Potters ease past Rovers
25th September 19:45
Stephen Ireland scored his first Stoke City goal as the potters eased past Tranmere Rovers and into the Fourth Round of the Capital One Cup. The Irish midfielder opened the scoring before a late Peter Crouch second completed the victory and set up a Fifth round trip to Birmingham City.
The result never really looked in any doubt right from the first whistle as Mark Hughes side looked a class above their League One opponents. Ronnie Moore`s men face Stoke`s local enemy Port Vale at Prenton Park on Saturday and they may find that a slightly easier task as they struggled to compete with the Premier League class they were up against. Hughes made 8 changes to his starting line up form the side that was unfortunate in defeat at Arsenal at the weekend but they never looked in any trouble.
Roared on by a fantastic following of over 2000 travelling Stokies the potters set the tone early in the game by controlling possession, as Tranmere were forced to chase shadows. New Austrian signing Marko Arnautovic was once again in impressive form as he had Stoke`s first chance curling just wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Hughes influence on the Potters style of play was evident as Stoke opened the scoring in the 23rd minute. A period of controlled possession was sparked in to line when Arnautovic burst across the field before playing an inch perfect pass for Ireland who placed into the bottom corner. The midfielder on his first start since moving on loan from Aston Villa was beginning to run the show, as the potters cruised for the rest of the first half. Further chances were spurned as Whelan drove wide and Geoff Cameron curled over the cross bar.
The second half had the look of a practice match for the majority as the away side controlled possession without really threatening Fon Williams` goal. With the score still at 1 0 the home side began to believe there may be a way back into the game, the Potters were guilty of taking their foot of the gas and could have been punished on two occasions when Akpa Akpro curled just over from a tight angle and even more so when Chris Atkinson wasted the home sides best chance. He dragged his right foot shot wide from 10 yards when he really should have scored and that was a close as Rovers would get.
The scare seemed to spark Stoke back into life, Etherington, Walters and Assaidi were all introduced in pursuit of that all important second goal. Assaidi looked like a man with a point to prove in a very impressive cameo first crossing for Walters who headed just over before playing a pin point 30 yard pass onto the chest of Crouch before the striker placed past the on rushing keeper to secure the victory.
Hughes declared himself happy with a professional job done by his side and he will no doubt have found a few things out about his fringe players. Although not at their free flowing best it was a solid performance from the Potters as the new style of play begins to pay fruition.
A victory at St Andrews in round 5, will see Stoke just two games away from another trip to Wembley and who wouldn`t love that ?