Date: 6th August 2006 at 1:57pm
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Stoke City fell to their first defeat of the season at Southend from a Freddie Eastwood penalty in the 14th minute.

All the bad luck seemed to descend on the Potters at once on the opening game of the season as wingers Luke Chadwick and Peter Sweeney had to share an ambulance to hospital. Chadwick collapsed, apparently from heat exhaustion and remained unconscious until he reached hospital, while Sweeney has a suspected broken wrist and both are unlikely to reappear in the near future.

Tony Pulis created no surprises with his first team selection of the season. New signing, Vincent Pericard and Mamady Sidibe played up front and the other new signing Danny Higginbotham playing at left-back.

Stoke started the most lively out of the blocks and it was Pericard and Sweeney who both saws shots on goal turned away by the Shrimper`s keeper, Flahaven.

But Southend struck a hammer blow in the 14th minute when Michael Duberry failed to block a cross in the penalty area and Lee Bradbury picked up the ball before succumbing to a challenge from Steve Simonsen deemed by the referee to be a penalty. Eastwood stepped up and put the resulting spot kick past Simonsen.

Stoke continued to battle, but without any strikers capable of finishing the chances that were created, the Potters continued to look weak in the final third. Sidibe had several chances but could not find the killer blow to get the ball in the back of the net and even Simonsen was not his usual reliable self as he missed a punch from a Southend corner kick to create extra unneeded pressure in the run up to half time.

Stoke opened the second half as they had done the first – looking bright and chances going begging in the Southend penalty area.

Things then went from bad to worse as Chadwick collapsed in the 61st minute and had to be replaced by Hannes Sigurdsson. Sweeney also departed, having injured himself in the first half, to be replaced by John Eustace.

Stoke continued to challenge deep into the seven minutes of added on time, but again it was Flahaven who managed to keep the ball out of the net after a free kick from Higginbotham was headed goalwards by Sidibe.

If ever there was a game which typified fans` worries before the season it was this one. Without a ’20 goals a season’ striker which Stoke so desperately need we`ll see more games like this. Bangoura may be back, but there is no certainty that we`ll either see him back in the squad soon or at all.

agree that it`s too soon to panic, but if we carry on like this, nails will be getting very short in the Boothen End.

Let`s just hope Luke Chadwick is on the mend very shortly.