Writer: Lloyd Reddin
Date:Sunday December 30 2012
29th December 2012 3pm
Attendance: 26, 391
Ten men Stoke came from behind against Southampton to earn a draw and stretch their unbeaten run to 10 games in a pulsating match at the Britannia Stadium.
In a game that was filled with goals and controversy, an amazing late Cameron Jerome effort saw Stoke steal a point off the Saints even though Stoke had been reduced to 10 men.
Southampton were the first out of the blocks and grabbed the league within the first 10 minutes when Guly de Prado found space on the left and whipped in an inviting cross which evaded a Stoke defence, which was weakened with the absence of Geoff Cameron and captain Ryan Shawcross, with both of them serving a one match ban, and found Richie Lambert at the far post, who fired home his 8th goal of the season past Asmir Begovic.
Stoke nearly levelled immediately, as Michael Kightly found space on the right and pulled the ball back to the edge of the area, where Glenn Whelan cleverly stepped over the ball, which gave Steven N`Zonzi the chance to get the ball out of his feet and hit a shot towards goal from 18 yards. The shot was deflected and fell into the path of former Southampton striker Kenwyne Jones who couldn`t get his shot on target when it looked easier for the Trinidad & Tobagonian to equalise.
The 6ft 2 striker did make amends not long after though when he cheekily back heeled the ball through a Southampton player legs and into the bottom corner of the net after some good work from stand-in right back Ryan Shotton.
Jones has had a recent resurgence since his return to the Potters starting eleven and that made it 3 goals in his last 4 games for the Staffordshire outfit.
Southampton didn`t seem ruffled by Stoke`s equaliser, the home atmosphere nor the fact that Stoke`s record is one of the best in the Premiership as they continued to press forward in the early goings of the match.
A long diagonal ball played by Richie Lambert into the Stoke area seemed to cause confusion between German Robert Huth and goalkeeper Begovic, as the latter seemed to be set to collect the loose ball before the centre half flung himself at the ball and diverted it on to the crossbar, where the ball fell to Jay Rodriguez perfectly who was left with the simple task of rolling the ball home and reinstating Southampton`s lead.
The latest mistake from the unfamiliar Stoke backline left the whole of the Stoke team looking shell shocked and as Tony Pulis said after the match, it had been the worse first half display by the Potters all season.
Things got even worse before the break for Pulis` men as Southampton doubled their lead after Andy Wilkinson, who was playing in an unfamiliar left back position diverted the ball into his own net after a Jason Puncheon cross was knocked down by Lambert to leave the Britannia Stadium in a hushed silence.
Pulis was praying for the half time whistle to come so he could read the riot act to his players and try to get them back into this fixture.
The whistle did come with no other action and whatever the Welshmen said at half time defiantly worked as the Potters come out second half like a team possessed.
The Potters, roared on by the Britannia Stadium faithful tried to drag their selves back into the game, although the game was nearly put out of reach as Southampton made a rare second half counter attack which saw do Prado, who had the goal at his beckoning smash wide with his weaker foot.
Just after the hour mark Stoke pulled one back through Matthew Upson after the ball pinballed in the Southampton area and the centre half managed to power home an effort which gave the crowd a sense of belief.
Stoke continued to push forward in search of the equaliser, but the impressive Steven N`Zonzi was given his marching orders after he initially had the ball and was closed down by three Southampton player and having held off the trio was then fouled but referee Clattenburg turned a blind eye to the incident and allow the game to continue.
The lanky Frenchmen was incensed and continued to close the ball down like a bull seeing red, and jumped into a challenge hastily without making contact with the Saints player but Clattenburg, who always seems to have to be the centre of attention sent off N`Zonzi.
Even with the sending off Pulis could still smell blood and threw caution to the wind, bringing on Whitehead, Crouch and Jerome, with Stoke lining up in 3-4-2, with strikers Walters and Jerome filling the wide berths.
It wasn`t until Stoke felt aggrieved once again by a decision made by the official as Kenwyne Jones found space in the Saints area and smashed a header destined for the top corner, only for Fonte to stick a hand out to prevent the chance. Clattenburg, who can`t be faulted for his positioning, waved away appeals.
It wasn`t long until the man in black was at the centre of attention again as Cameron Jerome headed towards goal which was blocked by Yoshida who seemed to lean into the ball with his arm. Once again Clattenburg rejected the appeals.
With time all but up, Stoke grabbed an emphatic equaliser as Cameron Jerome smashed the ball home with help from the underside of the bar from 35 yards after a Peter Crouch knock down.
Southampton were shell shocked and were urging the ref to blow his final whistle, but after a long stoppage earlier in the half when Andy Wilkinson and Robert Huth collided with each other and were left with nasty head gashes, there was 7 minutes of added time.
The 26,000 Stoke fans and manager Pulis urged his players to keep push forward and go for the win. When Stoke won a free kick on the edge of the area, it allowed all of Stoke`s big boys to pile into the box. Whelan whipped the ball into the mixer which found Peter Crouch at the far post and his header had to be well saved by Kelvin Davis.
With the draw, Stoke extended their unbeaten streak to 10 games and their home record to an impressive 17 games.
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Date:Sunday December 30 2012
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