Writer: Charlie Bennett
Date:Saturday May 16 2009
Stoke celebrated their successful debut season in the premier league with a deserved 2-0 victory over Wigan. Two second half goals from club top goal scorer Ricardo Fuller and James Beattie saw the Potters home in a dominant second half performance.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis named an unchanged team from the one that beat Hull last week. Leon Cort kept his place at centre-back which meant that Ryan Shawcross and Andy Wilkinson kept their places at full-back.
The first half failed to live up to expectations as both teams toiled in blustery conditions. Wigan had the better of it though as they retained possession well in midfield with Charles N`Zogbia and Michael Brown impressing with their range of passing. It was Austrian midfielder Paul Scharner who tested Thomas Sorensen first though as he evaded the off side trap and drove a low fierce effort straight at the Dane.
Stoke then appeared to take the lead after half an hour as a trade mark Rory Delap throw flew over the head of Richard Kingston and nestled in the net. Unfortunately the referee noticed that the ball didn`t take a touch off any player so ruled out the effort, much to the Irishman`s dismay.
Wigan then almost took the lead in style as a 25yrd screamer from recent signing Cho Won-Hee required Thomas Sorensen to tip the effort over the bar. Striker Hugo Rodallega, Wigan`s lone front man, then had a shot on the turn that narrowly missed the far post. Wigan`s 5 men in midfield seemed to cause problems for Stoke`s Delap and Glenn Whelan.
At half-time Pulis felt in need of a tactical substitution as centre-back Leon Cort was replaced by Danny Pugh. In a defensive shake up, Ryan Shawcross took up his usual position of centre-half and Andy Wilkinson was drafted to right-back allowing Pugh to fit in a left-back.
The sub allowed the two full-backs to advance over the half way line and this began to cause the visitors problems. Glenn Whelan began to get his foot on the ball and his pin point passing created chances for the Potters. James Beattie wasted a great shooting opportunity when well placed inside the area.
At the other end Andy Wilkinson`s slip allowed N`Zogbia to get in one on one with Sorensen. The young Frenchman panicked when granted a scoring opportunity and planted his effort wide of Sorensen`s right hand post.
The game then started to open up as Lee Cattermole wasted Wigan`s best opportunity as his poor first touch prevented him from scoring from 3yrds and Maynor Figueroa`s crisply hit shot brushed the post.
After Wigan`s early second half spell Stoke stamped their authority, Liam Lawrence`s deflected shot fell inches past the far post as the decibel level rose several notches inside the stadium.
The added pressure finally paid off in the 69th minute as Ricardo Fuller grabbed his tenth goal of the season. The Jamaican collected Lawrence`s pass inside the area and after twisting and turning himself into an inch of space, he curled an unstoppable shot into the top corner to send the home crowd ballistic. Lawrence then almost doubled the lead as Latic`s keeper Richard Kingston was caught miles out of goal, again Lawrence`s effort deflected wide.
The Stoke defence looked solid throughout with newly crowned player of the year Abdoulaye Faye at its heart. Also the introduction of Danny Pugh made a difference as he aided Matthew Etherington down the left flank.
The Potters then doubled their lead after a crisp move, some neat passing from Etherington and Pugh eventually fell to Whelan. The former Sheffield Wednesday playmaker produced a blinding through ball for Etherington for to run onto, the ball deviated off the leg of Mario Melchiot kindly for Etherington as he was in one on one with Kingston, as the keeper surged out he intelligently chipped the ball over the top of the keeper to Beattie at the far post who had the simple job of nodding in the second and securing the points.
Etherington was withdrawn shortly after as Salif Diao took his place. Danny Pugh almost scored a more spectacular goal than Lawrence`s last weekend as his crashing effort just cleared the bar.
Stoke finished the stronger and held on for the 3 points that takes them above Wigan and into 11th place, an after match team tour around the stadium saw the players show their appreciation to the greatest fans in the world.
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Date:Saturday May 16 2009
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