Party on hold for Stoke
26th April 2008
Attendance: 6,300 + 10,000 at the Brit
The Potters will have to put the promotion party on hold for yet another week after a good win at Layer Road was mixed with the disappointment of an 85th minute winner for Hull that meant the Championship is going all the way to the wire and next Sunday's sell-out at the Brit against Leicester.
Even though Layer Road was full at just over 6,000 as the U's celebrated their final game at the non-league size ground there were 10,000 Potters' fans at the Brit to watch the match beamed back live. It's a measure of how far the Potters have come under Tony Pulis and Peter Coates in just two seasons that the team can fill nearly half the home areas of the Brit whilst playing 200 miles away. Just cast your mind back to the Boskamp era in 2006 and we were only packing in just over 10,000 to watch the Potters play the likes of Crystal Palace and Plymouth in person at the Brit.
Tony Pulis was able to name the same starting eleven that beat Bristol City last weekend after Mamady Sidibe came through an eleventh hour fitness test. This was always going to be a tough match with all the pressure on Stoke as Colchester, already doomed to relegation, were out to party before their move to a new stadium. Stoke battered the home side with eight corners, but each was hacked away, but Ricardo Fuller and Richard Cresswell both had good chances to put the Potters into a deserved lead. With news from Hull going from bad to better as Palace came back from a goal down to level the match before half-time, it seemed that Stoke were never going to get their breakthrough, but it arrived in added-on time just before the interval. Yet another goalmouth scramble saw the ball go out to Liam Lawrence just outside the left hand post and he fired it back into the mass of bodies where it cannoned off Cresswell and into the back of the net. At last, our destiny was back in our own hands! Whilst the 975 Potters fans at Layer Road were certainly noisy, it was nothing to the 10,000 back at the Brit.
The second half started with Stoke still pushing forward in search of the final nail in the U's coffin. Lawrence had a good chance from a free-kick, but the ball sailed just past the post. Sidibe nearly got on the end of Fuller cross but was just inches away, despite an acrobatic leap. Rory Delap was creating problems with every long throw, even though he nearly had to disappear into the stands to get a long enough run-up from the ridiculously small outfield.
Colchester introduced the 42 year old veteran, Teddy Sheringham with 30 minutes remaining and this did perk up the home side who responded with a couple of rasping shots that stopped hearts both at Layer Road and the Brit.
With just five minutes remaining, the news came through from Hull that they had taken the lead. If Palace were not desperate for a win themselves, you may have taken this as evidence of Warnock trying to get another over on the Potters, but just seconds later, it was nearly catastrophe at Layer Road as the U's got the ball in the back of the net, but not before the linesman waved for a foul on Carlo Nash. At the Brit, fans were still getting over the news from the KC Stadium and it was not clear for several long seconds that the goal had been disallowed.
So the Potters were able to celebrate a vital, vital win in their battle for promotion. Just a shame that we could not have celebrated promotion then, but at least it's all down to us at the Brit against Leicester next Sunday.
Finally, I have to pay credit to the referee. For once, we didn't get allocated a so-called Premier League referee, but a certain Mr. Friend who'd never officiated a Stoke match before. Yes, we did have a shout for a penalty on Ric Fuller turned down but at least he didn't try and be the centre of attention on such an important day for both teams.
Colchester United: Gerken, Ifil, Coyne, Virgo (Balogh 43), White, Duguid (Platt 88), Jackson, Hammond, Elito, Lisbie, Vernon (Sheringham 62)
Subs not used: Cousins, Izzet
Stoke City: Nash, Riggott, Shawcross, Cort, Dickinson, Lawrence, Delap, Whelan, Cresswell, Sidibe (Ameobi 79), Fuller
Subs not used: Simonsen, Wilkinson, Pugh, Pearson