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Paying the penalty

Posted on 19 October 2008  - 12:00

Stoke took the points at the Britannia Stadium against a Spurs side reduced to ten men from the 16-minute mark in the match.

Paying the penalty

Stoke took the points at the Britannia Stadium against a Spurs side reduced to ten men from the 16-minute mark in the match.

Gareth Bale was dismissed for a trip on Tom Soares, the double punishment being the award of a penalty from which the home side gleefully seized the lead. Darren Bent was quick to respond with a smart finish, but Stoke capitalised on their numerical advantage early in the second half and there proved no way back.

Stoke did have the chance to cushion their lead, but Ricardo Fuller missed a stoppage time penalty.

Alan Hutton returned to the fold to make his first appearance of the season after recovery from a stress fracture of the foot, while Roman Pavlyuchenko started on the bench following the ankle injury he sustained last time out against Hull City.

The Britannia Stadium is very much open to the elements, with only one corner being enclosed, and a gusting wind was circulating the arena.

It was nearly an ill wind on seven minutes when Rory Delap threaded through to the advancing Tom Soares, who was positioned to the right of the area. The former Crystal Palace man was offered a free shy on goal and thankfully Heurelho Gomes was on hand to make a smart save.

We then sampled Delap's strength of arm as opposed to feet when his throw arrowed towards goal and Dave Kitson promptly clattered Gomes as he attempted to punch clear. At the other end Jermaine Jenas prodded through to pick out the run of Darren Bent, but Ibrahima Sonko lunged in to thwart any goal threat.

The game turned on 16 minutes when Gareth Bale miscontrolled and Soares darted through, only to be tripped by the full-back, who was then issued with a red. After a delay due to the wind blowing the ball off the spot, Danny Higginbotham dispatched past Gomes and sent the home fans into raptures three minutes later.

The response was thankfully swift with a purposeful run from Hutton resulting in him poking the ball, via a deflection, in the direction of Bent, who held off challenges and steered past Thomas Sorensen on 25 minutes.

The goal led to an improvement and an upping of the tempo from the team in blue, with Luka Modric becoming more influential. Didier Zokora was deployed at left-back, while Aaron Lennon, David Bentley and Jenas were charged with getting forward to support Bent.

Lennon ripped in a low drive six minutes before the break that Sorensen really had to stretch to claw away and just before half-time Jenas embarked on a lung-busting run that took a last-ditch block to stop in its tracks.

Seven minutes into the second half and Stoke were back in front when a raking low cross from Mamady Sidibe was slotted home unchallenged at the far post by Rory Delap.

Stoke were seizing the momentum and Juande Ramos responded by introducing Pavlyuchenko in place of Bentley, but it was Modric who was next in the thick of the action, firing narrowly over the crossbar.

Sorensen was forced from the pitch after a collision with Hutton just after the hour and was replaced by the former Tranmere and Everton keeper Steve Simonsen, while Vedran Corluka was next in the wars in the wake of another express delivery from Delap. His second clattering appeared far more serious for the Croatian and stretchers were called for.

Corluka was eventually carried towards an ambulance and replaced by Michael Dawson, but the game was completely disjointed, which probably more than suited the home side, who were pummelling their way towards the points.

The ten men rallied but were not breaking the resolve of a resolute and determined side. Some 11 minutes added time was signalled by the assistant, which goes some way towards explaining the nature of the game.

Woodgate was penalised for a foul on Soares inside the area in the added time, but thankfully Fuller's aim was not as accurate as Higginbotham's as the ball cannoned off both posts and out to Delap, who promptly struck the crossbar.

In truth, Stoke looked more like adding to their lead than we did cancelling the deficit and Dawson became the second player to be shown red for a challenge on Fuller. The wait for a Premier League win continues.