Stoke battle back in style
28th April 2007
By the final whistle, this match had lived up to all expectations. Three great goals from the Potters, a disputed penalty, a sending off, a large vocal crowd and some good weather all combined into a cracking match. But how different it had all seemed at half time....
Salif Diao returned to the starting line-up in a match that both teams knew was do or die for either side's chance of reaching the play-offs. The Potters seemed nervous and never settled, allowing Colchester to push forward at every opportunity with ex Potter, Chris Iwelumo and fellow striker Jamie Cureton always dangerous. With 40 goals between them this season, they confidently harried the Stoke defence. In the early stages, Iwelumo saw a shot narrowly miss the goal and a point blank header tipped around the post by an ever alert Steve Simonsen. The Potters managed to heap further pressure on themselves when Liam Lawrence under hit a back pass to Simonsen and Iwelumo was nearly able to pounce on the ball but the Stoke keeper managed a hurried kick upfield. Any action at the U's end was confined to good runs from Ricardo Fuller and a resulting miss hit from Lee Hendrie which sailed over the bar. Tempers started to fray in both camps, resulting in several wavings of the referee's yellow card. If the first forty minutes were not bad enough, then worse was to follow. With just over five minutes to go to half-time, the referee judged that Salif Diao had played Iwelumo rather than the ball in the Stoke penalty area and awarded the visitors a distinctly dubious penalty. Of course it was Iwelumo that strode up to take the penalty and although Simonsen dived the correct way, it was too good for the keeper to stop. Half time could not come quick enough for the Stoke players as a mood of doom and gloom descended on three sides of the Brit.
But whatever Tony Pulis said at half time should be bottled and sold at the club shop as the home side managed to pick up the tempo. After only seven minutes of the second half, the Potters were back on level terms. A good cross form Lawrence found the head of Mamady Sidibe, who knocked it on for Darel Russell to head home. Less than four minutes later, it was Sidibe's turn to shoot low from the edge of the area and the ball beat the keeper's dive to his left to make it 2-1.
The Brit, by now, was electric. But it was Danny Higginbotham five minutes later who made it 3-1 after a good corner from Lee Hendrie was flicked on by Ricardo Fuller and the captain headed down into the net.
The game was far from over as the U's had lost none of their bite and you felt that the Potters needed a fourth if they were going to make the game safe. As it was it was the persistent squabbling between Hendrie and another former Potters' loan player, Chris Barker that proved the final nail in the U's coffin. Hendrie had gone down clutching his jaw in yet another altercation on 78 minutes and after consulting the linesman, the referee showed Barker a red card. The game then petered out as Stoke had no problem holding on to their, by now, comfortable lead.
With results elsewhere not helping the Potters, Stoke now sit just one place off the play-offs and that only because of Southampton's superior number of goals scored. A win at Loftus Road next Sunday is a must and then we must pray that either West Brom, Wolves or Southampton slip up. IF that happens, then the season is not over just yet....
Stoke City: Simonsen, Hoefkens, Fortune, Higginbotham, Griffin, Lawrence (Eustace 84), Russell, Diao (Martin 90), Hendrie, Fuller (Pericard 90), Sidibe.
Subs not used: Hoult, Zakuani.
Booked: Griffin, Diao, Lawrence, Fuller, Sidibe.
Goals: Russell 53, Sidibe 57, Higginbotham 62.
Colchester United: Gerken, Duguid, Baldwin, Brown, Barker, Garcia (McLeod 71), Izzet, Watson, Ephraim (Guy 75), Cureton (Elokobi 81), Iwelumo.
Subs not used: Davison, White.
Sent Off: Barker (78).
Booked: Duguid, Baldwin, Watson.
Goals: Iwelumo 38 pen
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