Stoke leave it late but who cares?
St James' Park
Sunday 26th September 2010
Tony Pulis set out his game plan quite clearly, opting to leave the effervescent Tuncay out of the squad, Marc Wilson and Ricardo Fuller on the bench and start with Salif Diao. The presence of Diao sends shivers through many Stokies and plainly indicates the manager is expecting to have to hold on to the point and do without too much creativity.
Certainly that was how the first half developed, Kenwyne Jones huffed and puffed but was unable to create much whilst flying solo up front with Jon Walters sitting further back and it only took 15 minutes for Salif to pick up his first yellow card in his first League start of the season.
It might have been that way until half-time. The Magpies attempted to break down the Stoke defence but, on the whole, it has to be said failed fairly miserably. Thomas Sorensen tried to gift them a couple of chances with some wayward kicking but it looked like TP's plan was going to work until the 40th minute when Robert Huth inexplicably barged down Andrew Carroll when the ball seemed to be going comfortably into Soresen's hands. The resulting penalty was converted by Kevin Nolan and the St James' Park mountain suddenly seemed to be very high indeed.
But we all know we like a challenge. In every match so far this season, we've gone into the break at least a goal down then (at least in the last couple of weeks) Tony Pulis waves his magic wand in the dressing room and suddenly we're a different team. It did help that Tone seemed to have seen the error of his ways and quickly brought on Ricardo Fuller and Rory Delap for Salif Diao and Glenn Whelan. But whatever the reason, at least Stoke were pushing for the equaliser and Jones was giving the Newcastle defence nightmares with two shots hitting the woodwork in quick succession and Fuller narrowly missing the right hand post.
But then disaster struck in the 67th minute when Ric was brought down on the edge of the penalty area with a blatant hand around the face from Enrique. His fall seemed innocuous, but it quickly became apparent that he'd dislocated his shoulder and had to be gently removed from the pitch to be replaced by Eidur Gudjohnsen. We instantly turned catastrophe into success when Matty Etherington's free-kick, after a lengthy delay whilst Fuller was being tended to, was picked up by Huth who headed it to Jones, who in turn headed it home - scoring his fourth goal in four games in the process.
That even stirred the home side into action and the game livened up with play flowing both ways and it looked like we'd be doing well to settle for a point with the Magpies having most of the action with the Toon Army in full cry. But we kept plugging away and a corner from Matty Etherington just five minutes from the end of normal time gave the Potters the lead when Perch headed into his own net as he attempted to avoid Huth doing the same behind him.
The six minutes of added on time seemed to last a lifetime, but eventually we were able to celebrate our first away win of the season and condemn the home side to their second consecutive home defeat. Sunday afternoons don't get much better than this!