A Kenwyne Jones hat-trick sealed Stoke’s place in the 3rd Round of the Capital One Cup, against a decent looking Walsall side.
The Potters started the game with a relatively strong line-up. New boy Marc Muniesa was handed his first start, along with Brek Shea and Wilson Palacios playing for the first time this season. The Potters came out of the blocks quite slowly, and Walsall looked very strong passing the ball around, getting forward. Unfortunately though for them, it was a defensive error that lead to Jones’ first goal. Walsall were caught dithering at the back, and Jones came in to steal the ball off the Saddlers defence and slot it home underneath goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell.
Walsall continued to attack but Muniesa was absolutely solid and confident at the back alongside Wilkinson who both played exquisitely as well. On the 31st minute, Jones thumped his second goal in, courtesy of a Jermaine Pennant corner. The corner was swung in from the right, and after the ball found the floor in the box, the Trinidadian instinctively slotted the ball home into the top corner. The Potters went into half time at 2-0 up.
As the teams came out for the second half, Stoke bought on new signing Oussama Assaidi for his first appearance, to a great reception from the home fans. His talents became instantly apparent to both sets of fans, as he took on anyone and everyone, put in some killer final balls, and ultimately worked his socks off. Walsall did manage to pull a goal back, with a very good finish from Ashley Hemmings, taking on Stoke’s defence, beating them and cooly slotting home past goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.
Two disallowed goals later, one coming from Andy Wilkinson, Stoke had regained control of the match and Jones came through again to finish Walsall off, book Stoke’s place in Round 3 and finish his hat trick, as a fantastic pass from Pennant, went through the Walsall defence and Jones was left one-on-one with the Walsall keeper, and calmly slotted the ball through his legs to finish it off. A goal which was slightly reminiscent of his goal against Bolton in the FA Cup 3 years ago. Ultimately, this was always going to be Jones’ night, and he seriously deserves a spot in the squad for Saturday now.
For the record, Walsall played a fantastic game last night. Their style of play, coupled with their fantastic support is a credit to them as a team. They will do fantastically this season, and on any other day, they may have got a replay. Unfortunately for the Saddlers, Jones was absolutely everywhere, completely unplayable, and took essentially all of the chances that came to him. I can’t argue with Walsall at all though, they certainly gave Stoke fans a fright.