Writer: Charlie Bennett
Date:Saturday February 21 2009
A 91st minute own goal from Ryan Shawcross thwarted Stoke from overcoming Portsmouth in a largely dull encounter at the Britannia Stadium. Four goals in the last twenty minutes lit up the game but both teams were obviously holding back as neither wanted to lose.
Tony Pulis was forced into changes after the defeat at Sunderland with Matthew Etherington suspended and Ricardo Fuller injured. Liam Lawrence made his first start since injuring himself in September and striker Mamady Sidibe was thrown straight into the mix after recovering from an ankle injury suffered in December. Also making their returns to the starting eleven were Danny Higginbotham, Amdy Faye and Danny Pugh.
Stoke made a bright start as Liam Lawrence troubled Hermann Hreidarsson and crossed dangerously into the box, Portsmouth failed to clear the ball and almost paid for it as Mama Sidibe turned well but couldn`t quite fire a shot at the premier leagues new all time appearance record holder and England number one David James.
Portsmouth then started to threaten the Stoke goal as Jermain Pennant crossed well for Niko Kranjcar to blaze over and new signing Angelos Basinas fired high and wide from 25 yards. Portsmouth`s main threat, Peter Crouch, was kept quiet throughout the afternoon by the daunting duo of Abdoulaye Faye and Ryan Shawcross.
Stoke`s bright spark in the first half was Liam Lawrence, the winger was causing all sorts of problems as he ran at the Portsmouth defence on countless occasions and whipped in dangerous crosses that both Sidibe and James Beattie were waiting to bury. Add to that Lawrence almost opened the scoring in spectacular fashion on 17mins as he picked the ball 35yrds out and hit a audacious volley that almost caught David James out but unfortunately bounced onto the top netting.
Portsmouth had perhaps the best opportunity of the first half as Glenn Johnson bombed down the right and crossed inch-perfectly for Peter Crouch at the far post. The 6`7" England centre forward made the wrong decision and nodded back across goal hoping for a team-mate to latch on to the end but instead found Abdoulaye Faye who cleared with ease.
The half-time team talks had no effect on the game as both teams conceded possession very easily with the Stoke midfield pairing of Amdy Faye and Salif Diao not at their bullish best.
Stoke were lucky not to go down a man ten minutes into the half as Lawrence escaped a red card after slapping Hreidarsson following a heated discussion, both were shown yellow cards, the only two of the day incidently as the referee impressively avoided any punishment for miss-timed tackles.
Pulis decided to introduce Michael Tonge as he replaced Liam Lawrence who looked tired after finally making his long awaited return, first ream chances have been hard to come by for Tonge who is rumoured to be wanting a loan move way from the Potters for regualr football.
Portsmouth broke the deadlock in the 75th minute through Niko Kranjcar, the Croatian international was found superbly by Peter Crouch and then he played a neat one-two with David Nugent before driving the ball under Sorensen and into the far corner.
Stoke were level with-in the minute though as Glenn Johnson was penalised for hand ball and the ref pointed straight to the spot. James Beattie grabbed the ball and smashed it in the top corner of the net sending James the wrong way. Only 90seconds later the Potters hit the front after a superb rum down the right from Wilkinson he delivered a tremendous cross to the far post for Danny Pugh. The former Preston man volleyed the cross into the ground goal wards for Beattie to bury the ball and send home fans crazy. That was the strikers 4th goal in 5 appearances since his move from Sheffield United.
Portsmouth stole a point though in the final few minutes as Hreidarsson found himself unmarked at the far post and although his shot was initially going wide it took a cruel deflection of Shawcross and flew past Sorensen to deny Stoke breathing space from the dreaded relegation zone.
Stoke remain in 17th and next week make the short trip to midland rivals Aston Villa, the Potters will be hoping to complete their first double in the premier league since 1985.
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Date:Saturday February 21 2009
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