advantage shortly after the restart.
A lively Tymon swung another dangerous cross into the area where Marvin Ekpiteta nearly converted inadvertently into his own net.
Tangerine orchestrator Bowler, who scored the winner at the bet365 Stadium when the two sides met back in March, threatened an equaliser but his curling effort dropped wide of the far post.
Callum Connolly nearly fired in a fierce volley in front of the travelling faithful, while stopper Grimshaw pulled off a miraculous save with his feet to deny Gayle.
However, any hopes of a Blackpool leveller were extinguished after 75 minutes when Tymon secured his second assist of the afternoon.
The onrushing Brown – Stoke’s top scorer with 13 league goals last term – opened his account for the season when he converted at the near post.
Despite the visitors’ best efforts to find a route back into the tie, the Potters defended resolutely to secure their first victory and clean sheet of the season.
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