Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Friday April 25 2008
26th April 2008
Stoke's season has reached yet another critical point with the last away match against the U's who are already condemned to League 1 next season. But the Potters have to cope with the pressure of the U's final match at Layer Road before their move to a new stadium at the oddly named Cuckoo Farm (but they all said that about the 'Stadium of Light') for the start of next season.
It's very dangerous territory for the Potters. The U's have nothing to lose with relegation a certainty, they're celebrating their final game at their old ground and have a 5-1 drubbing last week against Coventry to recover from. Stoke need a win to ensure that only a point is needed from next week's final match against Leicester to guarantee promotion. If Stoke do win at Colchester and Hull fail to beat Crystal Palace then the Leicester result becomes irrelevant as the Potters can then celebrate promotion at 5pm on Saturday.
With it all to play for, Potters' fans are going to be packing the Brit to watch the match on closed circuit TV. The club are expecting well in excess of 8,000 to pay to watch the match live.
Tony Pulis told the Sentinel that they were hoping that last week's two goal hero, Mamady Sidibe will be fit after suffering an ankle injury at the end of the match against Bristol City:
"We`re keeping a very close eye on his ankle and not doing anything that might aggravate it
"We`ll only push him as far as we dare in training, no further, and then it`s a late call on the day about whether he`s fit enough or not."
The U's have struggled this season after losing their two main goal scorers in the summer - Jamie Cureton and former Potter, Chris Iwelumo. Last week's thrashing against fellow strugglers, Coventry did nothing to help lift the gloom.
But they'll be hoping that the return from injury of veteran player, Teddy Sheringham will boost confidence around Layer Road.
The 28 year old joined from Charlton in the summer after 12 years at the South-East London club. He has since knocked in 17 goals to be comfortably the U's top scorer.
The only doubt surrounds the fitness of Big Mama, otherwise TP will be able to name the same side that beat Bristol City last weekend.
The midfielder has become, arguably, the single most important member of the squad. If he's not scoring the winner (as in the victory over Coventry two weeks ago), he's setting up Mama Sidibe for his first goal against the Robins last week.
You can't say it too often that we need a win at Layer Road and the Stoke team must give total respect to the U's.
Sunday 4th May: Leicester (home) kick-off: 2pm - ALREADY SOLD-OUT
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Date:Friday April 25 2008
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