Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Thursday May 19 2011
Tuesday 17th May 2011
This is was always going to be a big ask. Just 72 hours after the disappointment of losing to Man City at Wembley we had to do it all again at Eastlands with several of the first team carrying niggling injuries and most still tired.
Matty Etherington and Robert Huth were the two unsurprising omissions, but Tony Pulis also left out Jermaine Pennant and made Kenwyne Jones and Rory Delap bench-warmers for the night. Thomas Sorensen was given a rare Premier League start with Asmir Begovic reported to be 'rested' for the Wigan match - a decision that can only be down to recognition of the sterling performance from the Danish international on Saturday.
With our poor away record, it was no surprise that TP had chosen a defensive lineup with John Carew on his own upfront and the likes of Salif Diao, Danny Pugh and Dean Whitehead holding the line in midfield. The home side also made changes, but despite the likes of Balotelli missing, their strength in depth showed the gulf that exists between those with and those (like Stoke) who haven't.
Despite all the expensive players on display in the home side, it's still plainly obvious that they rely heavily on one player to create their best chances. So it was no surprise that Carlos Tevez scored two great goals - one in each half - and sandwiched in between was a goal from Lescott that owed much to a mistake from Sorensen when he made a classic keepers' mistake to decide to come for a 50/50 ball and failing to make it his, allowing the former Evertonian to head over and into the net.
At the other end, there was little to excite the few die-hard Stokies who made the trip to Manchester. We looked like a team suffering a cup final hangover and, except for a fierce shot on goal from John Carew that flattened Richards, offered very little in reply to the Mancunian billionaires.
So, let's put this one behind us and concentrate on the final match of the season and the chance to condemn Wigan to Championship football next season. A win at the Brit on Sunday would crown what has still been a exceptional season for the Potters: an FA Cup Final, Europa League football next season and (hopefully) a top half finish - not bad for a team playing Championship football ourselves just three years ago.
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Date:Thursday May 19 2011
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