Walters Brace sends Potters into Fourth Round
Jonathan Walters, bounced back from his weekend horror show, grabbing a brace in extra time to book the potters a place in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Kenwyne Jones and Cameron Jerome were also on the score sheet as Stoke City needed extra time to see off Championship high flyers Crystal Palace.
It was a fairly quiet start from both sides in front of a crowd of just 11,167 on a freezing cold night at The Britannia Stadium. The Potters had the majority of the first half possession and it was they who calved out the first clear cut opportunity when Robert Huth launched a speculative long ball and it was brilliantly laid off by Walters to Dean Whitehead who`s shot was deflected just over the bar from the edge of the penalty area.
Despite Stoke dominating in terms of territory and possession, Palace always looked dangerous on the counter attack, especially through the impressive Wilfred Zaha, when he robbed Andy Wilkinson and burst down into the penalty area and went down under the challenge he looked to have a stone wall penalty. However to Palace manager Ian Holloway`s dismay referee Anthony Taylor produced a yellow card for the young winger rather than pointing to the spot.
Ten Minutes before the interval Palace launched another swift counter attack and when Ryan Shawcross went to ground inside the penalty area Mr Taylor had no choice but to award the penalty. Stoke had to rely on Thomas Sorensen, who has a brilliant record of saving spot kicks and the Danish stopper dived away to his left to push Jermaine Easters` on to the post and away.
Having escaped the penalty miss in the first half Tony Pulis` men came out with a new sense of purpose in the second half and it was substitute Jones who finally got the breakthrough in the 69th minute, with a little helping hand from Palace keeper Lewis price. Etherington fed Whitehead, who was filling in at left back, down the left and he floated a cross to the back post where Jones climbed but could only manage a soft header towards goal. Price really should have dealt with the header but somehow contrived to fumble the ball into his own net.
The game never looked safe with Crystal Palace continuing to impress and committing numbers forward in search of that precious equaliser. Leading scorer Glen Murray was thrown on and he got the chance to pull his side level when Shawcross conceded his second penalty of the game, all be it somewhat dubious. Sorensen could not repeat his first half heroics as Murray slammed the ball home to send the 400 travelling fans into raptures. Suddenly the game was heading into an extra half an hour which neither team really wanted at the start of the clash.
With Potters fans prepared for a tricky 30 minutes suddenly the Premier League side showed their class to put Palace to the sword. Walters grabbed the first of his two goals in the 5th minute of extra time. Etherington burst down the left and side taking on his full back and whipping a fantastic cross to the back post where the Republic of Ireland international could not miss from 6 yards. The winger`s gesture toward the Stoke supporters after his assist will not have gone unnoticed. The former West Ham wide man held his hands to his ears and was clearly unhappy with some of the crowd who had been getting on his back.
Walters buoyed from his goal was the epitome of effort and commitment, clearly keen to make amends for his shocker against Chelsea on Saturday. He was rewarded with a very well taken second goal on 110 minutes when Jones neat flick set Walters free, with the Palace defence nowhere to be seen he had the freedom of the park to sprint from the half way line before tucking the ball into the bottom corner to put the game to bed.
Stoke had numerous opportunities on the break to add to their goal tally and they did add a very impressive fourth in the final minute to put some gloss on the score line. Jones, who once again outshone Peter Crouch who has not seemed the same since his mouth injury, showed fantastic feet in the centre circle before playing a perfectly waited ball for the nippy Jerome to take in his stride, round the hapless Price and slot the ball home.
The final result definitely flattered the home side but Tony Pulis will be very happy to be in the fourth round, where they will meet champions Manchester City live on ITV in 10 days time.
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