FA Cup: Ireland double saves Stoke's blushes
4th January 2015 3pm
Substitute Stephen Ireland`s late double saved Stoke`s blushed as they knocked out non-league Wrexham in the F.A. cup third round.
Wrexham had taken a late lead through Mark Carrington to scare their Premier League opponents but Marko Arnautovic and a late double from Ireland made sure Stoke prevailed into the Fourth Round with a 3-1 victory.
Mark Hughes had decided to rotate his first team eleven after a busy festive schedule with seven changes being made from the New Years` Day draw to Manchester United.
Only Captain Ryan Shawcross, Geoff Cameron, Marko Arnautovic and Mame Biram Diouf kept their places in the starting eleven.
Wrexham had brought a strong following of around 5,000 fans, which resulted in a classic cup tie.
Stoke struggled to string any sort of passing going and the longer the game stayed level, the more the Wrexham fans dreamed of taking the Potters back to the Racecourse Ground for a replay, or even better to advance to the next round at the first attempt.
This dream nearly became a reality for the team that sit 97 league places below Stoke when Mark Carrington powered home a header into the bottom corner from a right wing cross from Connor Jennings.
Mark Hughes had already been forced to bring on his big boys in the attempt to break the deadlock against his hometown club with the introduction of Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters.
The goal forced his hand again as he had to play his trump card by introducing Stephen Ireland.
It wasn`t long until the Potters were level though after Crouch muscled his way into the box and forced a save from on-loan Wolves goalkeeper Jonathan Flatt, who had been impressive all afternoon, but the ball fell to Marko Arnautovic who fired home the equaliser.
With the game looking destined for a replay, Peter Crouch once again caused problems in the Wrexham defence and his cushioned knockdown was fired home from 18-yards by Stephen Ireland with two minutes of the 90 left.
Undeservedly Stoke managed to score a third when the Irishman was at the end of an intricate passing movement on the edge of the penalty area before he slotted home his second in injury time to finally put to bed Wrexham`s brave effort.