sport

Pulis hopeful on Crouch fitness

Peter Crouch is desperate to play in Saturday's clash with West Brom despite having his teeth knocked out in Wednesday's win over Newcastle.

The former England man was forced off the pitch five minutes before half-time after being caught in the mouth by a flailing arm from Magpies defender Fabricio Coloccini.

Crouch lost two teeth while two more were driven into his gum, but the striker and Potters boss Tony Pulis are hopeful he will be able to play wearing a brace.

"Peter's gone to see a specialist today and we're going to see, if he's comfortable enough, whether he can wear a brace. So we haven't given up hope that he can be involved," Pulis said.

"It's all about how he gets on with the brace. I spoke to him yesterday and he was very keen to be involved.

"Apart from that he feels fine so if he had a brace in there that will protect it, because if he gets another knock it could cause him more problems, but he was pretty positive.

"He's been an exceptional signing for this football club in lots of ways. He's a great lad and he wants to be part of it."

Whether Crouch is passed fit is likely to determine whether Michael Owen is included in the squad.

The striker has missed the last month with a hamstring problem and, although he is now fit, Owen will not be preferred to either Kenwyne Jones or Cameron Jerome, who both made big impacts off the bench on Wednesday.

Full-back Andy Wilkinson, who has missed the last two matches with a back problem, is not fit enough to start but may be among the substitutes.

Wednesday's 2-1 win made it 10 points from the last 12 for Stoke, who climbed up to ninth in the table.

It is their home form that has been the key, with the Potters winning four times at the Britannia Stadium, where they are unbeaten in the league this season, although they have yet to pick up a maximum haul on the road.

Pulis said: "We've played well away from home this season and I think we've been a little bit unfortunate. Some of our performances have been as good if not better than anything we've displayed in the Premier League.

"We just need a little bit of luck in front of goal and hopefully the two goals we scored on Wednesday will give us the confidence to go to West Brom and know we can score, because we've certainly been creating the chances."

Victory at The Hawthorns will be a big ask, though, given fourth-placed West Brom have been the surprise package of the season so far and have won six of their seven games at home.

Pulis praised the job done by his opposite number Steve Clarke, and gave credit to chairman Jeremy Peace for handing the former Chelsea and Liverpool assistant boss his managerial break.

"I've known Steve a long time, and he's been a coach and an assistant manager for a long time at big clubs," said Pulis. "He's been given his opportunity and he's taken it with both hands.

"He's done an absolutely fantastic job there. I think the chairman's got to take a bit of credit as well by taking a chance with Steve and he's certainly been rewarded.

"They're a bit like Newcastle were last year. They've got a great spirit in the team, the work ethic is first class. I've watched them twice and they've played exceptionally well. I'm really pleased for Steve.

"West Brom's a great football club, it's a lovely stadium to go to, it'll be a good atmosphere there and we'll look forward to the game."

Stoke do have history on their side, however, having won eight of their last 11 meetings with West Brom, including on all three of their previous Premier League visits to The Hawthorns.

West Brom did manage their first win over the Potters since 2003 at the Britannia Stadium in January, and Pulis added: "They deserved to beat us that day, they were better than us.

"We won't be taking anything for granted, they are one of the form teams in the Premier League. Their home record is fantastic so we know how difficult it's going to be for us."