Stoke happy with a point
29th Dec 2007
Tony Pulis made a controversial decision to drop keeper, Steve Simonsen before the game after a poor performance at Barnsley on Boxing Day. Whilst potentially depriving Simo of his 109th consecutive league match for the Potters, it allowed former West Brom keeper, Russell Hoult his first league start for the Potters having spent the last year on the Potters' bench.
Stoke were keen to continue their good recent form, even though they nearly came a cropper at Oakwell, until a 98th minute penalty saved them a point. Plymouth have been buoyed by yet another new manager at Home Park, with the return of Paul Sturrock after the departure of Ian Holloway to Leicester. The Pilgrims also fielded former Stoke loanee, Lee Martin who is in his final week of a loan period on the south coast.
Argyle started brightly, but it was Stoke who took the early advantage with a Rory Delap trademark long throw into the home penalty area which was powered into the net by an unmarked Richard Cresswell. Despite a fightback from Plymouth which gave Hoult plenty of match practice, it was on the stroke of half time that Stoke's lead was pegged back. Ryan Shawcross was adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty area whilst attempting to defend against his Manchester United colleague, Martin. Despite a great save from Hoult, who guessed Ebanks-Blake's direction correctly, he was unable to save the rebound and the first half ended all square.
Just ten minutes after the restart the Potters were again ahead. Liam Lawrence's shot had been tipped around the post by the keeper and the resulting corner kick was headed into the back of the net by Shawcross to make amends for the previous penalty.
The Pilgrims came back again nine minutes later to make it 2-2. In a carbon copy of the Potters' last goal, Timar headed home from a corner.
Stoke continued to hit back. Great chances from sub, Jon Parkin and Leon Cort could have given Stoke all three points. But with ten minutes remaining, Russell Hoult was sent off after he took out Ebanks-Blake outside the area as he seemed almost clear through onto the goal. With sub, Jon Parkin having to be subbed himself after only 20 minutes on the pitch, Simo was able to claim his 190th consecutive league appearance after all and he also managed to prevent the Pilgrims getting a last gasp goal from that man, Ebanks-Blake.
Certainly Tony Pulis was full of praise for Hoult's performance, despite his red card: 'Hoult played well but at the end he definitely caught the lad and the referee had to send him off. I have no qualms with that.'
So, Stoke make it nine games unbeaten and pick up two points from two very difficult away games within four days as they end 2007 in fourth spot. With Stoke promising to wheel and deal in the January transfer window this could be a very important month for the Potters which could decide whether they can clinch a Premier League place come May.
Plymouth Argyle: Larrieu, Connolly, Timar, Seip, Hodges, Martin (Abdou 73), Norris, Nalis, Halmosi, Ebanks-Blake, Easter
Subs not used: Hayles, Doumbe, Fallon, Sawyer.
Stoke City: Hoult, Wilkinson (Zakuani 46), Cort, Shawcross, Pugh, Lawrence, Eustace, Delap, Cresswell, Fuller, Sidibe (Parkin 60), Parkin (Simonsen 82)
Subs not used: Pulis, Dickinson