Stoke see off Rams again
Stoke defied predictions and the form book to claim their second win of 2007 and complete the double over the Rams.
Pre-match, the Potters seemed destined to struggle against table topping Derby County with Adam Rooney poised to be the lone striker and the team struggling for goals after netting only two goals in the last five games. But Tony Pulis pulled a rabbit out of the hat with Mamade Sidibe passing a late fitness test and a reshuffle at the back with Fulham youngster, Gabriel Zakuani replacing the injured Jonathan Fortune to make his first start for the Potters.
Lee Hendrie hit form at just the right time as he pushed up to assist Sidibe in attack. It was Hendrie's corner kick after 15 minutes that resulting in the Potters taking the lead as a Derby defender was adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty area and Danny Higginbotham stepped up for his sixth goal of the season. The Derby keeper dived the right way but the Stoke skipper's kick was too powerful and just out of reach of Bywater.
It was Hendrie again who set up Stoke's second. Another corner from the Villa player allowed Dominic Matteo to head home his first goal for the club.
The Rams, as you'd expect for a team not used to being behind at home this season, came back hard at Stoke. Oakley and Howard both had chances and the second half saw the Potters having to defend resolutely. Howard forced a fine save from Steve Simonsen but Derby did not have it all their own way with Hendrie and sub, Rooney both having chances before the final whistle.
A great result and it just shows what Stoke can do when there is no expectation for them to do anything. Fans will be relieved that there was no repeat of the disastrous second half at Preston a few weeks ago when the Potters threw away a 2-0 first half lead to lose 2-3.
They now move up to three points from the play-off places and have an extra two days to prepare for the home game against Barnsley next Monday night.
What a difference a win makes!
Derby County: Bywater, Edworthy, Leacock (Mears 16), Michael Johnson, McEveley, Teale, Oakley, Jones (Pearson 69), Fagan, Macken (Lupoli 61), Howard
Subs not used: Grant, Peschisolido.
Booked: Leacock, Edworthy, McEveley
Stoke City: Simonsen, Hoefkens, Zakuani, Higginbotham, Griffin, Lawrence, Russell, Matteo (Eustace 63), Diao, Hendrie (Dickinson 85), Sidibe (Rooney 89)
Subs not used: Hoult, Martin
Goals: Higginbotham 15 pen, Matteo 26.