Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Tuesday November 7 2006
The Potters continue to progress up the table with a 1-0 win at a foggy Britannia Stadium against the Sky Blues thanks to a potential goal of the season from Andy Griffin.
Griffin's rocket on the hour was all that separated the two teams on the score sheet, but it was also a tale of missed opportunities, a sending off and a disallowed goal for a Stoke team that looks a lot different from the one that ended September with only one win and nine points to show for their early season's efforts. A lot has been said about the influence that Lee Hendrie has had since he joined on loan at the start of October, but Tony Pulis' statement the other week that the whole team are starting to gel seems to be getting harder to dispute.
Thanks to a late return to fitness for Danny Higginbotham, Pulis was able to name an unchanged starting eleven for the third game in a row. Coventry fielded two ex Potters in Marcus Hall and Clive Clarke (on loan from Sunderland) and former Burslem player and local lad, Chris Birchall.
With Sky TV in town, the club offered cheap tickets in an attempt to coax the armchair fans away from their TVs and up to a very foggy Brit and amazingly over 19,000 made the effort. None of them could have gone home disappointed - if they could see the game through the fog.
It was Ricardo Fuller that created the most opportunities in the first half; he carved several chances out of nothing only to see the final touch elude him. A hat trick within the first 45 minutes had been within his grasp, but a slippery pitch and the perceived need to guide the ball all the way into the net meant that some chances went begging. Coventry's only real chance came when Carl Hoefkens' miss hit fell at the feet of Stern John who went around Steve Simonsen but left himself with too acute an angle for a decent shot on goal and ending up shooting wide.
The fog lifted briefly at half time, but came back down in time for the start of the second half and Stoke continued to try and press strongly for the goal that had eluded them in the first half with chances for Hendrie and Chadwick to open the scoring. Luke Chadwick had a great opportunity with a looping header that was goal bound until headed off the line by a well placed Coventry defender.
But it was right on the hour mark when a throw in from Hendrie found Andy Griffin forty yards out and with the Stoke boss shouting at him to pass the ball, decided to a have a shot instead. And what a shot! Curling in from the right it hit the top right corner of the back of the net with the Coventry keeper at full stretch and still no where near it. From the TV replays it was clear that Griffin could not believe it as he can be seen to say 'wow!' to his delighted team-mates.
Stoke very nearly doubled their lead minutes later as a great shot Hoefkens saw a shot rebound off the crossbar. But it was an innocuous challenge between Doyle and Fuller that cast a dampener on the game that saw Fuller given a straight red card for raising his elbow to the Coventry player.
With Stoke down to 10 men, Coventry threw Adebola on to try and rescue a point. But although it was all backs to the wall, except for a couple of frights Stoke never looked in any serious trouble - until the referee added on five minutes of time. Vincent Pericard, brought on at the end of normal time for Mamade Sidibe nearly clinched it with his first touch but was denied by a good save from the Sky Blues' keeper. Coventry redoubled their efforts for one last push and with only thirty seconds of added on time remaining managed to get a free kick near the corner flag. Page headed the ball into the nine yard box for Leon McKenzie to head it on past Simonsen into the goal. But the luck stayed with Potters as the linesman flagged correctly for the slightest of off-side decisions to finally give the three points to Stoke.
Stoke City: Simonsen, Hoefkens, Duberry, Higginbotham, Griffin, Chadwick (Brammer 85), Diao, Russell, Hendrie, Fuller, Sidibe (Pericard 90)
Subs not used: Bangoura, Wilkinson, Sweeney
Coventry: Marshall, Duffy, Page, Ward, Hall (Hutchison 81), Clarke, Hughes, Doyle (Adebola 70), Birchall (Tabb 61), John, McKenzie.
Subs not used: Andrews, Cameron
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Date:Tuesday November 7 2006
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