Robert Huth`s 90th minute winner saw Stoke come from behind to beat Aston Villa 2-1 in a strange game at the Britannia Stadium. Stewart Downing had given the Visitors the lead in the first half with a well directed diving header but Kenwyne Jones equalised with ten minutes to go and Huth popped up in injury time to divert Etherington`s shot into the net.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis, who it was announced wasn`t at the match due to the death of his mother, made just one change from the side that lost at Chelsea. Marc Wilson made his debut and he replaced Glenn Whelan. As predicted both Jermaine Pennant and Eidur Gudjohnsen were named on the bench alongside Ricardo Fuller but Tuncay was nowhere to be seen. Thomas Sorensen was deemed fit to play against his former employees after overcoming an elbow injury.
Stoke started the much brighter side as Jones, making his home debut, linked up well with Matty Etherington down the left but the cross wasn`t the best. Robert Huth tested Brad Friedel as Villa, also without their manager, looked like they could be in for an uncomfortable evening.
And the Potters should have taken the lead after just ten minutes as new signing Wilson played a superb through ball for Jones in on goal with just Friedel to beat. However the American raced from his line and smothered the £8 million man`s shot and the chance went begging. Jones then went and headed over an Etherington corner but lurking just behind was Abdoulaye Faye who had a free header if Jones had left it.
After seeing off the early pressure from Stoke, Villa came into the match more and both wingers Downing and Marc Albrighton sent long range shot just wide of Sorensen`s post as the Villa side threatened the hosts with plenty of pace. But Jones was still looking lively and it took a smart save from Friedel to stop his left foot volley from 25 yards flying past him. The Trinidad man was looking like a good acquisition already.
But Villa took the lead when a neat passing move ended up with striker Gabriel Agbonlahor sending in a deep ball to the back post where Downing, who had evaded his marker Robert Huth, dived in and headed a unstoppable shot across Sorensen and in off the post.. Stoke had a good shout for a penalty waved away as Lee Probert didn`t see James Collins handle the ball. This shocked Stoke and they entered a period of desperation as Villa were guilty of missing some great chances to add to their lead.
Agbonlahor who was proving to be a thorn in the side sent in a delightful cross for Ashley Young who was unmarked and 5 yards out, but incredibly he headed wide. Former Potters target James Collins then tested Sorensen from point blank range and the Dane had to sprawl across to claw Downing`s back post effort of the line. Boos rang out at half-time as the shell shocked hosts went to the dressing room to be greeted by one?Tony Pulis.
Our remarkable manager drove back from South Wales to be at the game and gave a rousing half-time team talk before receiving an amazing standing ovation for the home supporters.
With the crowd back on side, Jones went on a mission to find an equaliser but both times he failed to find the net with his head. This brought upon some changes as Jon Walters was replaced by Ricardo Fuller and the Jamaican added much more energy and creativity to the forward line. They were then joined by Jermaine Pennant, making his debut, as he came on for fellow new boy Wilson.
The new ingredients mixed straight away as Etherington looked more threatening down the left and with Pennant adding invention and pace down the right, Villa dropped deeper and deeper into their own half. All we needed was someone to pick the lock and that happened in the 79th minute as Jones`s powered the Potters level.
A great move involving Pennant and Whitehead, who was having a very poor game, ended up at Fullers feet on the left. A neat exchange with Etherington saw Fuller release the Winger to the by line and he stood a great ball up to the back post where Jones headed a bullet past a helpless Friedel. The crowd were ecstatic as Villa`s defensive second half tactics backfired and Jones capitalised.
Both sides then went for a winner and Fuller almost conjured up another magical moment similar to the one he produced two year ago against the same opposition. 20 yards out the 30 year-old turned on a six pence and totally bamboozled Collins and Dunne but Friedel pulled off an outstanding save to prevent it bursting the net.
However the Boothern End rose in the 93rd minute as Etherington`s shot/cross fell for Huth and he coolly slotted the ball past Friedel with the last kick of the game. The stadium erupted as the Potters collected a crucial 3 points to lift them to 18th. Next up is another home match, this time with West Ham on Saturday Lunchtime.
Stoke: Sorensen, Huth, Shawcross (c), Ab Faye, Collins, Delap (Whelan 87), Wilson (Pennant 65), Whitehead, Etherington, Walters (Fuller 61), Jones. Subs not used: Begovic, Wilkinson, Higginbotham, Gudjohnsen.
Aston Villa: Friedel, L.Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, A. Young, Petrov (c), Albrighton, Reo-Coker, Downing, Agbonlahor (Heskey 86). Subs not used: Guzan, Beye, Cuellar, Clark, Hogg, Ireland.