Date: 29th January 2012 at 10:55am
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Another goal from Cameron Jerome sent Stoke on their way as they cruised past Derby County and secured a safe passage into the 5th round of the FA Cup.

The summer signing has impressed at every opportunity this season, and seized on a loose-ball in the penalty area to fire the Potters ahead inside the first five minutes.

Derby threatened before the interval, but Stoke`s superior quality told throughout the second half, and their dominance resulted in Robert Huth wrapping up the victory with an instinctive effort from a Jermaine Pennant corner.

With Derby on a terrific run in the Championship, and Stoke licking their wounds from the defeat at home to West Brom, everything pointed towards a tough encounter, but Stoke`s start soon put paid to that.

The Potters, roared on by a magnificent 5,500 strong army, started positively.

After seeing plenty of the ball in the opening exchanges, an Etherington corner was played short to Whelan, whose cross wreaked havoc in the hosts` box, and Jerome was on hand to smash the ball home from close range after it looked like Huth had done enough to force the ball home.

Upon looking at the replays though, Derby can count themselves extremely unlucky as Jerome looked at least half-a-yard offside.

The goal gave Stoke confidence, as they stroked the ball around without being under any real pressure from the Championship side – but as the clock hit the quarter of an hour mark, the hosts did at least carve out a half chance.

A Whitehead diving header was enough to snuff out a dangerous Brayford cross, but Byson`s run soon after could have easily drawn Derby on level-terms.

The midfielder burst down the right and sent a cross towards Green, whose shot was desperately blocked by Stoke bodies in front of Begovic`s goal, before Hendrick skewed his shot wide when he really should`ve hit the target.

The match began to get cagey.

Derby were trying to make something happen in the effort of getting back into the tie – but it was Stoke who had the next clear cut chance.

And it was another set-piece which troubled the Derby defence.

Robert Huth`s header earned Stoke a 1-0 win away at Molineux at this stage last season, and he rose again to meet an Etherington corner, but the German`s effort hit the post as Stoke searched for the second goal which would put the game to bed.

Derby were struggling to get a foot-hold in the game, but it was in the last 15 minutes of the half when they at least threatened the Stoke goal and looked like scoring.

It seemed if Derby were to get anything from the game, it would come from Jamie Ward, who gave Wilkinson plenty to think about.

After a clever run, it was his cross which seemed to hit Wilkinson`s arm, but the referee awarded a goal-kick, much to the frustration of the Derby fans.

The half-time whistle left Stoke satisfied with their efforts, whilst knowing a one-goal lead probably wouldn`t be enough against a Derby side that were sure to come out with increased vigour.

Although, The Rams didn`t do themselves justice in the second half, in fact – they barely got out of their own half.

Stoke came out rejuvenated, whilst Derby remained sluggish.

Etherington showed Stoke`s intent in the opening stages of the half, running at Brayford before pitching the ball up into the penalty, but Fielding rose to claim it.

And the winger was again on the charge just moments later, but after doing well to gain a yard, his cross was poor.

Stoke did have one scare in the second half, though, and they easily could have been punished had the hosts been more incisive in the final-third.

Long balls were all Derby could muster in the second half, as they struggled to get a hold of the ball and play their passing game.

It was a long-punt down the middle which caused all sorts of problems for the Stoke defence, as Begovic darted off his line and headed the ball straight to a white shirt – but Derby couldn`t make the most of the opportunity when it looked like the Stoke keeper was in trouble.

Matty Etherington`s quality was beginning to torment the Derby backline, but after an impressive piece of skill in getting to the byline – his drilled cross was palmed over by Fielding, and the winger was taken off, as a precaution, with what seemed to be a groin injury.

Crouch joined him on the bench as Pennant and Jones were brought on to give Stoke the extra-edge as they searched for a 2nd.

At this stage, Stoke were winning every second ball, and in complete control of the tie.

Derby were desperately trying to get out of their own half, but they couldn`t find a way to fashion any sort of a chance, and the difference in quality between the two sides was evident.

Pennant has been out of the starting line-up for some time now, but is always impressive when on the pitch, and after Jones was fouled, his 35-yard free kick was kept out by Fielding.

From the resulting corner, Pennant found Walters, whose header skimmed the cross of the bar as the Potters continued to dominate.

A wonderful piece of skill from Pennant then found Wilkinson, who forced a corner, and Pennant`s cross found Huth, who made no mistake after slipping his marker to net his 4th goal in 7 cup ties.

The German`s shot squirmed underneath Fielding`s body to send 5,500 Stokies behind the goal into party-mode.

Stoke could now begin to relax, and Ricardo Fuller was then introduced shortly after.

The Jamaican was immediately toying with a tired Derby defence, in a typically skilful cameo, jinking and weaving his way past Derby shirts and drawing a couple of fouls.

And the great man could have grabbed a third for City had he not slipped over at a vital time when it looked like he was in on goal.

The full-time whistle blew, and what was expected to be a tough tie for the Potters, never really materialised.

To be honest, City never really had to get out of first-gear.

Derby are on a fantastic run in the championship, and will be disappointed after failing to impose their game on the tie, despite a promising end to the first half when they were unlucky not to have drawn level and had Stoke on the ropes.

They’re clearly a good Championship outfit, with a great-fan base, but today – neither got going, and I think that was largely down to an extremely efficient performance from Stoke.

The draw for the next round is today, and Stoke will be praying for a home-tie, or at least, a favourable away draw.

Good luck to Derby for the rest of the season, who knows – promotion could be possible…

As for Stoke, we couldn`t possibly go one further than last season, could we?