Date: 4th March 2007 at 2:10pm
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In common with thousands of cars in the South East this week, Stoke’s attack have been misfiring now for several weeks and with no cure yet in sight and Ricardo Fuller serving the third match of a four match ban, the Potters were again resigned to putting Mama Sidibe on his own up front and relying on the midfield attacking expertise of Lee Hendrie and Darel Russell.

As widely predicted, Gabriel Zakuani replaced the recalled Fortune and Andy Griffin and Lee Hendrie survived late fitness tests to also start. Pulis favoured Martin Paterson with a position on the bench after his acclaimed loan spell at Grimsby where he netted six goals in his three months with the Mariners.

Tony Pulis was hoping that Argyle’s minds would be concentrating on next week’s FA Cup tie with Watford and was not surprised to see Arygle midfielder, David Norris rested in case a fifth booking made him miss the tie.

The Potters had the first real chance from either side on 25 minutes when Lee Hendrie crossed the ball for Sidibe to knock just wide from only three yards. Simonsen then had to produce a great save from Hungarian player, Peter Halmosi, pushing the ball over the bar. But he could do nothing a few minutes later when Carl Hoekens brought down Halmosi in the penalty area and Ebanks-Blake put the resulting penalty kick straight down the centre to open the scoring just before half-time.

The Potters started the second half determined to bring themselves back into the game. Sidibe had a goal bound shot hacked of the line by an Argyle defender after skipping around the keeper and Simonsen made another good save at the other end.

Pulis replaced Hendrie with Lee Martin on 50 minutes and the young winger saw his initial neat work rewarded as John Eustace set up Darel Russell to hammer home a shot from an acute angle into the top corner of the net after 54 minutes.

Both sides saw chances to snatch the points but Danny Higginbotham could have sealed it for Stoke, but his free kick just sailed wide of the post.

Paterson’s introduction in the dying minutes could have given him his eighth goal of the season but he too saw his header just go over the bar.

Whether this was a realistic end to the Potters’ playoff ambitions, we will need to wait and see. With a gap of five points between us and Preston in 8th, there is now a big mountain to climb, but with Stoke apparantly playing better against the better clubs, there could be some further opportunities to close the gap.

Plymouth Argyle: McCormick, Connolly, Seip, Timar, Sawyer, Sinclair, Summerfield (Gosling 81), Hodges, Halmosi, Gallen, Ebanks-Blake (Fallon 81)
Subs not used: Doumbe, Capaldi, Djordjic.
Booked: Ebanks-Blake, Connolly.

Stoke City: Simonsen, Hoefkens (Dickinson 46), Zakuani, Higginbotham, Griffin, Eustace, Russell, Diao, Lawrence (Paterson 87), Hendrie (Martin 50), Sidibe.
Subs not used: Hoult, Rooney.
Booked: Martin, Griffin.