Stoke City edged out 2-1 winners in a full blooded encounter at the Britannia Stadium. Goals from Jon Parkin and Ricardo Fuller were finally enough to see off a determined and dangerous Eagles team who were never going to be prepared to hand over the points without a fight.
Tony Pulis was forced into reshuffling the pack again, giving Jon Parkin a start for the injured Mamady Sidibe and Lee Hendrie returned to the starting line-up with Darel Russell, Dominic Matteo and Salif Diao all still out whilst recovering from injury. Carl Dickenson started in defence as Andy Griffin served the final match of his three match ban, leaving space for Carl Hoefkens to move up to midfield.
Stoke set the tempo from the outset with long range shots on target from Parkin and Liam Lawrence while Fuller was an ever present danger.
The breakthrough came in the 20th minute when Hoefkens’ cross found Parkin on the edge of the penalty area. In a single movement he chested the ball down, swung round and powered the ball into the back of the net. The Beast was unleashed…
Stoke then doubled their advantage in the 27th minute after a cool run from Fuller to the Palace byline and a precise shot squeezed past keeper, Kiraly, cannoned off a defender and into the net.
Stoke’s celebrations were short-lived. Only two minutes later, Palace were back in the game. A goalmouth tussle saw Gabriel Zachuani miss hit the clearance and the ball went past a stranded Simonsen and into the back of the net. Stoke seemed to have the wind knocked out of their sails and Palace attempted to take full advantage, but it was the Potters who nearly had the last laugh of the first half when Liam Lawrence, in front of goal, gave up a shooting opportunity and passing to an unmarked Hendrie who should have done better with a tame shot that was easily saved by the keeper.
The second half saw several good chances for the Potters with Parkin and Fuller both playing well, but Palace continued to look threatening. Stoke should have sealed the win in the 70th minute when Fuller set up Hendrie with a neat back heel but Hendrie’s goal bound shot found Liam Lawrence on the goal line who somehow managed to deflect the ball over the bar.
The Potters’ nerves jangled for the remainder of the match and were not helped by scorelines from other matches being flashed up on the scoreboard. Palace battled to break down Stoke’s defence but solid defending combined with some good attempts by Parkin to run the clock down by the visitors’ corner flag meant the Potters claimed another vital win in their quest for the play-offs.
Great crowd – shame about the size. The genuine Potters fans were all there today, shame about the others who call themselves fans who were not. 13,616 was a pitiful turnout for what always promised to be a cracker of a game.
Stoke City: Simonsen, Zakuani, Fortune, Higginbotham, Dickinson, Lawrence, Eustace, Hoefkens, Hendrie (Martin 81), Parkin, Fuller (Pericard 89).
Subs not used: Hoult, Wilkinson, Paterson.
Goals: Parkin 20, Fuller 27.
Crystal Palace: Kiraly, Lawrence, Hudson, Cort, Borrowdale, Kennedy (Scowcroft 78), Fletcher, Soares (Martin 68), Ifill (Grabban 68), Morrison, Kuqi.
Subs not used: Speroni, Ward
Goals: Zakuani 30 og
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