Report: Stoke back in the big time
4th May 2008
Stoke City returned to the top tier of English football for the first time in 23 years, as a 0-0 draw with Leicester relegated them and assured the Potters a premier league spot.
Manager Tony Pulis named an unchanged side to the one that beat Colchester a week ago after skipper Andy Griffin failed a late fitness test so Andy Wilkinson kept his place at right back. Unfortunately former Stoke loan star Lee Hendrie suffered an Achilles injury a few weeks ago that ruled him out for the final few games.
Stoke started the brighter side by putting the Leicester back four under plenty of pressure with a string of corners and throw-ins. The first opportunity came when a Delap throw was flicked on by Fuller just inches in front of the incoming Richard Cresswell.
In the 15th minute Andy Wilkinson and Leicester`s Steve Howard collided with the local boy coming off worse, an ankle injury marked a premature end for the youngster who was replaced by Lewis Buxton.
Leicester`s players showed they meant business with both Howard and Gareth McAuly booked for mistimed tackles, but Stoke also showed they were up for a fight with Dickinson entering the referees note book.
The best chance of the half fell to Fuller whose powerful volley was parried back to him by goalkeeper Henderson. The big Jamaican decided to try and walk the ball in the goal by dribbling past 3 surrounding defenders only for Henderson to smoother the ball at his feet.
As news filtered in that Southampton were beating Sheffield United, Leicester`s hopes of survival didn`t look too good. After the break Stoke dominated possession but couldn`t get near Henderson`s goal.
Stokes best chance of the match came in the shape of Fuller. A Delap throw in broke to him and his deflected shot was miraculously saved by the Leicester number 1.
Leicester were on top after that with McAuly`s header agonisingly hitting the outside of Nash`s far post and Hume fired a free kick over the bar. Leicester kept the pressure on with Hume forcing a great save from Nash and Stearman`s header from the resulting corner was spectacularly tipped over the bar.
Pulis decided to bring on Shola Ameobi and Danny Pugh to replace Sidibe and Lawrence in stoppage time. But with news going round that Ipswich had beaten Hull to confirm City`s promotion fans broke out onto the pitch before the final whistle had been blown. It took a few minutes for the fans to return to the sideline with police and stewards doing the best they could to control the 26, 000 supporters.
All of that was forgotten though when referee Mike Dean put his whistle to his lips and blew for full time. A sense of Euphoria went round the Britannia as thousands flooded the pitch to celebrate with the players and manager. After 5 minutes the stands were half empty as people were cheering, hugging and even crying to themselves amongst the heroes that have fired Stoke back to the top flight of English football, the premier league.
Leicester were condemned to finishing third from bottom and for the first time in there 123 year history they will be plying their trade in the third tier of English football. But a message to Manchester United and Chelsea, watch out because the Potters are back in the big time.
Stoke City: Nash, Wilkinson (Buxton 21), Cort, Shawcross, Dickinson, Lawrence (Pugh 90), Delap(c), Whelan, Cresswell, Sidibe (Ameobi 90), Fuller.
Subs Simonsen, Pearson.
Leicester City: Henderson, Stearman, N`Gotty, McAuly(c), Mattock, Bell (Chambers 90), Oakley, Worley (Fryatt 85), Hume, Hayles, Howard.
Subs Clapham, Wesolowski, Douglas.