Writer: Charlie Bennett
Date:Tuesday April 8 2008
7th April 2008
Stoke missed the chance to go top of the championship after a disappointing home defeat at the hands of play-off chasing Crystal Palace. After a poor first half the potters pushed and pushed but the 2-0 deficit was too much to overcome.
Stoke were forced to make a few changes with Liam Lawrence out due to a thigh strain, Richard Cresswell took his place on the right wing and Shola Ameobi was partnered upfront by the returning Mama Sidibe. There was also a return to the starting 11 for Danny Pugh who replaced Carl Dickinson at left back and Ricardo Fuller, who had served his suspension, took up a place on the bench.
Stoke started well when Rory Delap unexpectedly took a short throw to Andy Griffin who delivered the ball low into the box, but neither Cresswell nor Sidibe were able to send the ball towards the goal.
Stoke continued to put pressure on the Eagles defence when former Palace defender Leon Cort met a Delap throw in. The ball hit the far post and rolled agonisingly across the goal line before being cleared to safety. The forwards seemed to link up well together and they kept Palace keeper Julian Speroni busy as he claimed plenty of dangerous crosses and corners.
Against the run of play Stoke fell behind after 23 minutes, when the on loan Chelsea player Scott Sinclair whizzed past Danny Pugh and chipped it to the far post. Lurking was the unmarked Tom Soares and he headed the ball comfortably past Carlo Nash into the City goal.
After going 1-0 down the Potters reacted positively as home debutant Stephen Pearson drove the ball narrowly wide, and Sidibe headed over from a Pearson corner. There were more chances to equalise when Sidibe was played through on goal by Whelan but his shot was well saved by the impressive Speroni. Cort was first to the ball from the resulting corner but the Palace number 1 kept him out.
Palace halted Stoke in there search for the equaliser just before half time when centre half Jose Fonte found the corner of the goal with a sweetly struck volley from 20 yards that gave Nash no chance.
After a Pulis half time team talk Stoke hit the ground running in the early minutes of the second half, when Cort headed just wide off a Pearson corner. Former potter Clint Hill who got a warm reception from the crowd almost put the ball into his own net while trying to clear a Pearson low cross.
Much to the delight of the home crowd Pulis brought on his impact player, Mamady Sidibe was replaced by the returning Ricardo Fuller. Pearson was creating plenty of chances but both Cort and Ameobi wasted good opportunities.
Fuller had a positive impact on the proceedings and it was he that had the best chance of the match. The Jamaican went on one of his trademark runs straight through the middle of the defence but his shot was saved by Speroni who prevented the corner. Glenn Whelan also had a good chance but his shot was dragged wide.
Pulis decided to throw everything they had at Palace and brought on Jay Bothroyd to replace Pearson. Ameobi had his best chance but couldn`t keep the ball under full control and it bounced into Speroni`s arms again.
Stoke finally found a goal when a Cresswell corner wasn`t cleared properly and the ball came out to where Whelan was waiting. A superbly struck volley was to good for Speroni and it gave the Potters hope with only 5 minutes remaining. Palace held out for the remaining minutes and succumbed Stoke to only one win from their last eight matches and two in five weeks in front of the cameras.
The Potters next travel across the Midlands to face relegation threatened Coventry, a game you would have thought they have to win.
Stoke City: Nash, Griffin, Riggott, Cort, Pugh, Whelan, Delap, Pearson (Bothroyd 77), Cresswell, Sidibe (Fuller 56), Ameobi.
Subs not used: Simonsen, Shawcross, Dickinson.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Lawrence, Hudson, Fonte, Hill, Sinclair (Fletcher 89), Soares (Scannell 89), Watson, Derry, Moses (Reid 56), Morrison
Subs not used: Robinson, Butterfield
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Date:Tuesday April 8 2008
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