Date: 20th January 2008 at 5:10pm
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Stoke put the disappointment of losing the FA Cup replay in midweek behind them and got back to the serious business of promotion to the Premier League with a great 3-1 win over league strugglers, Preston North End and recorded their first win of 2008. Despite having had only one of their previous four matches at the Brit, the Potters had picked up some creditable draws against stiff opposition, but it was important that the three points were in the bag against a team that is now a shadow of previous seasons.

Stoke fielded all their new signings (albeit three which had converted from loans signings), Andy Griffin got his first start with Salif Diao having to make do with the bench.

The visitors were full of huff and puff throughout the game, with some good runs from former Potter, Lewis Neal, but the Stoke defence were up to the task with Leon Cort and Ryan Shawcross, backed up by the return of Andy Griffin and with Carl Dickinson on the left hand side.

Stoke’s first goal arrived with just over 15 minutes on the clock, courtesy of another trademark long throw from Rory Delap. The Preston defence completely failed to deal with the throw and Leon Cort was on hand to flick the ball into the net. After the disappointment of the Tyneside thrashing, confidence surged back into the Potters and on the half mark, the Potters doubled their lead after the PNE keeper, fumbled an easy ball and former Preston striker, Richard Cresswell was on hand to put the ball into the net.

As the second half began, Stoke continued to enjoy the better play and another Delap throw should have put the game beyond Preston with the ball nearly going into the Preston net off the head of PNE defender, Youl Mawene (sporting a good imitation hair-do of 80’s Potters’ star, George Berry) but was well saved by the keeper.

Both Lawrence and Fuller had good chances before Preston brought on Neil Mellor, who had come off the bench the week before to score the goal that beat Watford at Deepdale. Preston were not about to roll over easily and some concerted pressure on the Stoke defence saw Preston halve their deficit with just under 70 minutes on the clock. Rumoured Stoke transfer target, Simon Whaley crossed the ball to Mellor and Shawcross couldn’t stop Brown getting the flick on and he fired home.

So many times this season Stoke have seemed content to sit on leads and hang back dangerously, but this wake-up call was enough to spur Stoke on and just four minutes later the Potters wrapped the game up. A Liam Lawrence corner was met by Leon Cort who headed the ball home for his second of the game. Danny Pugh could even have made it four late on, but was blocked by keeper, Lonergen.

Good stuff from the Potters who didn’t really have to try too hard for this win. Next up is Charlton away in nine days time and that should be a sterner test. But Stoke really don’t have to fear anyone in this league at the moment – home or away.

Stoke City: Simonsen, Griffin, Cort, Shawcross, Dickinson, Lawrence (Diao 77), Delap (Parkin 87), Eustace, Pugh, Cresswell, Fuller (Pericard 82)
Subs not used: Hoult, Zakuani

Goals: Cort 16, Cresswell 28, Cort 72

Preston: Lonergan, St. Ledger, Chilvers, Mawene, Davidson, Whaley, McKenna, Chaplow (Carter 74), Lewis Neal, Brown, Hawley (Mellor 63)
Subs not used: Chris Neal, Sedgwick, Hill
Goals: Brown 68


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