Writer: Charlie Bennett
Date:Wednesday September 22 2010
Stoke have made it through to the fourth round after a comfortable 2-0 win over Fulham. Headers from Danny Higginbotham and Kenwyne Jones and a man of the match performance from Tuncay eased the potters through in their best performance of the season so far.
Tony Pulis made several changes after Saturday`s 1-1 draw with West Ham. Asmir Begovic, Andy Wilkinson and Danny Higginbotham all came in for rare starts in place of Thomas Sorensen, Abdoulaye Faye and Danny Collins. Salif Diao took the central midfield place of Dean Whitehead while Tuncay came in for Jermaine Pennant and Fuller for Walters.
A strong Stoke team made the much brighter start as Tuncay was everywhere and he linked up well with Jones before a bad touch cost him his chance when through on goal. Salif Diao, making his first appearance since his return, impressed as he controlled the Fulham midfield and protected the back four well.
Fulham were lucky to still have ten men on the pitch after Danny Murphy launched the ball at Matty Etherington after the two had heated words. Ref Mark Halsey, just back from a serious illness, booked both players but Murphy was lucky not to be shown red.
Tuncay was at the heart of everything and his cross presented Jones with a chance but his deflected shot went straight to the keeper. Fulham couldn`t control the Turk, who was sending Pulis a clear message about his starting credentials.
The Potters soon took a deserved lead after 22 minutes as Higginbotham netted his first of the season. Tuncay won a corner and fellow winger Etherington swung it in to the far post where Higgy waited unmarked and he bulleted his header past the helpless keeper.
Stoke`s tails were wagging and Tuncay, Jones and Fuller had fun with some fancy tricks that had the visitors chasing shadows. At the other end the defence looked vey solid with captain Shawcross looking more composed next to Robert Huth. The skipper was starting to look much more like his old self. It looked as if Stoke were going to add another as Tuncay`s spectacular volley forced Schwarzer into a diving stop.
Asmir Begovic in goal had a comfortable evening but whenever the ball did come near him he was mainly composed and dealt with it without any problems. Zoltan Gera drove a vicious shot that forced him into a save while Clint Dempsey, who scored a wonderful the last time they played at the Brit, curled an effort just wide and Carlos Salcido`s shot hit Shawcross.
After half-time Stoke had a great chance to extend their lead as Jones and Fuller linked up well but Kenwyne`s shot lacked the accuracy needed to find the bottom corner and went wide. Begovic was on alert to stop Dempsey but he almost gifted the American an equaliser. A cross from the right popped out of his hands to Dempsey 6 yards out but he volleyed over.
Tuncay was still causing havoc and the only thing missing from his game was a goal. With the deficit at just one, Mark Hughes`s side fancied their chances and they brought on the forgotten striker Eddie Johnson who troubled Shawcross and Huth and went close on two occassions.
Shortly after Diao was replaced by Delap, he set-up the Potters second and secured their passage through. One of Rory`s monster throws went over Schwarzer`s head for Jones to nod in to the empty net for his third goal in as many games. However the game turned sour when Wilko went in too hard of Mousa Dembele which resulted in him going off on a stretcher. Let`s hope it isnt a bad injury.
It was a more than deserved win for them and Jon Walters prediction that we have a great chance of going to Wembley lives on. The fourth round draw will be made on Saturday at around 12.30 bst.
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Date:Wednesday September 22 2010
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