Stoke punished by Owls
This scoreline threatens to deceive, whilst the Potters never really got going and were desperately missing big Mama Sidibe in attack and an experienced player in defence such as Clint Hill or Stephen Wright, the Owls were equally woeful, but with two late goals, grabbed all three points.
Stoke were forced into starting with Jon Parkin alongside Ricardo Fuller up front, another makeshift midfield with John Eustace, Richard Cresswell, Liam Lawrence and Rory Delap, leaving Dominic Matteo to slip back to defence alongside youngsters Ryan Shawcross, Gaby Zakuani and Andy Wilkinson. These last two were also just back from injury.
The Owls' game plan was clear from the pre-match warm-up as all their players repeatedly practised volleys from outside the penalty area. Straight after kick-off we saw former Potter, Graham Kavanagh try several long range shots which rocketed well wide of Simonsen's goal. But the Potters were in the lead after only 11 minutes as Fuller showed their defensive frailties with a good solo run, outpacing two defenders and slotting the ball under the keeper. But any hopes that we should now go on for a comfortable win were dashed only five minutes later when Jermaine Johnson fired a rocket past Simonsen for the equaliser. Times got even more uncomfortable for the home fans when Tudgay had a second chance after his first shot had hit the woodwork and this time he headed home. 2-1 down and only 25 minutes on the clock. Stoke's inexperienced defence were in an unusual state of disarray and Shawcross was lucky to only receive a yellow card on the half hour when a late tackle brought down the former Blackburn Rovers player, Francis Jeffers. There was a lengthy delay before the striker was stretchered off with a broken ankle to be replaced by another former Potters' player, Deon Burton, best remembered for scoring in the play-off final at the Millennium Stadium in May 2002.
Some sense of hope for the Potters returned just before half-time when another defencive mistake at the Owl's end gifted Fuller his second goal of the match. A poor back pass gave Fuller all the chances he needed and he headed the ball into the back of the net, despite a Wednesday defender's desperate attempt to hack it off the line.
The second half saw Tony Pulis remove an ineffective Parkin in an early substitution, bringing on Peter Sweeney in midfield, allowing Cresswell to range further forward, but the Potters could not find the opportunity to regain the lead. Great chances came from sub, Sweeney with a long range shot straight to the keeper and a bit of Ricardo magic nearly gifted a goal for Cresswell, but his neat flick on from Fuller's pass after a nifty bit of 'come dancing' from the Jamaican international also went straight into the keeper's hands.
Just as it seemed that Stoke were going to have to settle for a point with just five minutes remaining, two goals from the Owls in two minutes were a sucker punch fans were not expecting. The first from a set piece corner was headed home by Tudgay for his second of the match and then another of those long range shots, this time from Burton, took a big deflection off Delap to leave Simonsen stranded.
Still, it is only our second defeat of the season but to lose against a side that we should have been able to beat off the park is disappointing. Yet again, we've been undone by a poor side at the Brit, which always leaves me wondering why we always seem to raise our game against the better teams and never give poor sides the respect they still deserve.
Stoke City: Simonsen, Zakuani, Shawcross, Wilkinson, Lawrence, Delap, Eustace, Matteo, Cresswell, Parkin (Sweeney 63), Fuller
Subs not used: Hoult, Buxton, Dickinson, Phillips
Sheff Wednesday: Grant, Bullen (Hinds 46), Wood, Michael Johnson, Spurr, Jermaine Johnson (Sodje 88), Kavanagh, Whelan, O'Brien, Tudgay, Jeffers (Burton 34)
Subs not used: Lunt, Esajas