Great derby win for Stoke
9th Feb 2008
The wins just keep getting better and better. Last week it was the Bluebirds, this week the Wolves. Ok, 4-2 may flatter the Potters slightly, but let's not take anything away from the team's great performance - this was the first time we'd taken three points away from Molineux since 1995 and the Potters emphasised their capacity to spread the goalscoring talents throughout the team with Rory Delap, Liam Lawrence, Leon Cort and finally, but never least, Ricardo Fuller all on target. That's one striker, two midfielders and a defender and (on a trivia moment) the defensive partnership of Cort and Shawcross have now scored the same number of goals between them as the normal strike force, Fuller and Sidibe.
With Ric Fuller only just back from international duty in Jamaica, Tony Pulis made the decision to leave him on the bench and allow Paul Gallagher his first start since he re-signed on loan from Blackburn Rovers on the final day of the transfer window. Salif Diao remained in midfield and was handed the captain's armband with Andy Griffin on a one match ban. Glenn Whelan was able to make his first start with Richard Cresswell missing the first match of his two match ban for picking up his tenth yellow card of the season. Gaby Zakuani came into defence for the suspended Griffin.
With over 25,000 inside Molineux (including over 2,500 Stokies) it didn't take long to stun the home support into silence. Just four minutes in and a dreadful back pass from Rob Edwards found Mama Sidibe who went round the keeper then crossed the ball for Rory Delap to have the easiest of chances to nod the ball into the back of the net.
But Wolves were never going to roll over and play dead and set about trying to batter the Stoke defence with former Potter and now Wolves' captain, Karl Henry in the thick of things. Stoke had a good chance to double their advantage on 15 minutes, but Lawrence's corner was headed just over by Leon Cort.
Just as it seemed that the Potters may get back in at half-time still ahead, Wolves managed to claw back a goal on the stroke of half-time. It came courtsely of Edwards, who was able to make amends for gifting Stoke the first goal after Stoke failed to deal with an Andy Keogh cross and he only had to knock the ball a couple of yards over the line.
Just two minutes after the restart, it seems that McCarthy may have had the better team talk of the two managers as Wolves went into the lead with a goal from Keogh. Adam Rooney's Irish U21 team-mate nipped in unnoticed whilst Cort was holding off the attentions of Wolves' new signing, Ebanks-Blake to put the ball past Steve Simonsen.
But if any of the Stoke faithful were wondering if they had seen the best of the Potters for the day, they were wrong. Just a minute later, Liam Lawrence fired the Potters back into the game after a through ball from Glenn Whelan found Lawrence with acres of space and he had no problem rocketing the ball into the back of the net.
Wolves again fought back strongly and the game was very evenly poised, so Pulis threw on Fuller after 64 minutes, bringing off Paul Gallagher and Fuller instantly started to to cause problems for the Wolves' defence. Stoke then regained the lead after 75 minutes when Mama Sidibe was unlucky (yet again!) not to score when his header came off the crossbar after Lawrence's corner kick, but Cort was on hand to slide the loose ball over the line.
Still the Wolves came back at Stoke and their ever more desperate attempts to come away with something created the final opportunity of the match for Stoke. Wolves were clamouring for a penalty after Diao seemed to have caught the man rather than the ball in the area (TV replays seem to show though that the referee was spot-on) and whilst Mr Marriner waved play on, Fuller took off down the middle of the pitch towards the Wolves goal. Going past two defenders, his low shot on goal went wide of the keeper and into the net to finally ensure that the Potters got all three points.
The stats may seem to show a comfortable win, but this was a well fought game by both sides, but one that the Potters were more than up for and can feel justifiably pleased with the win.