Stoke force cup replay
13th February 2010
It was a tale of 'if only Matty had stayed on, but at least Rory was there' at Eastlands as the Potters faced up to the billionaires of Manchester City in the 5th round of the FA Cup.
The first half hour was a sorry saga of a 10th minute goal conceded in bizarre and totally avoidable circumstances, followed by two worrying injuries to key players, but the Potters rallied and towards the end of the first half and into the second looked the more likely to score before deservedly drawing level with another Delap special.
Tony Pulis promised that we'd go for it and he followed up his words with action as Stoke effectively playing three strikers. Mamady Sidibe and Ricardo Fuller up front with Tuncay sitting just behind on the left wing. With Matty Etherington on the other wing, Glenn Whelan and Salif Diao in the centre it meant that there no place in the starting line-up for Rory Delap - but his time was to come.
But it was in total contrast to the fourth round tie against Arsenal as Stoke went behind after just ten minutes when Thomas Sorensen make the classic keeper's mistake of coming out far too far for the ball and then not getting it. Shaun Wright-Phillips lobbed over the Danish stopper but Ryan Shawcross was able to track back and should have comfortably been able to shepherd the ball out of play but then slipped, with the ball then striking his head to rebound into Wright-Phillip's path just a yard out.
If that wasn't enough, Matty Etherington was then stretchered off just four minutes later after he appeared to catch his studs in the turf and suffered suspected medial ligament damage. He had to be replaced by Liam Lawrence who despairingly saw his fierce volley on goal cannon off Wayne Bridge for a corner as we battled well to get back into the game.
After Andy Wilkinson's heroics last week he found the going tough against the small and nimble Wright-Phillips and earned himself a yellow card before the manager decided to let him swap positions with the more experienced Danny Higginbotham. But the longer the half went on, the more Stoke came back into the game with Man City rapidly fading without the tenacity of Tevez to call upon as he'd been allowed to travel back to Argentina for family reasons.
But then injury struck the Potters again just before the interval with Lawrence also pulling up with a knee injury and he had to be replaced by Rory Delap.
At least we now had the special talents of Rory available and it only took just over ten minutes for the Potters to draw level. An incoming missile was flicked on into the goal by Ricardo Fuller who was unmarked as all the defenders watched Delap.
After that it was not just honours even, but either side could have claimed victory with no-one keen on yet another rematch. Glenn Whelan had a great 25 yard shot on goal, after Tuncay's short free kick to the unmarked Irish international, but his international team mate, Shay Given, saved easily.
At the other end, Thomas Sorensen was forced into the best save of the match when Wright-Phillip's cross was well headed by Barry with Sorensen just managing to tip it over.
So it's all back to the Brit on Wednesday 24th March for the replay with Mancini's men also visiting this coming Tuesday night for a Premier League tie.