Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Monday November 9 2009
So that's eleven points dropped from winning positions this season as the Potters let a 1-0 lead disappear into a 1-2 defeat at the KC Stadium.
Were the Tigers there for the taking? It can work both ways when you come up against a 'club in turmoil' as the press were moved to remark many times in the build-up to the match. Tango Man was deemed to be on his final chance with his new chairman watching, he didn't have his normal keeper on duty and several players had only played a couple of times this season as he rung the changes, but he did have the influential veteran, Jimmy Bullard, lining up for his home debut - nearly eleven months after being signed from Fulham.
For the visitors, Tony Pulis was able to draw on the same starting eleven that had gone four games unbeaten and was also able to welcome back Robert Huth from suspension replacing Andy Wilkinson in defence. So it should have been chaos versus stability in front of the TV cameras on a cold Sunday in November. So what went wrong?
To my mind: 'not a lot' - at least until the 85th minute when panic seemed to set into the Stoke ranks.
To their credit, the Tigers were out to show everyone that they were not going to follow the script laid out by the media, but the Stoke defence were more than a match for the Bullards and Garcias of this world and Hull were reduced to bombarding the Stoke goal from outside the penalty area.
Matty Etherington's goal on the half hour was well taken after a good run down the wing, typified Stoke's dogged resistance in defence and ability to take a striking opportunity well when it's offered.
The start of the second half could have pushed the Potters even further into the lead had a more favourable bounce off defender and keeper found the inside of the post instead of the outside.
But it was the two managers' substitutions that may have been the deciding factor in who was going to win this match.
Brown brought on Barmby for Garcia and Pulis replied with Dave Kitson for James Beattie, who seemed tired after he'd not trained much during the week due to injury. Barmby stirred the pot much more than Kitson and it was former Stokie, Seyi Olofinjana who snatched the equaliser on the hour mark with a fine strike that left Thomas Sorensen with too much to do.
The Stoke boss decided to complete the front row swap by bringing off Ricardo Fuller for Tuncay, whilst Tango brought off Altidore for the quaintly named Vannegoor of Hasselink.
As the minutes moved on, Barmby and Ab Faye had a clash of handbags off the field when both wanted to hold the ball, which resulted in Faye getting booked whilst Barmby oddly received no punishment. This innocuous encounter was to prove pivotal just a few minutes later when a uncharacteristic rash tackle on Barmby (retribution perhaps?) ended with the Stoke skipper being shown his second yellow and a red with five minutes remaining.
Pulis sensibly decided to boost the defence back up with the introduction of Wilkinson as his final sub, but amazed everyone by sacrificing Tuncay, who had not disgraced himself in the seven minutes he was on the pitch. The Turkish international was rightly not amused by his brief appearance and stormed off down the tunnel.
I don't think there is any doubt that the departures of Faye and Tuncay must have unsettled Stoke just when they needed to have all their wits about them and so it proved when the Tigers got the winner deep into added on time. Bullard's initial shot was parried by Sorensen, but instead of pushing it out for a corner (or anywhere away from a member of the opposing team), it dropped to V of H who fired home from no distance.
Is it a help that we've now got a two week break? Next up for the Potters are Portsmouth at the Brit - again in the front of the live TV cameras. They're another side who are struggling and whilst the Carling Cup defeat to them a couple of weeks ago is an irrelevance, we'll still need to be on our guard and we won't have Ab Faye to bolster the defence.
Date:Monday November 9 2009
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