Fuller shoots down Pompey
Ricardo Fuller`s second half strike was enough for Stoke to see off Portsmouth and climb back up to 9th in the table. The Jamaican`s exquisite shot was too good for Jamie Ashdown as he celebrated his first league goal of the season in a match that won`t be living long in the memory of most fans.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis made two changes from the defeat at Hull a fortnight ago. Skipper Abdoulaye Faye was suspended following his sending off at the KC so Robert Huth filled in at centre half alongside captain Ryan Shawcross and his right-back berth was taken by Andy Wilkinson. Salif Diao also earned a recall in place of Glenn Whelan who was still feeling the repercussions of Wednesday`s world cup qualifying defeat to France.
Portsmouth`s preparation didn`t go all that smoothly either, in warm up keeper David James pulled up injured which meant Jamie Ashdown came in for a rare start.
It was the visitors who started the brighter side as they passed and controlled the ball much better than the Potters and had the best chance of the match to take the lead.
After former Stoke target Aruna Dindane was found in a harmless position in the penalty box, Rory Delap clumsily piled in to the Ivorian and the referee, without consideration, correctly pointed to the spot. Summer signing Kevin Prince-Boateng stepped up and fired a weak, low effort to Thomas Sorensen`s left and the Dame smothered the penalty with ease.
This rocked Portsmouth and the Potters set about taking advantage. Ricardo Fuller crashed a volley over the bar and Rory Delap`s throws were constantly asking questions of a weak Pompey defence.
There was however an obvious lack of creativity in the Potters midfield with only Matthew Etherington showing any emergence to get forward. Portsmouth then began to overrun both Dean Whitehead and Salif Diao with Spurs loanee Jamie O`Hara dominating the ball and feeding his team mates with superb passing.
The visitors, who were so desperate for a win, went incredibly close through veteran striker Kanu who 20 yard drive flashed just past the post and O`Hara stung the palms of Sorensen.
Boos rang out at half time as the Potters defensive mindset frustrated many of the home fans as they failed to exert any prolonged periods of pressure on the visitors.
The same eleven lined up for the second half but Pulis still had the likes of Lawrence, Tuncay and Whelan in reserve.
Nothing really changed during the second half so TP did decide to bring both Lawrence and Mama Sidibe after 55 minutes much to the delight of the home crowd. There impact was imminent as Sidibe`s back flick released Lawrence who in turn released Fuller before losing out to some brilliant defending, this got the crowd going again as some hope was restored.
Etherington`s right wing corner should have been nodded in by either one of Shawcross or Huth but neither made proper contact and the ball fizzled out for a throw.
We didn`t have to wait much longer though for the first and only goal. Matthew Etherington`s clever turn and neat one-two with Whitehead created panic and when the ball came to Fuller who spun the defence and curled a deadly finish into the far corner to release all the tension in the crowd.
Portsmouth immediately sprung into life as Kanu almost forced an equaliser and O`Hara kept on trying his luck from distance. Tuncay came on to add some energy and force errors from the visitors who began to panic as time ran out.
There was however just enough time for man of the match Wilkinson to almost add the goal of the season. After sublimely winning the ball in his own half, the local boy charged down the right weaving in and out before unleashing an unstoppable drive that missed the top corner by inches.
Stoke held on and went 9th in the table ahead of Burnley and only 4 points of the top 4. Portsmouth`s position has worsened and now survival for them seems miles away.