Date: 24th December 2006 at 12:44pm
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Stoke proved that the defeat last week at Colchester was just a minor blip with a good win at the U’s neighbours, Ipswich. A fairly flat game turned on a 71st minute strike from Liam Lawrence to fire Stoke into fourth position – their highest of the season so far and a great start to the Christmas fixture list.

Lewis Buxton was handed his first start of the season after struggling back from injury and replaced the suspended Michael Duberry in central defence with Danny Higginbotham given the captain’s armband for the day. Salif Diao, after missing last week’s debacle through injury, returned to midfield.

The match started brightly with both sides having chances. Stoke’s new skipper had the first touch with only seconds on the clock but his pass over the heads of the Ipswich defence only ended with Ricardo Fuller shooting high over the goal.

With referee, Uriah Rennie taking charge it was always clear that there would be many interruptions and few opportunities for a flowing game – and so it proved. Before the first twenty minutes was up, Diao and Hendrie had found themselves being added to the referee’s yellow card. Diao for arguing and Hendrie for ‘unsporting behaviour’ after a wild challenge.

The game petered out in the first half, with few shots on target and several chances going begging at the Tractor Boys’ end. Neither keeper was really tested until just before the interval. Alan Lee’s weak shot from 20 yards was saved by Steve Simonsen and a neat move at the other end from Hendrie and Carl Hoefkens saw Fuller shoot into the side netting.

The second half started with more promise when a cross from Clint Hill saw Mamady Sidibe beat the Ipswich keeper to the header but the ball was hacked away by their defence before it could cross the line.

Stoke fans were then subjected to a worrying delay after Buxton, Simonsen and Lee all collided, which resulted in lengthy treatment for the Potters’ sole keeper. Carl Dickinson then came on for the tiring Buxton on the hour mark, swapping positions with Clint Hill in the process.

Stoke’s goal arrived with typical Hendrie style. Finding himself cornered by three Town defenders on the edge of the penalty area, Hendrie back-heeled the ball (glancing off one of the defenders in the process) into the path of an unmarked Lawrence coming down the wing. Lawrence had no problems drilling a low shot across the keeper for the Stoke winner.

After that it was just a question of battening down the hatches until the final whistle. The only low point came on the stroke of 90 minutes when Hendrie tumbled, suffering a knee injury and had to be quickly swapped for Dave Brammer.

Ipswich: Price, Bruce (Peters 83), De Vos, Naylor, Harding, Williams, Garvan, Legwinski, Roberts (Walton 89), Lee (Haynes 63), Macken.
Subs not used: Supple, Richards.

Stoke City: Simonsen, Hoefkens, Higginbotham, Hill, Buxton (Dickinson 61), Lawrence, Russell, Diao, Hendrie (Brammer 90), Sidibe, Fuller.
Subs not used: Pericard, Eustace, Berger.