Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Friday March 31 2006
1st April 2006
Stoke welcome Ade Akinbiyi and his new team-mates, Sheffield United to the Britannia on Saturday. Stoke will want to try and capitalise on their recent form and put a spanner in the works for the Blades as they try and hang on to the second automatic promotion spot.
This is certainly a case of the home side with nothing to play for versus visitors with everything to play for. Hopefully, the Potters will be more confident with some good recent form behind them and Championship football next season guaranteed and can serve up a upset. Sheffield United have had a recent wobble which saw their top two dominance for most of the season threatened as Leeds and Watford scampered after them. But the chasing pack both slipped up last week (Leeds drawing to the Potters and Watford crashed out to local rivals, Luton) while the Blades restored a six point margin beating Southampton.
Carl Dickinson looks like he will get his chance to impress tomorrow as Boskamp continues to give the youngsters a place in the starting eleven. Carl told the official site: 'I can't wait to get out there tomorrow. I'm just going to do my best and hopefully put in a good performance.
'The start of this season was horrible, breaking my ankle, but I've got back and just worked hard to put myself around the fringes of the first team.
'It is nice to be left footed and a defender at this club because there are not many people to fill the left back position so hopefully I can stake a claim for that place.
'I have to have belief in myself and in my ability else there would be no point in me playing football.'
Johan Boskamp will face a late fitness test before the game after suffering from flu and being dropped for the QPR game. If he is not deemed fit, his place on the bench will again be taken by Gerry Taggart and Noel Blake.
Clint Hill looks likely to play after being rested against QPR in midweek, along with Paul Gallagher who has been suffering with back pain but came on as sub in that game.
Hannes Sigurdsson should also play, but this will be his last game of the season as he is going under the knife next week for a hernia operation.
He has impressed fans in the last two games against Leeds and QPR and with this match going to be his final game before an operation next week, he should be raring to go.
Neil Warnock should name an unchanged team from last week's victory agsainst Southampton.
Kevin Gallen serves the second game of his three match ban but striker Paul Furlong is available following his recovery from a hamstring injury.
Defender Matthew Rose may not play as he has an ankle injury while Dominic Shimmin and Martin Rowlands are both injured.
A bit of added spice to an already interesting fixture is the return of a former Potter. Two weeks ago we saw several former players in the game against Burnley; Saturday will see the return of favourite striker Ade Akinbiyi after he recently completed a surprising £1.75 million transfer from Burnley. He has scored three times in ten games for the Bramall Lane club, taking his season’s tally to 17 and yet found himself on the bench last week but I would expect him to play a central role in the match against Stoke.
Stoke have won the last three games against the Blades at the Brit.
It's time for me to go for broke: 2-0 to the Potters with Bangoura returned to goal scoring form!
Sat 8th April: Ipswich (Away) Kick-off 3pm
Sat 15th April: Southampton (Home) Kick-off 3pm
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Date:Friday March 31 2006
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