Stoke v Scunthorpe United

Friday, February 15, 2008

Football League Championship

Stoke3 (0)Scunthorpe United2 (2)

Lawrence 53, 67,Cresswell 63

Paterson 7, Hobbs 23

Stoke :
Simonsen, Griffin, Shawcross, Cort, Pugh, Lawrence, Diao (Cresswell 54), Whelan, Delap, Sidibe, Fuller (Zakuani 89)
Subs not used:
Hoult, Parkin, Gallagher

Scunthorpe United :
Murphy, Butler, Hobbs, Crosby, Williams, Sparrow (May 89), Goodwin, Cork, Morris (Forte 83), Horsfield (Hayes 51), Paterson
Subs not used:
Lillis, Iriekpen



STOKE trod on a banana skin first half, but rode it like a skateboard in the second, to leapfrog to the top of the Championship.

City’s dreams of top spot appeared to lie in ruins after a traumatic first period had left them trailing 2-0 after goals from former striker Martin Paterson and defender Jack Hobbs.

But presumably pepped by their manager’s half-time ear bashing, they launched a pulsating second-half comeback to notch three goals in the space of 13 minutes during the third quarter of the contest.

Liam Lawrence bagged two, either side of a timely effort from substitute Richard Cresswell, as City sent their fans into ecstasy and themselves to the top of the tree.

Their performance was far from perfect over the course of the 90 minutes, but, once again, there was no faulting the character and goalscoring potential of a team beaten only once in their last 17 league fixtures.

The inevitable Paterson goal was less than seven minutes in the making after he was left unoccupied to seize on Matthew Sparrow’s chipped ball into the Stoke area.

Momentarily surprised at the time and space at his disposal, perhaps, he quickly adjusted his body and balance to hook past an exposed Steve Simonsen to silence the early chorus of singing from the home fans.

The inevitable hush descending on proceedings was only broken by an appreciation for Andy Griffin’s well-judged lunge to prevent a possible pop at goal from Jack Cork shortly afterwards.

City’s response was laboured and unconvincing by comparison to their more impressive efforts of late, while Scunthorpe were coping better than Southampton ever did three days earlier when it came to anything flung into their area.

And it wasn’t until the 22nd minute that Stoke conjured up a first attempt on goal when Ryan Shawcross half-volleyed Griffin’s floated pass into the Boothen End.

Stoke’s discomfort then intensified further in the 23rd minute when conceding the kind of goal for which they have grown accustomed to scoring at the other end.

A left-wing corner was swung over and away from goal for Hobbs, a centre-half turned right-back on the night, to lose Mama Sidibe and head powerfully home totally unhindered.

Lawrence’s self-recrimination after losing possession on halfway was typical of his side’s growing frustration.

But optimism was briefly renewed when the winger’s own corner, from the right, was headed goalwards by Leon Cort to force a superb reaction save from Joe Murphy.

The crowd was largely concealing its own frustration and anxiety beneath well-intentioned encouragement, despite the sight of Murphy’s well-timed punch, from within a thicket of players, ensuring another long throw amounted to nothing for the home side.

The goal they craved almost came in the 42nd minute when Ricardo Fuller outwitted his man right of goal before crashing a snapshot into the side-netting.

Rory Delap then centred into the keeper’s hands at the near post before winning a free-kick, some two minutes later, from which a neat routine eventually left Murphy diving at Lawrence’s feet to further foil Stoke’s somewhat feeble first-half efforts.

Murphy should have been more concerned by a Griffin burst into the area shortly before the break, but both Salif Diao and Danny Pugh were off target with quickfire shots from a loose ball inside the area.

Sorely requiring a fresh sense of urgency at the beginning of the second period, City were soon in retreat to see Paterson shooting tamely at Simonsen from an unfavourable angle following some typically waspish movement against his old colleagues.

Scunthorpe remained the keener of the two sides in the open exchanges, by and large, and there was little hint of Stoke opening their account before Lawrence’s superbly deposited strike in the 53rd minute.

Delap’s long throw from the right was again won by a Scunthorpe head, but Hobbs only succeeded in glancing towards the back post for Lawrence to control before lashing past Murphy.

Tony Pulis attempted to raise the tempo further by throwing on Cresswell for Diao as the home crowd began believing again.

Stoke had certainly found a second wind at long last, though Fuller couldn’t complain at the offside flag denying him a goal after nodding on Cort’s close-range header.

But Fuller was thanking the linesman in the 62nd minute when he waved play on after Lawrence’s quick throw-in appeared to have eluded the Jamaican before he whipped the ball in from the right byline.

Scunthorpe were certainly looking hopefully towards the linesman when Cresswell subsequently latched on to Fuller’s ball with a firm drive the keeper could only palm inside the corner of his net.

How the atmosphere had changed now. And how the decibels rocketed into the night sky just four minutes later.

Fuller skirted around a couple of challenges on the byline left of goal, somehow kept the ball in play, then looked up and pulled the ball back for the voracious figure of Lawrence to stab home his 12th of the season.

Stoke survived a couple of half-chances in front of their own goal, then saw Shawcross head powerfully wide at the other, as the evening threatened yet more goals before its conclusion.

Paterson was determined to leave a more lasting mark on his return and, selflessly spurning a shot of his own, he slipped a pass inside for Ian Morris to crack a conceivably goal-bound shot against Shawcross.

Play switched quickly upfield for a half-cleared throw-in to drop in Lawrence’s vicinity, but this time his Midas touch momentarily eluded him as a creditable shot was superbly saved at the second attempt by the impressive Murphy.

Paterson continued to take up a menacing position on the left, from where a ball inside was driven barely a yard over Simonsen’s bar by Jim Goodwin, some 25 yards away.

Another effort, this time from Andy Crosby, drifted wide of Simonsen’s right-hand post to poke another timely reminder that the points weren’t quite Stoke’s just yet.

But victory wasn’t long in coming as City safely negotiated a potentially awkward four minutes of injury time to leave the rest of the Championship looking up at their name in lights.