The talk was of banana skins....Stoke often slip up against teams that they ought to beat in the Cup.Facing the 2004 Cup Finalists from Millwall in front of 8,000 fans, this match had the potential for an early exit for Stoke.
For much of this lacklustre game 0-0 looked the likeliest result....Stoke keeper Simonsen had to be alert to keep out a dipping volley from Ardley, whilst a header from Stoke's Eustace hit the Millwall bar. It was really good to see John Eustace back in the team.Some very neat touches reminded us of why he was brought to Stoke in the first place...on last night's evidence as he gains fitness - and if he avoids injury- he may soon begin to make a serious contribution in the Championship.
Was the appearance of Salif Diao in this match a straw in the wind with regard to him staying at Stoke beyond January either on a temporary or permanent basis ? Playing just the first half effectively cup ties him for Liverpool or other interested clubs for that matter. Think he might be staying...sincerely hope so!
Another plus from this match was the play of Vincent Pericard. He often appears to be disinterested , somehow off the pace, and clumsy, particularly in front of goal. Last night somebody or something got under his skin (there was a prolonged verbal -not particularly affable looking -exchange with Duberry at one point !!). The result was entirely beneficial for Stoke. He put himself about more, and began to shoot with some menace and increasing accuracy from distance.He might even have been slightly angry. Long may it continue if this is the result!
Crucially Pericard played his part in Stoke's opening goal, challenging for and getting his head onto the ball from Brammer's corner kick, sufficently to divert it across to the incoming Higginbottom. His shot across goal was going wide until Millwall's Marvin Elliot diverted it 90 degrees into his own net.
Stoke's second was typical Ricardo Fuller cool! He was played through (could it have been by Brammer again?).With four Millwall players converging on him he pushed a pass forward to Rooney who was clearly offside. The ball never reached him. As two defenders collided,the ball popped out to Fuller who, seemingly nonchalantly, lifted the ball over the goalkeeper as he came out and into the empty net. (Slight flutter...the assistant referee's flag went up and then - relief-down again.)
Late winning goals, both scored in the last 8 minutes, but Stoke Manager Tony Pulis was pleased with the win and felt that his team had dominated, particularly in the second half.He was not too bothered that chances had been missed, simply happy that the match (banana skin?) had been successfully negotiated.
Into the hat we go.