Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Wednesday September 24 2008
(4-3 to Stoke after penalties)
23rd September 2008 - 7.45pm
Stoke City fielded just three members of the starting eleven that drew with Liverpool at the weekend for the Carling Cup third round clash with Reading at the Brit.
Lawrence, Sidibe and Higginbotham were among the starters as Stoke's mainly second string squad were out to get Stoke into the fourth round for the first time in eight years. But it took extra time and penalties before the Potters were able to squeeze past the Royals who also fielded a mix of youth and experience including former Potter, Brynjar Gunnarsson and striker, Leroy Lita.
Vincent Pericard led the attack along with Mamady Sidibe and it was Pericard - out to prove his many doubters wrong - who got the first goal on 9 minutes after Liam Lawrence's corner was headed in by Pericard.
Stoke never looked too comfortable at the back with Shawcross, Higginbotham, Wilko and Dicko providing the rearguard support and neither side really troubled either keeper, but Reading levelled the score just before half time when stand-in skipper, Higginbotham was adjudged to have brought down Bikey in the Stoke penalty area, which was converted by Henry from the spot.
The second half saw Stoke make a quick comeback and they went ahead again on 50 minutes when another Lawrence cross rebounded out to Big Mama who fired the ball into the back of the net.
Tony Pulis brought off Sidibe for the Jamaican international, Demar Phillips, allowing Richard Cresswell to move up front, but it was Reading who again clawed their way back into the game with a 75 minute equaliser and a second goal for Henry. Pulis was forced to bring on Ricardo Fuller to try and finish the game off but both sides battled hard with Steve Simonsen performing some heroic saves and Royals' keeper, Federici making a good save from Pericard which seemed destined for the back of the net.
Extra time now loomed and Pulis pulled off Higginbotham for Leon Cort, but another 30 minutes did nothing to break the deadlock (even though Lita missed a golden opportunity for the visitors) and penalties seemed a certainty.
Stoke's record in penalty shoot-outs is not something that looks good in the record books with not one satisfactory outcome ever recorded at the Britannia Stadium, but in this year of firsts we should have expected another milestone to be passed on a chilly Tuesday night in September.
With Reading winning the toss to shoot in front of their own fans, it was Stoke that started the shoot-out with Ric Fuller stepping up to the mark and he easily buried the ball into the back of the net whilst Reading scored their first and then Lawrence made it 2-1 to the Potters. Reading's Henry then stepped for his second penalty kick of the night and this knowledge may have helped Simo guess correctly and he comfortably saved the shot. Glenn Whelan moved Stoke on to 3-1. The score then moved to 3-2 and Lewis Buxton sent Stoke fans' blood pressure soaring as he skyed his shot and Reading brought the score back to 3-3. Vincent Pericard had no trouble nudging the Potters back into a 4-3 lead and then up stepped Leroy Lita to finally end the torment with a shot that went high into the South Stand.
So it all came right in the end on a night that saw the Potters win their first penalty shoot-out at the Brit and progress to the fourth round of the Carling Cup for the first time since 2000. All we need now is another home draw and, hopefully, a larger crowd than the dedicated 9,141 who turned out on Tuesday night.
Stoke City: Simonsen, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Higginbotham (Cort 101), Dickinson, Lawrence, Buxton, Whelan, Cresswell (Fuller 78), Sidibe (Phillips 63), Pericard.
Subs not used: Sorensen, De Laet, Davies, Wedderburn.
Reading: Federici, Kelly, Bikey, Ingimarsson, Golbourne, Henry, Gunnarsson (Sigurdsson 95), Cisse (Pearce 98), Convey (Mooney 106), Long, Lita.
Subs not used: Andersen, Sodje, Bozanic, Spence.
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Date:Wednesday September 24 2008
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