Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Saturday February 4 2006
Stoke, down to ten men, fought a tight contest with Preston North End at the Britannia Stadium today to earn a well deserved 0-0 draw.
But one thing the game did not lack was drama. In front of the ITV cameras, the crowd endured a sending off, a saved penalty and one of the most crucial misses of the season.
Preston came to the game today with 3,000 travelling fans and a 21 game unbeaten record. Stoke had a lot to prove, a defeat today against one of the in-form teams in the Championship would have sunk the Potters to even lower depths.
Preston started the best and from an early stage put the Potters’ goal under siege. Steve Simonsen had the ball knocked out of his hands after a cross from Alexander. Then Darel Russell fouled Nugent well inside the penalty area, but luckily the referee gave a free kick to Preston just outside the box. Stoke soaked up the pressure from the visitors with only Luke Chadwick really making any serious forays into the visitors’ penalty area.
After half an hour, Preston’s Alexander suffered an injury and had to be substituted by former Potter, Lewis Neal. City were fortunate shortly afterwards when David Nugent and new signing Brett Ormerod broke away from a rare City attack and Ormerod’s shot went just wide of the post.
Half time and Johan Boskamp replaced the injured Paul Gallagher with Hannes Sigurdsson. This change certainly seemed to benefit the Potters who seemed slightly livelier after the break and in the 55th minute Stoke had their best chance of the game. Sigurdsson managed to break free of the Preston defence and crossed the ball into the path of both Sweeney and Sidibe, both free and unmarked. From 13 yards out and with seemingly all the time in the world, Sidibe slammed the shot into the side netting.
A couple of minutes later, Russell, in an innocuous looking tackle, was instantly sent off by referee Curson for apparently kicking Paul McKenna. Stoke, now down to 10 men, had their backs to the wall and withstood a barrage from the Preston strikers with some excellent and rock solid defending that has been seen far too little at the Brit this season.
Stoke seemed to have weathered the storm and to be heading for a well deserved draw when, two minutes from time, Hoefkens brought down Mears in the penalty area and the referee pointed to the spot.
Most Stoke fans were already preparing to head for the exits, but Steve Simonsen guessed right and dived right to gather up the low kick by McKenna to earn the Potters a very well deserved point.
But oh, what if Mamady Sidibe had buried his golden opportunity…….?
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Date:Saturday February 4 2006
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