So near and yet so far…
Stoke were only four minutes of added time away from a deserved victory against the in-form team in the Championship until a late, late goal meant that they would have to share the points.
To Potters fans it felt like we’d been thrashed 4-0, when we’d quite happily have taken the point before the kick-off.
With the two Lees (Hendrie and Martin) sidelined, Tony Pulis had to rejig the midfield pushing Carl Hoefkens up to midfield and bringing in Gabriel Zakuani in defence. Returning to the squad, Ricardo Fuller had to be content with a place on the bench, whilst Jon Parkin started up front with Mama Sidibe.
Always happier when allowed to roam into enemy territory, Hoefkens was causing trouble down the wing. The Black Cats always looked menacing, but it was the Potters who took the lead, albeit against the run of play, on 20 minutes when a speculative well hit, low shot from Darel Russell was fumbled by keeper, Darren Ward and rolled slowly over the line for the first goal.
But the 179 visiting fans hardly had time to utter the first words of Delilah when Sunderland struck back with a goal from Whitehead which brought the two teams back on level terms. Sunderland continued to press, but Stoke always looked threatening on the break -with Sidibe seeing an overhead kick go agonisingly just over the bar. Then a great save from Steve Simonsen stopped the Black Cats from taking the lead.
But with the half time whistle overdue, it was the Potters who suddenly recovered the momentum. A crowded penalty area gave Hoefkens the opportunity to bury a strong shot past Ward for Stoke’s second.
Sunderland came out of the traps at the start of the second half and but the Potters defended well with Danny Higginbotham having another good game, ably backed up by Jon Fortune, Gab Zakuani and Andy Griffin.
After 65 minutes, Tony Pulis decided to rest the tiring Parkin and allow Fuller back into attack. Fuller instantly reminded the Stoke faithful what they had been missing for the past month and nearly set up a third goal for the Potters. Taking the ball down the wing he worked his way through several defenders and found Sidibe just 6 yards out, who flicked it past the keeper but saw the ball just bounce off the far goal post to be gratefully cleared by a Sunderland defender.
It was then all hands to the defensive pump and with time running down it seems to be Stoke’s night, but in the 90th minute a sucker punch of a goal from a disputed corner was hammered home by substitute Darel Murphy.
Sunderland: Ward, Simpson, Nosworthy, Evans (Wallace 46), Collins, Leadbitter, Whitehead, Yorke (Liam Miller 68), Hysen, John (Murphy 55), Connolly.
Subs not used: Fulop, Tommy Miller.
Stoke City: Simonsen, Hoefkens, Zakuani (Dickinson 82), Higginbotham, Griffin, Lawrence, Diao, Fortune, Russell, Sidibe (Eustace 86), Parkin (Fuller 61).
Subs not used: Hoult, Martin.
Stoke blow it
So near and yet so far…