Pulis pleased by Crouch impact

Crouch twice squandered opportunities that came his way in the

first half at the Britannia Stadium, scuffing an attempted volley

from Jermaine Pennant’s cross and then seeing his shot blocked when

the ball broke to him in the box six minutes later. The

30-year-old, who has not played for England in almost a year, had

been quoted earlier in the week as saying that he did not “carry

much hope” in terms of his future international prospects, even

though Wayne Rooney will be suspended for the start of Euro 2012.

Pulis feels Crouch is far from finished for the Three Lions,

though, and defended his performance against the Cottagers. Asked

if he had been disappointed that the tall frontman had not made

more of his chances, Pulis said: “No, not really. “Peter will score

goals, he led the line really well and the longer the game went on,

the more opportunities and chances we created. “It is not just what

he does with the ball or with the ball around him. “It is the

affect he has on the rest of the team, and he also has a tremendous

affect on the opposition.” He added: “The big thing with (Stoke’s

wingers) Matt (Etherington) and Jermaine (Pennant) if we are

playing at our place is that with Peter up front, he attracts a lot

of defenders around him, leaving more space wide.” Stoke were able

to exert increasing pressure on their opponents as the game wore

on, and it eventually paid off towards the end. The hosts hit the

post through Rory Delap and shortly after seeing their own crossbar

rattled by John Arne Riise – the only real moment where Fulham

threatened in the second half – Jon Walters broke the deadlock,

diverting Etherington’s effort home in the 80th minute. Delap then

doubled their advantage seven minutes later, nodding in an

Etherington free-kick. Cottagers goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer was

disappointed the London outfit could not see out the job of keeping

Stoke at bay. “It was a hugely frustrating afternoon for us and it

was a day to forget in many ways,” Schwarzer told Fulham’s official

website. “The hardest thing to take was the fact that for the

majority of the match we dealt with everything they threw at us.

“We gave away a couple of silly free-kicks and they punished us.

That is unlike us and as a result it is very difficult to take.

“But we’re a strong group and now we have to go away and learn from

that. Losing games always hurts and if we didn’t feel that way then

we’re in the wrong job. “We have to take the positives too because

at times we did play well, particularly in the first 45 minutes.”

Schwarzer had a couple of uncomfortable moments dealing with high

balls into the area, but his manager Martin Jol had no complaints

about the Australian stopper’s efforts. “I don’t think they were

mistakes – have a good look again,” Jol said. “I think it was more

about pressure. Stoke put you under pressure physically, so if you

come to get on the end of a ball, then you have to be strong. “He

(Schwarzer) is a strong guy, but he needs the help of the referee