Date: 29th December 2008 at 2:51pm
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Ricardo Fuller pressed the Potters’ self destruct button with his stupidest red card yet – and that’s saying something!

Stoke were reduced to 10 men just after conceded an equaliser at Upton Park after he hit captain, Andy Griffin. Fuller is renowned for his short temper and is notorious for gaining off the ball red and yellow cards, but to hit a team-mate is totally inexcusable – especially as that probably cost us the game.

And it had all started so well. Just four minutes into the game, Fuller had out-jinked the Hammers’ defence and forced an early corner which was headed into the goal by Abdoulaye Faye who found himself with acres of space on the six yard line.

The majority of the game was fairly scrappy but Stoke soaked up any pressure from the home side and Rory Delap’s throw-ins were back to their best and caused some mayhem in the West Ham penalty area.

It was just after the half-time interval that Stoke blew all the hard work. The equaliser came from Carlton Cole after Griffin failed to clear the ball and Cole turned to hit the ball past Sorensen. But then, just before the restart, Fuller walked over to Griffin to remonstrate and slapped him on the face. The referee had no option but to send him off and even Griffin could be seen telling the striker to go in no uncertain terms.

With the Potters reduced to 10 men and that renowned team spirit at breaking point it was probably no surprise that the home side managed to claim all three points with just two minutes to go with Tristan getting a deflection off Cole for the winner.

Stoke have now had to endure two red cards in consecutive games which have arguably cost the Potters points. The first was Andy Wilkinson on Boxing Day after he gained two yellow cards. That could be put down to a bit of bad luck and youthful inexperience against one of the best in the game – Ronaldo, but Fuller’s straight red was totally inexcusable and I think Tony Pulis should throw the book at him – preferably a heavy one! For too long now we’ve had to endure his petty squabbles earning him red and yellow cards, but we’ve forgiven him time and time again because he’ll then go and create a goal from nowhere. This time he’s probably cost us one point (and maybe three) and will be suspended for three vital matches against Hartlepool, Liverpool and Chelsea.

Only problem remaining is who replaces him in attack? Mamady Sidibe and Dave Kitson are still injured which just leaves Richard Cresswell and Vincent Pericard as choices up front, unless Pulis has some early irons in the fire for the start of the transfer window on Thursday.

West Ham: Green, Faubert, Collins, Upson, Ilunga, Behrami, Parker (Mullins 77), Collison (Tristan 77), Boa Morte, Di Michele (Spector 89), Cole.
Subs not used: Lastuvka, Bowyer, Sears, Ngala.

Stoke City: Sorensen, Griffin (Davies 58), Abdoulaye Faye, Shawcross, Higginbotham, Delap, Olofinjana, Whelan, Pugh (Pericard 53), Cresswell, Fuller.
Subs not used: Simonsen, Lawrence, Soares, Tonge, Sonko.