Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Saturday December 30 2006
An average Stoke performance was all that was needed to finish off a very poor Leeds side at the Britannia.
Leeds arrived with no win in the last six matches, sitting just one place off bottom spot and on today's showing look every inch relegation material and destined to join the Vale in League 1 next season.
Stoke fielded the same team as started on Boxing Day with Lee Hendrie starting his final game (for now?) and Clint Hill continuing to keep the left back slot warm (hopefully) for Andy Griffin.
Stoke started the brighter of the two teams and it was not long before Mamady Sidibe put the Potters ahead with his second goal in as many games. A good corner from Hendrie saw the big Mali striker head the ball past a rigid Leeds defence on 12 minutes.
The Potters then seemed inclined to give the visitors every opportunity to take some points back to Elland Road and allowed Leeds back into the match. For the second quarter, Leeds dominated. Stoke seemed content to sit on their lead and allow them to batter the Simonsen goal and not unsurprisingly, Ian Moores put the sides level five minutes before half time.
Hendrie, after looking distinctly slow in the first half, was substituted for the second period by Patrik Berger and it was later disclosed that he was suffering from flu but, characteristically, had insisted on playing.
Stoke resumed in a much more lively frame of mind with Liam Lawrence and Patrik Berger showing the way in midfield. It was Berger that created the second goal on 54 minutes. In a crowded Leeds penalty area, his low shot on goal cannoned off Ehiogu and deflected past Warner for the Potters' second.
The Stoke players and fans both seemed to regain their confidence and were further rewarded on the 77th minute when Lawrence put Ricardo Fuller clean through in the middle and with a mixup between Ehiogu and the keeper, Fuller had no problem coaxing the ball into an empty net.
The Potters could then have gone on to have a hat full. Sidibe dithered with a great chance, only for Ehiogu to then atone for the previous two goals. Pericard (coming on for Fuller) had a shot saved off the line by Warner. Berger and Sidibe also had late chances as Stoke tried to beat the four goals they put past Leeds back in October.
A great performance (in the final analysis) from the Potters even with the referee, Andy D'Urso, acting as though he was the Whites' 12th man for the majority of the match. Stoke City can go into the New Year full of confidence and fans will be hoping that chairman, Peter Coates has his chequebook open and at the ready.
Stoke City: Simonsen, Hoefkens, Duberry, Higginbotham, Hill, Lawrence, Russell, Diao, Hendrie (Berger 46), Sidibe, Fuller (Pericard 81).
Subs not used: Brammer, Sweeney, Dickinson.
Scorers: Sidibe 12, Ehiogu 54 og, Fuller 77.
Leeds United: Warner, Richardson, Ehiogu, Heath, Lewis, Westlake (Kandol 61), Douglas, Derry, Howson, Healy, Moore.
Subs not used: Sullivan, Carole, Rui Marques, Beckford.
Scorers: Moore 41
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Date:Saturday December 30 2006
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