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From Heroes to Zeros

Stoke City
1 - 2

Britannia Stadium

15th April 2006 3pm

Attendance: 16,501


The Potters again demonstrated their ability to show a total lack of consistency. Seven days after deservedly beating Ipswich 4-1 at Portman Road, they managed to deservedly lose 2-1 to a visiting Southampton team who had not won in their last eleven away games.

The 2-1 score line flattered a Stoke team that seemed to have left their footballing skills in the dressing room for the first half and the majority of the second. It took a beautifully struck shot from 25 yards by Paul Gallagher 10 minutes from time for Stoke’s only goal of the game (and their only shot on goal).

The only change in the starting line up from last week’s victory was Marlon Broomes replacing Clint Hill, who was being rested. Some fans will point to the missing defensive stalwart as one reason why we succumbed so readily to the threat posed by Grzegorz Rasiak (on loan from Spurs) and Ricardo Fuller, but in reality this was a game in which no one player (with the notable exception of Gallagher) can hold his head up high.

True, Johan Boskamp was forced in to two early substitutions in the first half. Luke Chadwick had to be swapped for Peter Sweeney after only 20 minutes when he developed a hamstring injury and just before half time youngster, Andy Wilkinson had to be stretchered off after a nasty tackle from Richard Chaplow that went unpunished by the referee, to be replaced by Carl Dickinson.

The visitors dominated the first 25 minutes and after six corners and continuous pressure got their first breakthrough. Broomes brought down Rasiak in the penalty area and it was Rasiak who converted the resulting penalty past Steve Simonsen. Just five minutes later it was again that man Rasiak who was first to the ball after the Saints had a free kick on the edge of the penalty area. All he had to do was simply guide the ball past a stranded Simonsen for the second goal of the game.

Whatever passed for a team talk at half time (I don’t imagine much talking was done by Messrs. Boskamp, Blake and Taggart) did not seem to have done much good. Sammy Bangoura attempted to conjure up chances on his own up front, reminiscent of those well used and totally ineffective tactics from Tony Pulis last season when the ball was hopefully kicked up field to a lone Ade Akinbiyi.

So we arrived at the 83rd minute and Daryl Russell had been replaced by another up and coming youngster, Adam Rooney and the fair weather fans were leaving in droves. Rooney had barely arrived on the field before passing the ball to Gallagher who launched such a perfect shot from outside the penalty area that the ball went straight as an arrow into the top left hand corner of the net giving the keeper, Kevin Miller, no chance of getting to his only potential save of the day.

At last, Stoke seemed to get the bit between the teeth and launched a concerted attempt to try and rescue a point. But it was far too little, far too late.

Stoke must now regroup quickly for the visit to the Champions, Reading on Monday and try and rain on their parade.

Star Player

Only one person - and not just for his superb shot on goal that must warrant a late inclusion in the contenders for 'Goal of the Season' - Paul Gallagher

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Writer:Chris Baldwin
Date:Sunday April 16 2006
Time: 11:54AM

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# Team P W D L Pts. GD
C Leicester City 38 23 12 3 81 32
2 Arsenal 38 20 11 7 71 29
3 Spurs 38 19 13 6 70 34
4 Man City 38 19 9 10 66 30
5 Man Utd 38 19 9 10 66 14
6 Southampton 38 18 9 11 63 18
7 West Ham 38 16 14 8 62 14
8 Liverpool 38 16 12 10 60 13
9 Stoke 38 14 9 15 51 -14
10 Chelsea 38 12 14 12 50 6
11 Everton 38 11 14 13 47 4
12 Swansea 38 12 11 15 47 -10
13 Watford 38 12 9 17 45 -10
14 WBA 38 10 13 15 43 -14
15 Crystal Palace 38 11 9 18 42 -12
16 AFC Bournemouth 38 11 9 18 42 -22
17 Sunderland 38 9 12 17 39 -14
R Newcastle 38 9 10 19 37 -21
R Norwich 38 9 7 22 34 -28
R Aston Villa 38 3 8 27 17 -49
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