Stoke see off resilient Baggies
A late Mama Sidibe header was enough for Stoke to brush aside West Brom and earn maximum points in a battle that was short of quality at the Britannia stadium. With time running out Sidibe rose high at the far post to accurately dispatch his header past a helpless Scott Carson and send 26,000 frozen stokies wild.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis was forced to make two changes after last weeks humiliation at old Trafford. Out went striker Ricardo Fuller who was banned for receiving too many yellows over the course of the season and in his place was Dave Kitson who was still looking to break his goal scoring duck. Also Tom Soares was recalled to the first team replacing Seyi Olofinjana on the right of midfield.
The mood of expectancy was high around the stadium after winning each of there last 3 home matches and facing a West Brom side that hadn`t won at Stoke for over 20 years. The stadium fell flat after 7 minutes though as Dave Kitson landed awkwardly injuring his knee, after being carried off via stretcher he was replaced by Richard Cresswell.
The injury to his strike partner didn`t faze Mama Sidibe as he had Stoke`s best effort of a dire first half. The big target man controlled a long haul up field before turning and sending a crashing volley towards Carson`s goal which the former Liverpool keeper tipped over the bar impressively.
Both teams pushed for a deadlock breaker as Rory Delap surged onto Sidibes flick before slicing well wide from a good position. At the other end Albion striker Ishmael Miller wrong footed Shawcross before firing high onto the roof of the netting.
Neither team was able to find a break through in a lacklustre first half. One positive note for Stoke was that the centre back pairing of Shawcross and Abdoulaye Faye looked strong and resilient as they dealt with the occasional attack of West Brom`s with ease.
Stoke raised the tempo after the break and after some good moving and passing they started creating chances. The best of which fell to Tom Soares, after Cresswell powered past a number of Albion defenders the ball fell to Soares 14 yards out, with the goal to aim at he fired straight at Carson who clung on as Cresswell piled in looking for the rebound.
It was Soares again who should have given Stoke the lead after more neat football between Cresswell and Higginbotham down the left. The latter this time teeing up Soares as from a difficult angle he produced a terrific cross that Soares instead of burying headed straight at Carson again.
Michael Tonge was introduced to the action replacing the unimpressive Tom Soares. He almost made an immediate impact on the proceedings after Griffin drove forward ferociously the captain laid the ball off for Tonge who curled his shot from distance which Carson saved well again. The Potters then had penalty shouts dismissed as Sidibe was shoved in the back as he went up for a header and the referee waved the claims away.
West Brom almost nicked an undeserved goal with 12 minutes remaining after Andy Griffin was tamely tackled by sub Felipe Texeira, with the captain way out of position he drove forward into a great position and with only Sorensen to beat he spooned his shot high and wide, before turning away with total embarrassment.
More injury woes for Stoke as Ryan Shawcross hobbled off with a back problem to be replaced by Leon Cort. Stoke piled forward with only 5 minutes to go and were rewarded by a goal worthy of beating any team. Cresswell and Tonge linked up well down the left before releasing Higginbotham towards the by-line. The former Southampton captain whipped in a mesmerising ball to the back post where Sidibe rose highest and floated his header coolly into the far corner of the goal much to the delight of the many Stokies in attendance.
Stoke kept West Brom at bay over the last 5 minutes of added time to propel themselves up to 13th in the table with 17 points level with Man City and Bolton. For West Brom things get worse as they head the foot of the table with 11 points. Next up for Stoke is tough home encounter with high flying Hull, a game many will be looking to gain maximum points from.