The Seagulls flew into the dull and wet Potteries today but were looking to swoop in a steal a place into the quarter finals of the FA Cup rather than the chips from your hands. Their league form has been tremendous especially in recent weeks earning them top spot of the npower League 1 but it means nothing in cup games as they soon discovered.
Tony Pulis rested Asmir Begovic today giving Thomas Sorensen a start between the posts. Jon Walters was shifted into his favored position upfront at the expense of Kenwyne Jones. He started on the bench along with Dean Whitehead who made way for Glen Whelan. With only a couple of changes for Stoke, Potters fans were encouraged as it seemed that progression into the quarter finals was just as important for Pulis.
Not long into the game and a threat was created for Stoke. Jermaine Pennant had the pace and the quality to energize the skill to pass two Brighton men along the right, but a cross was deflected for a corner. Sadly though Pennant slipped over when he took the corner, and it harmlessly went up in the air only for the defence to clear.
The 14th minute was time for Rory Delap to wind up his sling-shot throw and it proved to be the assist for the first GOAL for the Potters! The ball was fired in and big John Carew got up the highest to head it in over the on-rushing Brighton ‘keeper.
And it didn`t take long for another GOAL for the Potters! Marc Wilson got things rolling as he played a one-two with Jermaine Pennant. Wilson was put through on the wide right and drove in a beautiful curling cross that met the head of Jon Walters to smash it home.
Walters could have added to the tally minutes later when he chipped in a shot from an awkward angle when he spotted that ‘keeper Brezovan was slightly out of place after he dealt with the pressure from Carew. But Gordon Greer defended brilliantly, heading the ball off the line to deny Walters a second for him and a third for Stoke.
No doubt about the fact that Brighton could pass accurately and they eventually created a chance to pull one back. Glenn Murray crossed in towards Ashley Barnes but his effort to in fire it in merely blazed over Thomas Sorensen`s bar.
Stoke were pilling on the pressure as Walters had another head towards goal. But it was wide despite Pennant’s quality cross. The defense just did enough to put him off.
Rory Delap used his foot on this occasion as he let rip a shot from just under 20 yards which just zipped past the crossbar. A very worthy effort from a player who has been known to ‘slash` his shots into orbit, but it just showed the comfortable position Stoke were in.
Matthew Etherington felt a twinge and forced Pulis to make a change. Although it was a shame for the winger to be subbed, the quality in Ricardo Fuller that replaced him balanced it out.
Fuller made his presence know very early as Delap released him for a counter-attacking run. Fuller unleashed a shot towards goal but a deflection saw it go out for a corner.
Another set-piece provided the third GOAL for Stoke, which is rare for us in first halves. Pennant stepped up for the corner, and his cross was flicked on by Walters for captain Ryan Shawcross to steer it with his head at the far post!
First half was drawn to a close and Stoke seemed to be cruising their way into the quarter finals. Brighton had their boat rocked considerably leaving them feeling a little blue (and a little white), especially as their passing play had been overall shipshape.
A quick shout for newly engaged Joe and Emily from the Boothen End. Joe proposed to Emily in front of thousands of fans who then cheered as Emily said YES! All the best of luck to them, especially Joe who may well be getting grief from Emily for putting her in a slightly embarrassing position in the middle of The Britannia Stadium. All the same though, good on them! Would a honeymoon in Brighton be on the cards?
From the future bells of marriage, to the whistle from the ref, the second half commenced with the Potters sitting in a comfortable position. But the Seagulls needed to up their ante in the final third if they were to bring any hope for them in the game.
Pennant and Wilson combine effectively once again to put in a cross to Walters. However he couldn`t find anybody with his head and Brighton picked possession. These three players worked their socks off throughout the match.
Brighton came out brighter in the second half and started to penetrate the box more. It did incur a penalty shout, especially from the 3,500 visiting fans behind Thomas Sorensen‘s goal. Elliott Bennett smacked into the defensive brick wall that is Robert Huth when he tried to get on the end of the ball. Referee Howard Webb didn`t blow for anything.
Stoke owed thanks to Thomas Sorensen as he kept up the clean sheet. The Great Dane narrowed the angle on Fran Sandaza, who came off from the bench earlier, to smother an effort for a consolation.
Sorensen then swiftly got to the ground to save a shot from Cristian Baz, catching the ball between his legs. Tommy taking two for the team there!
Meanwhile the ‘keeper at the other end made a brilliant quick reaction to Ricardo Fuller‘s strong shot on goal. The ball was stuck with pace and power but the Albion man managed to beat it away for his defense to pick up.
Final whistle blew and a fantastic result for the Potters! They stood their ground and dug their studs into the grass to grind down the Seagulls, knocking them cruelly out of the cup with just one game off a quarter final place. I could see why Brighton have been dubbed the ‘lower league Arsenal` because they have got their passing ability down to a tee. But they lacked in the final thrid to put any of their chances away. So would ‘Arsenil` suit better? Only for this game though as they have been doing brilliantly in League 1 and will look to focus all attention on that now.
But us Potters will sit on the edge of our seats with our fingers crossed when the draw is made tomorrow!
29 Sorensen, 12 Wilson, 14 Pugh, 17 Shawcross, 4 Huth, 16 Pennant, 6 Whelan, 24 Delap, 26 Etherington, 19 Walters, 22 Carew.
Subs: (Fuller for Etherington,39), 9 Jones (for Carew,63), 18 Whitehead (for Pennant,89). Not used: 27 Nash, 3 Higginbotham, 5 Collins, 28 Wilkinson.
1 Brezovan, 14 Calderon, 22 Painter, 4 Elphick, 3 Greer, 7 Bennett, 26 Birdcutt, 5 Battipiedi, 18 Dicker, 17 Murray, 9 Barnes.
Subs: 28 Forster-Caskey (Batipiedi,61), 21 Sandaza (for Murray,61), 11 Baz (for Barnes,75). Not used: 16 Ankergren, 20 Holroyd, 27 Taricco, 37 Dunk.