Stoke City 1-0 Middlesbrough

 

   

  Having previously not scored in over a year, Stoke centre-back Ryan Shawcross’s third goal in as many weeks, six minutes from time, was enough to earn the Potters a crucial victory over fellow relegation strugglers Middlesbrough in a largely fragmented and bad-tempered encounter at the Britannia Stadium this afternoon. The result lifts Stoke out of the relegation zone and up to sixteenth in the Premier League table, while the outlook is bleak for Boro, as they remain second bottom, five points behind Stoke.

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A crucial weapon for Stoke

  Stoke manager Tony Pulis made one change for the match, handing Jamaican international striker Ricardo Fuller, who would partner James Beattie in attack, his first start since suffering a shoulder injury six weeks ago in place of Mamady Sidibe, a move that seemed a bad one, given the route one football Stoke insisted on playing throughout the match. Struggling with a slight ankle injury, winger Matthew Etherington was left on the Stoke bench after being deemed incapable of playing from the outset. Meanwhile, Middlesbrough captain Emanuel Pogatetz was judged fit to play after passing a late fitness test, and slotted into the visitors’ five-man defence, where after some early fouls, he received the full force of the hostile Britannia Stadium crowd for the remainder of the match. Andrew Taylor, Gary O’ Neil and Mohamed Shawky also came into the side for Boro, replacing Matthew Bates, Jeremie Aliadiere and Julio Arca.

  Stoke hearts were in mouths inside the first two minutes of the game, as the usually immensely reliable Abdoulaye Faye squandered possession inside his own half, setting Marlon King through towards Thomas Sorensen’s goal. Fuller’s Jamaican teammate, who had previously never lost in eight appearances against Stoke, was let down by his touch however, allowing Stoke right-back Andy Wilkinson to get across the pitch and make a strong tackle.

  Seven minutes in, the home side’s first, best, and in truth only chance of the first half fell to Beattie, after a Rory Delap long-throw, a tool that was to prove extremely useful later in the game, caused havoc in the Boro box. The former Southampton man was unable to add to his tally of five Stoke goals though, Middlesbrough’s Austrailian ‘keeper Brad Jones making a fine save to tip his poked effort round the post. Had Beattie scored, he would have matched a Stoke club record currently held by the Guninean Sambegou Bangoura of scoring in each of his first four home matches for the club. Alas, it wasn’t to be, but let’s hope Beattie makes more of a lasting impression during his time at the club than Bangoura did, the latter fading into obscurity after repeated disciplinary infringements.

  The away side soon began to impose themselves on the game, and created a good chance of their own after ten minutes, Tony McMahon connecting well with Taylor’s accurate cross, but guiding the ball straight at Sorensen. Had his header have flown a yard either to the left or the right, Middlesbrough would have probably had the lead.

  As Boro enjoyed a good spell in a half of little quality football, Turkish striker Tuncay Sanli was the next to go close, hitting a powerful dipping shot onto the roof of Sorensen’s net, though it is fair to say that the Dane had it covered.


Tuncay fires narrowly over

  While the final twenty minutes of the half were completely devoid of any chances, it was the refereeing of Lee Mason that became the main talking point, with four Stoke players being cautioned softly, three for first offences, earning Mason a barrage of abuse from both sets of fans, the 2,000 travelling Teesiders equally unimpressed with his performance. After a scrappy, dull first forty-five minutes, the best thing Mason did all game was to blow the half-time whistle, and it is indicative of the poor quality of the game that the match between the disabilities teams of the two clubs during the interval brought the loudest cheer of the day so far, as one Stoke player scored a sweetly struck left-footed goal, before running to celebrate with the fans.

  A half-time substitution seemed necessary for Stoke to revitalise the game, but when one was made it was for the wrong reasons. Wilkinson, who had picked up a back injury in the first-half, was replaced by on-loan Birmingham man Stephen Kelly. After a drab start to the half though, that attacking change did come, Pulis bringing on Etherington in place of the ineffective Salif Diao, in a move that saw Delap switch into central midfield.

  The lack of clear opportunities was though, still apparent as the half wore on, each side limited to a couple of half-chances. First, Middlesbrough attacked, O’ Neil denied a goal from his low 25 yard strike by a solid save from Sorensen, before Beattie volleyed over a difficultly dropping ball for the hosts.

  With twenty minutes remaining, the Potters were beginning to enjoy the best of the game, with Delap squandering a good opportunity to break the deadlock. Having burst through from midfield, he opted to shoot from the edge of the penalty area, dragging it wide, when with runners either side, a pass would have been the far better option.

  With 84 minutes on the clock, and the game seemingly set for a goalless draw that would have suited the visitors far more than the hosts, the breakthrough finally came for Stoke, Shawcross, having headed a similar chance straight at Jones minutes before, rose highest to glance home an excellent header from another Delap long-throw, the Boro defence finally cracking after dealing with Stoke’s aerial threat well all match.

 Premier League  Stoke City v Middlesbrough - Premier League
Shawcross heads the vital winner and the heroic duo celebrate

  As ever, a Stoke goal with six minutes, plus the four of stoppage time that were added by Mason, meant ten excruciating minutes of Middlesbrough pressure as Stoke defended very deep. The Boro strikeforce, which had looked blunt all afternoon, was unable to find a way through though, substitute Afonso Alves wasting the best chance when he failed to make contact with Stewart Downing’s cross in the dying seconds.

  Though it seems more than a little bit harsh on Middlesbrough, who were good for a draw in what was a very poor match, any win is now a hugely welcome one for Stoke. With the Potters lifted up to sixteenth in the table after the result, three points clear of the relegation zone, the climax of this season at the bottom of the table looks to be a thrilling one. As Stoke were beating Middlesbrough, Manchester United were being hilariously humbled by Fulham, meaning the race for the title is back on. Who said the Premier League’s not exciting?

  Next up for Stoke is a trip to rock-bottom and probably doomed West Brom in two weeks time. Exactly a year to the day since James Beattie’s last hat-trick, would it be too much to ask for a repeat and a first away victory of the season for Stoke on a ground on which we have always played well? 

Stoke side: (4:4:2)

                                  Sorensen

Wilkinson  Shawcross  Abdoulaye Faye  Higginbotham

                  Lawrence  Whelan  Diao  Delap

                                 Beattie  Fuller

Substitutions: Kelly for Wilkinson (46), Etherington for Diao (51), Sidibe for Lawrence (83)

Subs not used: Simonsen, Sonko, Amdy Faye, Camara

Attendance: 26,442

 

4 Responses to “Stoke City 1-0 Middlesbrough”

  1. David Says:

    …oh when the reds, go marching in…

    how great was that?

  2. Richard Dunne likes Food Says:

    Very good review, as expected.

    Saw the (limited) highlights on MotD, and you have described the action very well. Beattie should have scored in the first half, as should Tuncay, but it was a largely scrappy, and as you say, fragmented, affair.

    When you are describing the goal, you put a comma before Shawcross, when it should be a full-stop, but apart from that, the grammar is splendid and brought a smile to my face!!!

    Another huge game for you next week against WBA, and despite your horrendous away form, I thoroughly expect you to achieve a win.

  3. I*T*P*L Says:

    David, wasn’t it just mate, another fantastic atmosphere for a great home result, bring on West Brazil.

    Steven, thank you very much, I thought MOTD actually made it seem a lot more exciting thanit was, and putting it on third, what was with that?! I’m sticking with the comma. Though it’s a long sentence, it still makes sense so I see no need to change it.

  4. ben Says:

    stoke r the best

    city city city city city

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