Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Monday December 24 2007
22nd Dec 2007
A magic day at the Brit saw the Potters see off the Baggies in convincing style with three goals from Ricardo Fuller as Stoke made four wins and a draw in December and further enhanced their reputation as West Brom's bogey team with the Baggies only now enjoying one win in the last 23 meeting with the Potters.
Tony Pulis named the same side that finished off Blackpool last weekend in front of a good crowd for the last Saturday before Christmas. The Baggies brought back former Potter, Carl Hoefkens who had missed the last two matches with a hamstring injury.
Stoke were ahead with only five minutes on the clock, when a neat little flick from Mama Sidibe in front of the penalty area left Ricardo Fuller darting forward and, just evading the offside flag, fired the ball past Kiely.
What a start for the Potters! The 2,500+ Baggies fans were stunned into silence amid the roar from the Potters.
Stoke continued to look dangerous on the break and West Brom could not settle into their version of pretty, but ineffectual football, so they turned to more direct methods, which earned Brunt a yellow card after he upended Ricard Cresswell after he lost the striker on the half-way line. Stoke were so good in all areas, that it was nearly on the half hour mark before the Albion managed a serious attack on Simonsen's goal and started to exert any pressure on our defence.
But instead of the Baggies getting back on level terms, it was Stoke that doubled their advantage on 37 minutes with a Liam Lawrence free kick on the right hand side near the edge of the penalty area which cleared the crowded box, landing at the feet of Fuller who had plenty of time to rifle the ball into the top right hand corner of the net. When Ric's on fire, it's clear there's no stopping him. 2-0 up and it's still not yet half time.....
Predictably, West Brom began the second half by boosting their strike force, bringing on Phillips and Miller and the instructions from the Stoke dug-out at half-time had obviously been to dig in for the offensive and the Stoke defence was under almost constant pressure.
But that pressure from Albion was bound to lead to opportunities for a breakaway and, sure enough, in the 68th minute just such an opportunity arrived. A great individual run from Fuller down the left wing ended with him skirting round two defenders just inside the penalty area and coolly knocked it past the diving keeper into the bottom corner of the net. 3-0 up... could we believe it?!
You still got the feeling that whilst the Baggies were reeling, they were certainly not out. Their sole goal came just five minutes later when a corner was not cleared properly and Bednar headed over the Potters' defence into the net. Now Stoke fans' nerves started to jingle as the Baggies came at Stoke all the stronger. Hearts then did a double-take as Leon Cort made an uncharacteristic blunder with a sloppy half back pass to Simonsen that was intercepted by Bednar, but he could not get it past the rapidly advancing keeper.
To prolong the agony, the referee managed to conjure up five minutes of added on time for an earlier injury to Fuller, but the whistle finally went to cheers and applause for more than a job well done.
The vital three points kept the Potters in the top pack. A win on Boxing Day (with favourable results elsewhere) could propel Stoke into top spot - now wouldn't that be a Christmas to remember?
Stoke City: Simonsen, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Cort, Pugh, Lawrence, Eustace, Delap, Cresswell, Sidibe (Dickinson 84), Fuller (Parkin 90)
Subs not used: Hoult, Zakuani, Pulis
West Brom: Kiely, Hoefkens, Cesar (Albrechtsen 68), Pele, Robinson, Gera, Greening, Koren, Filipe Teixeira (Phillips 46), Brunt (Miller 46), Bednar
Subs not used: Steele, Morrison
Date:Monday December 24 2007
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