Stoke sign off with entertaining draw
Stoke`s final home game of another great season ended with an entertaining 0-0 draw with 8th placed Everton. Phil Jagielka had put the ball in the net for the visitors, only for it to be ruled out for offside. While at the other end Rory Delap missed an absolute sitter from 8 yards.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis was forced into making four changes, three of them defensive. Injuries to keeper Thomas Sorensen and Abdoulaye Faye meant that Ryan Shawcross returned to the heart of the defence and Asmir Begovic made his full debut in goal. Andy Wilkinson was also recalled in at right-back in place of Danny Collins in a defensive shake up that saw Robert Huth partner Shawcross in the middle and Danny Higginbotham move to left-back. The other change saw the fully fit Mama Sidibe return in place of the disgraced Dave Kitson, who along with James Beattie, wasn`t even included in the squad.
The Potters started brightly and some early bursts forward from the energetic Dean Whitehead soon had the home crowd singing and shouting. Ricardo Fuller also looked fresh and he and Sylvain Distin enjoyed an interesting battle all afternoon. The Jamaican almost supplied big Mama with the chance to put the Potters one up but his pull back was just too far behind Sidibe who would have had an open shot at goal.
Everton themselves looked dangerous as Victor Anichebe, who scored in this fixture last year, turned and out muscled Wilkinson. But his path to goal was superbly stopped by the impressive Ryan Shawcross who was a rock at the back and, obviously not showing any signs of rust after almost two months out.
Anichebe was in the thick of it again when he turned and fired a powerful effort goal wards but it was dealt with comfortably by Asmir Begovic who, despite having a quiet day, looked cool and calm when called upon and he didn`t put a foot wrong all day.
Fuller had a good opportunity to break the deadlock as he latched onto a super Sidibe flick on. However under pressure from Distin he poked his effort rather tamely at Tim Howard. At the other end Leighton Baines vicious drive would have gone in if it wasn`t for his own team mate Anichebe. The England international`s effort was blocked by the Nigerian on the line. That brought an end to a bright first half.
In the second half the Potters should have taken the lead in what would have been a contender for goal of the season. A superb quick break away involving Glenn Whelan, Sidibe and eventually Etherington stretched the Toffees defence to the limit. As Matty powered down the left he spotted the open Rory Delap in the box on his own. The ball across the face of goal was perfectly weighted for the incoming Delap but 8 yards out and with the goal gaping he miscued his shot agonisingly wide. The onslaught continued as Sidibe was becoming more effective on the floor and he and Fuller liked up well to set-up Whelan who blazed his shot wide.
Everton responded and almost scored through Anichebe again. Some neat build up play involving Phil Neville and the creative Mikel Arteta released him on the left. He cut inside and curled his effort inches wide from just outside the box.
The visitors kept the pressure on and Jagielka finally found the net from a corner. However it was Anichebe again who prevented his team from reaping the awards. Although he didn`t touch the ball he was standing in an offside position and clearly distracted keeper Begovic, thus making him offside. A superb spot from the linesman.
Stoke sensed the momentum swing but couldn`t convert any of their set-pieces due to some superb defending by David Moyes side.
The result leaves Stoke in 11th with two games to come. Firstly a trip away at Fulham on Wednesday and then Manchester United the following Sunday. A win would mean the Potters beat their point`s tally of last season.