Frustrated Stoke cruelly beaten
Cameron Jerome`s second half strike was enough to ensure that Birmingham came away from the Potteries with all 3 points. A goalmouth scramble was eventually poked home by Jerome as he lifts his side to 6th in the table. Stoke had numerous chances to win the game but yet again failed to convert any in a frustrating end to 2009.
Boss Tony Pulis made 5 changes to the side that lost 2-0 to Man City on Boxing Day. Andy Wilkinson missed out through injury and so his place at right-back was taken by Robert Huth who had passed a late fitness test. Ryan Shawcross was also deemed fit to return and partnered Abdoulaye Faye at centre-half replacing Danny Collins. Rory Delap and Liam Lawrence were also recalled in place of the suspended Salif Diao and Glenn Whelan which gave the midfield an attacking look to it.
James Beattie took his place upfront as he made his first start since that infamous bust-up at Arsenal a few weeks ago. Mama Sidibe made way for Beattie to partner Tuncay. Midfielder Amdy Faye made his way back into the squad for the first time since March after injury.
The game was lively straight from the start as the visitors, brewing with confidence took the game to the hosts with a few early corners. The physical presence of Cameron Jerome caused problems but the Potters giant defenders managed to cope.
Up at the other end and with only 4 minutes gone, the Potters squandered the first of many glorious chances. A Liam Lawrence in-swinging corner was met at the near post by an unmarked Shawcross but he flashed his header wildly across the face of the goal much to his own dismay.
The Potters then took over as they started to dominate the match for the next 20 minutes leaving Birmingham helpless. The pressure put upon them by both the players and the crowd forced the Blues into plenty of errors but Stoke`s woeful finishing in front of goal proved their downfall.
An in-swinging Matthew Etherington free-kick was nervously headed back towards his own goal by Barry Ferguson leaving Robert Huth 7 yards out with the goal gaping. The German fluffed his lines and lashed at it sending it wide.
The Potters had total control over the game and Dean Whitehead was enjoying his new lease of life as he freely drifted around the midfield causing Birmingham problems. Tuncay and Matthew Etherington linked together well and turned Stephen Carr inside out on countless occassions but again they didn`t convert their chances.
Shawcross then missed an absolute sitter from as little as 3 yards with an open goal. Some more good work down the right by Liam Lawrence won Stoke another corner. Etherington went across and swung in a dangerously delivery that found Tuncay at the near post, the faintest of touches from the Turk took the ball away from Joe Hart in the Birmingham goal and arrived to Shawcross at the far post.
The potential England star just had to side foot the ball in to the empty net but sliced the ball horribly wide.
The disappointment of the Potters finishing spurred them on even more as both Robert Huth and James Beattie went close with headers. By this time though the momentum was gone and the Blues began to play themselves back into the game with Lee Bowyer at the heart of every move. Christian Benitez had a strong shout for a penalty waved away as Abdoulaye Faye struggled with his pace at the back.
As half-time arrived the fans were in shock at how the home side didn`t find themselves in front. The omens ere good for the second half as Birmingham were showing no sign of the form what has seen them go 10 games unbeaten.
That optimism was soon dealt a hard blow early in the second half. A corner from the left was headed by the gigantic Scott Dann against Shawcross. The ball took a cruel deflection and rebounded to Jerome who turned on a six pence and swept the ball just beyond the despairing Sorensen into the far corner.
This only willed the Potters on and they were twice denied by the brilliance of 22 year-old Hart in the Birmingham goal. A neat move down the right between Tuncay and Lawrence released the Irishman towards the by-line, his deft chip was just too high for Beattie but Etherington came in from the far side and viciously cracked the ball towards the top corner only for Hart to fling up a hand and turn it behind.
Next it was Abdoulaye Faye to suffer at his giant hands as the captain met a cross and powerfully headed towards the bottom corner only for Hart`s superb reactions allowed him to turn it behind again.
The assault continued as Huth had a stone dead penalty waved away after Carr had hauled him down in the area just as he was about to nod the ball home.
Birmingham`s defence held strong for the rest of the match as they comfortably dealt with substitutes Ricardo Fuller and Mama Sidibe. The result sees Stoke fall to 12th but with a game in hand against Fulham next Tuesday night. There next game is a F.A Cup 3rd round tie at home to York this coming Saturday.